27 Holland America Zuiderdam Cruises for the Disabled Cruise Reviews

We chose the Zuiderdam for the Baltic cruise because we wanted an itinerary that had us in St Petersburg for two days since we wanted to more fully explore that port. We also wanted a smallish ship because we don’t want to contend with ... Read More
We chose the Zuiderdam for the Baltic cruise because we wanted an itinerary that had us in St Petersburg for two days since we wanted to more fully explore that port. We also wanted a smallish ship because we don’t want to contend with the number of people on the large ships and some of the small ships get too pricey. We chose wisely. We had an amazingly experience and among our group of 6 with mixed levels of cruising experiences we all agreed we would do it again. My husband and I got off and most ports and did things on our own with the exceptions of St Petersburg and Warnemünde where we had lined up tours with TJ Travel and Harry’s Taxi respectively for our group of six. Both tours were tremendous and well worth their price which was way less than the ship. In Stockholm my husband and I got a cab so we could start at the Vasa Museum and walk back. One couple did the Hop on Hop at some ports and the Easy Excursions from the ship at other ports except Tallinn which is an easy enough walk around for them. Our remaining twosome used a combo of HOHO and just walking off the ship at the other ports. We needed a cab in Tallinn for our couple with limited walking abilities. Tallinn has a HOHO but you cannot get into old town. This same couple used wheelchairs in St Petersburg provided by TJ Travel. We were confused the first couple days by the dining but got it sorted out. The flyer we receive each evening in our cabin indicated that it was open seating (or some similar term). We thought that meant our scheduled dining time was not being honored and instead we should go anytime. Well good news is that you can go at your scheduled time OR anytime. I like this feature a lot but it was a little confusing. We did want to go at the same time and have the same servers so we figured it out on day 2 and we did that going forward. The food was always amazing and varied. The only exception was embarcation day but I bet that is a crazy day for the kitchen. Great experience had by all! Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We chose the Holland America Zuiderdam ship for our 2018 Christmas family vacation. The only reason I would give any stars for this cruise is for the room and dinning stewards who provided the utmost impeccable service. Cheers to all of ... Read More
We chose the Holland America Zuiderdam ship for our 2018 Christmas family vacation. The only reason I would give any stars for this cruise is for the room and dinning stewards who provided the utmost impeccable service. Cheers to all of you!!! However, Holland America Ships are severely lacking customer service, acommodations are poorly described. The cabin layout was terrible and considering this was a Holiday cruise, it severely lacked festive activities, entertainment and decorations. We were advised by Holland America the Zuideram Veranda Cabins accommodate 3-4 passengers. We had 3 in our cabin. However, to accommodate anymore than 2 passengers, access to the veranda balcony and bar fridge are "completely blocked" and they had to "remove furniture" from our cabin to make room for the 3rd person for the entire cruise. I guess the 4th person would have had a caught on the balcony because there is absolutely no room for a 4th person. This was extremely disappointing when we had paid the extra $2,000 to have a balcony cabin but couldn't access the door to get out onto the balcony. SAVE your money a book an Ocean View or Interior Cabin for a much lower rate. The Ship's Customer Service Relations were not helpful in providing any alternative nor compensation for the extra cost we paid to have a balcony we had no access to. There were minimal Christmas decorations throughout the ship not making it feel very festive for a holiday cruise. Santa came aboard the ship to visit the 40-50 children on board and gave them all a dollar store gift that broke within the day. We expected much more for a Holiday cruise considering the inflated cost for a cruise during this peak time. We would never consider Holland America for future Holiday cruises. PS to Smokers: there is only 1 smoking section on board and they refuse to let anyone smoke prior to the ship leaving port. It was a long 6 hour wait from the time we boarded to leaving port. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Booked this cruise because of the itinerary. I live in Florida and look forward to seeing the change of seasons. This fall cruise from Quebec to Ft.. Lauderdale had lots of change of scenery and weather. I was unprepared for the ... Read More
Booked this cruise because of the itinerary. I live in Florida and look forward to seeing the change of seasons. This fall cruise from Quebec to Ft.. Lauderdale had lots of change of scenery and weather. I was unprepared for the snow that fell in Quebec during October; however, it was light and delightful for this Floridian. From snow to the shores of Florida -- lots of change of weather and temperature. Before boarding the cruise we spent two days in Quebec City in the "Old Town". Our hotel was charming in this quaint walled city. While rain hampered our touring, the charm of the this city and it's fine restaurants made up for the weather. We toured the town in horse carriage -- way to go! After boarding the ship, our first excursion was a boat trip up the Sagenay Fiords. Learned a lot about the area and enjoyed the colorful scenery during this day long trip. We sailed into a storm and took refuge for a day and then proceeded to Bar Harbor Maine. I love this tourist town. Many delightful shops and restaurants and lots of fall color.. I am disabled and travel with a scooter. Holland America ships are well equipped to handle my needs. Holland America ships mid-sized and afford me access to all areas. The food in the dining room is exceptional. One of the best things about this line, is their staff. They are so very friendly and accommodating. I appreciate the ease of boarding the disembarking. Holland America has managed to make this process easier. Since I spend time in the casino, I do wish that they would do something to enhance this experience. Lively casinos are more fun. While the tours are good and cater well to the handicapped, the on board staff always has a long line waiting to get information and their hours are short. I would recommend making arrangements prior to boarding. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We left on the Zuiderdam’s July 7, 2018 sailing for a two week cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark visiting Norway, Iceland, The Faroe Islands and the Shetland Islands. We flew a day in advance so as to make certain we would feel refreshed ... Read More
We left on the Zuiderdam’s July 7, 2018 sailing for a two week cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark visiting Norway, Iceland, The Faroe Islands and the Shetland Islands. We flew a day in advance so as to make certain we would feel refreshed for boarding. We stayed at the Clarion Airport hotel which was an easy walk with luggage from the airport. We checked in and walked half way between the hotel and the airport and took the metro to the city center our first afternoon. From there we did a boat ride through / around downtown. We left for the airport check in the next morning around 10:45 am. Boarding the bus was straightforward and we arrived at the pier around 11:30 am. The check in process was also smooth. We were on the ship within half an hour. The cabins were available by the time we got on (noonish). The weather was warm and we had specifically packed our bathing suits for the pool. Excellent check in experience. The ship is looking a little worn. The benches in the hallway by the elevators are just pure ugly and chipped. The corridor artwork is also old and outdated. As far as maintenance, there were a few issues. Some of the arrows above the elevators are burnt out. You cannot tell if the elevator is headed up or down. The reading light by my bed was also burnt out. The wooden door that covers the mini fridge had screws that had been pulled out from the frame. Also, during the voyage, maintenance staff were sanding down the metal door frames to each cabin and repainting them. The screeching from the sanding was annoying and I had to request that they stop so I could take an afternoon nap. They obliged. (It seems to me that since this ship just recently came out of dry dock, that would have been the place and time to address these issues.) In terms of entertainment, I did go to the shows featuring various headliners. In the main show lounge, there was a pianist who was rather showy. Also there was a couple who did Cirque du Soleil style entertainment including the ropes/ acrobatic style high wire movements. There was a rather showy violinist from Iceland. But, one or two songs from her were sufficient. Also, all of the instrumentalists gathered for a BBC multimedia presentation. This was the highlight in the main show lounge. Besides the main show lounge, there was ‘The Lincoln Center’ featuring two violinists, a violist, a cellist and a pianist. Unbelievable talent here. They performed at least once if not twice a day. Also, there was the B.B. King Blues Club featuring a group of talented musicians performing appropriately named style of music. Also, there was the Billboard lounge. Here, there were two pianists who did not receive enough recognition. They were incredible. In summary, the entertainment onboard was tops. The gymnasium was small, in comparison to other ships. The treadmills were often all in use, especially at opening time, 7:00 am. The resistance equipment was minimal. There was a trainer on board who did classes throughout the day. If you like to watch TV during your time on the treadmill, as do I, you need to ask for the TVs to be turned on. The sound was minimal, but you can ask to have the dialogue text option turned on. The service desk did a good job, although this part of the ship is also small so the lines can get long to speak with one of the few representatives. A plus here is that they will exchange currency for you. Right next to the service desk is a single kiosk to print out current bills throughout the voyage. (Being able to review charges is not possible from the stateroom.) The shore excursion office, the future cruise booking office and the library have been moved up to Deck 10 in the Crow’s Nest. The size of the future cruise booking office is the size of a large closet. I consider this to be a shame. These offices should be centrally located and closer to the service desk. During this sailing, there was flooding from above. Carpet dryers and shop vacs were all over deck 10 forward to dry this space. I used to enjoy listening to music up here in the past, but the room is no longer set up in this way. Speaking about the future cruise booking office, I asked for an atlas for next year, specifically one with deck plans. Apparently HAL no longer considers printing deck plans in their promotional literature important. Here, I highly disagree with this decision. In addition, I had a couple of run-ins with the shore excursion manager, Reanetse Atema. This was by far the low point of the cruise. (Don’t be surprised by what the shore excursion office won’t be willing to do / discuss). Dining in the main dining room was a bit of a letdown. We had open seating and in order to get a table within a reasonable time frame, without making reservations for a specific evening, in advance, showing up before 6:00 pm was important. That seemed to be the time when the lines began. I find having opening seating and needing to reserve for a specific time to be a bit contradictory. But HAL is not the only company who follows this type of policy. With respect to the food, I had some disappointments as well. The baked potatoes were white potatoes, not baker potatoes. That was disappointing. The Caesar salads were soggy. The dressing was not seasoned with anchovy paste, but rather a single anchovy was placed on top of the salads. The crème brulee was flavorless. The everyday sirloin steak was so so. Otherwise the food was acceptable. Dining in the ‘market place’ lido buffet was great. Breakfast and lunch choices were plentiful. As an aside about space in the lido buffet, I noticed there were no identified areas as ‘reserved for the handicapped’. There were multiple passengers in motorized scooters who would have to navigate the close tables in order to eat here. Although the ship has rooms that are handicapped accessible, more attention needs to be given to other public spaces onboard. We ate in the specialty dining area 4 times. Three times, the room was noted to be the Pinnacle Grill. The 4th time, the same space was noted to be Rudi’s sel de mer. Each night the service and the meals were excellent. The lobster bisque was one of my favorite dishes. I had lobster one night, a pork chop another night, a filet mignon a third night then had Alaskan crab another. Remarkable dining here. There was one other spot noted for specialty dining called Canaletto. This Italian dining venue was actually part of the Lido Market Place. I ate in this venue two summers ago on the Koningsdam and swore I would not return here. Only the Lido Bar and the Ocean Bar on deck 3 offered drink specials (basically 2 for 1) from 4:00-6:00 pm every night except for the first night. Space was tight here during these times especially on dress up nights. Drinks were good and reasonably priced during these hours. I was disappointed that this offer was not available across other bars on the ship. Nevertheless, thanks to Nice and Albert for your service. In summary, weather or not I sail with HAL again will depend upon a response to a letter I wrote to President Orland Ashford regarding the shore excursions office. I am a 3 star mariner with HAL and have sailed with them since 1968. Shore excursions: Our first port Bergen. We were on a bus ride to see the general area of Bergen. That trip was O.K. What was better was strolling the main road for souvenirs, including wool sweaters, and stopping for a beer. Also, there is a Star bucks here that has free WiWi. So, if you are not up to spending $20.00 a day for a WiFi connection on the ship, this is the location to head for. Port two was Alesund. We did a great boat ride through the fjord. This provided us wonderful views of the area. We highly enjoyed this experience. The third port was Seydisfjordur. We payed $70.00 for this tour. It was a walking tour through the town. We chose this tour because we did not know where the town was in relation to the pier. After all is said and done, I would recommend getting off the ship and walking the town independently. The pier is at the base of the town. No need to spend the money. Also, in hindsight, I would suggest that HAL remove this port as there is really nothing here. Or, if not, I would recommend staying onboard. Port four was Akureyri. Once off the ship we boarded a bus to Myvatn Nature baths. This location is not as popular as the geothermal baths in Reykjavik, but as enjoyable without the hype. It was part of a combo tour visiting a ‘falls’ on the way. I would recommend, for sure. This was booked directly the HAL. Port five was Isafjordur. From this location we boarded a boat to take us to the now non-existent town of Hesteyri. I would say skip this tour as well. It was an hour’s boat ride in each direction to walk in the fields with a talk about the way this town used to be. There is currently one family living in this town. They provided us with some sweet bakery delights and coffee before our return back to the ship. Port six was day one in Reykjavik. Here we boarded a bus for the ‘Golden Circle day trip’ featuring Thingvelir, Gullfoss waterfall and the viewing of a Geysir. I had some issues on this trip. The bus itself was old with broken reclining levers, no seat head rest covers and most importantly inoperable seatbelts. We were told to wear seat belts and that we could be individually fined for not wearing them. But many, including several senior citizens, could not wear them due to the condition of the bus. The tour itself was fine. The problem was with the tour operator. I sent a letter to the HAL president about this experience. Port seven was also Reykjavik – day two. Although the Blue Lagoon is a highlight from my trip – 2nd time to a geothermal bath, the operator was once again a problem. The bus was not air conditioned so the escape hatches need to be opened. One person was not on the bus at departure time, so a bus full of people needed to wait 50 minutes before returning to the ship. After pre-showing we had about an hour of time in the lagoon. We were treated to a silica mask and a drink. This was certainly a novelty. Had the tour operator returned on time and the bus had air flow, I would have rated this activity as a 5 star opportunity. This also entailed writing a letter to the HAL president about this experience. Port eight was Torshavn, Faroe Islands. From this port, we traveled by bus to Gjogv. At this site we had a midday snack of cold pancakes and instant coffee. From this restaurant, we walked down the hill to Gjaar church. It was nice but not impressive. I cannot imagine living her in the winter. Port nine was Lerwick, Scotland. This was a tender port. We boarded a bus to take us to Scalloway Castle, the Scalloway musem and to see some Shetland ponies. The castle was small and not impressive. Same can be said for the museum. Seeing the size of the Shetland ponies was impressive. PS, downtown Lerwick has some wonderful souvenir shops. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
Well you have heard it before, reading all those negative reviews and then discovering that they were not even closely accurate. This will be the case with this ship. The ship is in very good to excellent condition- cannot understand at ... Read More
