This was our first cruise on a Holland America ship and we found it to be the nicest we have yet experienced. We have sailed on NCL and Celebrity in the past. We combined two separate cruises to get a 29 day total. The first was a 17 ... Read More
This was our first cruise on a Holland America ship and we found it to be the nicest we have yet experienced. We have sailed on NCL and Celebrity in the past. We combined two separate cruises to get a 29 day total. The first was a 17 day transatlantic repositioning from Ft. Lauderdale to Copenhagen and the second was a 12 day Baltic Sea.
We found the itinerary to be wonderful, with stops in 11 different countries and a number of sea days. The ship offered quite a few options onboard during sea days and you could find things to participate in or not depending on your taste. Yes, most of them were geared toward an older crowd, but that is what we looked like on a HAL ship and on a trip this long.
The entertainment changed often and was extremely varied and top notch. We found the food to be better than our previous ships in the main dining areas and the food in the specialty restaurants was better. Granted you don't have a lot of options on the Zuiderdam, but there were enough not to get bored with the food. The service was the best we have seen, especially our cabin stewards who kept our cabin spotless the entire voyage and kept us entertained with towel animals each night of the cruise.
We had seen some comments about the maintenance and looks of the ship on this forum before we left and were a bit concerned. However, we did not have any issues along those lines during our trip. Sure the ship is getting a little age on her and may be a bit rusty in spots on the outside, but hey, so am I. The deck crews were outside chipping and painting during every day of our cruise, they replaced some worn carpet during the cruise and they are constantly cleaning all over the ship day and night. They repainted the entire hull while we were on board, taking care of the scrapes they picked up during the winter on their Panama Canal cruises. We found everything mechanical worked as advertised during the entire trip.
We took a fair number of the shore excursions offered through HAL and had a great time on all of them. The days in A Coruna, Normandy, Brugge, Holland, Copenhagen, Tallinn, Berlin and St. Petersburg were outstanding and the other ports were also interesting. We found them organized and professionally run, especially the ones which used headsets so it was easy to hear everything that was being said. Many of these excursions ran in excess of 10 hours and we didn't think they wasted any time. We will admit that many of these ports and excursions required a fair amount of walking, but they are pretty good about saying that up front. Some of the ports were just fine to tackle on your own and we did so in about 5 of them. For some of them it just makes sense to take the tours and let them handle the logistics.
We found embarkation and disembarkation to be pretty simple and straightforward. Yes our flight got in fairly early on the day we left and we didn't have to wait long to get on board. Our cabin was ready when we got there and our luggage followed pretty quickly. The lines moved quickly and they had a bunch of people working to get you ready to board. We had an early morning flight out on the last day and they were ready for us at 4:15 am with a transfer to the airport. We did run a few minutes late getting started because some of the luggage was a little late getting off, but we were still at the airport with plenty of time to spare. It may get harder to get off during the prime times, but early was simple and easy. We did use HAL to set up our flights from home to Ft. Lauderdale and then back home from Copenhagen and those all went off without a hitch. Our seats were good and our layovers worked well both coming and going. We did use their transfers to and from the airports, which we found to be worth every penny.
Overall, we have no complaints. We loved the size and the layout of the ship, the food, the service, our cabin, the staff, the shore excursions and the ports where we stopped. We would happily travel with HAL again and would hope to make it back to the Zuiderdam. Read Less