107 Holland America Zuiderdam Senior Cruise Reviews

We have cruised previously, mainly with Royal Caribbean and felt that this ship did not in any way match up to their standards,. The ship is old, overall well maintained but very dated - it is definitely ready for a total refurbishment. ... Read More
We have cruised previously, mainly with Royal Caribbean and felt that this ship did not in any way match up to their standards,. The ship is old, overall well maintained but very dated - it is definitely ready for a total refurbishment. Starting with embarkation, our advice would be ignore the informationyou re sent to check in at 12 - we did that and waited 3 hours to get through US customs - when we asked we were told that in future the best time to arrive would be between 10 and 10.30 am that is before the groupos arrive at around 11am This was not a good start as we were treated like cattle shifted from queue to queue and then sat in rows waiting to be called before joining the final queue. We had a balcony cabin which was fine, it was well equipped - except for the fract that there is no kettle in the cabins - however, we overcame this by using room service for early morning drinks. The food on board was good not outstanding but good. We always found something tasty to eat. The waiters were very helpful and did not rush you. One of our key concerns was poor communications on board, the destinations talk was just pure sales pitch and gave you no information on the actual destination and what you could do with your free time. There were several occasions when whales and other sealife could be sen from the eck but unlike RC cruises there were no announcements from the bridge to let you know when they were sighted or where it was best to look in the next 24 hours. Entertainment was varied, the theatre was small there were 2 decent singers, otherwise very sub standard. The piano bar was fantastic, great atmosphere and full every night. The Hal Cats were very good kusicians and entertaining, otherwise overall the ship lacked the type of entertainment we are used to on larger ships. Disembarkation was smooth and well managed, very fast and efficient. Overall we had a great holiday but do feel that Holland Aaerica missed several opportunities to make it just that little bit more special. Alaska cruise great, if repeating would use a different line. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We had spent 2 weeks on train and bus travelling in Canada. We used the cruise as a restorative time. I've cruised several times before, but always with the Princess line. This ship is apparently up for a refit next year, so I was ... Read More
We had spent 2 weeks on train and bus travelling in Canada. We used the cruise as a restorative time. I've cruised several times before, but always with the Princess line. This ship is apparently up for a refit next year, so I was told. Most of the cabin staff, cleaning staff, table service staff wore cheap looking, ill fitting uniforms. One of the men supervising the safety drill had the hem of his jacket hanging down ! Staff on the front desk were efficient, knowledgeable, pleasant and helpful. Didn't see any shows / entertainment because our meal times clashed with them, and we didn't stay up late. We ate with a group from our tour, so went with the time that was booked. Spent time in the Crow's Nest bar. Great views, noisy ( but I think our group was mainly responsible for that !! ) Loved happy hour. If anything let the ship down, it was the diningroom experience. The food was mostly good, tasty, but often ill presented. The supervisor Mateus was well dressed, charming, funny and we all enjoyed his company. Someone in the background must have told the waiters that speed was of the essence. Some nights better than others, but menus were often dumped in front of us, likewise the meals, plates sitting cockeyed on the cutlery. Courses were forgotten, served two at a time, plates snatched off the table. Waiters were funny, engaging, always pleasant, badly dressed. Our experience of the buffet was good. Food good, seats comfortable, staff pleasant. Ship needed quite a bit of maintenance, - door handles loose, doors hard to open - we noticed relatively small things, but they add up to a negative impression. LOVED the cruise of Glacier Bay. Blessed with the weather. Never thought I would see such sights in all my life. Just wonderful ! Bottom line - we were fed, watered, slept well, comfortable, but a lot of aspects of the ship lacked finesse !   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Had this been the first HAL ship we ever sailed on we would never choose HAL again! To start with the first 3 days of the cruise the toilets in our cabin as well as the toilets in many of the public areas were not working! It took that ... Read More
Had this been the first HAL ship we ever sailed on we would never choose HAL again! To start with the first 3 days of the cruise the toilets in our cabin as well as the toilets in many of the public areas were not working! It took that long for the crew to fix the problem! The shower water in our veranda cabin was either boiling hot or extra boiling hot! When I complained to guest services they said they will send someone to check it out. It took three days and a demand to speak to a supervisor before a plumber came & changed the water assembly in the shower. On the second day of the cruise we could not open the veranda door to go out on the veranda. That took another two days and a demand again to speak to a supervisor to finally get it repaired as the lock inside the door assembly had broken. But unfortunately when we did go out on our veranda the couple next door was smoking so much that we had to retreat to our cabin because we could not stop coughing. HAL you could easily remedy this by putting smokers in a separate area of the ship so they don't destroy non-smokers vacations! And why is there smoking in the Casino which is open to the rest of the ship and between the dining room and the Vista Lounge where all the shows are? Also we were told three separate times that there was no credit card on file, while I checked us in well before sailing, and got demands each time to put a hold on my credit card for a total of $3000 hold on my card, even though I paid for the trip and had on board credits to cover everything well before we sailed? The service in the Lido dining room was terrible. There were long lines for everything and no one would offer any help. There were servers who stood around and all they would do was cleanup the tables. When I asked if they would bring water or coffee I was pointed to long lines to wait on even for water! The only ship's tour I took was the sunset cruise in Aruba which was fine. I heard many disgruntled comments about the ships tours at the other stops. And one couple was much happier with their tour with Lucky tours, not through the ship, in one of the ports. They said the tour guide was far superior to their previous tour with HAL's company. This ship is old and showing its age! As for the shows in the Vista Lounge, they were Ok but many seats were unusable as they were behind large columns so unless you came very early to the show you would not get a viewing seat. Since we tried to eat at 7 pm, we tried to make the 8:30pm show, by the time we finished dinner & got to the show there were plenty of seats but none where you could see the show without a column in your way. I must commend the maitre'd's in the Vista dining room, anytime dining, as well as our waitstaff, Bennie and Joko and the head chef, Ugo. They went out of their way for us as my husband could not eat certain foods and the food was quite good. We sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam last August from Venice to Barcelona. That ship was managed far superior to the Zuiderdam! Never again on a ship older than three years in this fleet!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
Although we have enjoyed multiple cruises with the other mainstream lines, this was our first with Holland America. Embarkation was interesting!!! As I passed through the electronic security screen, I set off the alarm. Before I could ... Read More
Although we have enjoyed multiple cruises with the other mainstream lines, this was our first with Holland America. Embarkation was interesting!!! As I passed through the electronic security screen, I set off the alarm. Before I could remove my watch, (which caused a similar reaction at the airport), I was hustled over to the side and groped in a most intrusive manner by a wannabe prison guard. The cruise lines need to do a better job of screening their “rent-a-cops.” The one I encountered certainly skipped more than a few of H.A.L.’s “Service Excellence” program classes. I wasn’t sure whether I was going on a cruise or being incarcerated. Once on board things improved considerably. We found a most accommodating staff and crew who were always courteous and eager to help. Even chance encounters in the corridors were always greeted with a; “good day - how are you to-day?” We ate all but one dinner in the dining room and were again especially pleased with the level of service. The quality of the food was pretty well standard cruise line fare. About on par with a mid-priced restaurant in Canada or the U.S. Our one venture into a H.A.L. specialty dining venue was to the Caneletto Italian themed restaurant. The meal was O.K. and we would probably go back if we sail with H.A.L. again, but it was nothing spectacular. Usually breakfast and lunch were eaten in the Lido Buffet. Again, a typical cruise line buffet, with a wide selection and decent quality. I tried several items from the poolside grill, (hot dogs, hamburgs, fries, etc.), but something about the flavor put me off, although many people seemed to be enjoying the various items offered. The entertainment in the main theatre varied from excellent, to adequate. The comedian and the illusionist were excellent and their shows played to a full house. The B.B, King Blues Band’s talent and enthusiastic performance had many of us dancing in the aisles. The H.A.L. resident singers and dancers were O.K. However, these entertainers just did not seem able “connect” with me. I don’t know if it was the selection of musical numbers, or the presentation, but I wouldn’t pay to see these shows ashore. Despite the comments by earlier reviewers, the A/C and the toilet in our stateroom functioned well. HOWEVER, we had three days of COLD showers before someone repaired the water mixing valve in our shower. Following the repairs(?), one had to be extremely precise when making any adjustments. It took very little movement of the temperature control valve handle to go from “ice cubes” to “steam”. The other disappointment was the broken desk chair in our stateroom. It was promptly removed, but we went without a chair for four days. The public areas were all well maintained, with very little sign of wear and tear. My only complaint would be the temperature maintained in some of these rooms. For example, the Crows Nest on deck 10, with it’s panoramic view would have been a great place to spend an afternoon reading, or an evening enjoying a drink with friends. However, the temperature was set so low that I had to leave after 15 - 20 minutes. Would we sail Holland America again? At his point the “jury is still out”. Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
This Nov 29 to Dec 9, 2013 review of the ms Zuiderdam 10-day Panama Canal Sunfarer cruise is written as my impressions which may or may not conflict with the impressions of others. Pre-cruise hotel was at the Sleep Inn, Dania Beach for ... Read More
This Nov 29 to Dec 9, 2013 review of the ms Zuiderdam 10-day Panama Canal Sunfarer cruise is written as my impressions which may or may not conflict with the impressions of others. Pre-cruise hotel was at the Sleep Inn, Dania Beach for four nights prior to the cruise. There is a small strip mall across the street where we found three restaurants (Mexican, Italian, and Chinese) and a Publix grocery. The Publix had great carry-out food and we could purchase our carry-on beverages. There was also a Walgreen's Pharmacy adjacent to the hotel property. The hotel has a free shuttle to/from both the airport and cruise terminal. Luggage: Our luggage consisted of two spinner bags, one with clothing and another with miscellaneous computer and camera accessories; large camera bag with three cameras and lenses; roll-on bag with two computers (business and personal), cruise documents, jacket, meds, and personal car keys; duffle bag (personal oxygen concentrator supplies, meds, and spare batteries; a portable oxygen concentrator; and a four-wheeled walker. Two spinner suitcases and the walker were left with the curbside porter who placed them in the rolling cart that would transport them on to the ship. Scooter: A scooter from Special Needs at Sea was waiting for us near the luggage drop-off location at the HAL terminal. Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal at 10:30 AM and proceeded directly through the security checkpoint to the HAL Check-in counter. The five-minute process was efficient and with no waiting. We were pointed toward an elevator that took us to the second floor waiting area. We were the first passengers in the waiting area. Due to computer issues with the Border Control, embarkation was delayed until 12:00. The intrusive ship's photographic staff blocked all access to the doorway leading to the gangway but being the first passengers to board, we quickly proceeded past their cameras. I stopped at the Fron Desk to get a hole punched in my boarding card so that I could wear it on my HAL lanyard. Stateroom 6166 was ready for arrival and I dropped off my carry-on luggage before proceeding to the Mariner's Embarkation lunch. Our luggage arrived at 1:30 PM. Ship's Furnishings: I will dispense with any comments about the decor as being very subjective and having no bearing on my level of satisfaction with the cruise. The artifacts as well as the coloring throughout the ship did indeed complete the intent of the designer. Stateroom: SC5166 was ready for our occupancy when we arrived. The room was clean and all of the relevant documents were on the bed. We met our Room Steward and revieed our requirements We asked that our mini-bar be removed and this did not happen until the following day. We requested to large ice buckets be filled three times per day and this happened most of the time. The aft-wrap balcony was partially covered with four chairs, two loungers, a foot stool, and large table. At least 30 people could fit on the balcony. Even though our mini-bar was evacuated, we discovered a new bottle of water on the third day and a charge of $2.11 on our final bill. The charge was not worth standing in line at the Front Desk to contest. During the Panama Canal transit, the room temperature rise caused us to close our curtains and the air conditioning returned to normal. Room Stewards: Hanofi was a good Room Steward but need reminding about laundry bags each day. He provided our free shopping bags on the last day of the cruise. Dining -- General: Ron, Culinary Operations Manager, provided me the lunch and dinner menus for both the Lido and MDR for all of the Panama Canal cruises as well as for the 7-day Caribbean cruises for the 2013-2014 season. I also obtained the new Canaletto menu. All of the menus were scanned and are being provided to CC members upon request. There was no chocolate extravaganza night as on previous HAL cruises. Dining -- Lido: The food was good with the Pepperoni pizza being especially favored. It must be noted that HAL pepperoni pizza does not have tomato sauce but rather a light brushing of olive oil. The cooked-to-order pasta was excellent. Line Servers would provide any quantity of items upon request. Of special note was the bread pudding and chocolate chip cookies. The Lido Restaurant management was active in speaking to diners about the service and quality of the food. The servers were friendly and offered their suggestions for those passing down the serving line. Tables were cleared quickly after diners left the table and a rolling cart with free beverages was in constant motion through the dining area. Dining -- Terrace Grill: The nachos, available after 2:00 PM were a great snack almost every day. Since I often delivered a plate of nachos to the stateroom for an afternoon snack, I shall repeat my helpful hint for delivering nachos whether with melted or shredded cheese: put some cheese on the plate, before introducing the chips, to keep the nachos from sliding off the plate during delivery. The Taco Bar was not open for the first 48 hours due to mandatory Code Orange rules. Main Dining Room (MDR): The five meals I ate in the MDR were well-prepared and served at the proper temperature. The Assistant Dining Room Manager visited every table on most nights and alos assited the servers on some occasions. The hot, silver, teapots were no longer available as tea water was poured at the server station. Since I ate alone, each meal was completed in less than one hour. On formal nights, I counted only 20 tuxedo-clad males passing my table near the MDR entrance. Pinnacle Grill (PG): The embarkation night found the PG at only 25% capacity. My steak daine was perfectly cooked and the service excellent. My waiter, Harry, was able to answer lots of my questions since there were only a few customers. I ate two additional meals in the PG and added the Le Cirque as well. The Manager, Vliet, moved from table to table on each evening checking on the customers. The service was impeccable and the food of high quality on my four dining occasions. It must be noted that my cruise was the last with the old menu and a new menu is now in place as I write this review. Room Service: As on every HAL cruise, food arrived almost to the first minute requested. The food was always at the correct temperature. The fresh-squeezed orange juice was always a treat. It must be noted that if you want an empty glass or chocolate croissants, you need only write it on the Room Service card before hanging it on your door handle Facilities: The ship was clean and was in a constant state of scrubbing, vacuuming, and painting in all areas. The stateroom across the hall from ours had toilet overflow issues one evening. I wandered to the Crows Nest on a few occasions and always found the lounge chairs were completely occupied. I did not eat anything at the Explorations Cafe. The Library was only sparsely occupied on the few times I passed through it. Neptune Lounge/Concierge: We had very little contact with the Neptune Lounge except to request a fan and obtain a copy of the new Canaletto menu. There was always a good supply of snacks and desserts. Laundry: The Laundry was efficient and most days it was returned within 15 hours of my hanging it on my door. All laundered items were returned in excellent condition. Shops: The Shops personnel were very helpful in finding correct sizes and answering questions. There was never a delay to checkout. The demonstations of liquor and jewelry continued as on all HAL cruises. . Culinary Arts: I attended three cooking demonstrations and obtained a number of recipe cards. Computer Classes: I attended one Microsoft class and was impressed with the instruction and technical skill of the instructor. The handouts were very well received by all attendees. Casino: Since I don't gamble, I can only comment on the lack of smoke when walking past it when the casino was in full operation. There must be new exhaust fans installed. Ports - Half Moon Cay: I remained on the ship during this stop since I had benn there on other cruises. Ports - Curacao: With the oppressive heat, I remained on board but took some good video os fhe opening and closing of the marine bridge. Ports - Panama Canal: This was a fascinating experience seeing a huge cargo ship higher than my head on the lock just behind us. My pictures and videos will be treasured forever. Ports - Colon: I remained on board to experience the transfer back through the Gatun Locks Excursions -- Aruba Sunset Cruise: The heat of the day was oppressive but the catamaran slow cruise was very cooling. The open bar was a real hit and the sunset pictures were incredible Entertainment: We did not attend any of the shows so I cannot comment on the entertainment. Meet & Greet (M&G): There was no Meet and Greet held on this cruise. Internet: The room had a Cisco internet repeater and I purchased the 1000-minute plan. The speed was 786 kbps during the evening hours. With the repeater, I did not have to leave my stateroom to get better reception. Staff: The staff were exceptional. The Westerdam's officers spoke freely with the passengers when riding elevators or passing in the common areas. The traditional greeting, "How are you today," from the other Room Stewards that you pass in the hallways was ever present. The dining staff, both MDR and Lido, had frequent interaction with passengers in my observation. Disembarkation: What appeared to be an emergency situation with a passenger delayed disembarkation and that caused a huge congestion near the gangway. This was releived by routing passengers through the Vista Lounge. There were four Immigration agents available until one left while we were still in line. Passing through the handicapped line gave us only a 20-minute wait while others waited nearly one hour. Taxis were available across the street from the entrance. Post Cruise: We stayed at the Sleep Inn, Dania Beach, due to its close proximity to the airport and three restaurants within walking distance. There was a two-hour wait until our room was cleaned before we could check in to the hotel. Summary: As stated at the start of this review, the above are my impressions as a longtime HAL cruiser. I would highly recomment the ms Zuiderdam and especially passing through the Panama Canal during one's lifetime.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Summary: HAL has gone downhill from our last cruise with them of 2 years ago. Food is mediocre and service while friendly has definitely been impacted by staff cuts. Many items that were free in the past are now up charges. This ... Read More
Summary: HAL has gone downhill from our last cruise with them of 2 years ago. Food is mediocre and service while friendly has definitely been impacted by staff cuts. Many items that were free in the past are now up charges. This includes real coffee and the Canaletto restaurant. The Zuiderdam is a tired ship and definitely needs a long (non-cosmetic) dry-dock . Embarkation: Very efficient. Had to wait in a holding area for 15 minutes after getting our room card before boarding ship. Food and Service: Service was friendly always as usual. However it is obvious that HAL has cut staff -- waiters and assistants are overworked. In fact they have additional duties as wages have been cut and they have to sell $60/day of up charged merchandise (cappuccinos, espresso etc.). First night was worse. Saw food sitting at the waiter station for over 15 minutes (and yes it was ours). Pinnacle -- excellent food and great service. Wish the rest was as good. Main Dining, Lido, Canaletto -- mediocre at best. Food sometimes overcooked and cold. Canaletto for a $10 up-charge per person is ridiculous -- especially when it is served in the LIDO. Coffee tasted like urine. Caps, Latte and espresso are all upcharges. Ship and Stateroom: Yes the Zuiderdam still has issues. Smells of sewage during certain times of the day. A/C died twice in our cabin. Maintenance was annoying. They were changing drapes in the cabins. Maintenance staff has no clue what a "privacy" sign means. Doors do not lock -- including the bathroom and the veranda. The veranda door lock/handle was so corroded that it was in danger of falling off -- leaving the person on the veranda with no means of getting back in to the stateroom. Room stewards were good. Saw them at most twice during the cruise and room was always clean. Other points: This was a Panama Canal cruise. No special lectures on the canal were given other than those by the in-house person Lance. Bridge narration during the passage canal was also mediocre. Our last HAL cruise we had Richard Detrich whose book is the best for Canal enthusiasts. Apparently this is another obvious HAL cutback. Entertainment- we really don't care -- but the entertainment was just plain bad. Internet - A good feature is the $99 internet package for the 10 days. Generally was happy with performance of the system. Except for last two days speed and connection were good. The last two days they offered $9.99/day and the speed went to a crawl. Summary: Mediocre food, overworked staff, upcharges for anything (coffee, water etc.). HAL and the Zuiderdam are NOT for me anymore. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
1st time with HAL, 1st time cruising out of Ft. Lauderdale, 1st time cruising to all ports and the Panama Canal. Flew in day before and stayed at Fairfield Inn. Fairfield provided free from airport to Hotel. Fairfield Inn. provided ... Read More
1st time with HAL, 1st time cruising out of Ft. Lauderdale, 1st time cruising to all ports and the Panama Canal. Flew in day before and stayed at Fairfield Inn. Fairfield provided free from airport to Hotel. Fairfield Inn. provided transportation to Cruise Port for $8.00 per person. At same time we purchased transportation between cruise port and the airport on day of disembarkation for $10.00 per person. We rented a wheelchair and 4 oxygen tanks from Special Needs at Sea. On arrival at port, Special Needs at Sea had area right near the baggage drop-off where you can pick up wheelchair. Bottled oxygen bottles were waiting for us in our cabin. Once entered check-in area there were a lot of folks sitting as was told there was a slight delay in boarding. Wheelchair cruisers were directed to special area and check in was very quick and we were then able to go to a area designated for handicapped and those needing special assistance and we were the first to board the ship. On the day of disembarkation we chose to take advantage of HAL's program to have bags picked up and sent directly to the airport @ 19.95 per person. Cruisers taking part in this program are one of the first group to disembark. We were called at 07:30. This was a blessing as when we got to customs, they only had 3 Customs agency working. We were told due to our government's handling of the countries financial situation, U.S. Customs had cut down on the # of agent available. Unless some others showed up, I felt sorry for all the other passenger who had yet to disembark! Cabin -- We got a balcony which was really nice. Room was nice with a sitting area. Only complaint our rooms stewards never formally came by to introduce themselves. We had early dining 05:30 pm. For the first 8 days when we came back from dinner our room had yet to be made up for the night. Couple of times, wife was already in bed when they came by. On the 8th night they did ask if we had gone to dinner yet. Upon further conversation they said they were told we were signed up for the late dining time. Entertainment. Shows were good. Liked the house band. They did have a comedian and a magician we really liked. Food -- Was good but nothing really stood out. Can't complain though. Thought the food in the Lido cafeteria was really good from what I can remember from past cruises. Out headwaiter and assistant waiter were really nice and good at their jobs but from what I could count, they had 5 tables they were responsible for during dinner time. They were always on the go and couldn't spend a lot of time at a table to talk etc. Felt sorry for them being so busy. Port -- All ports were great with very good tour guides on the excursions we took. Half Moon Cay. Very nice island. Highly recommend. Lots of vegetation, restrooms. Just a enjoyable island Aruba -- Took a bus tour of the island. Informative and got good overview of the island WILLEMSTAD(CURACAO), ANTILLES. Took a trolley tour of Willemstad. Very nice and informative PANAMA CANAL (CRISTOBAL). What more can you say about going through the Panama Canal. We took the train ride and how many can say they went from the Caribbean Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in the say day! Train was air-conditioned and the tour guide was great. Trained followed the Panama Canal and we were able to take a short bus tour of Panama City. We did pass what we were told was a prison that was in the middle of the jungle while on the train and tour guide said this was where Manual Noriega is housed. Highly recommend this tour!! On way back from train to our ship, we were had to drive through the city of Cristobal. What a experience. There are no stop lights in the city and we were driving through during evening rush hour. We came within 1 foot or less from broad siding a car that pulled in front of us. It's everyone for themselves when driving in the city. Very good tour guide. Provided lots of information. COLON, PANAMA - Took a boat ride on a canal. Saw lots of birds, sloths, monkeys. Nice easy ride. On return for boat ride, they provided free refreshments including BEER! OVERALL Impressions -- Could not have asked for better weather and smooth seas. Average age of fellow cruisers was 40+. I could count on my hands the # of children/teens that were on the cruise. The Zuiderdam was a well maintained ship. Clean, staff friendly. Front Desk crew were exceptional. They were very nice and did all they could to help and answer any questions! Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We were picked up at the airport, a very friendly fellow took us to the ship, and we were on very quickly. Our bags arrived shortly after, lots of time to unpack, and lots of space to do so. I was impressed with the stewards, so friendly, ... Read More