Well you have heard it before, reading all those negative reviews and then discovering that they were not even closely accurate. This will be the case with this ship. The ship is in very good to excellent condition- cannot understand at all what others are seeing in their overly negative reviews. The food is very good to excellent- the best dining room food we have ever had at sea, and I have cruised 4 other lines. I am a foodie and saw no need to go to any specialty restaurants. The entertainment is limited, but excellent- BB Kings played jazz to blues to dancing music, and the band and singers were outstanding. Billboard 100 which is a duel piano sing along type bar/ club- was by far the most attended just for good old fun. The shows were also great- the dancers all could be on dancing with the stars. Piano player/singer, opera etc. were all excellent. Crew were all genuinely attentive and friendly- and in talking to them can see they love working for Holland. The only thing people need to learn is to book their excursions privately, as the cruise lines rates are absurd. One caution- if you go to book "Landscapes and Sheepdogs"- you will pay $200 pp to be taken to a gift shop (Called "Scottish Woolen Center"- its a gift shop) that has Free, I repeat Free sheep dog demonstrations. We felt deceived and grossly overpaid for this. Other than that one negative experience- we loved Holland, loved this ship, and loved the crew from the Captain to the waiter. Book this trip with confidence that you will love it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Purely for the ports... If you are sailing out of Denmark, beware of the extremely high costs during high season in Copenhagen prior to sailing!! Loved Scotland & Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Finland. Russia was good ... Read More
Purely for the ports... If you are sailing out of Denmark, beware of the extremely high costs during high season in Copenhagen prior to sailing!! Loved Scotland & Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Finland. Russia was good booking 2 HAL tours. The easy 3 hour tour day two, was wonderful. The 1 day tour with 5 hours on you own... a good way to experience the sights in your own as we were dropped near the Hermitage area. Absolute highlights: Isle of Skye - Dublin- Cobh - sailing in out of Stockholm. Holyhead Wales was missed due to high winds. On board highlights: Cast show talent - Ian (Commentator). - Dining Room staff Dislikes: the new Explorers lounge in the Crows Nest... buying a coffee in the very small space was normally a long wait. These will be a professionally edited video highlight of each cruise available late June 2018 on Bellairvideo (YouTube) Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
It was a transatlantic crossing that included a stop in Normandy, both Bucket List items. This was our second cruise on Holland America. The crossing was wonderful, calm seas and great weather. We enjoyed Beginner Bridge, the Art Auctions ... Read More
It was a transatlantic crossing that included a stop in Normandy, both Bucket List items. This was our second cruise on Holland America. The crossing was wonderful, calm seas and great weather. We enjoyed Beginner Bridge, the Art Auctions and the gym. We met wonderful people from all over the world, many who have cruised on Holland America exclusively. We took shore excursions in England and France. The Normandy excursion was excellent, worth every penny. The London tour was not a great value, lunch was included but the restaurant was ill prepared for our bus load, we were seated on the third floor, rest rooms were on the fourth floor, average age was about 70 years old so climbing steps not convenient. I would not recommend this cruise for anyone with a disability. My husband has a disability and we booked a room to accommodate his need for handrails in the bathroom. We had four maintenance calls for toilet problems. The improper repair resulted in an accident, causing injury to my disabled husband. The staff onboard was excellent but our dealings with Holland America Claims in Seattle have been very unprofessional. We loved the cruise, the ports of call and our vacation despite the accident. Only now that we have returned home are we left with a bad feeling about the cruise due to the claims process. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We chose this cruise because we knew the Panama Canal is not something that many people get to see. We weren't disappointed in the cruise. She may have a few scratches here and there, but the ship is in great condition with cleaning ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we knew the Panama Canal is not something that many people get to see. We weren't disappointed in the cruise. She may have a few scratches here and there, but the ship is in great condition with cleaning and repair on-going but not in passengers' way. Weather was wonderful--not too hot or humid. Everyone said we had the best weather in the last couple of months. We were pleasantly surprised by the food. It was wonderful in all the venues. We only ate in the dining room twice because we prefer less time spent on dining and not dressing up every night. The Dive In had perfect hamburgers and chicken sandwiches. There was a taco bar that we used several times for taco salads. We got the salad bowl and lettuces from the Lido buffet. We also appreciated that there are servers--not everyone handles the utensils at the different areas. The quality was quite good as was the variety. I think I saw more actual variety at breakfast than I have on any other line I've sailed with. And, the Lido manager brought me a cherry crisp that I had seen on the dining room menu! Pasta bar was great. Many kinds of pasta and add ins were available. We had room 6129 on the Upper Verandah deck. Andri and his assistant did a wonderful job of cleaning, bringing ice, setting a mood for evening after dinner, and making towel animals. Zuiderdam is on the smaller side with 1800 passengers on our trip. I wasn't sure about the arrangement of the decks when I got on and started looking around. Guest services is on deck 1. But it all turned out well. We could get around quickly. I always like a promenade deck that goes all the way around. It was particularly nice for Canal viewing. The entertainment was amazing. I think it's best total package I've ever seen for entertainment. BB King's Blues Club, Billboard Onboard, comedian, classical entertainment, dancers and musicians, especially Steel Drum Island Magic, were all top notch as evidenced by the large audiences for each. America's Test Kitchen was interesting. The lecturers brought onboard for the ports and the Panama Canal were very informative. I'm not at all including the shopping guide. That, to me, is always a waste. All they want to sell is jewelry. Zuiderdam has a Navigator app for your phone to use. It's very handy to get around the ship, schedule your activities, and contact your family. I do wish it would ding though when you have a text. We booked all tours through Holland simply because I like the convenience and they cover what most all the tours do although with a bit more expense. For Bonaire and Curacao, the shopping areas closed early so there wasn't much time for browsing. A bit more time in port would be good. Bonaire was interesting for the salt flats and slave huts. I thought we would stop to see flamingos, but we didn't. We saw some but at a distance. Curacao is a beautiful area. Be sure to see the Kukunu Museum. The guides do a super job of showing you how the island functioned years ago. The town is beautiful. Be sure to go across or at least see the swinging bridge. Free wi-fi is hard to come by. We chose to stay on board at the Panama Canal. The long tours were more than we wanted to do this time, but I think we will make another trip and see the other side of Costa Rica. One tour was 3 hours late returning because the canal doesn't work on strict timing. All the deck areas were open to accommodate everyone who wanted to see what was going on. We got to see the sun come up over the canal. You'll want to get up early! I got off in Colon and walked about 3 blocks through a chain link tunnel to the "mall". There was a military helicopeter and a large police presence there. You'll want to stay onboard I think. Costa Rica was beautiful--another reason to go back so that we can see more of the island. We did the Rainforest Preserve. The rainforest is the most magnificent thing I've ever seen. I love the desert, beach and mountains, but the forest has to be seen to be believed. We did not see many animals which was a bit of a disappointment, another reason to go back. Be prepared to walk whichever tour you take. There's a great market at the port with many booths and crafts people. For sea days, there were many new movies in the room. There were many activities to attend and lots of deck chairs all over the ship to relax in. Shopping was all high end except for small things in the shop that sells candy, t shirts, etc. Why is there always so much high end shopping? Embarkation was pretty smooth. Rooms were ready by 12:30. We got on at 11:30 and had lunch. Debarkation was easy too. We paid $25 for Holland to collect our bags and get them to the airport and print our boarding passes. It was worth it. Hassle-free trip to the airport. Customs was 45 minutes--a long wait. If I could have gotten the Mobile Passport to work, we could have saved a lot of time. I'm not sure what the issue was. We will definitely choose Holland again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Our first cruise ever was on the MS Zuiderdam from Jan 7, 2018 to Jan 17, 2018. It was an initiation for sure! The weather was not the greatest to start with and progressively worsened throughout the cruise. After our second last stop in ... Read More
Our first cruise ever was on the MS Zuiderdam from Jan 7, 2018 to Jan 17, 2018. It was an initiation for sure! The weather was not the greatest to start with and progressively worsened throughout the cruise. After our second last stop in Colon, Panama the weather really turned nasty and the ship truly started to rock. The weather was so bad, that the captain decided that it was unsafe to dock at our last port of call Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. So we proceeded back to Ft. Lauderdale and spent the last part of our cruise on rough seas for 3 days. It was not much fun! To be fair, the weather was not Holland America’s fault and we and they attempted to make the best of an unfortunate situation. For the most part, we did enjoy our cruise especially the stops at Half Moon Cay, Aruba and Curacao. However, the cruise through the Panama Canal was boring and if you did not partake of one of the many day excursions offered through EXC Tours then you were not allowed to disembark from the ship at Gatun Lake (there was absolutely nothing there). Some of these tours were expensive and exceeded on average 5.5 hours in time. Passengers who took the tours were picked up at Colon when the ship docked but were warned that the ship could be late because their return time through the canal was controlled by the Panama Canal Authority. They were told to stay within the terminal facilities until the ship’s return for the safety reasons as elaborated below. When the ship did return to Colon, we were allowed to disembark but were warned to stay inside the terminal premises as it was considered unsafe to venture past the terminal facilities. The shopping within the terminal facilities was somewhat limited and there was not much else to do but return to the ship and await departure. Personally, I would find another more inviting and safer port of call. Overall, staff and crew on the MS Zuiderdam were very organized, efficient, friendly and courteous. The embarkation and disembarkation were systematic and well controlled. Our room stewards Nugi and Chris were amazing and were always present should you require some assistance. Their positive vibes were constantly evident even when the last part of our cruise was not the best. I truly wanted to thank them in this review. Servers that also came to our attention were Joel and John Patrick who provided excellent and attentive service - again, making this a somewhat more relaxing cruise. Overall though, I am not sure that I would recommend this cruise for everyone. If the weather was inclement as it was for us, then the alternatives were small to nil with the exception of returning to Ft. Lauderdale. Would we go on a cruise again? – most certainly!! Sometimes you just have to rock and roll with the flow. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Simply put we loved everything about our cruise! The entertainment was top notch. The singers and dancers on board were fabulous we went to all 3 nights of their shows, we enjoyed the dueling pianos, Island Magic Drums, a comedian and the ... Read More
Simply put we loved everything about our cruise! The entertainment was top notch. The singers and dancers on board were fabulous we went to all 3 nights of their shows, we enjoyed the dueling pianos, Island Magic Drums, a comedian and the BBC America Show with the band and Lincoln Center Stage musicians. We were in a Signature Suite-It was a nice size for my husband, mother and myself. My mother has difficulty walking, she usually uses a walker. We rented a scooter for the trip through HAL and it waiting in the room when we boarded. It made her trip much more enjoyable! The staff on the Zuiderdam was always going out of their way to help her. The Signature Suite has more than enough room to park the scooter without breaking it down which made it easy for her to come and go as she pleased. The room stewards were very attentive (although you barely see them). We felt like they watched for the minute we left and would come running to spruce up the room, drop off fresh fruit, drinks etc. and of course towel animals. The itinerary is wonderful and if you haven’t seen the Panama Canal this was just long enough to get the experience without seeming like you were in locks forever. It was just right for us. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We just got off of the Zuiderdam we went to the Panama Canal. The ports were amazing we had wanted to do this cruise for a while. Pros: Food was really good. staff onboard were all very nice and attentive. Ports were great, but still ... Read More
We just got off of the Zuiderdam we went to the Panama Canal. The ports were amazing we had wanted to do this cruise for a while. Pros: Food was really good. staff onboard were all very nice and attentive. Ports were great, but still cannot understand why we would go to Colon when we were told by many people do not go out of the port too dangerous. so we did not. Cons: Holland tends to entertain older people. I am 58 and my husband is 65 and seriously I think we would have been included in the younger crowd. We spent 4 days at sea. and I was so bored. Of course they have there activities , that is if you want to learn about a computer, 2 days they had flower arranging. the second one had a cost of $39 WHY??? They have many things at the spa well of course. I'm so not used to this. At least on other cruise lines there was always something to do not in this case actually I think there is more entertain in an old folks home. At the port of Cartagena, Colombia we planned a Segway tour of the old city, it was featured on cruise critic as the top excursion. These guys were amazing, I really don't think I could say enough about how well they do their job. We had a wonderful time. Cesar was absolutely wonderful. he knew I was nervous and he stayed with me the whole time. This is an excursion you cannot miss. We have decided that this is our last cruise on Holland. Just not enough things to do. In the evening I you do not get to the theatre at least 45 minutes before the show you don't sit, this theatre is not large enough to handle the crowd. If you cant get in to the show. there is no other entertain until 9. Looks like they would at least have something going on. but they don't. If you want a cruise where you can relax and read and eat,,, this is the cruise for you, not for us. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
Chose this cruise for the itinerary because it included the Panama Canal. The ship is older and needs to be renovated. Our cabin had a tub which should be removed and replaced with a shower which will provide more room to move about. The ... Read More
Chose this cruise for the itinerary because it included the Panama Canal. The ship is older and needs to be renovated. Our cabin had a tub which should be removed and replaced with a shower which will provide more room to move about. The closets in the cabin creaked which made it difficult to sleep. The carpets are well worn, some areas of the ship smell bad, the entertainment, food and dining service leaves a lot to be desired. Even the "specialty" restaurants did not deliver as hoped. The best part of the cruise was the BB King Blues band. Most of the excursions were interesting but expensive. The comedian/ventriloquist joked that the average age of the guests was 108...he wasn't far off. This was the oldest crowd that I've ever cruised with. They provide good facilities, scooters and such for the disabled client. I definitely would not recommend this for a young couple. My advise is to choose an ALL-INCLUSIVE resort or cruise because by the time you pay for EVERYTHING (including water) you will spend as much if not more. Because of this experience I will not choose Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Zuiderdam I sailed from Bergen to NYC.Sailing through Hermine the captain made the correct call missing Nova Scotia and head for NYC. I enjoyed the city for a full day.Hop on hop off for$64.00 with ferry. It appeared as though they are ... Read More
Zuiderdam I sailed from Bergen to NYC.Sailing through Hermine the captain made the correct call missing Nova Scotia and head for NYC. I enjoyed the city for a full day.Hop on hop off for$64.00 with ferry. It appeared as though they are short staffed rarely extra staff was called in when it got super busy.I was disappointed in finding out the ship had no self serve laundry.$30.00 abag or $110.00 unlimited.Very hard working staff and friendly. I was surprised to hear the ship ran out of 4 or 5 different beers.The onboard entertainment could be better and a longer show to boot.The milk cartons were the worse you had to punch a straw through the top, good luck trying to open it to pour.I suggested to the cruise line to offer extended days in certain ports.1 day in Reykavik was not enough I hate to rush to see as much as I can.They decided to fix some area on the lido area interrupting seating.I feel the whole needs reconfigurating.not enough seating at prime time.The casual smart dining menu is similar a lot if the times.So if you want to sit for an hour and a half or two it,s up to you.I also don't know why they only offer happy hour in just 2 locals.I heard they are going to dry dock the ship in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Cruise to the Baltic began and ended in Copenhagen. My wife wanted to see St. Petersburg, Russia. Service was excellent in the dining room and on the Lido deck. Food was terrific. If you have a mobility cart, like I did, avoid the ... Read More
