We are a family of 4, my wife and two girls of 6 months and 4 years. We love to go on cruise for our holiday and for my oldest daughter this was here 6th cruise. We traditionally cruise with Celebrity cruises and 8th of our latest cruises ... Read More
We are a family of 4, my wife and two girls of 6 months and 4 years. We love to go on cruise for our holiday and for my oldest daughter this was here 6th cruise. We traditionally cruise with Celebrity cruises and 8th of our latest cruises has been with Celebrity cruises in the Mediterranean and in the Caribbean. For this summer we choose to go cruising in the Nordics (Baltic and Kattegat Sea) with Holland America on-board the MS Zuiderdam.
This was our very first cruise with Holland America and we had high expectations to this cruise liner as advertisements and cruise critics reviews discuss HAL as a 5 star cruise liner. We expected to have the same level of service and standard on the cruise ship as we experience on-board the Celebrity Cruises. For the booking we selected a balcony stateroom (class VB) as these rooms were brand new (added to the ship in 2015) and that by ship maps looked larger than other balcony staterooms – perfect for a family of four. The cruise we selected was a 12 day cruise from Copenhagen to two ports in Germany (Warnermünde and Travermünde), Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and back to Copenhagen.
The taxi ride from Kastrup (Copenhagen airport) takes about 25 minutes and cost about 500 Danish kroner and the taxi cue was well organized so there was minor waiting time to get a taxi to hold the four of us. We had brought child seats with us from home. Child seats a mandatory also in taxis in Denmark, so if you do not bring it from home, remember to book a taxi with child seats prior to arriving at Kastrup. The cruise pier is located at the most remote place possible in Copenhagen and the best way to reach the pier is by Taxi. We were met by check-in personnel at the pier. Their only concern was that we left the luggage outside the terminal building and they were pointing in the direction of a long line starting outside the terminal building. With 4 suitcases, a large buggy, and additional small suitcases, we had to drag ourselves to the end of the line were we had to load the luggage at the security luggage belt (in best Danish manner). After waiting in line for 30 minutes to offload the luggage in the belt the rest of the check-in process and boarding went very smooth.
Well on-board in the cabin we were taken by surprise that the cabin was extremely tiny – a broom closet will normally by larger. With 4 people in the cabin it was very little space to manoeuvre. The buggy did off course not go thru the door and it did not fit in the cabinets or under the bed. Neither was it possible to put it in the corner against the main cabin door as the bathroom door did not get enough space to open as this door opens in the direction of main door. The solution was to put it in the main hallway outside the cabin and hoped that nobody would steel it or remove it as it was a safety risk. We found a solution to take it in the cabin during the night and left it on the main floor in the cabin. So, it you need to bring a buggy or a stroller on-board the Zuiderdam, make sure that you bring the smallest possible.
The cabin section at deck 10 was installed during a short yard stay in Italy in 2015. We had hopes that the cabins was had a modern design and look. But we were sadly disappointed. It all looked like it was 15 years old. Imagine how much HAL must have used to make the design look 15 years older and instead use a modern design – I’m still amazed. Even the TV looked old and by a quick scan thru the channels had bright snow on all the channels and was totally useless to watch. The balcony is about 2, 5 M2 and just large enough to seat two persons. To eat breakfast with four people on the balcony – forget it as it’s tiny. As this was a 4 person cabin, there was a double bed, a single sleeping sofa and a bed that you could lower from the roof over the double bed. In lowered position there is now headroom left if you want to sit in the bed underneath. Anyway, when my oldest daughter crawled into the bunk bed she quickly refused to stay there. Main reason was that the outlet of the air-condition is directly over the bed and there is a small “tornado” over the bed and it turn out to be very chilly. So, away with the bunkbed. Solution became to place our 4 year old daughter sideways in the upper part of the single sofa bed and place the baby crib at the lower section of the sofa. This will not have worked out if the kids have been a year older, but we managed to get it to work.
The ventilation was a story of itself. HAL must have being saving money on ventilation when they planned these new cabins. There was something looking as a thermostat in the cabin – knob you can turn on. It was not possible to adjust the airflow as this was constantly blowing at full speed. It looked like the ventilation was mad out of two airflows (cold and hot) and by “adjusting” the temperature in the cabin, actually was adjusting a valve that was directing hot/cold air. The main defect of this system became clear at night were all the cabins wanted hot air and started to adjust the temperature. After an hour the cabin was at freezing point as all the hot air had gone and you had to adjust one more time, and over and over. The problem disappeared after a few days as people in the other cabins understood how to adjust the temperature to hot (the Baltics during the summer is not like the Caribbean – it’s cold). The machinery for the ventilation was placed at the deck above deck 10 and it brings a lot of noise and vibration to the cabin. At sometimes it feels like somebody has placed a car within the cabin. Anyway, you get used to the noise…!