We were picked up at the airport, a very friendly fellow took us to the ship, and we were on very quickly. Our bags arrived shortly after, lots of time to unpack, and lots of space to do so. I was impressed with the stewards, so friendly, laundry done for $20.00, all press and back the next day. It was a much smaller ship than I have travelled on before, so the walk from one end to the other wasn't a problem. We are smokers, and found just not enough places to sit on the Lido, so spent more time than we preferred on our deck. The food was okay, I am not a fish lover so found selection not great. Staff was WONDERFUL, always smiling. always friendly. Their stage show was about the most entertaining we thought, except for Island Magic, awesome! The photography classes were interesting I came home eager to do my pictures, My one complaint was the Lido deck was closed so early, so service, no ashtrays, and no one to help. I also had trouble with Diamond International, my purchase was very expensive and broke when I put them on at home. It is expensive to return them to New York, so will have to get them repaired here,they should have been fixed when I took them to store in Curacao. We picked Eco excursions in Panama and Costa Rica, very disappointed, saw very little, just lots of poverty and GARBAGE. We knew it would be an adventure, but by the sound of others talking there were some beautiful places to see, we saw tall trees, waterways, but not much other than sloths. We came home with an appreciation of what a great life we have here in Canada Very efficient getting everyone out at disembarkation time, 15 min from when we were called until we were on our bus on the way to airport. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
I heard lots of complaints about the lack of the Wow factor however the service, food,shows and ports of call more than made up for it. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on the State rd. It took 10 minutes to get to the port and thanks ... Read More
I heard lots of complaints about the lack of the Wow factor however the service, food,shows and ports of call more than made up for it. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on the State rd. It took 10 minutes to get to the port and thanks to All Star transport, we were picked up after the cruise within 5 minutes of our call. You need to be aware of the port charges (if not included in your charge) We paid over $500. each in port fees and taxes-quite a chunk. In addition there is a service charge of $11.00 per day per person-not a huge amount but it adds up. If you drink don't expect a hefty one. They carefully measure each drink to the tune of 4 to 6.50 each with a 15% gratuity added on. You are not permitted to carry on hard liquer but can take as much wine as you wish. The excurisions were good but for me I chose to stay on board during the actual canal trip. We actually saw more on the way out so we're glad we did it. We would do it again and loved the experience. The low point of course was deimbarkation which is always the case. Long lines, finding the luggage and getting your transportaion-however this one was well organized and efficient. Do at least one dinner in the Pinnicle and one in the Italian(free) restaurant. Our favorite was the zip line in Costa Rica. No matter what age you are you will love it. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Nice itinerary, deluxe decoration, delicious food at Vista Restaurant, friendly restaurant & stateroom staff. A nightmare dealing with the Front Desk, confusing information about credit card deposits. One authorization signed at the ... Read More
Nice itinerary, deluxe decoration, delicious food at Vista Restaurant, friendly restaurant & stateroom staff. A nightmare dealing with the Front Desk, confusing information about credit card deposits. One authorization signed at the Front Desk was stated on my Visa account under an unknown name different from Zuiderdam or HAL. On board credit was blocked without previous notice. Badly maintained exterior surfaces, worn-out sunbeds. Smoking permitted in staterooms and verandas. Passengers in the stateroom adjacent to ours where heavy smokers, smoke smell came both through the aisle and the veranda. Impossible to have breakfast or just sit down in our veranda since those early smoking birds were sitting there from dawn to dusk. The A/C in the stateroom cannot be turned off or at least reduce the vent power. Located right above our bed, we could feel the air blowing over our face the whole night long. Some sailing nights with rough sea we were several times awakened by the sound of creaking panels. We called maintenance and they put some wooden plugs in the angle between the wall and the ceiling During formal dressing nights, those wearing casual were forced to have dinner before 8 PM in Lido Restaurant while more elegant passengers could enjoy dinner at Vista Restaurant till 9,30 PM.WARNING: at every port of call we were told to carry the ship card and a photo ID. WARNING!!. Our passport weren't stamped at any port of call. The Shore Excursions Department informed all passengers to disembark carrying the ship card and a photo ID (not necessarily the passport). In Puerto Limón we took a taxi to Cahuita Park. On the way back we were stopped at a police control. The police required us to show our passports as the ONLY LEGAL ID for tourist in Costa Rica. They also wanted to confirm our date of entrance in the country. The taxi driver solved the situation and we could return to the ship. While the ship was being maneuvered through the chambers of Gatun Locks, passengers who had booked tours were 'locked' inside the ship's theater for 50 minutes as a pre disembarking procedure, preventing them from watching one of the most interesting parts of the trip. I would book another cruise with Holland America just if the selected route is not operated by any other Cruise Line Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We began our trip with a two and a half hour drive from Cape Coral.Drove right to the pier unloaded the luggage ,parked the van and joined the line to check in.It was one fifteen and the lines moved quickly.Up to the Lido Deck for a light ... Read More
We began our trip with a two and a half hour drive from Cape Coral.Drove right to the pier unloaded the luggage ,parked the van and joined the line to check in.It was one fifteen and the lines moved quickly.Up to the Lido Deck for a light lunch and then to our room.The luggage was there and we unpacked.Went on deck nine and viewed Ft. Laud.After life boat drill returned to very warm room.Went to service desk and explained about warm room and that the bed should have been set up as twins,my sister is with me.At 8:30 stopped at desk again and was told it was a technical problem,beds still not changed.At 11:00 took my pillow with me down to the desk and said I was sleeping there .The sweat was dripping from my head.Was offered a fan and told someone would seperate the beds.We had the fan for the entire cruise.A crewman came to the room on Thursday and removed both panels in the ceiling and siad thats the best we would get. The room itself did not seem too clean from the beginning,but I put it down to the age of the ship.The bathroom floor appeared dirty but i thought it was worn.It bothered me for days and I finally wet a tissue,put soap on it and rubbed the floor.Like magic it was clean.I took pictures and showed them to the service desk,a supervisor was sent to the room and told me she would have it cleaned.The room was never dirty again and the bathroom floor looked like new.On Friday we were offered a change of room. The men and women at the service desk were always polite and tried to be helpful,but they could not cool or clean our room.And yes our door to the veranda was always closed and the drapes drawn. We attended all of the shows and enjoyed them.The singers and dancers give a great show.The Island Magic steel band played to a standing rooom crowd.In Costa Rica we took the Ariel Tram through the rain forest,the monkeys were in the trees and moved right over us.This was worthwile.In Panama we rode the Dome Car Train to the Pacific.Our Guide made the trip with her talks.on the wayback we were all tired and we were seeing the same thing,a lot of napping was done. We enjoyed the food in all the restaurants,and our group included some picky eaters,everyone was satisfied.The service of all the crew and the good food makes me feel bad about the room conditions.We have sailed on H.A. more than fifty days and have another trip set for March.The Ship appears in need of an overhaul.There were many public restrooms with out of order signs and a very bad odor on the third deck midships. We walked of the ship with no problems in less than a half hour.I like cruising and feel bad about this review as I sailed this same ship last Nov.and loved everything.Thats why our friends sailed this time.They did not have similar problems Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We did a deal with our friends from New York. They would take the transcontinental train from Toronto to Vancouver with us, and then we would all take a cruise to Alaska. This would be our first cruise, as I have been prone to seasickness ... Read More
We did a deal with our friends from New York. They would take the transcontinental train from Toronto to Vancouver with us, and then we would all take a cruise to Alaska. This would be our first cruise, as I have been prone to seasickness when on water. However, I armed myself with some Transderm anti-nausea patches, and off we went. The train trip, BTW, was a wonderful old-fashioned experience on mid-20th century equipment, good food, excellent service. We arrived in Vancouver and headed straight to embarkation. Although this is perforce a tiresome business, it was organised efficiently as we cleared in turn US immigration and then the ship boarding process. The ship, as others have commented, is somewhat garish in design, however our stateroom was pleasant, and the verandah was lovely to have. Even as we headed north and it got cooler I was happy to sit out there admiring the amazing scenery, snuggled under the rug thoughtfully provided. The staff are uniformly pleasant and obliging. The regular menu was excellent, and my husband was happy to be able to enjoy a good steak every night. We considered trying the Pinnacle one night but never got around to it. The entertainment - the song and dance kids were OK, the magician was excellent and entertaining, and the comedian was good. I sat in on several of the Microsoft classes offered, otherwise we did not try any of the myriad daytime possibilities offered. My major unhappiness was with the amount of what I can only call huckstering going on. Someone always seemed to be trying to sell us something, whether it was an overpriced wine tasting, hot chocolate that apparently could only be had if you bought a souvenir to drink it in. Frankly, it seemed unworthy of a line of Holland America's stature. Of course, it may go on on all the cruise lines - I don't know. The one blandishment I did fall for, and was very pleased with, was the special dropped off as a flyer with the day's activities - a special package at the spa. Flyers I have no problem with. However, there seemed to be a lot of people on the ship who needed to make a living selling extras. I did feel somewhat gypped with the coupon booklet I received because of some early booking deal or other. Supposedly worth $400, it only offered nibbles off some fairly pricey stuff. The one coupon I expected to use, offering free gold earrings if I spent over $500 on fine jewellery, I was not permitted to use. Despite spending nearly $600 on a lovely amber and silver bracelet, I was told that did not quality as fine, it should have been precious stones. I do not see why - money is money, isn't it? Or does this just signify the markup on diamonds is much higher so they can afford the special? Overall, we enjoyed our cruise - the scenery is spectacular, and pausing in front of the Margarie glacier LISTENING TO IT as it popped and banged and crunched was worth the whole trip. One more complaint. My husband ordered and bought the DVD, supposedly a souvenir of the cruise. It opens very well, with lots of shots of people boarding,and sailing away under the Lion's Gate bridge. Then the rest of it is basically capers by the staff, with a couple of brief shots of the captain on the bridge. Where was Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, the magnificent Glacier Bay? This could easily have been provided with stock footage too - although they do have the last 'day at sea' to put the DVD together. I have complained to Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
My husband's and my Alaskan Inside Passage cruise adventure actually began with four nights, three days on VIA Rail Canada from Toronto to Vancouver with two friends, British ex-pats who live in Canada. We flew from New York City to ... Read More