Cruise to the Baltic began and ended in Copenhagen. My wife wanted to see St. Petersburg, Russia. Service was excellent in the dining room and on the Lido deck. Food was terrific. If you have a mobility cart, like I did, avoid the Vista Suites. They don't have enough room to accommodate a cart. It has been my experience that the ocean view rooms can handle a cart. But I upgraded to the suite and didn't realize that the balcony was included in the square footage. The end of the bed stuck out into the entry and I couldn't get past it. As a solution, the front office allowed me to park near an elevator area. At night, the room steward put the cart in his service room and charged it. The summer weather was cooler, rainier and windier than we expected. A windbreaker with a hood was very helpful. Rasmus, the walking tour guide we met at the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers, was terrific. He knows the city, its culture and history. His English is superb. I was able to see the city while using my mobility cart. He carefully chose routes which minimized the cobblestones. I highly recommend him. His email is rasmuspoul@hotmail.com. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We absolutely hated this cruise!! This was our fourth cruise with Holland America and our last! The good parts of the cruise were our room stewards were quite nice and did a good job; our servers in the dinning room were also quite nice ... Read More
We absolutely hated this cruise!! This was our fourth cruise with Holland America and our last! The good parts of the cruise were our room stewards were quite nice and did a good job; our servers in the dinning room were also quite nice and did a good job as well, however, as for the rest of the ships company we cannot say the same. We upgraded from a verandah stateroom to a signature suite. This "suite" was terrible. There was a large crack and a huge hole in the base of the bathtub; the carpeting was torn in several places, there were stains on more than one wall, baseboards were missing from two walls, there was a huge dint in the threshold leading to the verandah, which made this a safety hazard as this was an accessible stateroom and there was a chunk of tile missing from the bathroom floor. Also, even though this was supposed to be an accessible stateroom, the bath towels were placed on a bathroom rack that was over six feet high which made it impossible to reach from a wheelchair or a scooter. Even though all these things were reported to the proper authorities, we were not offered a different stateroom nor a refund. After several phone calls, visits to the customer relations desk and speaking to a supervisor, all we were offered was a bottle of wine. On one particular evening we had reservations at the Pinnacle Grill and the service was so bad that we left. The manager offered us another evening at their expense which we excepted. He made the reservation for that while we were in the restaurant, however, when the evening of that reservation came around, they told us that it had been canceled. After we had left the Pinnacle Grill on the first occasion, we went to the main dinning room to have dinner at our assigned table only to find someone else sitting there. All this has lead us to feel that we would be much better off and get our moneys worth sailing with another cruise line. We will NEVER recommend Holland America again, especially since Holland America did a horrible job of providing excursions for the disabled. We did all those on our own and had no problem setting them up. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Although we are much younger than the average person on the ship, we did enjoy it. The ship itself needs to be upgraded i.e. TVs, stateroom furniture, WiFi, Unfortunately, some of the needed work of chipping rust on deck happened ... Read More
Although we are much younger than the average person on the ship, we did enjoy it. The ship itself needs to be upgraded i.e. TVs, stateroom furniture, WiFi, Unfortunately, some of the needed work of chipping rust on deck happened during our 17 day cruise; which was loud and annoying. Music was changed after a couple of days from up to date music (rap) to 40's, 50's and 60's music which was more appropriate for the age group on board. Entertainment was pretty good but loud singing. They can tone it down. Our reservations in the Pinnacle restaurant were completely botched up but HAL made up for it with a free meal there. The Pinnacle Grill was excellent. All the food on board was great (except for the shrimp and eggs). Cruise Director was excellent (Christina). Shore excursions are too crowded and I would not book another one again. If you can get a taxi at the worst or if you have time get a personal tour and hook up with other people on your cruise with Cruise Critic. Ports were great: Azores (Horta, Ponta del Delgada), A Coruna, Cherbourg, Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, Copenhagen. The captain was very informative and I give him an A+. The crew in the Lido needs more training. Officers walking through the deck do not make eye contact and don't recognize anyone around. (I think that is awful). I have sailed HAL many times and this is the only time I have seen this behavior (or lack of). Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
When you think of Holland America and know that it has an older crowd, know that on this particular ship the average age is 80. Of the 1800 passengers less than 100 were under the age of 60. Very few were even in their 60s. Almost everyone ... Read More
When you think of Holland America and know that it has an older crowd, know that on this particular ship the average age is 80. Of the 1800 passengers less than 100 were under the age of 60. Very few were even in their 60s. Almost everyone that we interacted with were in their 80s. Nearly everyone went to bed straight after the 8:00 show let out. If there was an actual emergency onboard there is no way people would get to the lifeboats swiftly. The octogenarians were not an negative aspect, but be aware that no one is really awake past 9:30 and that the pace is slower than slow. My friend and I are in our 50s and we spent the whole time wanting to aid the older people who were having trouble moving deck chairs and whatnot. We also felt resentment when we went to shows and bar early to get seats for shows and older and later people would show up and have nowhere to sit. But we paid too, and we couldn't keep giving up out seats like we were on a subway or something. This is a senior cruise, and really should be labeled that. The cruise director was the worst I have ever experienced, ,and when I mentioned this to several crew members, they had all noticed the same issues and agreed he was horrible. They said they had never worked with someone so disengaged with the passengers. He was very preoccupied with his girlfriend, who is also a crew member. The only times you would really see him was before a show started. He was never out mingling with the guests or greeting anyone. Throughout the cruise as we passed crew in the hallways, they all went out of their way to greet every single passenger. We passed him three times over the course of our cruise and twice he purposely looked down at the ground and said nothing and the third time he just looked past everyone. We saw him at the ports, not saying anything to any passengers but flirting with his girlfriend and being amorous. Once we passed him using a phone on the ship and heard him giggling and talking dirty. He was horrid. I liked the food. We went to the Pinnacle twice for their regular menu, and once for Le Cirque. Le Cirque was well worth it and the other two times were not. Might as well have gone to the regular dining room or Lido, which had lots of options. They had pizza and ice cream available at any hour, and other options available til 11:30pm. The condition of the ship was also not bad. We saw some buckets collecting various leaks in the photo lounge, but didn't see any rust or any furniture in bad shape. Our room was very nice, large, clean. We were happy with that. We did the Embera Village shore excursion in Panama. I would not go again. We did not go to Panama, ride in a bus for an hour and a half, then a motor powered leaking canoe for 7 minutes, to an obviously uninhabited collection of huts to purchase items from China from people who are wearing Hawaiian costumes. The people in the village are dressed in said costumes that they readily tell you that they have bought from China. They also try to sell baskets, beads, jewelry, and other items that they have purchased from China. And the items that they are selling they are also selling right at the port. They ask for candy and money for the children, but they you see all the adult men eating the candy and they admit that the children have uniforms for a local school and so the money is probably for all the satellite dishes that you see throughout the village. The villagers also do not live in the huts that you see, they live in concrete buildings toward the back. Where they have running water and televisions and computers. They whole place is a scam. I'm sure there is not any other opportunity for these people really, other than selling cheap Chinese merchandise and begging for money, but just know what it is before getting into it. On the way home everyone was talking about and pointing out the absurdity of this excursion. The cruise entertainment was a mixed bag. The Zuiderdam singers and dancers were very similar to watching the Lawrence Welk Show. Their music was not modern, nor was their dancing. Some of the singers were not very good. They performed three or four times. Kevin, the steel drum player was really great, but he didn't seem to know that many songs. He played the same music everyday on the deck. There was a magician named James Cielan who was pretty good. BB King Blues was the place to be. They did sing the same 20 songs over and over each night, but they were at least lively. And then there was Stryker in the Piano Bar, the theater, the deck, the Queen's Lounge. He performed every single day, sometimes twice a day. He apparently has lived on the ship for nearly 10 years, we were told this by the crew. He gets a packed crowd each night because the octogenarians like to sing Oh When the Saints Go Marching In before heading to bed at 9 pm. They also like to sing Sweet Caroline over and over. He is a very good singer and very good piano player, but as per the usual complaint for the enetertainment category, plays the same 20 songs over and over again. So you have Kevin on steel drums, Stryker, the Zuiderdam Singers and Dancers, plus BB KIng people all playing "Fernando" each day for 12 days. You will never want to hear certain sings again. And Stryker makes this point that he knows every song, but as soon as someone requests (for example, Stevie Nicks) something that isn't on his boring list, he doesn't know it and won't play it. There wasn't anything interesting to do on sea days or between ports onboard. People ended up napping all over the ship or eating during these times. We did too. Embarking was swift and easy, disembarking was not. We had a good cruise, but it could have been better. Simon the cruise director needs to be retrained or removed. They needs to stop playing the same 20 songs repeatedly each day. Stryker and the Zuiderdam Singers and Dancers need to freshen up their acts. Everything else was pretty good. It was a very slow pace on this ship, good for relaxing. We enjoyed the ports, though more than 4 early morning hours in Cartagena would have been nice. I would recommend this ship for octogenarians who like Lawrence Welk and napping. You will have a great time. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Our 9th cruise, and 2nd on Holland America was just O.K. The food was Buffet Restaurant quality at best, ( think Golden Corral, Old Country Buffet). Dining room service was not quite up to par as I've experienced on most other ... Read More
Our 9th cruise, and 2nd on Holland America was just O.K. The food was Buffet Restaurant quality at best, ( think Golden Corral, Old Country Buffet). Dining room service was not quite up to par as I've experienced on most other cruise lines, but all services were done with a smile! Main stage entertainment was, as others have commented, High School Drama/Glee Club quality. Demographic was 85%-90% Retiree community and over. The accessibility services for the port excursions was top notch! Cruise Director (Rick) went above and beyond to ensure a fantastic experience for all! Excursions were GREAT! The Canal, GREAT! The "Band" was hard-working, and extremely flexible. B.B. King Band were not the seasoned caliber of a previous HAL cruise we experienced. Happy Hour in Northern Lights (10:30-11:30) was always fun, even starting a tad bit early. Great room Steward Staff (5064-Mad'e) and overall friendliness. I loved that the Pool Staff did not pressure us to buy drinks, but were available if we wanted. Andy-Host extraordinaire, Ashley- Cooking/Cuisine Expert, Rick-Cruise Director, really made our experience one we'll remember forever! Thanks again Holland America! Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
Zuiderdam cruise 5-6-15 and pre-cruise visit to Rome Please feel free to skip down to the summary if that is all you want! All the details are included from my log as some seem to really enjoy reading these. Background: We booked ... Read More
Zuiderdam cruise 5-6-15 and pre-cruise visit to Rome Please feel free to skip down to the summary if that is all you want! All the details are included from my log as some seem to really enjoy reading these. Background: We booked this cruise in early March when DW’s doctor proclaimed her “Able to resume all normal activities.” Cruising is a normal activity for us and everything lined up so we booked the cruise and airfare. A week later her knee problems returned and they grew more severe than ever. She absolutely did not want to cancel the trip so we are traveling with a wheelchair, walker, and cane. We left our home shortly after 3:00 PM for a 10:05 flight from JFK, which our GPS said was 2 hr. 40 minutes travel time. All went very well until we hit Staten Island. The last 25 miles took over 1.5 hours. We certainly saw places in Brooklyn we’ve never seen before, including “Utrecht Avenue.” Our entire “Margin” was used up but we dropped the car as an off-airport parking lot at 7:00, and were through security and ready at 8:00. We flew Air Europa from JFK to Rome, connecting at their hub in Madrid. The transatlantic flight was fine, as well as they go. At the Madrid airport they treated DW very well, wheeling her in the wheelchair and providing special transportation to customs and then to the connecting gate. We ate a light late breakfast while waiting for our flight to Rome. The Rome flight was delayed about 30 minutes due to the plan arriving late from the Canary Islands. We arrived in Rome less than 15 minutes behind schedule. At the Rome airport we had an excellent helper who wheeled DW from the gate to luggage claim, got a cart for our luggage, and then wheeled her to where our shuttle company was waiting for us. We were out of the airport less than one hour after landing, not bad at all. We used COTAV-FIAVET shuttle service and were impressed with the extra assistance the driver provided. To get to our hotel he went right through historic Rome and it was a very pretty late afternoon. We arrived at our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, 22.5 hours after leaving home. That is a very long travel day. The lifts at the hotel are too small for DW to use in the wheelchair. So within the hotel she is using the walker. Right next door is a restaurant, Mattarello. We went there for outdoor dining just as dusk was settling in. Dinner for two for 26.5 Euros is a pretty good deal in Rome, and the food was very good. Monday, May 04, 2015 – Rome day one – Historic Rome After our exhausting travel day, we slept until nearly 8:00, very late for us! We enjoyed a terrific breakfast downstairs at the Garden Inn. The breakfast gets 5 stars. Made to order eggs or omelets, wonderful Italian breads, pastries, and “Local” cookies were all offered. Fruit, yogurts, all types of coffee or tea, and all included with our room due to our Hilton status. For guests that pay for breakfast, it is 12 Euros/pp. That is a lot for breakfast but not if it’s one of two meals for the day when on vacation. After breakfast we needed to finish getting ready for the day, and that included sunscreen as we had a beautiful sunshine, no clouds, and no humidity day ahead! At about 10:20 we went to the lobby as the last taxi in the queue drove away with passengers. One of the helpful front desk personnel called for a taxi and ordered a “Larger one” so we would have room for the wheelchair. He assured us the cost was the same as a smaller one. Away we went to the Roman Forum. Well, we didn’t know any better – but even though we told him which entrance we wanted to go to, he dropped us at the wrong one – actually the Palatine Hill entrance. This is good for most people as there is rarely a line to buy tickets (which are good for the hill, the forum, and the coliseum) but not so good as that entrance is not very friendly for mobility handicapped persons. The people at the entrance were encouraging so we tried it. We certainly did get to see areas we otherwise would not have seen; however, the physical cost was too high. We followed signs to an exit and then had a very hard time exiting through roundabout gates that would not fit the wheelchair. The exit was not staffed so no one was there to open the swing gate. Other helpful guests assisted and got us through. We were back to the street and found it reasonable easy to wheel to the proper main entrance to the Forum. There, an elevator is available to lower you down 2,000 years in time to the Forum grounds. We enjoyed visiting the forum and listening to the Rick Steve’s audio tour. We made our way back to the present and walked / rolled to the Coliseum. There we were whisked in through a special gate and went part-way around the lower level, before taking a lift to the upper level. At the upper level we went all the way around the structure, taking in the views as we went. As we were ready to exit we were approached be two young people who said they were writing a paper on Handicapped access in Rome and asked if we would answer a few questions. We did so and they were very nice. We found the one thing in the Coliseum that was not clear was how to get out if you are in a wheelchair. Eventually, someone at the entrance gate escorted us “Backwards” through the entrance line to the front entrance, where we exited. The next challenge was working our way half-way around the outside of the Coliseum (mostly on cobblestones) to reach the nearest taxi stand. We made it, and at about 2:45 we got into a taxi to head to the Parthenon. We visited the Parthenon in 2012 but it was such a crush of