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 The corridor artwork is also old and outdated.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.
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