EMBARKATION. It was a breeze at the terminal in Civitavecchia as half of the Zuiderdam’s passengers were staying on from the previous cruise. With no lines, we were processed in minutes. Within 30 minutes boarding was opened and we ... Read More
EMBARKATION. It was a breeze at the terminal in Civitavecchia as half of the Zuiderdam’s passengers were staying on from the previous cruise. With no lines, we were processed in minutes. Within 30 minutes boarding was opened and we all headed for the ship to start our adventure. Holland America Lines, Zuiderdam was built in 2002 and holds almost 2,000 passengers. We had traveled on her once before in 2003 and she has had one refurbishing, but needs substantial work to bring her up to date. The ship is clean, worn in spots, but well maintained in the public areas. We found the Indonesian and Philippine staff to be very friendly and helpful. However, the officers seem to be aloof and don’t tend to mingle with the guests as on other lines. Safety seems to be taken seriously and the life boat drill is required for all passengers.
CABINS. We had a large outside cabin on deck one. (When we booked, balcony cabins were not available) Our friends were in a balcony and it was several feet smaller than our cabin – seems that the balcony took space away from the cabin. We had a much bigger sofa and more storage space. The bed was extremely comfortable. The only real issue was the extremely small screen TV – they do have DVD players and lots of free movies – but it is hard to watch. The bathrooms all have tub / shower combination and enough storage space. We had a noise issue (from a trash machine below our cabin) which was solved by the guest relations team. The cabin attendants are really over worked and under staffed but they did their best to keep things neat and tidy.
DINING. Main Dining Room (MDR): We had select dining for the evening meal. After the first night we were able to have the same table / wait staff with our friends at 7:15. The food and service in the dining room was great. Some meals were better than others, but overall it was a really nice experience. In fact, we enjoyed the dining room food and service better than the specialty restaurant “The Pinnacle Grill”. Whenever possible, we ate breakfast in the MDR as we don’t like having to fight the crowd in the Lido Buffet. We also enjoyed some lunches in the MDR – a very relaxed atmosphere. Lido Buffet: Cafeteria style with section for Salads, Mains, Asian/Indian, Italian/Pizza and Ice cream. Food quality is generally good and there is a nice selection for all meals. I give very low marks for the Asian/Indian selections. However, pizza and ice cream were very good. Drive Inn: Outside the Lido Buffet, near the inside pool, is the Drive Inn for hamburgers, hot dogs and fries. They have some of the best hamburgers at sea or on land! I limited myself to three for the entire trip and everyone thought they were great! Specialty Restaurants: We had a really bad experience the night we went to the Pinnacle Grill (bad steaks awful deserts) and would not go back.
ENTERTAINMENT / ENRICHMENT. The Vista lounge (main stage) is the venue for most entertainment and lectures. We only attended one full entertainment program, a comedian who was just average. We stuck our heads in several other shows but didn’t find them good enough to stay. Other lounges on the ship had some music and the Explorer Lounge had classical piano and violin program every night. There were two guest lectures on board, one for history topics and one for aviation. Group Captain Terry Holloway, Retired Royal Air Force and Aviation consultant gave many interesting talks about British aviation, and a program on how he led a Royal Soaring Society expedition to fly gliders over the top of the highest peak in South America. The Cruise Director and his staff were adequate – nothing really special. Microsoft Windows learning center was good, but always crowded.
SHORE EXCURSIONS. We only used the ship for one tour – transportation from Livorno to Florence. It’s much easier than using a taxi to the train and saves a lot of time. However, like all HAL tours, very expensive. (We always try to do private tours or use public transportation.)
PORTS. Livorno, Barcelona, Palma, Alicante, Malaga, Cadiz, Ponta Delgada, Horta and Nassau. We really enjoyed all the Spanish ports and Horta, in the Azores, was the only new port for us and a very enjoyable stop. Nassau – why bother.
DISEMBARKATION. Opted for the early walk off with bags in Fort Lauderdale. Waited about five minutes on the ship and then it was down the ramp and through customs in another five minutes. Very quick and easy process.
HITS AND MISSES. Food was very good. Hamburgers exceptional. Staff went out of their way to please the guests. Can’t say enough good things about the waiters, and Guest Relations Staff. We enjoyed having drinks in the Crows Nest at the front of the ship. Also enjoyed the Mariners welcome aboard party – plenty of free wine. The ship also has a very nice library.
HAL caters to an older crowd and on this trip the majority of guests were really old! Buffet shuts down by 9 P.M. so get your snacks early. Ship shopping (stores) were a joke. Overpriced and limited merchandise. Happy Hour venues and times are to early. Not enough seats in the Vista theater, Movie theater or the Microsoft learning center – go early. Cabins are dated and need a redo. TV s are to small. Needs better overall entertainment and activities. Read Less