My oldest daughter was eager to get registered at the kids club. Even dough she could hardly speak and understand anything that was said in the club, she was very much welcomed and she quickly felt safe to stay there on her own. She got very much attention from the kids-staff throughout the cruise and especially one of the team members followed her up very close. We had all great fun at the family bingo and other family activities that the kids-staff put together. Best memory that my daughter event talks about today was the last night pillow fight that was a winner.
Zuiderdam interiors feel like your old grandmas living room, it smells of moth balls and looks outdated and sad. Especially the lounges at the lower decks, the main dining room and the reception area feels like stepping back twenty years. If you are 65+ you probably find the interior of Zuderdam inspiring, but for a young family it feels sad. Anyway, the best place for us were we spent a lot our time on-board was in the Crow’s nest and in the Discovery Café which is an area with large windows, much lights and games and puzzles. It felt like the most popular area on-board the ships. Strange that HAL don’t see this and make more lounges like this.
After we booked the cruise with HAL we made a reservation at one of the two family Retreat lounges on-board for the full duration of the cruise. This was a brand new area also installed in 2015. The reservation process for this was a strange process. The reservation could not be done online were you can order drink packages, or excursions. Now, you had to call a reservation centre located at the West cost of the US. They had limited opening hours and for people living in Europe you have to call at night. Anyway, the reservation was done over the phone reading all your credit card details and name and e-mail address to the person on the line. After paying $750 you did not receive any booking confirmation or receipt you had to cross your fingers that the booking was in order. Anyway, the booking was in order when we came on-board the ship and we were welcomed by two kids that was there to serve us whenever we wanted between 08:00 and 17:00. The Retreat area was without any other people without a family which had rented the second family retreat. The service throughout the rest of the cruise was on and off. They were always there when you did not want service and they were nowhere to find when you wanted service. In general the service from these two kids was running errands for you and pick up drinks and food from the restaurants or the buffet. It was a slow process. Can’t imagine how that would be if all the lounges was occupied. We eat a few lunches here normally with the burgers that were served on-board which was very tasty.
The family lounge was disappointing. The person which has been designing these lunges cannot have been informed that the design of the lounges are on-board a ship that actually sails at the sea or the person can never have been on-board a ship before. It’s always windy at sea, but when you have curtains flutter around tearing down everything on the table at all time it make now sense of having these lounges. The lounge was open and not possible to seal off of any kind. We used the lunge a few days at sunny days when in port. But at sea days it was useless to use. Another funny thing with this Retreat area was that the ventilation inlet and outlet for the forward section of the ship was placed at the retreat area. At specific wind direction the smell of sewer was very intense. I assume that the problem came after the new section was installed in 2015 and the engineers have not thought about the problem of having air inlet and outlet close to each other. I remember one day when we were passing by the most exclusive diamond shop on-board at deck 3 (the Marbella luxury shop) and they were serving free champagne – but the smell of sewer was intense and now customers were in sight. Anyway, don’t expect too much of the Retreat area, it’s costly compared to what you get, it’s “crooked” to get to the pool sight, it’s slow service, smelly and its extremely windy. A final thin is that the hand rails are made of iron bars welded horizontal. Critical thing here is that at the bottom of the railing there is a gap of about 30 cm without any railings. With kids crawling around on the floor its easy to get on the outside of the railing and potentially falling 10 decks. It's strange that HAL do not see this safety blister they have created.
All ports were very nice to visit. My personal favorite must be Stockholm. I did not manage to visit Gotenburg as the soap dispenser in the shower/bathtub fall of the wall and hit my toe. Did not manage to walk much that day, but managed to manoeuvre myself supported by the buggy over the pier and into the Volvo museum that were located close to the ship. The weather condition was too windy at the second last day of the cruise to tender outside Helsingborg and the ship continued to Copenhagen. As earlier said the pier location is at the most remote location ever possible in Copenhagen. But, this time HAL surprised us all by offering free shuttle buses to/from the city centre of Copenhagen the whole day.
The disembarkation process went very smooth. There is one taxi company that runs to the cruise pier. With two large ships disembarking at the same time the taxi line was 300 meters. People are probably waiting still. The line for the public bus transport was probably 500 meters. My tip would be to install an app on your phone (search for taxa københavn). We made a reservation the day before by using DanTaxi. A taxi looking different from all the others came up showing a poster with my name on leaving behind all the 800 other persons waiting in taxi line.
All in all, it will be a great deal of time until we cruise with HAL again. The standard balcony cabins at the new Celebrity ships feels like a suite compared to the tiny cabins offered by Hal on-board Zuiderdam. And Celebrity offers a shower as replacement for the tiny 1,2 meter bathtub especially made for dwarfs! Read Less