My husband's and my Alaskan Inside Passage cruise adventure actually began with four nights, three days on VIA Rail Canada from Toronto to Vancouver with two friends, British ex-pats who live in Canada. We flew from New York City to Toronto on Tuesday afternoon, had dinner with our friends, boarded the train and departed from Toronto at 10 pm. The rail trip was filled with gorgeous scenery, interesting people, delicious food and a lot of fun. I would caution anyone unfamiliar with this trip, however, that the size of the Sleeping Compartment was miniscule. After the shock and figuring out our way of dealing with the lack of space, the trip was wonderful. We arrived in Vancouver on Saturday morning and took a cab to the Zuiderdam. Embarkation was efficient and easy. Our adjacent verandah staterooms were ready, so we settled in, exuberant about the spaciousness compared to the train! We had a gorgeous view of Vancouver from our balcony and our stateroom was lovely with plenty of storage space. We went to lunch in the Lido, where for the first two days breakfast and lunch were served by the staff to help avoid any illnesses brought onboard, after which was self-serve. As for dinner, we had chosen 8:00 pm in the main dining room at a table for eight. Our dinner companions proved to be charming and we enjoyed each other's company every evening. My husband and I like the Ocean Bar as our pre-dinner cocktail place, where the excellent Neptunes trio played nightly. Our first day was spent cruising north through the Inside Passage. The second morning we cruised through the scenic Tracy Arm area, arriving in Juneau at 2:00 pm. A shuttle ($3 RT) was offered into the town center of Juneau, but my husband and I chose to walk—20 minutes to and from. We then took one of the blue buses ($16 RT) to Mendenhall Glacier. Just off the parking lot we watched the salmon swimming up a creek alongside a raised walkway to the Glacier. There were a lot of salmon carcasses left by bears, but no bears. Mendenhall Glacier is pretty spectacular I must say, being 12 miles long and 1½ miles wide at the base! There are lots of different trails you can take, but we only took the short Photo Point Trail, which got us a little closer and a wonderful photo op. The next morning we arrived early in Skagway, where we had booked the Yukon Bus & Rail Excursion with Chilkoot Charters & Tours ($175/pp - 7½ hours). We were picked up at the dock to begin the tour on the White Pass train to Fraser, British Columbia, which if you do nothing else in Alaska, do this! The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and it is fascinating to think this 110 mile railway begun in 1898 on the difficult ascent of rugged terrain was finished in 26 months! An engineering feat! Not to mention, prior to the railway, the thought of prospectors climbing on foot and each carrying a ton of supplies (as was required to enter Canada). At Fraser we transferred to a small van type bus for our trip into the Yukon Territory, where we saw more amazingly beautiful scenery along the South Klondike Highway. We even saw two white mountain goats high on the side of a mountain! We had many photo stops at such landmarks as Carcross Desert, Bove Island in Tagish Lake, Bridal Veil Falls and Emerald Lake. We stopped at Caribou Crossing Trading Post for an included BBQ chicken lunch, and where we visited the Husky Puppy Camp and the Yukon Wildlife Museum. I must point out that the Museum is so well worth seeing! Such a wide and excellent display of wildlife, worthy of the Museum of Natural History in NYC!!! Be sure and see this included perk if you take this tour. On the return to Skagway, we stopped in the small town of Carcross for a short time and then enjoyed more scenic vistas along the South Klondike Highway. I highly recommend this tour and Chilkoot Tours. Most of the next day was spent cruising Glacier Bay, during which a National Park Ranger boarded and commentated as we toured the area. We found watching the scenery from our balcony was perfect. The day was lovely, we propped the cabin door open to hear the Ranger on the TV and enjoyed the views and the sounds of the glaciers—Johns Hopkins, Lamplugh, Grand Pacific and Margerie. Captain Timmers took us very close to the Margerie and rotated the ship very, very slowly so that everyone no matter where you were would have a wonderful view. Really nice! The following day we were in Ketchikan, and being the rainiest place in Alaska, we had a rainy day. However, that did not stop us from doing a walking tour as we had planned. Stop at the Visitors Bureau on the dock and pick up their wonderful map, which includes walking tour directions. We walked up to Creek Street from there and took the tram up to Cape Fox Lodge, where there is a nice display of several totems in the courtyard. We walked down the Married Men's Trail and to the Salmon Ladder, then Creek Street (the old red light district) and checked out the shops that line the street now, and where I bought a lovely totem souvenir, even though I'm not much of a souvenir buyer. We spent the next day at sea. It was so foggy in the morning that the foghorn had to blow at regular and frequent intervals. This was the day for the HAL Mariners lunch in the main dining room, after which we enjoyed the Zuiderdam Celebrity Cook-off between Captain Timmers and Hotel Manager Kees. A lot of fun! The next morning we arrived in Vancouver, disembarked easily and took a taxi to the Blue Horizon Hotel where we stayed overnight. The hotel is well located on Robson Street, the rooms quite large and well appointed. The lobby was a bit small for all the activity going on when we checked in and we had to wait and wait to have our bags checked while our rooms were being readied. Finally our bags were checked and we took off on the HOHO trolley right outside the hotel. We had gorgeous weather and spent the day touring Vancouver on the HOHO, and having fresh oysters at a wonderful place on the dock of Granville Island called Whet. We took both the Red and the Blue Loops, which proved to be a great way to get a feel for Vancouver. That evening we had a lovely dinner at O'Doul's just down Robson Street from the Blue Horizon, and where a lovely jazz combo were playing near the bar area. The next day was spent flying home to New York City. A wonderful trip from beginning to end! I have no problem recommending HAL or the Zuiderdam, one of their older ships but still quite cruise-worthy. Our stateroom was lovely, plenty spacious, the bed extremely comfortable, good temperature control, etc. etc. Love the trio of dispensers for Shampoo, Conditioner and Body Wash in the shower/tub! Service was extremely friendly and attentive. Lots of onboard activities to suit everyone's interest, food was good and well varied, and cocktails and wine reasonably priced. What more can I say? Great trip filled with majestic beauty! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I was a bit concerned after reading a few very negative reviews but after being on the ship feel that they must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed and see every glass 1/2 full or were put upon by having to take care of someone ... Read More
I was a bit concerned after reading a few very negative reviews but after being on the ship feel that they must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed and see every glass 1/2 full or were put upon by having to take care of someone when all they needed was to be taken care of themselves. Out of over 1800 only met 3 rude people, pretty good odds to me. The ship is older but very beautiful and traditional with fresh flowers and great art. The staff I can not say enough good things about!!! They are warm,friendly and very caring. Being an older ship we did have a problem with cabin on 1st day that was taken care of to our satisfaction which I am very glad for as we loved the room it is slightly longer both inside and on the veranda and was wonder to see both sides of the panama canal and watch the ports we left from. Because of all the activities I was not bored on sea days learned digital photography, took in a few of the afternoon teas had a couple of great wine tastings. Loved the may small bars with different music never seemed like you were in a big crowd spent a lot on nights in piano bar. Enjoyed the comedy acts and music in the large vista lounge at night.Lido does great breakfast with made to order eggs, egg Benedict and omelets along with their great made to order pasta. Right outside they do good hamburgers and hot dogs also fresh. My husband loved the free ice cream bar. We did late seating because we like meeting people the food was good and our tablemates great! So if you want a cruise line where the staff really make you feel like they are happy to help you with nice accommodations along with interesting activities that balance a relaxing vacation with some high tech you will enjoy this ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
The first criteria was the itinerary. Objective was to visit my daughter who lives in Sitka. This was achieved. How disappointed I was when I first boarded the ship. I expected this to be a first class vessel only to find it very dated ... Read More
The first criteria was the itinerary. Objective was to visit my daughter who lives in Sitka. This was achieved. How disappointed I was when I first boarded the ship. I expected this to be a first class vessel only to find it very dated & shabby. Although the cabin was acceptable, the rest of the ship was definitely in need of a total overhaul from the common areas to dining rooms to pool areas. At each port we stopped, I became more disappointed as I saw ships berthed that looked so much more appealing that the Zuiderdam. I was traveling alone, but had to pay the full amount for two persons. The food was certainly not superior for a ship of this reputation both in the dining room & at the buffet. During my travels I met people from other ships. I was told how appealing their accommodations were. I felt like an old Chevrolet parked next to a new Mercedes. I flew to Vancouver a few days before. I received a message 2 days prior to boarding from my travel professional that Holland America contacted her as they oversold the cruise & wanted to send me out of Seattle instead. I would have to pay to get to Seattle She was appalled by this & told them it was totally unacceptable. I boarded the trip 6 months in advance. On the positive side the staff was very helpful & obliging. Also, the spa was excellent. I highly recommend trying to get more information on a ship before booking a cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We were really looking forward to this cruise. The scenery and commentary by the naturalists exceeded our expectations and Glacier Bay was spectacular. The food on board we found well above average- Hunky Dorey was a star! The exception ... Read More
We were really looking forward to this cruise. The scenery and commentary by the naturalists exceeded our expectations and Glacier Bay was spectacular. The food on board we found well above average- Hunky Dorey was a star! The exception was Caneletto. Attention should be applied to this restaurant. We cannot comment on Pinnacle as despite trying to book as soon as we boarded we were informed that it was fully booked. Friends who did manage to book said that there were several free tables. When they commented on this underbooking they were told that they were reserved for people in suites!! A distinct lack of customer service here. We felt like second class guests. Our Deluxe balcony cabin on Deck 5(5107) was really disappointing. It was shabby and bore little resemblance to the virtual tour on the website. We only saw our steward on day 1 and again on the last evening when he informed us how important it was that we scored him a 9. We did not.One example of the lack of service was that ice had been placed in the ice bucket. The next day it was replaced. However for the rest of the week it was not and the water remained there until we disembarked. Also we did not receive an invite to the last evening's dinner and we did not get a form re disembarkation procedures. We had to chase these ourselves. Hardly first class service. However other friends on board seemed to have had better experience. We will cruise again but certainly not with Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Accommodations ashore were in the Westmarks, a chain of hotels of varying quality cobbled together by Holland America ranging from a suite at the Westmark Fairbanks to the Westmark BeaverCreek (which had only single beds that could not be ... Read More
Accommodations ashore were in the Westmarks, a chain of hotels of varying quality cobbled together by Holland America ranging from a suite at the Westmark Fairbanks to the Westmark BeaverCreek (which had only single beds that could not be moved together). Given that BeaverCreek is little more than a dot on the Yukon map, a short chunk of solid land surrounded by bog, no complaints. Accommodation aboard for the 4-day cruise portion was an inside cabin with a California-King sized bed that almost filled the room from wall to wall. For meals ashore and aboard the train, one can purchase meal tickets from HA or go it alone. We went it alone, paid for two great meals on the train, breakfast and dinner, a buffet breakfast at our Denali lodgings, and a superb gourmet meal at the SalmonBake in Denali. Best deal in WhiteHorse is the bbq chicken from the WalMart next door to the hotel. Included in the tour price (and well worth it) were a gourmet meal at the Westmark Tok, a fun supper with entertainment at the Westmark Beaver Creek, and a miners stew for lunch in Fairbanks. Aboard the Zuiderdam, plenty of variety in the food, including a venison steak at dinner, and baked alaska every night. We ate fish and chips ashore in Ketchican and are happy we did (try the green hut on the pier). Our companions on the bus and train were mainly in their sixties and our tour guide must consider herself lucky we were such a harmonious bunch. As for the scenery, we took a thousand thousand-words worth of photos. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
The Zuiderdam is showing her age. Worn carpeting, broken toilet flush buttons, rust around the ship and leaks dripping from the ceilings onto the floor pretty much sums it up. These were not the norm, but they were observed on this ... Read More
The Zuiderdam is showing her age. Worn carpeting, broken toilet flush buttons, rust around the ship and leaks dripping from the ceilings onto the floor pretty much sums it up. These were not the norm, but they were observed on this cruise.My stateroom attendant was outstanding, as was the front desk staff. Water Aerobics was fun but crowded. The Screening room has big, comfortable chairs but I was disappointed there was no popcorn. The Explorations Cafe was clean and well supplied with books. Public areas were generally clean but looked worn. The public restrooms were sometimes in need of attention. The bars and Lounges that I visited were clean and the service was good. The Spa was clean and well cared for. Very good service and friendly staff.The food was where the cruise line fell down.We used As You Wish Dining because fixed dining was full. It was terrible. Unorganized and confused, the waitstaff was clearly undermanned and poorly trained. The food was just OK, nothing special. The presentation was well done, however. It was pretty, just not very tasty.The Lido restaurant was generally a mess. Tables were dirty and I had to wipe down more than one before I could put my plate down and eat. They usually only had one side open at a time so it was crowded and the lines were long. The buffet was not generally self serve and it was obvious to me and most passengers I spoke with that the servers would have rather been somewhere else. A few were smiling and friendly, but most of them acted distant and unhappy. When they handed you your plate, the food was just slapped on it. I wiped the rim of my plate almost every time. My morning oatmeal was dripping over the side most mornings when they handed me my bowl.Silverware was difficult to find. Sometimes they had it piled on a tray and you had to go find the tray. Sometimes they had it with the servers and you had to remember to ask for it because they rarely remembered to give it to you with your plate.Generally, the cruise was good. The waitstaff and the food really need work. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