people that we really didn’t “See it.” Today we entered, took seats in the pews, and listened to Rick Steve’s audio guide. It was very enjoyable and it is quite a structure for one that is 2,000 years old! Exiting the Parthenon we rolled one block to just behind the Parthenon and enjoyed a “Lunch/dinner” at Miscellanea, a restaurant recommended in the Rick Steve’s book. Everything was very good, the only caveat was that the excellent waiter did not speak much English and couldn’t answer DW’s question as to what kind of seafood was in a seafood salad. She ordered it anyway, and enjoyed 80% of it, but passed me the Calamari. That was fine, except I ordered Calamari for my main course so I was kind of over – Calimaried (is that a word?). Still including beverages, an appetizer, and two complimentary “Rick Steve’s friends” wine shots each, the bill was 45 Euros which is certainly reasonable for “Sidewalk dining” in view of the Parthenon. From the Parthenon we walked & wheeled our way to the under-restoration Trevi Fountain, which seemed to have just as many people around it while “Waterless” as it had with water in 2012. On the way there, we passed through Rome’s “Galleria Alberto Sordi” shopping mall and I must say that was the easiest wheelchair rolling of the day – those Marble floors are made for it! We made it a few more blocks in search of a taxi stand but never did find one. On one of the main streets we were lucky to wave down a taxi, who quickly returned us to the Garden Inn at about 6:00. After walking through 2,000 year old dust, we were tired and dirty so the shower was calling. I noticed a supermarket just down the street, so I walked there and picked up a six pack of water and two Gelato cups for less than four Euros. That made a great evening snack and we now have a nice water supply. We called it an ‘Early’ night and I wrote my report at about 8:30. Tomorrow we visit the pope (or at least, where he resides). Tuesday, May 05, 2015 – Rome, day two: The clock radio at the Garden Inn was again showing an incorrect time. We didn’t notice it until we were ready for bed. This contributed to our sleeping until nearly 9:00 AM! That was not exactly how we planned to start our day. Regardless, we had a good breakfast at the Garden Inn and arranged for a taxi to take us to the Vatican Museum entrance, arriving about 10:45. Just as Rick Steve’s guidebooks say, the entrance line for those without tickets stretched along the outer walls and around the corner. With DW in the wheelchair, we were waived through to the “Special situations” desk where we were provided with two complimentary passes. We took the provided lifts and ended up “Going in the back door.” This would be true for most of our visit as 80% of the time we were moving against the main traffic flow. We certainly enjoyed our visit to the Vatican Museum, spending nearly three hours there. We used Rick Steve’s audio tour for the Sistine Chapel and that did make the incredible art there come alive. We saw the Raphael rooms and wished we had a Rick Steve’s tour for those rooms! After leaving the museum we walked and rolled a very long way around the walls to the main entrance to St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica. This time we had to wait a bit for the security line to clear in front of us, and afterwards began listening to Rick Steve’s guide to St. Peters. St. Peter’s is huge, the largest church in existence. It is impressive, yes, but not quite what I was expecting. For some reason, the audio guide implies visitors can walk pretty freely around the building, this is no longer true. The area around the main altar and the entire apse were blocked off. One could not even stand directly below the impressive dome. Sometimes something happens that just puts a cloud on an experience, and that is what happened inside the Basilica. I’ve been pushing DW around all day (and yes, she helps wheel herself when possible) but by this time nearly 4 hours non-stop on my feet and I need a few minutes to sit and rest. Sit on the steps outside, and you are told “No sitting there.” Sit on the base of a column inside “No sitting there.” Go to the chairs in front of St. Peter’s crucifixion site and don’t let the guard see you have an audio tour “Those seats are only for prayers.” Neither I nor many of the St. Peter’s visitors are 28 years young and nimble. I can’t imagine Jesus telling people they can’t rest a while when in a church. By the time we were headed out and our tour took us to Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” I was too bushed to appreciate what I was seeing. Regardless, we are glad to have been there and seen it, but I feel “No need to go back.” Exiting St. Peter’s square we saw a sign for a McDonalds “5 minutes this way.” After about 10 minutes we saw another sign “3 minutes this way.” We would have welcomed a break at a McDonalds for a large cold drink and a chance to rest. But, we found a taxi stand before getting close to the McDonalds so we taxied back to the hotel. We quickly downed a bottle of water each, and then headed out to the nearby market for some needed supplies. Afterwards I went to use an ATM but the credit union ATM is indoors and they closed at 4:00 PM, another ATM said something in Italian about “The main office” and it was not working. We returned to Mattarello, the restaurant next door to the hotel, for another wonderful meal with Rogero, our waiter from Sunday evening. As we were very early (by Italian standards) for dinner, we were the only guests enjoying our “Private” al-fresco dining patio. We enjoyed a fabulous two course meal followed by an incredible Chocolate truffle like gelato, which we shared. Every bit of dinner was most enjoyable and we talked with Rogero quite a bit. We learned that this part of Rome is considered the “Expensive” neighborhood and is highly desired. We certainly agree it was nice, but it is still certainly “In the city” with lots of traffic and ongoing noise. We enjoyed a two hour or so meal for a very reasonable cost. Tomorrow we are to be picked up at 10:00 AM to head to the Zuiderdam! It is sure to feel like going home. Wednesday, May 06, 2015 – Embarkation day With the alarm set we didn’t need it this morning. In fact, for some reason we did not sleep well. We were up and enjoyed our last breakfast at the Garden Inn. I tried to use the business center to print another luggage tag but the system was so slow I gave up. It turned out we didn’t need it anyway. I walked to the open credit union across the road and instructions on the ATM were only in Italian. A kind employee helped me but despite the logos matching we could not get either of my ATM cards to work (two different banks). I looked around and noticed a bank about a block away. Their ATM worked but had a 250 Euro limit per day, so I obtained 250 Euros. Back to the Garden Inn we assembled all our belongings and with three elevator trips managed to get everything down to the lobby. We were scheduled for pick up at 10:00 and at 9:55 a van pulled up. I had arranged with COTAV-FIAVET shuttle service to pick us up and then pick up new friends from cruise critic at another hotel. It turns out the van already had another couple on board. When the driver saw the wheelchair he expressed a problem that he could not fit the entire luggage. He called his office while I pulled up the original reservation e-mail in which I clearly outlined the luggage load we had (which was actually very little luggage – but the wheelchair takes up space!). It is a good think I had that e-mail because I honestly think they would have left us if not for that. With the driver’s cell phone, I spoke with the office and pointed out that I had clearly stated the luggage and wheelchair. We proceeded to pick up our new friends and while it was certainly snug in the van, everything did manage to get transported to the port. With great relief we all got out of the van, paid the driver, and the waiting luggage handlers whisked our luggage away. We walked into the terminal, were handed the health questionnaire, and proceeded directly to check in after passing thru metal detectors. Check in took five minutes and we were immediately cleared to board Zuiderdam. One of the crew welcoming passengers assisted with pushing the wheelchair up the gangway. Two other wheelchairs had gone slightly before us so there was a short wait for an elevator for the one deck ride to the main deck, and our cabin #1003. The cabin was ready; there is just enough room to park the wheelchair (folded) and the walker next to the bath in front of the sofa. We put our valuables into the safe and proceeded to the Mariner’s welcome aboard lunch in the Vista dining room. Lunch was excellent and we enjoyed the company of another couple we ran into several more times during the day. We returned to the cabin to find the luggage had all been delivered so we unpacked and stored everything. One of the true joys of cruising – no living out of the suitcase! It was nearing time for the safety drill and we waited as the announcements kept saying do not yet proceed to the stations. We did leave a little early as with the wheelchair we needed to use a lift to deck three. The drill went faster than any we remember with crew members scanning in each passenger’s key card. We returned to our cabin and changed into dinner clothes, then headed to the crow’s nest for our cruise critic roll call informal meet and greet. DW used her walker rather than the wheelchair. On the way there we stopped at the spa to check out the Hydro Pool package. They were offering a “Special” for $249/couple for the cruise. Despite this being a port-intensive cruise, we thought for DW’s medicinal purposes we would take the plunge and use some of our generous OBC towards this expense. We managed to meet about a dozen or so from our roll call and many we are doing tours with. Around 4:45 the staff came around with plates of hot appetizers which were a very nice touch. We are on “Early dining” at 5:45. We timed our arrival just as the first-night line had dissipated so we would not have to stand waiting to reach our table, located near the entrance as requested. DW enjoyed her always available Salmon dinner while I really liked the first night Prime Rib. The Apple Strudel for dessert was just the right size to round out a great meal. At the end of the meal the wait staff took the time to ask our names and welcome us on board. We returned to the room and changed into swimwear and headed to the Hydro Pool. We enjoyed the pool and then the thermal loungers. After about 45 minutes we called it a night as we have an early start for our Naples-based tour tomorrow! Thursday, May 07, 2015 – Naples shore call. Private excursion to Positrano, Amalfi, and Pompeii. We ordered room service coffee to be delivered between 6:00 and 6:30 as our wake up call. Sunlight peeking through the blinds woke us at 6:10. (A reason for an inside cabin?) The room service delivery came at 6:15 exactly as ordered. We were heading to the Lido for a full breakfast at 7:05. Doing the Lido with DW in a wheelchair is a bit of a challenge, but the Vista doesn’t open until 7:30 and that is too late as we have a 7:45 meeting time for our excursion. Met a very nice Omelet maker, Roland, who made us superb Omelets and asked our names. We will need to go back to Roland tomorrow. One of the lido servers took DW’s plate and also brought her coffee while I was gathering up the superb orange juice, and a few other breakfast items. We left very satisfied and headed down to the Atrium bar to meet our touring partners. This excursion was arranged through aptours Italy, and our driver Carlo did an excellent job for the eight of us. We drove to Positrano, stopping at several photo-stops along the way. We enjoyed a brief visit to Positrano, including a stop at a Pharmacy as DW apparently had sunscreen in her eyes and it was very painful. We also stopped to share a baked treat and DW enjoyed a Cappuccino. Back in the van we headed to Amalfi. The coast is incredible and I can understand its “World heritage site” designation. Amalfi I was a bit disappointed in. Yes, I took some great photos from the water’s edge. But the “Pedestrian only” area is anything but. I guess the definition of “Pedestrian only” in Italy is different. We were constantly dodging motor vehicles ranging from Mopeds to Autos to Trucks. We ever witnessed a vehicle at least grazing a leashed dog (the dog’s owner apparently did not notice). So my TripAdvisor review on Amalfi will not be very positive! After our time in Amalfi we headed back over the mountain, which we were told is some 800 meters to the road’s summit, down the other side to Pompeii. While DW needed to pass on Pompeii, I found it to be the highlight of the day. Walking on roads that are 2200 – 2400 years old, on the original stones, really puts time in perspective. I was very impressed with many things at Pompeii, not the least of which were “Crosswalks” and an early attempt to provide night time roadway reflectivity (meaningful to me because of my job). The end of our visit I found very sobering and sad. A team of experts is currently putting the finishing touches on plaster reproductions of some 30 bodies based on skeletal remains, for an exhibit opening later this month. We were able to see this work in progress. Three finished pieces of an adult man, a child, and a dog brought tears to my eyes. They never had a chance to survive as the gases choked most residents to death before the ash and/or lava buried the city. Meeting up back at the van we found that DW had been perusing the local shops just outside the gate and found “Cameos” she found interesting. In talking with our driver, he said that just around the other side of the site, there was an authentic cameo factory and he offered to take her there. So she enjoyed shopping any buying a small souvenir of the day while we were touring. Kudos to Carlo for taking extra care of his guest! We returned to the Zuiderdam at 4:45 for our 5:30 all aboard. Quick showers, a stop at the future cruise desk to arrange for future cruise deposits, and it was time for another excellent dinner. We followed dinner with a “Withdrawal” of on board credit at the casino, a hydro pool / thermal spa visit, and a return to our room to find lots of clean laundry. Tomorrow we visit Sicily for the first time! Friday, May 08, 2015 – Palermo, Sicily, Italy Friday began with a 6:02 alarm on my phone followed a few minutes later by a room service delivery. We ventured up to the lido to Roland who made us excellent Omelets. I found my way around to obtain juices, breads, a little sausage, and a waffle. A few notes on the Zuiderdam so far: Food, mostly excellent. Service the same. There is a smell, not all the time, but quite often, that is not pleasing in the hallway outside our room (Deck 1 forward). It appears to be coming up the stairwell from lower decks. Yesterday I did not mention we were a few minutes ‘late’ in docking. This morning the itinerary said 7:00 but we were not actually docked until about 7:25. This did not affect us as our meet time for our private tour (same group as in Naples) was meeting a 7:45. The ship was cleared at 7:35. We met and while on time, we were the last to arrive. We immediately disembarked and it turned out we were the first, or very nearly the first, to leave the ship. Our driver/guide from Papillon Service Italy was waiting for us just steps from the gangway. He has a very large VW van, which we were surprised, had only eight seats (four rows of two seats). This worked fine for our group but the vehicle certainly could have had at least six more seats, with still room for storage/luggage. In any case, the first thing he told us is that “Palermo is a city of cars. There are more cars than people.” Why? “Because we have very poor mass transit.” There are certainly a lot of cars with crazy traffic. There may be even more mopeds and motorcycles, and they are like “Mosquitos” according to our guide. We drove out to the nearby mountaintop village of Monreale, where the “Basilica Cattedrale Santa Maria Nova” prominently stands out from a distance. Its claim to fame is that nearly the entire inside is finished with gold mosaic tiles. The cathedral was built in the 1100’s by the Normans who controlled Sicily at the time. It was truly impressive, and I thought more so than the larger but plainer St Peters in Rome. They offered a climb to the top of the watchtower for 2.50 Euros. Of the group, I was the only one to take the climb. Honestly I didn’t make it quite all the way up as things became more narrow and short the higher I went, but I did get some wonderful photos none the less! After Monreale we returned to the van to drive over an hour to the seaside village of Cefalu. We needed to back track through part of Salerno and the traffic was near gridlock. Our driver did manage to fine some alternate roads and we arrived in Cefalu at about 11:00. He guided us on a walk through the town, past the main church (also built in the 1100’s as a church and a fortress by the Normans), and down to the shoreline. We walked together until about noon (stopping along the way at a shoe store where DW bought a pair of shoes actually “Made in Italy.”) and which time he showed us exactly where he would pick us up at 1:30. We enjoyed a lunch of Gelato bowls (four different flavors in the bowl!), water, and a cappuccino at Foodsicily on the waterfront. Our table was one foot from the beach. We lingered there, also taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi to send a note home, until just after 1:00. We noticed some street side vendors along the beach and we strolled along to see if they had anything interesting. No purchases were made, and soon it was time to return to the van. We returned to Palermo and our driver gave us a driving tour of many of the major city sites and buildings, including the grand opera house (as seen in the movie, the Godfather), the presidential palace and home, government buildings, the city’s one fountain, several of the 16th century city gates, and more. By 3:20 we were back at the Zuiderdam. This return gave us just enough time to try the burgers at the Terrace Grill. They are excellent. Next we headed to the hydro pool, thermal suite, and then got ready for dinner. Dinner tonight was mixed. DW ordered a “Spicy shrimp” entrée that she did not care for. On the other hand, my “English roast beef” was superb. We went to the show tonight, a magician “Devlin.” He was okay but maybe 3 out of 10. After the show, we thought we would watch the “Country line dancing” lessons in the Queen’s lounge. After fifteen minutes we needed to call it a night. Tomorrow is a much needed, slow paced, relaxing day at sea! Saturday, May 09, 2015 – Sea day #1 (of 2) What? Is it really 8:40 AM? No, I had the watch upside down. It was really 6:10, but the sun