THE CRUISE LINE - Holland America
We've been on five cruises, and all of them on Holland America - so, we can't compare to other lines. Our experience has been consistent. It is classy, but no where near stuffy. The staff are ... Read More
THE CRUISE LINE - Holland America
We've been on five cruises, and all of them on Holland America - so, we can't compare to other lines. Our experience has been consistent. It is classy, but no where near stuffy. The staff are friendly in the extreme and are always there to help. They are ever-present but not imposing. Their ships are "mid-size", topping out at about 86,000 tons (compared to more than 200,000 from a couple of the Royal Caribbean behemoths!). I would describe the line as "quietly elegant". The ships offer enough activities while also providing an awful lot of places you can have a quiet moment and read.
THE SHIP - Zuiderdam
In April 2017, the Zuiderdam will be going into dry dock until October for a refitting/refurbishing. While I wouldn't call the ship shabby or worn, I would say that it was in need of some sprucing/freshening up. The carpets in the public places, for example are a little too vibrant and, in the photo sales corridor it is literally dizzying. They could use updating. The lounges and the rooms, however, are just fine on that score.
The ship is laid out like all HAL ships. They are all nearly identical in deck plan and public spaces. This is a nice thing for returning HAL customers - it's a little like going to a familiar vacation spot that you are already comfortable with. There tends to be music around the pools during the day - and the lounges are quiet at that time. The Crow's Nest (deck 10, forward), is a great observation deck. All glass walls out to the sea on three sides. Big, comfy, leather lounge chairs are there - perfect for reading while having a drink. The Crow's Nest is surprisingly quiet during most of the day.
The teak promenade deck that encircles the ship is a feature on all HAL ships. It's not only a great place to do some walking laps, but a wonderful place to just spend some quiet time. Teak steamer lounge chairs line the decks - and some are always available. It gives the feel of an old-time ocean liner as opposed to a cruise ship. The only noise you'll find is the waves passing by and the soft sounds of people's conversations as they stroll past you. It's really nice.
The ship (like all HAL ships) is immaculate. All HAL ships rank very high on the CDC's inspection list. Staff and crew are constantly cleaning, polishing, buffing, vacuuming, repairing.
THE CABIN/STATEROOM - Neptune Suite
The Neptune Suite is quite large (about 550 s.f.) with a long deck (about 20 ft) that has a table with chairs and a couple lounge chairs also. The king size bed is incredibly comfortable. One of the best things about HAL is they have the best beds! There is an 8 ft couch, coffee table, two comfortable chairs, a changing/make-up room, and a very large bath with double sinks, a jacuzzi tub/shower, and a separate shower. There are fresh flowers and a chilled bottle of champagne waiting for you in your room when you arrive. There is a ton of closet space and a good deal of drawer space. The cabin stewards are wonderfully attentive - but I don't think that's because we were in a suite - I just think that's a signature of HAL's service.
The only real ding I'd give the suite is the TV is a bit small for the room. I'm not one that needs a mega-screen, but the screen was a bit small for the viewing distance. Maybe they'll change that in the refurb.
One of the best things about having a Neptune Suite is having access to the Neptune Lounge on deck 7. It's an extremely comfortable, large lounge with plenty of comfortable seating, appetizers throughout the day (and fruit, cereal, baked goods, smoked salmon, and fresh-squeezed OJ for breakfast). There are pastries and hand-made chocolates for the taking. There is a honor's bar, too. There are two concierges that learn your name immediately and are incredibly helpful and friendly.
Overall, I find the food on HAL to be top shelf. Is it 5-star gourmet luxury? Not quite. But the meals are certainly creative and wonderfully executed - and are deliciously pleasing to even real foodies like myself. Jamaican-style Cuman-crusted lamb chops; pork rib-roast with apricot dressing; mushroom and wild rice chowder; escargot; bucatini with duck (oh my god - so good!); bourbon-glazed beef; beef and tuna carpaccio; mahi-mahi; rainbow trout - just a few examples. The proteins are always succulent - perfectly cooked. The vegetables are perfect - just the right bite to them. The sauces are amazing.
We both have food allergies. Our waiter was so attentive, he gave us the next day's menu at the end of every meal so that we could make our selections - and then he'd make sure that they were properly prepared for us. On the nights we didn't dine in the dining room, he delivered the menus to our room.
The only negative I can say about any of the meals this trip: the duck breast wasn't seared enough to render out the fat - so there was an unappealing layer of uncrisp flab on it. And the meat was, consequently, on the dry side. This is the only time out of all the meals I've ever had on HAL that I could find fault with the duck (or any protein).
The pastries they make could be right out of a Parisian bakery. Most of the breads are really good (one or two are "ehh").
Dining at the Pinnacle Grill (surcharge) is an elegant experience. Every time I have had one of their steaks, it is melt-in-your-mouth incredible. I would say the steaks in the Pinnacle Grill are better than any I can remember having on land.
I think the room service menu is surprisingly limited. The food is plentiful and quite good and promptly delivered, but the selections could be a bit broader.
There are minimal announcements over the P/A system. One or two a day. You can easily find music and company and drinks - or a cup of tea and a book and a quiet spot.
The gym is really excellent. They offer programming during the day (especially during the at-sea days) such as cooking demonstrations, guest speakers, etc. There is a cinema (and you can also choose from over 1000 movies to watch in your room). There is a casino and shopping.
Many comment on how HAL cruises skew to an older crowd. I think this is generally true, but not usually so that it is noticeable or has any impact on the experience. This particular cruise was markedly different, though. We (at 61 and 58) were among the younger people on board. The average age, I would guess, would be 72+/- for this cruise. I've never seen such a passenger makeup on any other cruise, and have no idea why this particular one would have such an older client-base. That is not by any means a complaint, but an observation that may have made a difference to some. But, I'll tell ya - there were a lot of folks on that ship take made me laugh hard - great people with great senses of humor.
We are a gay couple. To say this is a non-issue is an understatement. We couldn't feel more comfortable.
The Zuiderdam, like all HAL ships, feel welcoming, manageable, comfortable and familiar. The cruise experience is exactly what we need it to be - every time. I can't think of a reason why we would ever try a different cruise line. Read Less