My mother and I have just returned from a 10 day Panama Canal cruise on the Holland American Ship Zuiderdam. It has been many years since I sailed with HAL, and have sailed on three other lines. I had read many reviews - some good, some ... Read More
My mother and I have just returned from a 10 day Panama Canal cruise on the Holland American Ship Zuiderdam. It has been many years since I sailed with HAL, and have sailed on three other lines. I had read many reviews - some good, some okay and some bad about the Zuiderdam. I guess that I have mixed emotions about the ship and the service. It reminded me of a sailing with Norwegian on a ship that needed to be retired or put on a three day cruise schedule where people just don't expect as much.Although we were in a "suite", I would classify it as a mini-suite in the terms of other cruise lines. As far as the cabin steward and his helper, they did an okay job and were friendly. However, I think that more and more the cruise lines are doing more with less people. Hardly saw the steward - except when he needed to clean the room and my mother was still getting ready (she is a little slow - but then she was on vacation!!I was really startled to find that my sheets were worn and had holes in them. That kind of put me off. Also, a very think blanket on the bed with sheets on top and bottom of it. Many times it was hard to control the temp, so it was chilly with just that blanket and sheets.On the plus side, there was plenty of storage and the bathroom is the best I have ever had on a cruise.Room service was good for breakfast and some late lunch or dinner items. However, the bread is always cold, cold, cold. Not just room service, but at the buffet or in the dining room - no warm rolls, bread, whatsoever. The only way to get warm bread is to have toast - done right there - at the buffet.I thought the food was very good otherwise in the dining room and buffet. The one night that was not well done was when we were sailing out of a port and they only had barbeque around the pool. It was not well organized and sparks were flying on people. Too many people for this kind of set up. No plates at the salad bar and when they did bring some they were burning hot - not something you want to put your salad on or that you could even hold with your bare hands.The As you Wish Dining is somewhat complicated and needs work. Norwegian has it down very well and I am not sure you can really do it well the way HAL has it formatted. I guess I feel that if you can't do something well, just don't do it. I expected more from them. The service was good - not complaints.The coffee served throughout the ship is really not great - except maybe where you pay for it. I didn't try it there, so can't say. However, they do keep it hot and serve it hot with room service.The front desk service was hot and cold. Not very helpful nor friendly sometimes, but okay others. The embarkation and dembarkation were the best I have encountered. They definitely have this down pat.The Spa was very well run and a great place to relax or get a massage or facial. The staff didn't hard sell you after a treatment. I was really impressed with it - I just would have a little more separate area for the men and the women in the relaxation and/or thermal suite.So, my final assessment is that we had a good cruise, ate good food, met many nice people and saw some wonderful places. The ship needs a facelift and the staff needs it too - they reflect the quality of the ship - which is slightly worn and tired. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
My husband and I enjoy cruising - the best way to travel since his spinal cord injury left him with mobility challenges. Besides the excellent Accessible Balcony Cabin, the excellent room stewards, tasty meals and special dining during ... Read More
My husband and I enjoy cruising - the best way to travel since his spinal cord injury left him with mobility challenges. Besides the excellent Accessible Balcony Cabin, the excellent room stewards, tasty meals and special dining during "An Evening at Le Cirque" in the Pinnacle Grill, we received excellent support from Zuiderdam's Shore Excursion Team. Prior to ports of call I would go down and discuss with them the appropriateness of the shore excursions which we had pre-booked from home. Their suggestions were wonderful. Some ports in Central America are not very handicap-friendly. The Shore Excursion Staff even introduced me to Rafael Esparza, Operations Mgr. for Explora Caribe. Explora Caribe provided some of the ship's shore excursions and there was nothing suitable in the ship's offering so Sr. Esparza provided us with a private car and driver to take us to places which we could access, and at the rate which we would have paid for one of their bus tours. What wonderful service!!! Not only were we pleased with the ship and service, we are grateful to Cruise Critic for the opportunities to share information with and glean information from other travelers. We especially appreciated the information regarding touring in Corinto, Nicaragua, which will be discussed in more detail later. We visited quite a few ports which are not listed on CC's drop-down box. During our partial transit of the Panama Canal we took an excursion called The Shaping of Panama. It traveled to Panama City by highway with a nice luncheon there, then back to Colon. It was good to be able to see the countryside. At Vera Cruz, Mexico, we visited the World Heritage Site of Tlacotalpan and the town of Alvarado. Tlacotalpan was wonderfully presented and a great opportunity to hike around and see prehistoric indigenous structures. At Alvarado we enjoyed a presentation of music and dance by students who are part of a group trying to preserve the local heritage. Dos Bocas, Mexico, offered the Comalcalco Ruins featuring Maya constructions using bricks with unique designs and then Paraiso Town. At Progreso, Mexico, we were provided a car by Explora Caribe (mentioned above) and went to Merida. The bus tours discouraged passengers with mobility issues but the driver of the car and the guide took us to see some small ruins plus Progreso's Zocalo, the Governor's Palace (take time to enjoy the art museum inside), The Cathedral. We had a wonderful lunch of locally-favorite foods at Los Almendros Restaurant and the driver and guide even took me to a bookstore in Merida where I could purchase some special volumes about the area. In Corinto, Nicaragua, we used the services of John "Max" O'Connor for a private tour. We had found Max through Cruise Critic Reviews/Blogs and enjoyed our day. We shared his services with another couple whom we had met on board. The gentleman was in a wheelchair, complementary to my husband's use of an electric scooter (needs a wheelchair if the scooter couldn't be used.) We went to see the items which specifically interested us. Surprisingly, Max had to do some research for our tour because I had researched Corinto online and had come up with some places which were not on the usual tourist path. At Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, we were not feeling well so cancelled the planned shore excursion to Antigua but did go ashore to do a bit of shopping and see a bit of local color. They have a very nice development there at the port with musicians and vendors selling their wares. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
I loved the cruise not just because the night before sailing we were upgraded from SS guarantee (small suite) to SA (big suite with perks). The ship's brass plate said 2002 but the ship could have just been christened, considering ... Read More
I loved the cruise not just because the night before sailing we were upgraded from SS guarantee (small suite) to SA (big suite with perks). The ship's brass plate said 2002 but the ship could have just been christened, considering the cleanliness and maintenance level. As usual, the HAL staff was friendly and efficient. I've posted details elsewhere on cruise critic about a Half Moon Cay adventure, casino, costa rica and the "explore the zuiderdam" tour. These were high points. We had room service breakfast daily, as we did on a previous HAL in a smaller cabin. You can add items to the breakfast door hanger, and they arrive, at least our pancakes, eggs benedict and apple juice did, all on time and hot. Good service at dinner, but a dinner for six can take two hours. One of our party wanted hummus at dinner, and it wasn't immediately available but appeared the next night and every other night, even if we were at a different table. Mid morning was at the gym. Some folks jogged early on deck 3, but I'm not an early riser. The gym has precor treadmills and cybex machines. didn't use spa but overheard their infomercials. We liked the dancers on board. Some of them gave group dance lessons, like salsa. A young string quartet from Kiev was charming. the computer classes were useful and well attended, focused on photos and windows 7. fifteen laptops to follow along with the instructor Trevor. This was our HAL trip #10 (two others on Regent) and by now we are about median age for most HAL cruises. (66 and 62). We are likely to cruise HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
I apologize for the rather belated timing of this review. Computer problems and subsequent attempts at info recoveries left it buried in both my and my computer's memories. But I spent a bunch of time with it and Holland America is ... Read More
I apologize for the rather belated timing of this review. Computer problems and subsequent attempts at info recoveries left it buried in both my and my computer's memories. But I spent a bunch of time with it and Holland America is still running the same itinerary with the same ship so it may help somebody. Make no mistake about it. This one spectacular, educational, stimulating yet relaxing cruise combined everything positive that we look for in a vacation. It went beyond our expectations in almost every department. We can not recommend it highly enough. The length and detail of what follows is a result of our excitement, expectations and enthusiasm and we hope it helps others dodge a few pitfalls and make their own decisions... and maybe build some anticipation, but... the review got longer than I had anticipated so here's an abridged version for those in a hurry... or those possessing a short attention span like me. We loved the cruise. It was very relaxing with a great mix of action and quiet time but it's not really a party boat. It is also not new but the ship is not as 'worn out' and beat up as some on these boards would have you believe. Our Superior Suite was spacious and nicely appointed with a generous balcony. We liked the Vista restaurant. Food quality was good in the Lido but rude crowds cause indigestion. The Pinnacle was worth far more than we paid. Costa Rica was a rainy, eye-popping place especially including our recommended Rainforest Aerial Tram tour. The Panama Canal was a historical and technical marvel and should be on everybody's list of things to see. Photos and videos do not do it justice. Pass on the Standard Car Railway excursion as by bussing you off to some Panama City strip mall, it does little to illuminate the reason you came here and with the fogged train car windows, actually makes the canal harder to see. If you want to try a train, you might opt for the Dome Car as that excursion will take you to the Miraflores locks and canal museum. (Don't know the visibility through the windows on that one, though.) Curacao is a great, cosmopolitan little island with a very European feel. Scuba diving (with an outside vendor) was spectacular. In Aruba we took a rushed HAL dive excursion on a great wreck but which didn't leave us enough time to see really see Oranjestad. Was very disappointed in the lack of Scuba on Half Moon Cay and the paucity of good, shore-side snorkel sites sent us back to the ship early. Though having taken the glass bottom eco tour and the kayak eco tour in the past, I can recommend them. During a sea day we took an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the ship with a very small group that is not to be missed if you have any questions at all about how monster cruise ships operate and handle all those people aboard. Did not see the production shows but don't miss comedic magician Jeff Peterson in the Vista Lounge showroom. That's the highest of the high and the lowest of the low. Now for the in-depth low-down for the detail researchers among you; This is our third time on the Zuiderdam, which provided our first voyage in 2003 to the Western Caribbean and a follow-up in 2004 to the Eastern side. We were bowled over with the amenities and service Holland America, and particularly the crew of the Zuiderdam, provided us back then and on a subsequent Alaska Inside Passage on the Oosterdam in 2006. Since, due to different itinerary needs, we have tried several other lines but with the Panama Canal in our sights, we were excited to be back on our first ship with Holland America. However, scoping out some of the cruiser reviews led us to hold our breath a little before we actually boarded, anticipating a rag-worn, vestige of its former glory with supposed worn fabrics, broken chairs, holey carpets and a diminished cruise quality. Didn't find it much. Not even close to the degree the boards and posts led us to believe. Yes, we had a couple of problems but I don't want to bury the lead. And the lead is that we had a great time, a spectacular vacation and still find Holland America provides a superior experience. As to the clientele, it is generally an older crowd and probably not the cruise line for Party-All-Nighters. We certainly fit in the former category but we are also very active, extremely curious and generally non-stop. This was our first cruise with back-to-back sea days and that took some adjustment. The