was peeking through the not entirely closed window blinds. Back to sleep until 7:45 or so! After really waking up, the breakfast in the dining room was a delightful way to start the day. There was a sale by the pool (of course there is) and two T-shirts were purchased. On board merchandise purchases are subject to a 22% VAT tax as our cruise never leaves the E.U. Guess we won’t be making any additional merchandise purchases! We then used our hydro pool and thermal suite pass to enjoy the rest of the morning taking it easy. For most of the time we were the only ones in the pool or on the loungers, so it was really nice. Afterwards we found a table on the lido with a nice breeze and enjoyed being outdoors and having a light lunch. The afternoon 2:00 “Shore talk” was on five upcoming ports and was rather informative. It served well to reinforce decisions already made on shore plans. At 3:00 it was time for the “Royal Dutch tea.” We certainly enjoyed the Dutch delicacies! At 4:00 I attended the Captain’s Q & A held in the crow’s nest while DW began to get ready for formal night. At 5:15, all ready for formal night, we enjoyed the band at the Ocean bar and were talked into a couple of happy hour beverages. Just before 6:00 we headed to the Vista dining room. The third couple at our table made an appearance. They are very nice, celebrating their 65th anniversary! They said they eat just one meal per day and other evenings they’ve done room service and once at the Pinnacle. Dinner tonight was superb. The Peppercorn Sirloin with Shrimp was very enjoyable and perfectly done. My requested baked potato was also perfect. The dessert menu was rather limited and I mentioned to the waiter that if he happened to find a left-over slice of Apple Pie from the lunch menu I would volunteer to consume it. Sure enough, Apple Pie appeared! Kudos to the maître de’ for bringing the pie. Tonight’s show is the Chapman Brothers. They were on our Westerdam Panama Canal cruise at the time we thought them the best “Guest entertainers” we ever had on a cruise. They did not disappoint. Even though the show was likely identical to the one we enjoyed last year, it was again full of energy and a lot of fun. They received a standing ovation. Closing out the evening, we visited the Piano bar for Frank Sinatra night and enjoyed about 35 minutes of “Old blue eyes” tunes before calling it a night, as we have a very early start tomorrow for our “Yacht outing” in Sardinia. Sunday, May 10, 2015 – Mother’s day in Olbia, Sardinia, Italy A 6:02 alarm began this marvelous Mother’s day. Minutes later the coffee/tea was delivered. Breakfast in the lido this morning as our cruise critic group had a 7:45 meet time. All arrived in time and we departed the Zuiderdam together. This group had arranged for a “Yachting day” on the restored wooden boat “Dea del Mare.” A 16 seat mini-bus picked up the 14 in our group at the port to drive us 45 minutes to the town of Barca. Along the way we were impressed with the Sardinian countryside. The entire island is granite although in many valleys there are sheep farms and vineyards. We even saw some cattle. We were onboard Dea del Mare by just after 9:00 and returned to Barca at about 3:00. This was a wonderful day spent exploring the National Park in the Archipelago Porto Della Madonna. We stopped at Santa Maria Island where a few chose to swim to shore and others rode in to the beach on the rigid rubber motorboat we pulled along. The water was cold, but this was my third visit to the Mediterranean and for the first time I actually went swimming. While many of us were on the beach the crew began preparing our Sardinian lunch. Sardinian flat bread & Olives were followed by a cheese and meat tray with local sourced products. This was followed by a “Tuna sushi, marinated in Olive Oil along with Italian style crusty bread. Finally Spaghetti with a Sardinian twist was served. The grand finale was the traditional Sardinian after-meal drink and the most delicious cookie varieties including a wonderful Almond cookie! Lunch was accompanied by local Sardinian wine. The wine was quite flavorful and it continued to flow all the way back to Barca. There were a few on board who likely didn’t realize the quantity they consumed as it was warm, the sun was shining, and for those who enjoy wine, it went down the hatchet very easily! In any case, we were picked up at 3:10 and were safely back on board the Zuiderdam at 4:10; after a rather long walk from the terminal we were required to pass through due to local security regulations. The promised “Shuttle bus” was not in sight. To complete a very busy day, we enjoyed the hydro pool for a time and I watched the sail away from the thermal suite. Showers and a delicious Turkey and Short Rib dinner followed. Truly, the dining room meals have been excellent, although tomorrow’s menu did not seem so attractive. We noticed on the daily planner that the movie being shown was “Jupiter Ascending.” I had wanted to see that one so we skipped dessert in order to make the 7:00 start time. The show tonight was a violinist so we opted for the movie. Tomorrow we are in Livorno, Italy. It’s a long port call; seven to seven. We are in no hurry as we will remain in Livorno rather than travel far to the popular sights. Monday, May 11, 2015 – Livorno, Italy The “Ship is cleared” announcement at 6:45 woke us, but only for a moment. At 8:30 we visited the Vista dining room for a very nice breakfast. Ziggy, our evening waiter was working and as there were only about a dozen guests in the dining room we had a chance to converse with him for quite some time. He has been with Holland America since 1998 and has a family with three kids at home in Indonesia. After breakfast we made our way down to the port. The shuttle bus provided by the Livorno port (5 Euros for the day) was not wheelchair friendly (with huge steps!) but we were told the next bus was better. Also, DW was “No charge” in the wheelchair. It was not a long wait but once on the bus it was a long wait as the bus filled to beyond seating capacity with perhaps a dozen people standing. Due to the port configuration, it is a very windy and twisty route to get out to the town and finally be dropped off at the main square. At the drop off is a very nice travel information office, which also sells tickets for bus transfers to Pisa, “Hop on, hop off” bus tours of Livorno, and also a canal boat tour. I inquired inside and was assured the canal boat tour was fully wheelchair accessible, but the 10:30 was nearly full so the 12:00 would be better. In the meantime they provided less than perfect directions to the main market. We found the main market (eventually) and enjoyed browsing the various areas. We found the market extended nearly back to the main square and had just enough time for a large Coke Zero (with ice!) and a small milk shake (DW) at a McDonalds. We could not get the free internet to connect however. We met back at the Travel office at 11:45 as instructed and were told to wait at a certain area. At exactly 12:00 a man with a sign showed up and waved everyone to follow him. That is where things went downhill… Obviously this man was not informed that someone in a wheelchair was in the group (and he didn’t bother to survey his guests). It was about a six block “Walk” to the canal boat. Some of the streets crossed had no curb cuts of any types and we fell far behind. One other couple on the tour stopped to assist us and I thanked them several times. Finally reaching the area for boarding, we found that the way down to the canal level was not exactly a ramp, and not exactly steps. It was a ramp built from paving stones and certainly not something I could manage to move DW by myself. I went to see the captain of the canal boat who spoke little English and who shrugged his shoulders as if to say “What do you want me to do?” We headed back by a friendlier route to the travel office and found someone who appeared to be a manager. He was sorry to hear of our experience and hinted that some of these canal boats are better equipped for mobile impaired guests than others. He refunded our tickets and suggested heading to the waterfront boardwalk. At that point, we were exhausted from the canal boat attempt and headed to the shuttle bus stop. While waiting what seemed to be a very long time for the shuttle bus, DW was “Befriended” by one of the many African refugees trying to sell various trinkets and jewelry. Despite our telling him numerous times we were not interested, we could not shake him until our shuttle bus finally arrived. While we never felt threatened in any way, we were glad all our valuables were safely tucked in our money belts. The shuttle bus that arrived was one of the “High steps” variety, but DW was not about to wait around any longer in Livorno. She struggled up the steps while I had the wheelchair put in the luggage area. The full bus headed back to Zuiderdam and we arrived back at about 1:00. After getting off the bus (perhaps harder than getting on?), we were happy to be back on board and headed to the Lido for lunch. I helped DW at the salad bar and ordered for myself from the Terrace Grill. Those sure are good burgers. We enjoyed the hydro pool for a long time, being the only ones in there, and then fell asleep on the thermal loungers. DW took a nap while I took the Kindle down to the promenade deck to read. I stayed until the kindle battery died at 4:50 and we prepared for dinner. Before dinner we enjoyed the band at the Ocean bar for a while. Dinner was very good with “Everyday” selections ordered tonight. DW enjoyed the Salmon while I consumed my perfectly cooked Sirloin. A new shipment of tea has arrived and now they have decaf Black tea, so I enjoyed tea with dessert. There is an open house at the new “Cabana retreat” area that was built at the recent dry dock on deck 11 over the new cabins on deck 10. We toured the area and while it is somewhat attractive, it was windy and cool up there and don’t understand what the attraction would be to pay for space such as this on a cruise like this. In the Caribbean, perhaps – but you are really not near any pool water! As we were getting ready to leave the Captain appeared and he ended up assisting us with getting back into the special elevator that goes from deck 10 to deck 11. There is a lip at the outer door that takes some effort to get over with the wheelchair. The show tonight was the singers and dancers “In concert.” I thought it was mildly entertaining and not as engaging as the shows on the HAL cruises we took in 2014. The end of the show was the best, with first balloons and then confetti being showered upon the audience. After the show we went to the Queen’s lounge for the first performance of the evening of the B B King’s Blues band. The first fifteen minutes was a much extended introduction of the band members, but after that it was much better as the vocalists joined. Finally it was time to call it an evening. Returning to our cabin, we found a towel “Wolfie” on our bed. This was our last port call in Italy. Tomorrow we are on the island of Corsica. Corsica is just north of Sardinia but Corsica is part of France. Tuesday, May 12, 2015 – Calvi, Corsica, France We heard the lowering of the anchor and then the tender boats early in the morning. Sure enough, at 7:45 an announcement was made that the ship was cleared and guests could “Beat the rush” as tendering was beginning. We had arranged to meet friends for a nice dining room breakfast at 8:20 and enjoyed a nice time together. We then met at the tender dock at 9:30 to head over to Calvi. Prior to this time, an announcement was made that “Open tendering” was in place and no tender tickets were needed. We found that there is a “Secret elevator” that goes from A Deck to B Deck for mobility impaired guests. Thereby, DW was able to get right to the tender platform without dealing with stairs. The sea this morning was smooth as glass and there were no waves rocking the tender. Before 10:00 we were on land in Calvi. Near the dock there was a welcome desk set up and all who visited were given a map of the town and a selection of six local candies, nicely wrapped. A very nice welcome indeed. The four of us walked along the waterfront and found that most of the sidewalks did not have curb cuts so I wheeled DW along the edge of the street. This was true most of the day. Traffic is not intense in Calvi and when there was a parade of vehicles we moved over as much as we could. We found our way heading uphill along somewhat gentle slopes and reached a great overlook at the parking lot for the Citadel. From there we followed the map to the Church of Santa Maria. We found the church, and it was about half the size of a one room schoolhouse back home. We decided that the ladies wanted a nice cup of coffee and the men wanted to visit the Citadel, so we returned to the area near the Citadel entrance where there were many cafes. I went with my friend to climb the Citadel and reach the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist at the summit. The church was quite nice and the Citadel is a thriving residential area as well as having many small cafes and restaurants. There would have been no chance of getting there with the wheelchair due to a very steep grade made of coarse and very uneven cobblestones. On our way down, we found the claimed birthplace of Christopher Columbus marked with historical plaques, but we know this is one of several such claimed places. We rejoined our DW’s for a soda and a chance to sit at the café, and then found our way to the local “Pink” colored church. This was a challenge to reach but we did all make it. Afterwards, we found our way back to the waterfront and decided to head back to Zuiderdam for lunch as it was now about 1:00. We obtained a salad in the Lido and found a table in the shade near the Lido pool. A burger and hot dog from the Terrace Grill was my lunch. Those burgers are outstanding! After a bit of ice cream, we changed for a long and relaxing visit to the hydro pool and thermal suite. There was a sail away in the crow’s nest today with music by Adagio. Upon arrival we found they were also having a non-advertised happy hour, and they served everyone a nice cheese plate of appetizers. We stayed at the crow’s nest conversing with a few other guests until dinner time. Dinner was again very good. Prime rib was again on the menu tonight and it was superb, melt in your mouth Prime rib! DW has the Salmon over spaghetti with cream sauce and she liked it. After dinner we visited the Ocean bar and listened to the band until their break. The show tonight was a juggler type of act and we skipped it to call it an early night as tomorrow is a full-day tour from our port call in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Wednesday, May 13, 2015 – Monaco Our alarm woke us at 6:25 as Zuiderdam was on approach to Monaco. About ten minutes later our coffee and tea was delivered and the day was off. We enjoyed breakfast in the Lido, with Roland making our Omelets. We ate on the aft pool deck and enjoyed seeing Monaco from deck nine. At about 8:10 the “Ship is cleared” message was made and we met our touring group at 8:15 as directed. We appeared to be one of the first groups off the ship and after about three minutes our driver & tour guide, Alexo with Nizza travel picked up the six of us with a very nice oversized VW van. He drove less than a mile and parked under Monaco-Ville and then led us on a walking tour of the area. We began by walking through the botanical garden, saw the palace, the cathedral, including the final resting place of Princess Grace and Prince Ranier III, and walked through many of the small, impeccably clean alleyways filled with sidewalk cafes and souvenir shops. Back to the van, Alexo drove us over the course of the Monaco Grand Prix. Along the way we passed famous hotels, the Monaco Casino (where, interestingly, residents are not allowed to gamble), and dealers for many six-digit priced vehicles. Dealerships for Rolls Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, McFarlan, and a Mercedes dealership with only their top-end vehicles were all along the race course. We were told that residents with apartments along the course are able to rent out their balconies for 20,000 Euros for the race. We next drove out of Monaco to the hillside medieval village of Eze, France. Alexo got us as close as he could and then needed to back the van down the switchback road as there was no room for him to turn around. He offered to take my DW to the top of a nearby mountain as Eze is not at all accessible in a wheelchair. She really enjoyed this as she was the only one of our group who got to see the Swiss Alps in the distance, as well as seeing Eze from up above! We met at the main road at the appointed time, and proceeded on to France’s fourth largest city, Nice. Alexo gave us a grand tour beginning with a stop at the “Balcony of Nice” for wonderful photos. We passed homes belonging to Elton John and Sean Connery, among others. Alexo was able to stop in the old city of Nice where we had a small bakery snack of a Panini and Apple cake dessert. We walked through the “Flower market” where in addition to flowers, many vendors selling homemade soaps and various baked goods were present. We found one selling almond macaroons. After sampling one, we had to buy a souvenir tin of cookies. We packed this carefully, hoping they make the trip back home! Leaving Nice, we rode the expressway for a short time to the seaside village of Cannes. Today was the opening day of the Cannes film festival, but films were not being shown until tomorrow. It was interesting walking around, seeing all the mega-yachts that have been rented by various movie studios (most of which I have never heard of). Many of the apartments in the building facing the waterfront also had banners attached to the balconies with names of production companies. We did see large posters for several upcoming movies that looked interesting, including a new George Clooney movie “Tomorrowland.” Headed out of Nice we passed the Grand Hyatt, which apparently had several celebrities present based on the crowds gathered outside and the heavy security presence. Speaking of Celebrity, the Equinox was anchored off shore and was tendering passengers into Cannes. We drove through several small seaside towns with beautiful sandy beaches and passed through one with a medieval fortress built right on the waterfront. We then headed back to Monaco and the Zuiderdam, where we arrived at about 4:40. We spent more time in the van that I would have preferred but we certainly did get a good view of the French Riviera. We had just enough time for cleaning up before dinner. There is a barbeque on the aft pool deck tonight. We walked by the check it out, and it looked pretty good, but we headed to the dining room. We were joined