1 Holland America Zuiderdam Cruise Reviews for First-Time Cruisers Cruises to Europe - All

This was our first cruise. We chose HAL because without exception, everyone we know who has cruised has raved about it. So we booked a back-to-back: transatlantic from Ft. Laud to the Azores and up the coast of Europe to Copenhagen for ... Read More
This was our first cruise. We chose HAL because without exception, everyone we know who has cruised has raved about it. So we booked a back-to-back: transatlantic from Ft. Laud to the Azores and up the coast of Europe to Copenhagen for 17 days, and a follow-up Baltic 12-day circle back to Copenhagen. The Good: Our cabin, a verandah on the Verandah Deck, was comfortable if small. But we didn't spend much time in it. We overlooked the tops of the life vessels but had unobstructed ocean views. Our cabin stewards were delightful and we LOVED the towel animals they made each night (yes, it's SOP on a cruise but we loved them anyway.) Our bathroom was small, of course, but had plenty of storage, including a shelf under the vanity and a roomy cabinet. The closets were pretty big for a small cabin. Our suitcases fit under the bed, barely. The food was plentiful and very good. We enjoyed open seating so sat with new people every night, which was interesting. The Pinnacle service was excellent and we loved the menu and preparations. All the dining-room staff at the Lido and Pinnacle were outstanding. We also enjoyed the specialty meals on the pool deck, with the oompah band and German dishes when we were in Warnemunde. We enjoyed trying out the different bars - I think there were 11 of them, each different in character. We went to one main stage show and didn't enjoy it that much, but we loved the piano bar where a young woman played and sang and sort of became everyone's granddaughter. Her replacement for the Baltic leg was a slicker, more polished performer with a Vegas-style line of patter and we didn't enjoy him as much. The piano-violin duos who played every evening were terrific. But by far the best entertainment was the BB King Blues Band in the BB King Room. They were fabulous musicians who put on a wonderful show every night that was sadly under-attended. But we were there almost every night. We enjoyed most of the lectures. One lecturer, a retired captain, was very entertaining and filled with tons of fascinating information. The other one was more professorial and managed to make his fascinating subjects a little windy and boring, but the information was great. We spent a lot of time in the Crow's Nest, reading and chatting. I worked my way through the library and enjoyed the wonderful views. Happy hour there was great. Everything was very clean and organized. Disembarkation for shore tours was very organized, the lifeboat drills were accomplished fast and in a somewhat military manner, with dire threats of being left behind if we missed them, and no matter when we were out and about, there would be someone polishing the brass, vacuuming, or washing windows. The Not-so-good: One suitcase was waiting for us when we reached our cabin. Two hours later, I called to ask about it and was told that the wine bottle in it would be confiscated because we couldn't bring it aboard, which directly contradicted what we'd been told before we booked. (We'd been told we could board with two bottles apiece.) I told them that we absolutely needed that suitcase immediately, WITH the wine, and a few minutes later there it was, wine bottle included. Happy hour is only observed in two of the bars, so if you were in the wrong place, you were out of luck. Not sure why they don't all have it. We didn't buy a drink package because we were quoted something like $1580 each for our 29-day cruise, with no ability to treat someone to a drink - we would have had to drink all that ourselves! So we paid as we went. Most drinks are pretty reasonably priced. Our verandah was a few feet shorter than others in that class, because we were just above the lifeboats. The balconies above us were at least two or three feet deeper. It turned out not to be an issue because the weather was chilly enough that we didn't use it much, but if that's important, don't book a Verandah cabin on Deck 5, the Verandah Deck. We kept getting lost because the passageways all look the same. It would be helpful if the doorways to the passageways were painted different but consistent colors - all port aft on each deck red, all port forward on each deck blue, and so on. Because some of the elevator banks look the same, we found ourselves wandering in circles. Likewise, the brass plaques at the elevators that show a cutaway of the ship with the decks labeled weren't oriented the way you were standing when you looked at them. So if you couldn't tell which way was forward and which was aft, they weren't much help. We'd looked forward to the behind-the-scenes tour but bagged it when we learned that it cost $150 per person, more than some of our shore excursions. Can't imagine how they justify that. There are no trays in the MDR. We understand the reason for that - it really cuts back on the massive food waste - but it's hard to juggle a full meal while searching for a table, especially in choppy seas. We encountered ONE 16-year-old girl on the 17-day leg of our trip. Everyone else was an older adult, sometimes significantly older. That poor girl was bored out of her skull. There were only four younger children on that leg, although some crew families came aboard for the Baltic leg so there were more kids around. As comfortable as this line is for older travelers, I'd think long and hard before bringing anyone under age 20 along. And that's pushing it. The one nightclubby venue was rumored to be closing before the end of the year. Overall, we enjoyed our first cruising experience. There were no surprises - we knew about the older crowd, but that's us! We've booked a second cruise on HAL for next spring. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Zuiderdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.5 4.1
Entertainment 4.5 3.6
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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