ship doesn't have zip lines, climbing walls, simulated surfing, etc. But if you aim to ease up and relax, enjoy learning about unusual things, savoring quality food and capable of enjoying more introspective pursuits, I can wholeheartedly endorse Holland America, the Zuiderdam and especially this itinerary. Though one could hardly call 1900+ people cruising along with you intimate, compared with 4,000 or 5,000 in an only marginally larger ship, the experience does seem much less crowded. And with careful shopping, it's hard to beat the price to experience one of the greatest engineering feats and most important but under-recognized turning points of American history. Combined with a tour of the rainforest in Costa Rica, which gives you some perspective into what they were facing in Panama, it is just spectacularly eye-opening. My wife and I drove from NC to Ft. Lauderdale and visited with Mom for a couple of days before she dropped us off at Port Everglades on Sunday. Not knowing what to expect from local traffic and with eight ships in port, three from Holland America alone, we left early. Traffic was better than expected so we got there about 10:45. The directions to the appropriate terminal within the port boundaries were explicit. However, once we got to Terminal 21, signage about where to drop our baggage and where to enter were non-existent. Once we found a porter and our way in, we had no trouble at check-in though I don't understand the purpose for holding passengers within the terminal in groups before being released to board. No big deal but the anticipation as we sat, the hull of the ship looming outside the picture windows we were facing, was excruciating. The check-in line seemed backwards though, as arriving, unchecked passengers crossed the room from the entrance on one side, to the check-in desk in front of the windows on the far wall. Then checked-in passengers looped to the left, away from the boarding area, to a limited number of chairs at the back. At the direction of HAL, the assemblage jumped up and crossed the incoming line, in order to head to the gangway out the right side of the room. Loopy. Being on board early, we headed to the Vista dining room for the Mariner-only lunch, beginning our plan to avoid the press of the Lido restaurant throughout this cruise as much as possible. It was a quiet, delicious start to our cruise. We then began to reacquaint ourselves with the ship, toting our carry-ons with us, and marveled at the site of the teeming port, including the astoundingly immense Allure of the Seas at the opposite dock, until the ship-wide announcement about the availability of our staterooms. Our home for the next ten days was to be Superior Suite #6062. It was clean and well-made-up with a spacious balcony equipped with a full-size table and chairs and two lounges but devoid of our luggage. We immediately noticed that the shock absorber on the bathroom door was broken and reported it to our concierge. It remained untended for the duration. In that little detail lies hidden the only real complaint about the cruise that we had. Having been overwhelmed and astounded with Holland America's service in the past, now separated by several years, we believe we detect a general slip in the quality of service, at least on this ship. It is still very high and you can see the great efforts of the majority of the crew but there is something missing that used to be there. We think there may be several reasons. Reason 1; when we cruised with HAL in the past they had a tipping policy which basically stated that the crew worked for your approval and enjoyment. If you wanted to tip they would provide envelopes so that you could distribute however much you wanted to the folks who provided the services. Now they have folded an $11 a day per person charge into your on-board account with the explanation that they will distribute the resulting fund to the crew in predetermined percentages so that everyone who contributes to your experience, including some of those behind the scenes, will get something. There is a stipulation that you can change it, if you wish, before check out. This is becoming an industry standard for handling the post-cruise tips. The rub for us, goes beyond the tacky $22 per day added on to our cruise cost (10 day cruise = $220 extra.) Please be advised, we tipped generously in the past, usually exceeding the published standards but we did it based on the service in which we were involved. With all tips going into a general fund, the purpose for tipping has lost its effect. It has become just another check to cash that subsidizes their HAL paycheck with no direct connection to performance. We think HAL employees recognize the personal disconnect now between the service provided and the institutional tip. And because the tip is covered automatically, it removes responsibility, and serious consideration by the passengers, of the services rendered and by whom. In addition, surprise charges like this make the customer feel abused and misled. The crew should get a paycheck from HAL that reflects their true worth, rather than expecting passengers universally to subsidize the line. What if I 'adjust' the tip amount at the desk? Does the crewmember know that? And which crewmember am I trying to affect? Rather than nailing the customer institutionally, voluntary tips should be the standard and handled behind the scenes between the crew like a shore-side restaurant where those receiving tips are required to divide a percentage among the support staff. The current policy leads to some crew members "coasting" knowing they will get however much they will get regardless of the level of service they personally provide. While many tried very hard to please like the old days, including our cabin steward, many were just doing what they needed to get by. Which leads to Reason 2; the problem was never more apparent than in the dining room. While unstructured dining looks good on paper since you can dine in the Vista at your reasonable leisure, without tips to incentivize the serving staff's performance, after the initial serving round, dining stewards were hard to come by. Refills, corrections or just about anything after the initial course service were rare as the staff moved on to more recently seated tables. It was really memorable when, in the old days, your steward knew your name and your preferences and you got a chance to know him or her, as well. With flexible dining, you never got the same steward twice. They went to the trouble of giving the wait staff a ticket with our name on it but I can only remember a single time when we were personally addressed at our table. Then we had to deal with the question of how do we reward this isolated attempt at superior service? Another solution to the service problem needs to be found. Finally, Reason 3; a final question arises as to whether they have reduced staffing in light of the recession and whether an over-reduction has had the deleterious effect that we noticed in the service. And that brings us back to moving into our cabin. After another length of time exploring the ship, later in the afternoon we returned to our room to find no luggage. Leaving again, we just happened to head to the forward elevators and there were our bags, mixed with a good bunch of other luggage spread around the foyer and into the passageways with no ship representation as passengers stepped over and through the pile. Having a good bit of expensive Scuba gear laying out where anybody could grab it or any of our other stuff and wheel it off was the impetus for us to grab it instead and take it to the room. No questions were asked nor our tags checked as we shuttled back and forth to retrieve the several bags. So how about the dining? Our cruise purchase having been made in the waning weeks before the sail date we were assigned the 'As You Wish' dining program because the structured seatings on the upper floor of the Vista were already assigned, so we went with it. The flexibility was nice, too, so we have no objections to the format. Most of our meals were taken in the Vista dining room and we had no problems with waiting times. As usual we generally found the dishes to be properly done, nicely plated and delicious as we tried the range of menu items through the cruise. We felt sorry for everybody in the dining and kitchen staff on the final night of the cruise when they had their 'Master Chef' dinner. It was the only night where there were 5:30 and 8:30 seatings like the upstairs and was an attempt at making the night special. It began once the diners were seated with no napkins and proceeded with the 'Napkin Dance' as the waitstaff distributed them while prancing around the room. The staff appeared somewhat uncomfortable as they congregated at specified times throughout the dinner and then paraded around the room dancing, singing and even doing some juggling and acrobatics. However, this meant an interruption between courses, which meant serving the current course had to be completed before they all gathered... and it wasn't. It all came to a head at the desert course when the star of the show, the baked Alaska, arrived at our table after it had been apparently out for a while. It was already drooping and by the time they got finished with the performance, it was well and truly down for the count. (the remains were, however, still quite yummy.) We did a couple of breakfasts and lunches in the Lido and liked being served for the first few days of the cruise, a sensible nod to discouraging an outbreak of norovirus. Food quality was reasonable but somehow those buffets bring out the worst in some folk. In spite of not spending a bunch of time there, still got elbowed out of the way as some people lunged for food like it was the last they would get for the duration of the cruise. Jeez, simply ask if you can grab something if I'm in the way and I'll gladly and politely move aside. Food quality was exceptional for a buffet and there was always plenty of it, and different cuisine stations as well, during dining hours. My wife and I especially appreciated the poached egg and hot oatmeal breakfast station getting both our needs filled without the rush of the main line. You could order your eggs sitting atop meats and fishes of many different types in addition to your English muffin and you could top it all with several varieties of hollandaise. We felt the salad station was a little weak on selection but as I said, we didn't spend much time in the Lido. The desserts were exceptional, though there also seemed to be a somewhat limited selection. I really liked the small servings, though, as I could try a couple in each outing without too much guilt. Speaking of guilt, leave it locked in the stateroom for the Dessert Extravaganza. The show starts at 10:30pm as a presentation of delicious desserts of every type are displayed and consumed under the sliding roof around the Lido Pool. Self control is not my strong suit but after a big meal in the Vista and then enjoying the Variety Show, I could only try a couple before I knew I was overfilled. It was a most impressive presentation. Maybe I should have planned a lighter dinner? We consumed most of our lunches on board relaxing as the staff served us in the Vista dining room. It is a great hide-a-way as most seem to wrestle their way through the lines at the Lido. Good for them. Good for us. Late in the cruise sailing through the Windward Passage my wife and I sat enjoying lunch as the usual noon announcement by Captain, Werner Timmers began. He was very entertaining and detailed in his heavily accented explanations throughout the voyage as to where we were, where we were headed, how fast and usually a bit of sailing history about the area before he turned the mic over to Cruise Director Gene Young who would then list the afternoon's activities. On this day his explanations included a short history of an island the United States had taken over to mine guano. "Guano. B.S.," he said. "Not the kind of B.S. you hear in a conversation, but the real kind; bird s***." I looked at my wife, disbelieving and then scanning the room I saw heads popping up from their soup everywhere. "Yes, bird s***!" he stated, emphatically, his accent never as clear as that moment. Smiles and laughter erupted from passengers and crew alike as he went on to explain, still explicitly, its value as a fertilizer and the limited success the company had mining it before abandoning the island. He then handed the mic off to Young who sealed the deal with "Thank you Captain, for proving that when you are Captain, you can say anything you want!" to a roar of laughter and applause that I'm sure was duplicated throughout the entire vessel. Another memorable moment, but, I digress. One lovely, leisurely dinner at the Pinnacle lived up to all expectations and was certainly worth the surcharge. We never seem to eat there enough and it is always very special from the food to the service. They have partitioned a corner of the Lido into a non-surcharge alternative Italian restaurant called Canaletto but we managed to forget about trying it until it was too late. Our on-board experience was enhanced by a series of free Digital Workshops spotlighting a range of photography and computer skills and knowledge presented in cooperation with Microsoft Windows. We also attended presentations on the workings of the ship and the mandatory tour through the galley. Very much enjoyed an introduction by percussionist Rick of the HALcats to those steel drums you see and hear at virtually every Caribbean stop. Being heated and hammered from the ubiquitous 55-gallon oil drum, I would never have guessed they cost so much and were so delicate. These onboard pursuits were the only place that felt crowded. I guess I like things that others like too, but everywhere I turned up, if I didn't get there way before the allotted time, I was at the back of the room, standing or left out completely. Didn't shop much although my wife did find a pair of inexpensive earrings she liked. Upon our arrival onboard we noticed a notation in the ship's daily bulletin, the Explorer, about a Behind-the-Scenes ship tour and jumped at the chance. The cost was $150 pp and the capacity was a mere 12 people so we ran to the Front Office desk and signed up. On our final sea day we gathered at 1:30 pm with the Manager of Onboard Marketing, Tunde Kosa. She led us on a three-hour tour through the Main Galley, Backstage of the Vista Lounge showroom, down to the Main Laundry, over to the Engine Control Room, through the Provisions areas, into the Waste Management area, up into the Bridge and then to a cocktail- and appetizer-fueled