by the sisters at our table and dinner was excellent again. I am glad I ordered two entrees as they were both small, but delicious. Scallops wrapped in bacon and Beef tenderloin were both great. Dessert was not that great, but later I enjoyed ice cream with banana at the barbeque. As the sun set, the band began to play at the aft pool deck and quite a crowd was present. I was able to get some good photos of Monaco in the twi-light. At 9:40 we called it a night. Tomorrow is St. Tropez and no long tours are planned, it will be a relaxing day. Thursday, May 14, 2015 – St. Tropez, France We are in port today from 8:00 AM until 11:00 PM. We heard the announcement at about 7:35 that the ship was cleared and tender service had commenced. Before 9:30 “Open tendering” was available which worked out perfect for us. We enjoyed a great dining room breakfast, and arrived shore side at about 10:10. Why Zuiderdam has such a long port call here I don’t understand, but I will take the opportunity to take some evening photos of the town from the ship. We walked around town, found the main square, which was filled with carnival type of equipment, and wandered some of the pedestrian only alleyways. We looked into a bakery and took photos through the window. Four euros for a single pastry or cookie seemed a little extravagant for our sense of value. We walked the waterfront and found that many local artists had set up displays of their efforts on the docks. If I owned one of the yachts tied up right next to them I’m not sure how happy I would be about it, but we must assume the town blesses this marketing effort. Just a note on the weather – trip to date, it has been incredible and as close to “Perfect” as one could ask for. Yesterday was the first day with some high clouds and a haze the built as the day went on. Today we had high clouds all day and a fog over the Mediterranean (but not over the bay where we are anchored). As I write this the sun is shining brilliantly yet looking across the bay (not very far, perhaps three miles?) you can see the haze. Still, we have not had a drop of rain and we really appreciate the weather blessings we’ve been enjoying. By Noon we returned to the Zuiderdam and enjoyed a quality coffee from the Explorations café. We relaxed in the crow’s nest for a while and when the coffee was consumed we went to the Lido for lunch. DW enjoyed a salad while I found gold! No, not really gold, but roast turkey was being served. Our favorite lido chef, Roland, gladly cut me a double portion of just white meat. A little brown gravy and some red skin mashed potatoes made this the best lunch of the cruise! We ate outdoors by the aft pool with a delightful light breeze. One of our touring friends found us and joined us for a while. His DW was still ashore “Shopping.” A very relaxing afternoon of enjoying the hydro pool (alone for the first forty minutes) and then the thermal loungers (again, alone for a long time) was what we needed after yesterday’s very full day. We were dinner-dressed by 4:00 and went to the crow’s nest to write up the log and DW was taking advantage of our T-Mobile cell phone plan looking up a few things on the internet. This brings up something else I don’t believe I’ve mentioned to date. Almost every evening if we are in one of the lounges before dinner appetizer plates have been served to us. This had been an extremely rare event on prior cruises and is a welcome improvement. On the other hand, there is now only one “Band” and when the band is needed for the evening show live music in the Ocean Bar is limited to 5:00 – 6:30. This effectively leaves those on main dining without the opportunity for dancing prior to dinner. Further, while on this 11 day cruise there are only two sea days, there has been no, as in ZERO, music at the pool during the day. Prior cruises we nearly always had music at the main pool during the main lunch times on sea days. To me, the loss of live music is more important than gaining appetizer plates. At 5:00 we moved to the Ocean Bar to enjoy the band. We were served another appetizer plate. Dinner was excellent once again. I had the ribeye steak and DW enjoyed a Caesar salmon salad. We left dinner before dessert in order to attend the movie, only to find that the movie was not the one advertised. We returned to the dining room as the mango & blueberry crisp sure looked good (and it was). We attended the show, a comedian Tony Daro. As comedians go he was okay. He really picked on our northern friends in Canada and there are a lot of Canadians on this sailing! After the show we went to the aft deck to try to take evening photos of St. Tropez. Well, there will be no evening photos as the wind was blowing and the camera would not stay still for long exposure shots. During dinner, the Captain announced that a storm was developing off the coast and Zuiderdam would be taking a much longer route, hugging the coast, to Barcelona. He said this route change will minimize the rolling and pitching but the cruise has been so calm thus far he wanted passengers to prepare as it will affect us late tonight and all day tomorrow. We enjoyed a cup of tea in the Lido and called it a night. Friday, May 15, 2015 – Sea day number two (of two) The sea conditions today were not an issue. Yes, there were waves but we could hardly feel the ship move, and there was no “Sloshing” in the pools. It was kind of nice taking a course along the coast as at nearly all times we could see the French and late in the evening Spanish mountains. Breakfast was enjoyed in the dining room. A long and relaxing time in the hydro pool and thermal suite followed. When we were quite warm, we found a table at the Lido pool to watch the handful of children on board enjoying the pool, while sipping teas and soda. After changing into more suitable clothes, we stopped at the front desk to tell them we were not attending the mariner’s lunch and they handed us the new Vista-class commemorative tiles. A lido salad topped with roasted chicken breast made a great lunch for DW. I greatly enjoyed my last Terrace Grille burger of the cruise. Small (really!) desserts followed. We tried to attend the 1:00 movie but at 12:48 there were no seats remaining. This confirms a fear I had – the seats in the screening room are incredibly comfortable, but they take up a great deal of room (like individual recliners would in your living room). There are only about 20 chairs. On sea days they really should show the movie in a larger venue. We attended the Indonesian tea, a regular favorite of mine. The decorations are still there, and I assume the tea is still from Indonesia, but it’s not the same as it was as recently as last year. The tea was weak and the snacks so-so at best. We won’t make the effort in the future. Getting prepared for formal night, we then visited the Ocean bar for pre-dinner music with the band. We watched the captain pose with a number of guests for formal portraits. In truth, there weren’t that many guests having portraits taken. We suspect that most passengers on this cruise are fairly well traveled and no longer purchase photos (our case as well). Dinner tonight was very good. The shrimp cocktail was very nice, and Ziggy took good care of us. My request for an extra lobster tail was gladly accommodated. The lobster was smothered in some type of sauce but it was still quite good. My filet was very thin but perfectly cooked. Tomorrow’s steak in the Pinnacle will be better. We exchanged e-mail addresses and photos with our table mates, and said our farewells to Ziggy and his assistant. Ziggy really worked hard all cruise. We headed to the show room for the singers and dancers in “Avalon.” The show was okay. Overall, entertainment on this cruise is far below what we enjoyed on our three HAL cruises in 2014. Is this because of the type of cruise, being so port-intensive? After the show we called it a night as tomorrow is an early start for our all day tour to Montserrat and the Spanish wine country. Saturday, May 16, 2015 – Docked in Barcelona The alarm went off, the coffee/tea was delivered, and we docked early in Barcelona. We visited the Lido and our favorite Lido cook, Roland, for breakfast. We met our touring friends (just four of us today) and at 8:15 we were off for our all-day tour of Montserrat and the Spanish Cava (wine) country. Our driver Nordine, with Barcelona day tours picked us up a few minutes before the appointed 8:30 meet time in a Mercedes van. Nordine told us the ride to Montserrat would take about an hour, and he told us the history of Montserrat and the “Black Madonna” on the way there. We were passed by a “Fast train” that Nordine told us makes the trip from Barcelona to Madrid in just over two hours. As we climbed the mountain, we stopped for photo stops, and passed through the village which is the base of the cable car and cog railway; two alternate methods of reaching the mountain-top monastery. We were early enough that the security team allowed Nordine to drive us right to the entrance to the Cathedral due to DW’s wheelchair, saving us quite a walk uphill. Nordine told our companions to get into the line to go through the Cathedral to see the Black Madonna, and that we should wait while he parks the van. We did so, and after about 20 minutes he was back. He took us in the accessible entrance to a wheelchair lift. Due to space constraints, only one wheelchair at a time can go in to the upper chapel so we waited a bit. Just as our turn arrived our touring friends came out. They waited as we visited the upper chapel and viewed the Madonna. Nordine then took us through the main cathedral and we took a number of photos. The entire grounds are impeccable and we enjoyed seeing things like the home where the monks live, with the front courtyard strategically planted with “Plants/trees you would find in Israel.” Among these was a fig tree. The two men had hoped to take the funicular to the very top of the mountain, but it is not currently working. Nordine said that it was 85 years old, and the funicular cars were being replaced later this month to update the operation. We perused the souvenir shop and then enjoyed a light lunch at the upper cafeteria. We would later find out there was a lower cafeteria with a more substantial menu, but oh well. We walked the grounds taking photos and noticing that the crowd was certainly growing. We met Nordine again at 1:00 and as we descended the hill saw vehicles parked every spot one could possibly fit. Some of those people had quite a hike just to reach the property gate! We took a different road down and stopped by a church originally built in the 1100’s which was also a convent until 1982, when a new convent was built a few miles away. From this site, we could see the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees Mountains, some 200 miles distant. Yesterday’s wind sure cleaned out the atmosphere! The Spanish Cava country is very pretty. Set between the sea, and a row of hills buffering the sea breezes, and Montserrat, which blocks the north wind, they have an ideal climate for growing grapes. We stopped at the ArtCava winery. This was the most inclusive “Wine tour” we have ever taken. We were even shown the “Cave” (Cava is Spanish for cave) where the wine is aged. We were shown how the yeast is removed from the wine (by freezing the neck) and the entire process. We also tasted three different varieties. We would have loved to take a few bottles home but as each weighs about four pounds, the airlines would not like that! We returned to the Zuiderdam at about 5:00. It was time to shower and pack. Afterwards, I tried to check in online for the flights home but Air Europa does not have a great or responsive web site. We visited the “Spanish barbeque” taking place on the lido deck for photos but as we had reservations with friends we toured extensively with at the Pinnacle Grille we did not partake of the barbeque. The Pinnacle was very, very good. Everything was enjoyed and we said our farewells to put the luggage out for the travel day to follow. Sunday, May 17, 2015 – Heading home A final breakfast in the dining room began what under the best conditions would be a very long day. We met another couple we had prearranged an airport transfer with and left the Zuiderdam. Many of the entertainers and officers were wishing everyone a fond farewell as we exited the gangway. We retrieved our luggage and went outside to find / wait for our driver. I had arranged a 9:00 pre-paid pick up with BCN Travel Barcelona. To make a long story short, the pick-up never happened. Finally someone at their emergency number told us to “Take a cab.” I had to scramble to come up with enough Euros to pay the cab fare. After waiting in the cab line we were finally at the airport at 10:10 AM. Checking in with Air Europa went well, but our wheelchair assistant abandoned us after going through security. We had coffee and a soda at McDonalds and began the very long walk to gate G62. Arriving at the gate, we let the gate staff know we were there and they “Called for assistance.” They made us late until everyone else had boarded the plane before the assistant could wheel DW onto the plane. Someone else was sitting in her seat and needed to move. We took off on time but on arrival in Madrid the plane did not pull into a gate. Stairs were brought up, but this was not a small plane, but a 767! The cabin attendants called for a lift and we waited 30 minutes after the last passenger was off before the lift arrived. While waiting we found out this is the same plane that will fly to JFK later this evening. They drove us to nearly the other end of the airport to go into the terminal. The assistant wheeled DW about halfway back to an “Assist station” and told us to meet him back there at 4:30. Since it was now 2:30, and a Burger King was nearby, we retreated to the King of all burgers (but they are not as good as the Terrace Grill by a longshot!) to wait out the two hours. We returned to the meeting place and no one was there. By 4:40 one person from the assist group walked by but he spoke no English. I pushed DW the 15 minutes to gate A1 myself. Of course, now boarding had started so we needed to wait until everyone else boarded the plane. A different assist man showed up and wheeled DW down the level gangway to the plane. The long ride home? Okay, we left Madrid on time. We arrived at JFK about 50 minutes early. Someone from JFK assist was waiting for DW with their wheelchair. We were told ours would be at luggage claim. It was a very long walk to customs and immigration. They now scan your passport and take your photo automatically. This process went quickly. Our two suitcases were quickly retrieved, but no wheelchair or walker. The stewardess from the plane was also working luggage, and she spent over 15 minutes on the phone, finally to be told that they were delivered to the wrong oversize luggage belt. With DW now in her own wheelchair, we were out to passenger pick up#4 and after only a short wait our pick up van from Park Plus airport parking was there. We were back in our van and left their lot at exactly 9:00 PM. In forty minutes we crossed the NJ border and we were home at 11:25 PM. Summary: We would take this cruise again, knowing what we know now? YES. We would take it again as a repeat? Likely not, at least for a while. Cruise summary of the Zuiderdam follows: Food was overall very good to excellent. No complaints whatsoever. Wish list? I wish they would open the main dining room a half-hour earlier on port days. Service was also overall very good to excellent. No complaints in this category in the dining room, lido, Terrace Grill, room service, stateroom attendants, or the front desk. The staff at the gangway was always ready and able to assist DW getting on and off the ship. The spa staff was always pleasant and we never experienced crowding at the hydro-pool or thermal suite. The only service issue we experienced is that I completed the mid cruise “How are we doing card” and received no response at all. Not a big deal by any means, but a surprise as the Westerdam responded within 24 hours last fall. Issues brought up on cruise critic I will touch on. There is always concern about the Zuiderdam because of historic issues with toilet operation. We never had a problem, and did not hear anyone else talking about any problems. I did find that if the “Toilet flush” button in our cabin was not all the way out sometimes it would not flush when first pushed, but that push usually popped the button out and a second push resulted in an immediate flush. Our cabin, far forward on the main deck (Deck 1) was very pleasant, but at times (and unpredictably) there were sewerage type of odors in the hallway and forward elevator lobby. This is one of the items on my mid-cruise comment card that was not responded to. At other times, there was no odor at all… We took advantage of the “Retreat open house” and were not overly impressed with the area. I can see how some might enjoy this on a Caribbean type of cruise. The new cabins on deck 10 do not detract (again my opinion) from the attractiveness of the ship. When the cruise ended the Norwegian Epic was docked next to us. That is one ugly ship. The new seating in the screening room is very comfortable but the chairs are much too large taking up so much space that only twenty or so can attend screenings. On a 2,000 passenger ship, that is just too few seats. We were “Out and about” most of the time, yet I actually saw the captain just three times. Officers in general just “Never seemed to be around.” This was very different than the Westerdam, where we constantly saw officers interacting with guests and crew. The three captain views were at his Q & A session, at the retreat open house, and the last formal night when he was posing for formal night photos. Overall cruise rating – Four stars out of five. For the first two-thirds of the cruise I thought this would be four and a half stars. The smells, subpar entertainment, screening room capacity, and non-response to the comment card made me give the good ship Zuiderdam four stars. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This Nov 29 to Dec 9, 2013 review of the ms Zuiderdam 10-day Panama Canal Sunfarer cruise is written as my impressions which may or may not conflict with the impressions of others. Pre-cruise hotel was at the Sleep Inn, Dania Beach for ... Read More
This Nov 29 to Dec 9, 2013 review of the ms Zuiderdam 10-day Panama Canal Sunfarer cruise is written as my impressions which may or may not conflict with the impressions of others. Pre-cruise hotel was at the Sleep Inn, Dania Beach for four nights prior to the cruise. There is a small strip mall across the street where we found three restaurants (Mexican, Italian, and Chinese) and a Publix grocery. The Publix had great carry-out food and we could purchase our carry-on beverages. There was also a Walgreen's Pharmacy adjacent to the hotel property. The hotel has a free shuttle to/from both the airport and cruise terminal. Luggage: Our luggage consisted of two spinner bags, one with clothing and another with miscellaneous computer and camera accessories; large camera bag with three cameras and lenses; roll-on bag with two computers (business and personal), cruise documents, jacket, meds, and personal car keys; duffle bag (personal oxygen concentrator supplies, meds, and spare batteries; a portable oxygen concentrator; and a four-wheeled walker. Two spinner suitcases and the walker were left with the curbside porter who placed them in the rolling cart that would transport them on to the ship. Scooter: A scooter from Special Needs at Sea was waiting for us near the luggage drop-off location at the HAL terminal. Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal at 10:30 AM and proceeded directly through the security checkpoint to the HAL Check-in counter. The five-minute process was efficient and with no waiting. We were pointed toward an elevator that took us to the second floor waiting area. We were the first passengers in the waiting area. Due to computer issues with the Border Control, embarkation was delayed until 12:00. The intrusive ship's photographic staff blocked all access to the doorway leading to the gangway but being the first passengers to board, we quickly proceeded past their cameras. I stopped at the Fron Desk to get a hole punched in my boarding card so that I could wear it on my HAL lanyard. Stateroom 6166 was ready for arrival and I dropped off my carry-on luggage before proceeding to the Mariner's Embarkation lunch. Our luggage arrived at 1:30 PM. Ship's Furnishings: I will dispense with any comments about the decor as being very subjective and having no bearing on my level of satisfaction with the cruise. The artifacts as well as the coloring throughout the ship did indeed complete the intent of the designer. Stateroom: SC5166 was ready for our occupancy when we arrived. The room was clean and all of the relevant documents were on the bed. We met our Room Steward and revieed our requirements We asked that our mini-bar be removed and this did not happen until the following day. We requested to large ice buckets be filled three times per day and this happened most of the time. The aft-wrap balcony was partially covered with four chairs, two loungers, a foot stool, and large table. At least 30 people could fit on the balcony. Even though our mini-bar was evacuated, we discovered a new bottle of water on the third day and a charge of $2.11 on our final bill. The charge was not worth standing in line at the Front Desk to contest. During the Panama Canal transit, the room temperature rise caused us to close our curtains and the air conditioning returned to normal. Room Stewards: Hanofi was a good Room Steward but need reminding about laundry bags each day. He provided our free shopping bags on the last day of the cruise. Dining -- General: Ron, Culinary Operations Manager, provided me the lunch and dinner menus for both the Lido and MDR for all of the Panama Canal cruises as well as for the 7-day Caribbean cruises for the 2013-2014 season. I also obtained the new Canaletto menu. All of the menus were scanned and are being provided to CC members upon request. There was no chocolate extravaganza night as on previous HAL cruises. Dining -- Lido: The food was good with the Pepperoni pizza being especially favored. It must be noted that HAL pepperoni pizza does not have tomato sauce but rather a light brushing of olive oil. The cooked-to-order pasta was excellent. Line Servers would provide any quantity of items upon request. Of special note was the bread pudding and chocolate chip cookies. The Lido Restaurant management was active in speaking to diners about the service and quality of the food. The servers were friendly and offered their suggestions for those passing down the serving line. Tables were cleared quickly after diners left the table and a rolling cart with free beverages was in constant motion through the dining area. Dining -- Terrace Grill: The nachos, available after 2:00 PM were a great snack almost every day. Since I often delivered a plate of nachos to the stateroom for an afternoon snack, I shall repeat my helpful hint for delivering nachos whether with melted or shredded cheese: put some cheese on the plate, before introducing the chips, to keep the nachos from sliding off the plate during delivery. The Taco Bar was not open for the first 48 hours due to mandatory Code Orange rules. Main Dining Room (MDR): The five meals I ate in the MDR were well-prepared and served at the proper temperature. The Assistant Dining Room Manager visited every table on most nights and alos assited the servers on some occasions. The hot, silver, teapots were no longer available as tea water was poured at the server station. Since I ate alone, each meal was completed in less than one hour. On formal nights, I counted only 20 tuxedo-clad males passing my table near the MDR entrance. Pinnacle Grill (PG): The embarkation night found the PG at only 25% capacity. My steak daine was perfectly cooked and the service excellent. My waiter, Harry, was able to answer lots of my questions since there were only a few customers. I ate two additional meals in the PG and added the Le Cirque as well. The Manager, Vliet, moved from table to table on each evening checking on the customers. The service was impeccable and the food of high quality on my four dining occasions. It must be noted that my cruise was the last with the old menu and a new menu is now in place as I write this review. Room Service: As on every HAL cruise, food arrived almost to the first minute requested. The food was always at the correct temperature. The fresh-squeezed orange juice was always a treat. It must be noted that if you want an empty glass or chocolate croissants, you need only write it on the Room Service card before hanging it on your door handle Facilities: The ship was clean and was in a constant state of scrubbing, vacuuming, and painting in all areas. The stateroom across the hall from ours had toilet overflow issues one evening. I wandered to the Crows Nest on a few occasions and always found the lounge chairs were completely occupied. I did not eat anything at the Explorations Cafe. The Library was only sparsely occupied on the few times I passed through it. Neptune Lounge/Concierge: We had very little contact with the Neptune Lounge except to request a fan and obtain a copy of the new Canaletto menu. There was always a good supply of snacks and desserts. Laundry: The Laundry was efficient and most days it was returned within 15 hours of my hanging it on my door. All laundered items were returned in excellent condition. Shops: The Shops personnel were very helpful in finding correct sizes and answering questions. There was never a delay to checkout. The demonstations of liquor and jewelry continued as on all HAL cruises. . Culinary Arts: I attended three cooking demonstrations and obtained a number of recipe cards. Computer Classes: I attended one Microsoft class and was impressed with the instruction and technical skill of the instructor. The handouts were very well received by all attendees. Casino: Since I don't gamble, I can only comment on the lack of smoke when walking past it when the casino was in full operation. There must be new exhaust fans installed. Ports - Half Moon Cay: I remained on the ship during this stop since I had benn there on other cruises. Ports - Curacao: With the oppressive heat, I remained on board but took some good video os fhe opening and closing of the marine bridge. Ports - Panama Canal: This was a fascinating experience seeing a huge cargo ship higher than my head on the lock just behind us. My pictures and videos will be treasured forever. Ports - Colon: I remained on board to experience the transfer back through the Gatun Locks Excursions -- Aruba Sunset Cruise: The heat of the day was oppressive but the catamaran slow cruise was very cooling. The open bar was a real hit and the sunset pictures were incredible Entertainment: We did not attend any of the shows so I cannot comment on the entertainment. Meet & Greet (M&G): There was no Meet and Greet held on this cruise. Internet: The room had a Cisco internet repeater and I purchased the 1000-minute plan. The speed was 786 kbps during the evening hours. With the repeater, I did not have to leave my stateroom to get better reception. Staff: The staff were exceptional. The Westerdam's officers spoke freely with the passengers when riding elevators or passing in the common areas. The traditional greeting, "How are you today," from the other Room Stewards that you pass in the hallways was ever present. The dining staff, both MDR and Lido, had frequent interaction with passengers in my observation. Disembarkation: What appeared to be an emergency situation with a passenger delayed disembarkation and that caused a huge congestion near the gangway. This was releived by routing passengers through the Vista Lounge. There were four Immigration agents available until one left while we were still in line. Passing through the handicapped line gave us only a 20-minute wait while others waited nearly one hour. Taxis were available across the street from the entrance. Post Cruise: We stayed at the Sleep Inn, Dania Beach, due to its close proximity to the airport and three restaurants within walking distance. There was a two-hour wait until our room was cleaned before we could check in to the hotel. Summary: As stated at the start of this review, the above are my impressions as a longtime HAL cruiser. I would highly recomment the ms Zuiderdam and especially passing through the Panama Canal during one's lifetime.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
1st time with HAL, 1st time cruising out of Ft. Lauderdale, 1st time cruising to all ports and the Panama Canal. Flew in day before and stayed at Fairfield Inn. Fairfield provided free from airport to Hotel. Fairfield Inn. provided ... Read More
1st time with HAL, 1st time cruising out of Ft. Lauderdale, 1st time cruising to all ports and the Panama Canal. Flew in day before and stayed at Fairfield Inn. Fairfield provided free from airport to Hotel. Fairfield Inn. provided transportation to Cruise Port for $8.00 per person. At same time we purchased transportation between cruise port and the airport on day of disembarkation for $10.00 per person. We rented a wheelchair and 4 oxygen tanks from Special Needs at Sea. On arrival at port, Special Needs at Sea had area right near the baggage drop-off where you can pick up wheelchair. Bottled oxygen bottles were waiting for us in our cabin. Once entered check-in area there were a lot of folks sitting as was told there was a slight delay in boarding. Wheelchair cruisers were directed to special area and check in was very quick and we were then able to go to a area designated for handicapped and those needing special assistance and we were the first to board the ship. On the day of disembarkation we chose to take advantage of HAL's program to have bags picked up and sent directly to the airport @ 19.95 per person. Cruisers taking part in this program are one of the first group to disembark. We were called at 07:30. This was a blessing as when we got to customs, they only had 3 Customs agency working. We were told due to our government's handling of the countries financial situation, U.S. Customs had cut down on the # of agent available. Unless some others showed up, I felt sorry for all the other passenger who had yet to disembark! Cabin -- We got a balcony which was really nice. Room was nice with a sitting area. Only complaint our rooms stewards never formally came by to introduce themselves. We had early dining 05:30 pm. For the first 8 days when we came back from dinner our room had yet to be made up for the night. Couple of times, wife was already in bed when they came by. On the 8th night they did ask if we had gone to dinner yet. Upon further conversation they said they were told we were signed up for the late dining time. Entertainment. Shows were good. Liked the house band. They did have a comedian and a magician we really liked. Food -- Was good but nothing really stood out. Can't complain though. Thought the food in the Lido cafeteria was really good from what I can remember from past cruises. Out headwaiter and assistant waiter were really nice and good at their jobs but from what I could count, they had 5 tables they were responsible for during dinner time. They were always on the go and couldn't spend a lot of time at a table to talk etc. Felt sorry for them being so busy. Port -- All ports were great with very good tour guides on the excursions we took. Half Moon Cay. Very nice island. Highly recommend. Lots of vegetation, restrooms. Just a enjoyable island Aruba -- Took a bus tour of the island. Informative and got good overview of the island WILLEMSTAD(CURACAO), ANTILLES. Took a trolley tour of Willemstad. Very nice and informative PANAMA CANAL (CRISTOBAL). What more can you say about going through the Panama Canal. We took the train ride and how many can say they went from the Caribbean Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in the say day! Train was air-conditioned and the tour guide was great. Trained followed the Panama Canal and we were able to take a short bus tour of Panama City. We did pass what we were told was a prison that was in the middle of the jungle while on the train and tour guide said this was where Manual Noriega is housed. Highly recommend this tour!! On way back from train to our ship, we were had to drive through the city of Cristobal. What a experience. There are no stop lights in the city and we were driving through during evening rush hour. We came within 1 foot or less from broad siding a car that pulled in front of us. It's everyone for themselves when driving in the city. Very good tour guide. Provided lots of information. COLON, PANAMA - Took a boat ride on a canal. Saw lots of birds, sloths, monkeys. Nice easy ride. On return for boat ride, they provided free refreshments including BEER! OVERALL Impressions -- Could not have asked for better weather and smooth seas. Average age of fellow cruisers was 40+. I could count on my hands the # of children/teens that were on the cruise. The Zuiderdam was a well maintained ship. Clean, staff friendly. Front Desk crew were exceptional. They were very nice and did all they could to help and answer any questions! Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Let me start with we had a great time. The things I mention that I wasn't happy with never would or could never ruin my cruise as we are make the best of any situation people! EMBARKATION: was good. Got to port around 10:45 and ... Read More
Let me start with we had a great time. The things I mention that I wasn't happy with never would or could never ruin my cruise as we are make the best of any situation people! EMBARKATION: was good. Got to port around 10:45 and boarded about 11:45. Cabin was ready. CABIN STEWARD: Victor was awesome! CABIN: loved the "Bend" suite. it had more floor space I don't know the exact square footage but it looked and felt larger than the other SS rooms we saw. The bend where the balcony and room stick out meant the table and chairs weren't in between the bed and sofa. Lots of closet and drawer space. The little extra corner where the bend was made for more open floor space which made the room feel much more spacious. - Quiet hallway across from crew space, but rarely heard them. - No noise from above at all. - The balcony was larger then surrounding ones and we usually had sun and shade so it was never too hot. not to breezy either. From the bend you can see on to most of the forward balconies on your level and below when they are standing at the rail. If you're sitting down you can't see the other balconies and they can't see you. FOOD: mediocre. desserts were blah and not exciting at all. Ice creme wasn't self serve and closed at 8:45 or 9:00. MDR service was slow and forgetful. LIDO was OK and we ate there often. Not a wide variety of food, but it was good. Loved the pasta station. ROOM SERVICE: Once we ordered coffee and they didn't come for an hour! When it came it was good and we had no other complaints. ENTERTAINMENT: poor! Comedians were good, singers and dancers seemed to be out of sync ... we didn't go to any of the clubs or the casino as it isn't our thing. DECK LAYOUT: loved the smaller ship. Easy to get around and very well layer out. Crows nest was awesome with the coffee bar and lounge area. loved the aft area on deck 9 is where we hung out a lot. SPA: our kids gave us thermal spa passes for the whole week. LOVED THIS ... best part of the cruise that we used everyday. They called the cabin and offered me a discounted massage and I took it. It was wonderful ... no sales pitch either! DISEMBARKING: THE BEST I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED! The night before they gave colored/numbered tags. We packed and had everything out by 1 am. We ordered room service and had breakfast in our room. I sat on the balcony until our color and number were called. Got off the ship in minutes and our luggage was arranged by color and number also. It was great. short lines for customs. CONS: - They were doing work outside when we got to our cabin and I found broken glass all over the balcony. I traveled with a service dog so I was worried about him getting cut. We went to lunch and victor cleaned it really well. The next morning .. still glass. Victor cleaned it again. the next day .. we discovered more glass and figured out that on the painted blue edge that water runs the length of the ship, the glass must have been coming from another cabin and traveling to ours in the water. - Toilet wouldn't flush a couple of times and they had maintenance come, not the end of the world, but gross all the same. - The shower didn't drain fast enough so there was all the scummy water on the bottom. - There was a definite sewage smell in areas of the ship. yuck! - There were water buckets for leaks around the ship. One time water dripped on my head! not got - The ship was old, water stains on the ceiling in our room, stains on bathroom sinks, Scratch marks around the ship. - I traveled with a service dog and the potty area they provided was disgusting! They kept telling us they were getting sod, but it never happened. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We joined my parents for what we were expecting to be a great Alaska cruise in HAL's Zuiderdam. Unfortunately, the ship was a disappointment. Our last cruise was on the Eurodam and it was a great ship with good ... Read More