question and answer session. What a wondrous machine! An astounding, jaw-dropping education about how this machinery and the people who run it take care of the needs of those on board while moving this behemoth around the oceans! It gives you a great deal of respect, for not only these tremendous ships and their crews but insight into who and how those same things are done in your own hometown. They gave us each a HAL gift bag containing a folder with a capsule description of the tour, the cruise's daily menus autographed by the Executive Chef, a stat sheet from the Chief Engineer, a photo of the ship and one copy each of the line's books, 'Towel Creations' and HAL Master Chef Rudi Sodamin's 'A Taste of Excellence Cookbook.' A photo of all the participants posed on the bridge with the captain and Chief Officer Michiel Willems, as well as Kosa, was later delivered to our stateroom. We are not much for taking in the shows but two we did see were brightened considerably by the comedic presentations of magician Jeff Peterson. He's made a big thing of his dog, Indy, but it was really Jeff's polished showmanship that I appreciated. It was a very entertaining show and far too short. I heard good things about the production shows but didn't attend one as early dinners and busy days found us usually peacefully walking off our dinner on the promenade and relaxing in the room before heading to dreamland. After two days rounding the western edge of Cuba and racing across the Caribbean Sea, we arrived at Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, and boarded a bus for the Rainforest Aerial Tram Tour. It was raining (Rainforest... Duh!) but a great tour beginning with the lengthy, well-narrated bus ride past banana and pineapple plantations, shipping centers and villages, terminating at the entranceway to Rainforest Adventures, Costa Rica Atlantic. A little confusion in the transfer from the big busses to the little ones necessary to get into the facility, apparently caused by the rain, though being in a rainforest, one would think they would get plenty of practice. Tourists trying to get out of the rain filled up the few covered areas pretty quickly. The rain never let up but we had our raingear and the ride was magnificent as our tram's tour guide pointed out plants, flowers, fruits and birds and had a story to tell about it all. The tram was fitted with a canvas overhead but there was still the opportunity... make that the likelihood of getting wet as the tram headed out mid-canopy and returned at a higher elevation for the approximately one-hour cable car ride. Lunch of Costa Rican specialties was good and after a few minutes browsing the souvenir shop we headed back to the pickup area to be hauled back to the large busses. Again, a bit of a bottle-neck here and limited cover from the rain but it didn't detract from the overall experience as far as we were concerned. Remember, though, it's a rainforest. Plan for rain. Then it was off to the Panama Canal. As I said already, this is a spectacular experience when placed in the context of man's achievements and U.S. History. We began on the bow as the ship approached the canal entrance. Though the announced access to the bow was 6 am, we headed down at 5:45 to be at the front of the line. By then the bow was already open and there was already a substantial group in place on the rail. But no mind, cruising through the first cut toward the lighted Gatun locks as the sun rose was a voyage of wonder. Nothing prepares you for watching the huge, hulking freighter in front of you rising in front of your eyes and then move toward the next chamber in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of all the attendant machinery. It is just jaw dropping when you consider all of the details that must go into each transect and how technologically advanced this must have been when it was first begun in 1904. Even the size of the chambers shows the advanced thinking. As I recall the largest ship in the world in 1912, eight years after beginning canal construction, was the Titanic and it was only 92 feet wide and 883 feet long and most ships were much smaller than that. The lock chambers of the Panama Canal are 110.0 feet wide and 1,050 feet long. Even viewed from this jaded age of boundless scientific and engineering marvels in which man has all too often overrun the natural world with little thought to the consequences, this is still an astounding accomplishment. After experiencing the first lock from the bow we began chasing all over the ship for more views and found more than we could look at no matter which direction we peered. Could write for days on what we saw but our lock experience was over too soon and we headed over to anchor and begin ferrying Shore Excursion passengers to the Yacht Club where busses awaited. Ours took us to the Panama Canal Railway Standard Car tour. My mistake. DO NOT TAKE THIS TOUR unless you just want a way to get from Colon to a small strip mall on a peninsula opposite a bay from Panama City to sample ice cream. Unfortunately, this is a very distressing incident for me. I have never been this disappointed with a Holland America shore excursion or any shore excursion for that matter. My wife and I have always prided ourselves on finding the fun parts and making the most of them. But BE ADVISED, this tour DOES NOT go where the Dome Car tour does and that most of the canal side viewing windows WILL BE FOGGED to the point of merely letting light into the car. THERE IS NO LUNCH and no opportunity to get one (although all the way over the guide will repeatedly talk about the various restaurants which have opened in Panama.) They provide a very small snack box during the train ride and try to sell you other snacks and drinks. The guide droned on repetitively with no depth to her explanations. No canal history. No canal experience at the end, mainly just a ride on a train and a bus to a brief stop at an uninteresting, limited strip mall that one could find most anywhere. We saw the hi-rises of Panama City in the distance and were treated to a couple of historic points along the bus route but on the whole, not worth the money. HAL refunded 15% of the fee but forget the money, it felt like mostly a waste of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn more about the focus of the cruise. This after calling HAL in advance of our purchase to inquire about the difference between the Dome Car and Standard Car tours and getting a reply that they both had the same terminus and that the only difference was the viewing dome. Between the poor windows and not getting to the Miraflores Locks and museum, my disappointment was great. And be careful of Colon. A congested, scary, dangerous looking place that made us shiver even though we went from the bus directly into the Colon 2000 cruise terminal. Buried in Fodor's evaluation of the place is this Illuminating statement; "All of Colon is considered a high crime area and pickpockets have been known to strike even in the seemingly secure areas of the cruise-ship terminals." Additionally, "For the most part, the city is a giant slum..." And later this note, "Travelers who explore Colon on foot are simply asking to be mugged." Having seen and experienced the place, I'm a believer. What a contrast Willemstad, Curacao presents. An inviting place with a decidedly European feel that encouraged a walk from the Otrabanda area, next to which we were docked, over the Queen Anne (swiveling) Bridge and deep into the Punda side of town. With a reputation as one of the great Scuba diving areas in the world but nothing offered by HAL, we reserved a two-tank dive directly with a company called The Dive Bus on their 'house' reef. Super inexpensive and everyone there was happy to see us and to assist us in any way possible. If you are interested in diving while here, please consider them highly recommended as they were two relaxed, very enjoyable dives. The contrast to a relaxed diving experience was the dive we booked through HAL with Unique Sports at Aruba. We rushed from the ship to the dive shop on Palm Beach then jumped on board a rather cramped boat and hurriedly assembled our own gear to be ready as soon as they had tied up to the dive buoy marking the wreck, Antilla. Enjoyed the dive as we figure-8ed the wreck but would like to have taken more time as there was plenty to see sitting upon and hiding among the steel. The safety monitor in me was a little put off by the glass-bottom tour boat constantly running back and forth 40 feet over our heads. Dive flags are to warn motor boats away. If anybody had to make an emergency ascent, there was certainly a danger of hitting or being hit by that thing. Dive op was truly pumping the divers through and everything about the experience seemed rushed but the dive, itself. Upon returning to the boat, the pace picked up another notch or two in a rush to get back to the dock and take on the next boatload. Dive personnel were engaged in their own missions of the moment and none of those included preparing or disassembling any dive gear or otherwise assisting the customers. There was assistance at the ladder. Don't know if there were any facilities to shower or rinse gear as we were hustled from the boat back to gear check-in and into a van for the return to the cruise dock with the admonition that if we did not take that van, we would have to arrange our own way back. But the dive was worth it all. And our last stop was Half Moon Cay. As we have expanded our cruise horizons, I have grown less enamored of cruise lines' private hide-a-ways when we could be seeing a real piece of cultural real estate that is foreign to us and fun to explore. But we like to dive and the last time we set foot on Half Moon Cay, there was a one tank dive available... but not now. So we thought we'd try snorkeling but we had done HAL's Snorkling Shore Excursion on the island before so we thought, since we had not been there for years that we would try it off the beach. Bad Choice. Good snorkeling requires fish or other creatures or plant life or both. Those organisms require homes. Those homes come from rock or coral or sunken ships or other protuberance above the beautiful, pink sand. Unfortunately, viewing the beautifully crystal clear water from the vantage points of the ship, the top of the new, three story, pirate-themed bar or the shore, there was no such nothing in the areas in which they would let us snorkel. And that indicated there would be no more than a very few, very plain fish. We're not sun worshipers so we gave it up and returned our snorkel gear to the ship where we had a quiet, uncrowded lunch in the Lido and began to pack our bags for disembarking the next day. Disembarkation on Wednesday morning was by invitation, only. And not being one of those who needed to rush off to find a flight out of chilly Ft. Lauderdale or one of those who could carry their own stuff off without two trips, we received late disembarkation tags. It was fine with us as it gave us time to have a leisurely final breakfast in the Vista and peruse the very empty port. We were not in a rush to finish our vacation, anyway, and I watched while longshoremen on fork lifts moved baggage off the ship and hustled replenishments for the next cruise back on. When we were finally called to the gangway it was still too soon but we went, anyway and had little trouble rounding up our baggage, a porter, then slipping through customs and heading outside to meet Mom. Without a doubt, the ship is showing some age. But it is constantly being maintained. There were some teak handrails missing from some areas but along with deck chairs, they were being repaired and re-varnished in the forward anchor room and by the time you read this they probably are back in service. Sanding, cleaning and painting maintenance was going on in several places but you had better expect that with any ship and we can't say it cost us any enjoyment, at all. Yes, we had a broken door shock on our bathroom door and the privacy curtain track pulled loose of the ceiling allowing the curtain to droop, rendering it useless. Both were reported to our personal concierge by four days in. Neither was repaired by cruise end six days later. We also found some broken glass in a portside corner of the exposed Lido foredeck in front of the Greenhouse Spa workout room. Despite reporting to our personal concierge, the glass shards were not swept up for three days until we found a steward with a broom and personally sent him there. I think these problems hark back to the possibility of understaffing. But we've probably beat that horse more than she deserved, because... We enjoyed it. It was a fantastic experience that we can enthusiastically recommend to others. And now, despite a few glitches, another great vacation begins to recede into the rear view mirror. Well, not quite. Now I have to edit all those great images. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Our December cruise on the Zuiderdam was our third, all on Holland America ships. The first two were on the Eurodam. My wife is in her mid 60s and I am 71. We are generally fit, like to visit new destinations and we enjoy meeting other ... Read More
Our December cruise on the Zuiderdam was our third, all on Holland America ships. The first two were on the Eurodam. My wife is in her mid 60s and I am 71. We are generally fit, like to visit new destinations and we enjoy meeting other travelers. On this cruise, we traveled with two cousins. Unfortunately, the cruise got off to a bit of a rough start as the Zuiderdam was late getting back into Port Everglades from its previous cruise. When we arrived at the ship at about 11 am, we found passengers from the previous cruise still disembarking. Apparently, the ship had had a mechanical problem the night before. This, of course, caused long lines and delayed embarkation. Surprisingly, however, luggage was in our rooms by around 4pm and the ship was only delayed in sailing by an hour or two. We found the Zuiderdam to be showing its age a bit - at least compared to the newer Eurodam. Rubberized flooring around the central pool had a few stains that apparently can not be removed and there was the occasional spot of rust. Wall coverings are getting a bit tired and in our cousin's room the refrigerator failed early in the cruise. The deck crew, however, was constantly on the job of polishing and repainting. We found the ship's crew as hard working and pleasant as always on Holland America. Our room stewards were delightful. However, drink service at both the main dining room and at the Crow's Nest during happy hours was a bit slow and appeared understaffed. Ships' officers were very involved with the cruise. I saw the captain almost as much as I saw my wife - well, not quite. The recent requirement that ship's staff must serve coffee, soft drinks and desserts (rather than self service) at the Lido Restaurant for the first two or three days of the cruise for health reasons took a bit of getting used to but when it reverted, lines were shorter. The only disappointment of the cruise occurred at the Panama Canal portion. Due to exceedingly heavy rains recently in Panama, day tours had to be cancelled due to flooded roads and that night the brief port call at Colon was cancelled because of heave winds off the Caribbean. We did get through the locks to Gatun Lake although the Canal had been closed completely the day before. Meals, as usual, were excellent. We dined most nights in the Vista dining room and enjoy getting dressed up for the formal nights - something we don't do at home. I even went so far as to buy a tux for this cruise (JC Penny has a great price on worsted wool tuxes). I figure I'll be able to save on rental costs for future cruises. Although there were four of us in our party, we usually asked for larger tables as that gave us the opportunity to meet other cruisers - most of whom we found informative and delightful to talk with. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
The Zuiderdam has been receiving a bum rap lately. Based on my recent Holiday cruise, the old girl deserved a better grade than some recent cruisers had given her. Sure, the old girl's makeup needed a few touch-ups here and there, and ... Read More
The Zuiderdam has been receiving a bum rap lately. Based on my recent Holiday cruise, the old girl deserved a better grade than some recent cruisers had given her. Sure, the old girl's makeup needed a few touch-ups here and there, and if you had come aboard with a negative attitude to find fault with everything, you could find a few faults, but you would be nitpicking from my point of view. I had read most of the recent reviews about the Zuiderdam and had a limited concern I may have booked on the wrong ship. I had sailed on the Zuiderdam back in January 2003, and remembered how great it looked when it was fairly new. However, I stepped aboard the Zuiderdam on December 23, 2010 for a 10-day cruise with a positive attitude to have a good time and enjoy what cruising is all about. I would not be disappointed. After dropping our luggage off at curbside, I parked the car at about 12:50, and within an hour we had moved through a short boarding line, even though the ship was fully booked, had checked in, and we were in our cabin. Once in the cabin, it was spotless, the cabin steward, Rudy, stopped by to introduce himself and inquire if we needed anything to make our stay more enjoyable. High marks for Rudy, and his partner, Diding, whom together, gave us excellent cabin service each day. We had booked a superior cabin on the Navigation deck, mid-ship and we were not disappointed in the cabin or the location. The balcony was large, with a table and two chairs for outside dining and two lounge chairs with ottomans for napping and reading. However, I think my next cruise on a HAL ship; I will book a deluxe cabin, just for the step-up in the onboard amenities. By two o'clock we walked the one deck up to the Lido for lunch. I was impressed with the selections and service. My first selection was soup, wow, it was great, and too, the sliced rye bread I had the server put on my plate. Next I had a salad, giving that high marks too. The soups served each day were wonderful in taste and each day the selections were different. The breads and pastries served each day were always good. After enjoying our lunch, and a quick walkabout to scout out the dancing locations, we returned to the cabin, it was 3:30, and our luggage was arriving within two minutes. Now that was quick luggage service. Once the ship passed the sea marker at Ft. Lauderdale, the ship started its rocking and rolling when it traveled through the choppy Gulf Stream waters. The motion got the best of my shipmate, and I had to go to the front desk and get some sea calm medicine. We had to pass on dinner in the dining room that first night at sea. When Bev felt better we went to the Lido for a bite to eat, however, the cafeteria line had closed by that time. But once a Lido supervisor found out Bev had been sick, but feeling better, and needed something to eat, he made it a point to find some food for her. High marks for the Lido crew. We had breakfast and lunch each day in the Lido, and each day the soups were great, the food choices numerous, including a good daily choice of sushi items. Whatever we had, tasted great. We also had dinner twice in the Lido area, also receiving high marks for service, selections and taste. We had dinner one night in the Canaletto, a separate dining area in the Lido during the evening meal, by reservations only and at no extra charge. The Canaletto served mostly Italian specialty dishes, with lots of garlic. Again, high marks for the Canaletto for service and food. On New Year's Eve, which was a formal dress night, we had dinner reservations for the Pinnacle Grill, the ship's specialty restaurant, reservations only, including a surcharge for the dining experience. The meal, served tableside, was excellent, and the ambiance of the room enhanced the special evening. The ship had a gala New Year's Eve party in the Vista Lounge, with dancing and plenty of champagne being served by the ship's crew. I was in the casino at midnight, and champagne was being served in that room also. As it was a Holiday cruise, the ship had four formal nights during the 10-day cruise. On a formal night in the dining room, it was Christmas dinner night, a couple joined our table, and the guy was wearing a T-shirt and a baseball cap. Leaving the baseball cap on his head during the entire time he sat at the table. I really think wearing baseball caps should be forbidden in the dining room during the evening meal, especially on formal dining nights. We enjoyed dancing in the Ocean Bar during happy hour, prior to going to dinner. The ship had a happy hour drink price each night, at different bar locations, where the second drink is only one buck. Good deal, however, happy hour was usually just that, for one hour on the special drink prices. The house band played in the Queen's Lounge on a few evenings, the lounge has a good sized dance floor, but the floor was extremely slippery for kick-up-your-heels dancing. The ship had a good-time BBQ party on the Lido pool deck one night, with the band playing some good dance music. It was a perfect night for outdoor dining and dancing. We sat with a couple who traveled to Marco Island, FL each year for their wedding anniversary. I had lived on Marco for 16-years, so I gave them a list of fun places to dine and dance when next on Marco Island. The Captain held a brunch during the cruise for the Mariners club members; it was an excellent meal with good wine served during the meal. I was seated next to a lady who had lived in an area just outside Washington, DC, named Cabin John, Maryland, and nearby Glen Echo Heights, places where I had lived for a short time when a young boy. (Late 1930s) It was great fun to chat with the elder lady about places and things we had both enjoyed in the Washington area, and too, the old Glen Echo amusement park. Small world and all that. We spent time in the casino each evening, and during the day when the ship was at sea. You can use your room card key to charge your house account when playing the slots. Be careful doing that. I lost track as to how much I was charging to my house account and was somewhat surprised as to the final casino charge on my bill. However, it was a fun game, but lady luck was not with me on this cruise. In summary, go aboard the Zuiderdam with a positive attitude and you will have a great time, and too, meet new friends and reminisce about the good old days. You will always find a few passengers on board who complain about everything, and a few passengers who have special status, or so they think, and ship rules do not apply to them. Ignoring the dress code for the evening, not wearing shoes or cover-ups when going into the Lido for food in dripping swim suits. The crew kept the ship clean at all times. Would I cruise again on the Zuiderdam, yes would be the answer. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
This was a 3 generation family cruise. Mom and I have been on 5 cruises each. She has been on P and O, Celebrity and River Cruises on The Danube and Rhine and I have been on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian. It was the 1st cruise ... Read More
This was a 3 generation family cruise. Mom and I have been on 5 cruises each. She has been on P and O, Celebrity and River Cruises on The Danube and Rhine and I have been on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian. It was the 1st cruise for my daughter. I always book based on the itinerary and my vacation time from work. We chose Holland America this time for the "senior" aspect for Mom. Well, at 82, even Mom felt that this was "too senior" for her! Pre-cruise hotel: Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Beach Resort. This was a highlight of the trip. We stayed here for 4 days in an ocean-front condo. It was gorgeous, spacious, bright, and had a huge balcony and fully equipped kitchen. I have been at a few Hilton Hotels but this far outshone the others. The service in the hotel and dining room was impeccable. Embarkation: As suite guests we were processed as soon as we arrived. However, the lady who checked us in was a little confused. She got our passport numbers, pictures and other info mixed up to the point that she was getting frustrated. She finally said she had it straightened out but when we boarded the ship the steward checking our IDs started to laugh. My picture was on my mother's card and visa versa! Ship: I was prepared for the age and dEcor of the ship based on the other reviews. I think the best description was "a comfortable old shoe". Of all the ships we have been on, this was the most outdated, worn and garish in dEcor. Having said that, it was immaculately clean. Cabin: This was a plus. The suite was spacious and had plenty of storage for 3 of us. We had a wraparound aft balcony which was awesome. We ate a few meals there and, since the weather was generally very good we spent a number of hours reading and enjoying the scenery or the wake. Our cabin steward, Dadang, was fantastic, sweet, and unintrusive. Staff: All fabulous! Not one complaint. Dining: The Lido was generally good. I would say it was better than the other cruises I have been on in that it had more variety and prepared-as-you-wish dishes such as pasta, eggs and grilled sandwiches. The dining room had mostly good, but some mediocre, meals. We tried The Pinnacle Grill three times. The first time the food was stellar. The 2nd time...not so much! While the service and ambiance was wonderful on both occasions, the difference in the food may have had something to do with our choices. We all had beef or lamb the 1st night and fish the 2nd night. Coming from a part of Canada where fish is a main staple, we know our fish! This was dry, overcooked and tasteless. The third time was the Indonesian lunch with the Captain. While the food was good, the service was impeccable and the servers wore gorgeous traditional dress. A pleasant surprise was Canaletto, the Italian restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and service and would highly recommend it for a casual dining experience. Entertainment: We went to a couple of shows and thought they were ok. I have been to more memorable ones on other lines. Spa: We spent some time on a sea day having some treatments at the spa. This was a pleasant, expensive experience! The staff was professional and I got a great haircut from a young gentleman from Hungary. (This was very daring for me but I was desperate and it really paid off!) Excursions: Half Moon Cay. This was a day at the beach. The tendering was slow and tedious. We had a clamshell and I did the bike tour. The area is quite beautiful! Aruba: I had booked a tour with "Pitaruba" from reviews on CC. Nice guy, good guide and reasonably priced. We toured for 2 hours and then, based on the concierge's advice that Aruba was the best place for shopping, we spent an hour poking around stores where we felt overpowered by salespeople. Curacao: This, on the other hand, was wonderful. We didn't book anything, again based on the concierge's advice, and almost didn't get off the ship! What a mistake that would have been! We walked around, found a wonderful jewelry shop, bought a couple of things, had lunch at a gorgeous waterfront restaurant and generally loved everything! Panama Canal: This is everything you would expect. It is an experience we will never forget. My daughter and I did the Embera Indian Village. It was a great excursion, interesting and memorable---especially the beautiful, sweet children! Costa Rica: This also was very interesting. My daughter and I did the Zipline excursion and this was a highlight. Also, the countryside and the people were beautiful. We would definitely come back to see more of the country. Note: The main problem I had with the excursions is the fact that, with all the elderly people (many with various handicaps) there were very few, and in some cases, no excursions that catered to them. My mother, who is otherwise a healthy, active person has limited mobility because of an ankle problem and uses a cane. The concierge told us that there really wasn't anything in Panama or Costa Rica that would be suitable for her because of the strenuous nature or length of tour so she stayed on the ship. While she had no complaints, she would have liked to have been able to take part in some shore activities in these 2 ports. Overall, we had a very good time and met some very interesting people. My daughter was happy to have experienced her 1st cruise but would definitely choose something newer, more lively and age-appropriate next time. I was glad to have tried HAL for the 1st time but would definitely choose something newer, more lively and age-appropriate next time! Mom enjoyed the experience but, whatever about the age demographic and condition of the ship, would have liked to have had more shore excursion options. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Zuiderdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.5 4.1
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
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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