We joined my parents for what we were expecting to be a great Alaska cruise in HAL's Zuiderdam. Unfortunately, the ship was a disappointment. Our last cruise was on the Eurodam and it was a great ship with good food and service and this was a deciding factor when looking at Alaska cruises. Our Zuiderdam experience was just the opposite. First - The ship: It is very tired and the Lido deck is in bad shape. Light grids are missing from the florescent fixtures leaving rusted fixtures to look at. The floor is gouged, tiles cracked with looking as if holes were punched in them, and Mismatched and worn furniture on the decks. Several light bulbs were burned out the entire cruise. The buffet area had equipment that kept failing (steam tables, toasters, coffee machines, etc.) and one of the glass "sneeze" guards where entrees are prepared was shattered. Other noticeable items around the ship include torn ceiling panels in the piano bar, the worn wall coverings in elevators, frayed and worn carpets, scratched brass...I could go on.Fortunately our cabins were in pretty good shape. We were in a superior suite and my parents in a deluxe suite. Baths showed signs of some bad grout and caulking repair and the a/c cover in our room looked as if it had been taped up with the sticky residue left behind. (Wouldn't have notice if it wasn't the first thing I saw when laying on the bed.) Second - The food: What happened HAL???!!! Perhaps the main reason we booked on HAL again was my father uses a motorized scooter and isn't always comfortable in the dining room so we take most meals in the Lido. The Lido food on the Eurodam was the best buffet food we've experienced on a ship. The Z'dam Lido food was about the same quality as a Hometown Buffet. Quarter inch "NY Steaks", overcooked inedible pork, and overall just very bland. We tried the dining room for lunch to see if it was any better and again, very mediocre with one dish (mac & cheese!) inedible. My parents had room service on evening and to quote my mother, "how do you mess up a sandwich?". Fortunately the Lido Manager (Oscar) was kind enough to get us into the Italian restuarant on two of the nights and the food was good. We also ate in the Pinnacle Grill and it too was very good. Third - The service: Our room stewards did a fine job keeping our rooms tidy but I must say the tin garbage cans roped to the front of there service carts had a bit of a cringe factor. The Lido service started out to be very poor. For the first couple of days, tables weren't cleared, no table side beverage service, silverware and napkins difficult to find, and at times, no staff to be seen. The cook staff seemed to be going thru the motions and would not engage with guests. Our dining room lunch waiter was very indifferent and quite frankly seemed to be very board with his job. Service was very slow and the room just didn't seem to be as clean as it should have been. After voicing my opinion on a Facebook post I was contacted by the Guest Relations Manager (Dustin) who was very nice and pleasant. He apparently got on the ship the same day we did and I don't think was fully aware of some of the issues I mentioned. We did notice that after our discussion with him, the Lido service improved greatly. Staff were visible, friendly and very efficient. Also, the hard sell for spa and shopping became very tiresome. Summary: These are just some of the highlights of our experience but I've said enough. HAL used to be a very good higher end cruise line but now offers a very generic experience and in our case, on a substandard ship. I guess being owned by Carnival is having an effect. I know some may feel I'm being a bit anal about what some would call "little things" but HAL used to have a reputation for taking care of the "little things". Unfortunately, the have let some of the "little things" on the Zuiderdam become very big things. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Background Information: There were four of us on this cruise ... two parents with one in a wheelchair, one adult daughter, and daughter's friend. We chose the ms Zuiderdam because (1) we were flying from Toronto, and wanted to cruise ... Read More
Background Information: There were four of us on this cruise ... two parents with one in a wheelchair, one adult daughter, and daughter's friend. We chose the ms Zuiderdam because (1) we were flying from Toronto, and wanted to cruise out of Vancouver without the hassle of going through Customs at the airport, (2) we wanted one room that was wheelchair accessible and had a balcony, and (3) we wanted the Inside Passage, with minimum amount of rough water. Travel To Port of Embarkation: Canada Place is a beautiful setting, in downtown Vancouver. We arrived at Canada Place in our rental car, and drove down to the underground parking to drop off our luggage with the porters, and some of our group (while the other person drove the car back to the Hertz rental car office on Granville St). Embarkation was very smooth, especially with a wheelchair. We had to go through security, then Customs, and then check-in. The whole experience took maybe a ½ hour. Stateroom: Our rooms were available as soon as we arrived, which was around 12:30. The wheelchair accessible room (5137) was great. There was lots of room to turn the wheelchair around. The bathroom was roll-in, with a shower. There was a slight ramp from the room to the balcony. Since we were at a curve in the ship, the balcony was extra large, with room for three wicker chairs and a small table. We had one of the indoor chairs removed, to make more room for the wheelchair. You could open and close the curtains using a switch by the bed. The non-accessible room (5135) was right next door. We had them unlock the divider between the two balconies, so that we could travel back and forth between our rooms on the balcony. The room had lots of storage space. There were three closets, plus storage over the pull-out couch. We had them remove the two indoor chairs to make a little more room in the seating area. Bathroom included a tub, and was quite spacious. Balcony was nice, with two wicker chairs and a small wicker table. There was a small flat screen TV in each room, with maybe about 10 channels to watch. There was also a DVD player, and you could borrow lots of DVDs to watch. Shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel in the bathroom was amazing ... don't bother bringing your own from home. If you need a blanket for sitting on the balcony, then check the drawer under the foot of the bed. Ship Info: Deck 10 - Observation: Crow's Nest had the most amazing views out the front of the ship. We found that this area was quite crowded though, and the comfy chairs were pretty much always full. The Captain had a question & answer session there one day, and the Park Ranger had a session there the day we visited Glacier Bay. Explorations Cafe is next to the Crow's Nest, and a great place to read books or magazines, work on a group puzzle, or use the computers. We paid for the Wi Fi, but found that the speed in the room was painfully slow, so in an attempt to get better response time we would take the laptop to the Cafe and use it there. Beware that the internet speed is no where near what you may be used to at home. Deck 9 - Lido: To the right of the Fitness Center is a door that leads outside, to the front of the boat. I don't think many people were aware of this, because we saw very few people out there. But you can get amazing views out the front. Dress warmly though. Greenhouse Spa & Salon was very nice. We did a tour on day one, and then had a massage, facial and pedicure there on day two. They have daily specials in the Explorer that is delivered to your room. The people working there were very nice, but sometimes a little pushy when selling products. Lido Pool was often empty on this cruise. Once in a while there were a couple of people in it, or a fitness class being held in it. Since the roof closes, it was a great area to sit and eat meals, or pull a chair up to the window and spend the day watching the scenery and wildlife float by. Sea View Pool was also pretty much empty since it is outside. But there are lots of places to sit and enjoy the view. Deck 3 - Promenade: Vista Lounge was a great venue for watching performances. There was limited wheelchair seating though. There were only a few spots at the back on deck 3, and they didn't have great viewpoints. There was a whole row at the beck on deck 2, but most of those chairs were occupied by other people. I think Holland America could make an improvement here, and clearly identify the wheelchair sections, and don't encourage others to use those seats, since the wheelchair people have no other options. Screening Room was great for watching movies. Movies were current, chairs were large and comfy, and bags of popcorn were supplied. Shopping Arcade was fun. There are only actually two shops (one jewelry, one everything else), but they're quite large, and they had different sale tables every day. There was a good variety of stuff for sale. While the ship was at sea, they had also had sales around the Lido Pool, mostly for Alaskan clothing (t-shirts, hoodies, hats, etc.). Deck 2 - Lower Promenade: Casino was lots of fun too. Good variety of slot machines at all denominations. There were a few card tables. We visited a few times, and it was never overly busy. Queen's Lounge & Culinary Arts Center was great. We watched the chef prepare lobster salad from Le Cirque, and got to enjoy crème brulee. Explorer's Lounge is great place to relax. We attended a craft class there, and made beaded lanyards to hold our room keys, and had lots of fun. Also tried to attend the flower arranging class, but it was very crowded. Dining: Vista Dining Room: We didn't want to be tied down to eating at a specific time and table. We often showed up at the dining room (on deck 2) for breakfast, lunch, or supper and were able to walk right in with no wait. The room is beautiful, with great views, and was never crowded. Service was impeccable, and the food was always delicious. We dressed casual for breakfast and lunch, and dressed nice for dinner. We saw a wide variety of clothing here. Pinnacle Grill: We paid $20 per person to eat here on the final night, and it was well worth it. We had a table for four along the windows, with an amazing view. Again, service was superb. Food was out of this world. The Caesar salad was made table side, and the best I've ever had. Everything was top notch. Lido Restaurant: For the first two days, the staff served the food to everyone, and after that you could serve yourself. There is a lot of variety here, and the food was great. Breakfast choices are amazing. Pizza and pasta are always available. It can be a bit hectic here. We usually took our food from here, out to the Lido Pool and sat in the sunshine. Every night from 10:30-11:30 they had food from a different country (i.e. Mexican, Italian, etc.). We usually tried a little something, even though we were still stuffed from supper. Room Service: We started by ordering breakfast the first day, which arrived promptly. After that we usually ordered juice and coffee for a pre-breakfast, and then had breakfast in the Lido. We also ordered the cheese plate once, and the chocolate cake once. On one of the formal nights we checked the menu at the Dining Room. Found out that it was surf and turf, so we called room service and had it delivered to the room. It arrived promptly, and hot, and was simply fabulous. There is an extensive room service menu. Plus whatever is served in the Dining Room. We also enjoyed pea soup, which was served outside on deck 3 when we visited Glacier Bay. On the second formal night there was a dessert extravaganza around the Lido Pool. All the chefs came out and were introduced. There were ice sculptures, and every kind of fabulous dessert that you could imagine, including three chocolate fountains. On the final day there was an Alaskan Salmon Bake at the Sea View Pool, with the most amazing salmon and baked potatoes and salads. It was a really nice surprise, and the food was great. Activities: Since the scenery is so stunning in Alaska, we actually didn't participate in many activities. As mentioned above, we made beaded lanyards one day, and went to the Culinary Arts Center once. There were other activities we wanted to try, but just ran out of time. We spent a LOT of time just watching the amazing scenery, either from our balcony, or from the Lido Pool area. We participated in the 5K "On Deck For The Cure" walk, to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. There was a good turn-out (maybe 50 people), and you can walk at your own pace, and quit whenever you need to. This was held on deck 3, and the view was magnificent during the whole walk. We even saw dolphins playing in the waves behind the ship. Service: What can I say ... it is outstanding! From the moment we arrived, people were always ready to help with the wheelchair. When we entered a restaurant or got on/off the ship, there was always somebody to push the wheelchair for us, which is truly appreciated. The room stewards were top notch. They moved around silently, but were always ready and willing to help wherever they could. They were fabulous! Entertainment: We didn't have time to enjoy much of the entertainment. We went to the Vista Lounge on the first night, and got to enjoy the singers and dancers. We went back on the final night, and saw the comedian and the magician, which were very fun too. Disembarkation: There was a delay in getting the first group off the ship, which backed up most of the other groups. We had a leisurely breakfast, and then waited in our room, until our group/colour was called. Seems that some people don't understand that concept, and insist on waiting where everyone else is trying to exit. Other than that, it was very quick with a wheelchair, since we had our own line for Customs. We then had to find our luggage, in a sea of black luggage. Luckily they had lots of free luggage carts, which made it easier to handle everything. We waited a while for one of us to arrive with our rental car. Everything was smooth, but we were sad that it was over, and wanted to turn around and get back on the ship. Summary: An Alaskan cruise is amazing. I had only heard positive comments before we left on the cruise, so I had great expectations, but I was totally blown away. The scenery was breath-taking and jaw-dropping around every corner. The air was clean, and the people were friendly. Yes, the crowd was an older crowd, and it was very quiet at night, which was fine with me. This was my first Holland America cruise, and I was astounded by the superb service, and the incredible meals. It was very easy to take a wheelchair person on this cruise, and the extra help offered by everyone was great. I will definitely recommend Holland America to everyone. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
My husband and I enjoy cruising - the best way to travel since his spinal cord injury left him with mobility challenges. Besides the excellent Accessible Balcony Cabin, the excellent room stewards, tasty meals and special dining during ... Read More
My husband and I enjoy cruising - the best way to travel since his spinal cord injury left him with mobility challenges. Besides the excellent Accessible Balcony Cabin, the excellent room stewards, tasty meals and special dining during "An Evening at Le Cirque" in the Pinnacle Grill, we received excellent support from Zuiderdam's Shore Excursion Team. Prior to ports of call I would go down and discuss with them the appropriateness of the shore excursions which we had pre-booked from home. Their suggestions were wonderful. Some ports in Central America are not very handicap-friendly. The Shore Excursion Staff even introduced me to Rafael Esparza, Operations Mgr. for Explora Caribe. Explora Caribe provided some of the ship's shore excursions and there was nothing suitable in the ship's offering so Sr. Esparza provided us with a private car and driver to take us to places which we could access, and at the rate which we would have paid for one of their bus tours. What wonderful service!!! Not only were we pleased with the ship and service, we are grateful to Cruise Critic for the opportunities to share information with and glean information from other travelers. We especially appreciated the information regarding touring in Corinto, Nicaragua, which will be discussed in more detail later. We visited quite a few ports which are not listed on CC's drop-down box. During our partial transit of the Panama Canal we took an excursion called The Shaping of Panama. It traveled to Panama City by highway with a nice luncheon there, then back to Colon. It was good to be able to see the countryside. At Vera Cruz, Mexico, we visited the World Heritage Site of Tlacotalpan and the town of Alvarado. Tlacotalpan was wonderfully presented and a great opportunity to hike around and see prehistoric indigenous structures. At Alvarado we enjoyed a presentation of music and dance by students who are part of a group trying to preserve the local heritage. Dos Bocas, Mexico, offered the Comalcalco Ruins featuring Maya constructions using bricks with unique designs and then Paraiso Town. At Progreso, Mexico, we were provided a car by Explora Caribe (mentioned above) and went to Merida. The bus tours discouraged passengers with mobility issues but the driver of the car and the guide took us to see some small ruins plus Progreso's Zocalo, the Governor's Palace (take time to enjoy the art museum inside), The Cathedral. We had a wonderful lunch of locally-favorite foods at Los Almendros Restaurant and the driver and guide even took me to a bookstore in Merida where I could purchase some special volumes about the area. In Corinto, Nicaragua, we used the services of John "Max" O'Connor for a private tour. We had found Max through Cruise Critic Reviews/Blogs and enjoyed our day. We shared his services with another couple whom we had met on board. The gentleman was in a wheelchair, complementary to my husband's use of an electric scooter (needs a wheelchair if the scooter couldn't be used.) We went to see the items which specifically interested us. Surprisingly, Max had to do some research for our tour because I had researched Corinto online and had come up with some places which were not on the usual tourist path. At Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, we were not feeling well so cancelled the planned shore excursion to Antigua but did go ashore to do a bit of shopping and see a bit of local color. They have a very nice development there at the port with musicians and vendors selling their wares. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Zuiderdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.5 4.1
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 3.5 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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