32 Holland America Zuiderdam Senior Cruise Reviews

The Panama Canal was exciting.it was awesome to see how it was done, The crew on the ship was fabulous expecially as follows Danny , was so amazing always making sure everything was okay, and went out of his way to make you feel so ... Read More
The Panama Canal was exciting.it was awesome to see how it was done, The crew on the ship was fabulous expecially as follows Danny , was so amazing always making sure everything was okay, and went out of his way to make you feel so welcome and enjoyable Rene our drink guy , was so informative of drinks , wines ,if you weren’t sure what you liked he was sure he’d bring something you like and he did Zeri, our mint man after dinner was so entertaining and such a comedian , he even went out of his way to take a picture with the professional photographer. Lucky, our waiter was so deliteful to see every evening, how he remembered everyone’s name was amazing, so astonishing. Aguhn, our server, was so remarkable how he knew everything on the menu. Olivia in Lido restaurant, was so sweet and pleasant. It was a delightful day to see her smiling face every morning and afternoon who went out of her way to make sure you got what you wanted and came and talked to see how your day was going. Sweet as cotton candy, I told her. I will cruise again with Holland American. One complaint, was the evening menu, seem to be a lot of the same, except each night things were changed a little. We did start with the norovirus, it was amazing to see how well everyone was sure not to make it spread. , very well accomplished so our cruise was deli. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
First a bit of history. My husband and I are not retired and do not gamble. We are in our early 60’s and very active. This cruise was great! We have been on previous cruises but this was our first Holland American. The embarkation at FFL ... Read More
First a bit of history. My husband and I are not retired and do not gamble. We are in our early 60’s and very active. This cruise was great! We have been on previous cruises but this was our first Holland American. The embarkation at FFL was the smoothest we have ever experienced. Fast and organized. The food was wonderful on the Lido buffet but we were not too impressed with the main dining room’s food. My husband is diabetic and he was able to eat at both areas- just better/warmer/tastier at buffet Lido area. This is just the opposite of our view on the Carnival Cruise line. Carnival has better food in their seated dining area than their open buffet. IMO Royal Caribbean’s main dining and buffet were about the same. The overall food was best on HAL second on Carnival and then Royal Caribbean. But we never went hungry on any of them! The Zuiderdam has wonderful entertainment but caters to a older population so violins, piano, steel drums live music presentations were available (I loved them but my husband was just mildly impressed but he did like the magician and dancers). On the Zuiderdam there is no “hairy chest contest” or similar activities. They have great educational presentations, new movies in the screening room and the best TVs and in room free on demand movies ever! Zuiderdam’’s WIFi was about the same as all cruise lines, slow and you can get kicked off often. I was able to do the work I needed to though. We paid $189.00 for 11 days. We had room SS6073 with a great deck. Very quiet and lots of room. The Panama Canal was an amazing cruise and I would take this cruise again. We did the EXC all day excursion and it was wonderful but as others have mentioned you need to do it but only once! And don’t drink much before leaving the Zuiderdam- it could be almost three hours before you can use the facilities- depending on how fast they load the busses and if you have to wait in the non bathroom buss to clear the locks to go over them. The bathroom stalls are very small on the boat that you go through the locks on. I’m thin but tall so closing the stall door is challenging if you are big or tall... It’s very hot and humid! We went on Trikes (motorcycles) in Aruba (our second time) and it’s by far the best experience we have had! Booked online-private. There were two children (I only saw one but hubby thinks he saw another one) around 12 years old on this cruise. I’m sure they were board. This was a partial Panama Canal crossing but I was so impressed that we may do the whole crossing next year. We had anytime dining but did not eat in the dining room but 4 times and no waits. People on this cruise seem to be mostly retired but still enjoying life! Bottom line- if you want to party until dawn and eat their wonderful Lava cake- pick Carnival. If you are looking for a bit more relaxing and life enriching choices (in my opinion) chose HAL. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
This cruise was a 100% transport logistic success. From the departure Airport to the final destination airport / from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the ship. We took all arrangements with our Holland America Travel Agent. ... Read More
This cruise was a 100% transport logistic success. From the departure Airport to the final destination airport / from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the ship. We took all arrangements with our Holland America Travel Agent. Arriving at Copenhagen Airport a HA Representative greeted us and led us to the right carousel for our luggage pick-up and then to the bus outside that took us to our well located Scandic Hotel. At the hotel an other HA Representative greeted us and gave us documentation and explanations on the embarkation process and transport to the ship. The disembarkation went smoothly and on schedule. Our luggage were already waiting for us in a big Tent at the Airport. Being both 65 of age my wiffe and I like to be pampered and taken in charge for all the logistic aspects. Holland America is an expert at that. The embarkation process went smoothly. Our suite 6061 was clean and ready at the embarkation. Since that cruise was very tour intensive, we had all our dining in the main dining room. Food was very good. Our dining waiters and sommelier were very smart and attentive to our needs. Along the cruise our cabin stewards did an excellent job at getting our stateroom clean and ready. As some tours depart very early we called our breakfast in our cabin and they were delivered at the time requested. Entertainment and activities: The classic musicians were excellent along with the BB Kings band. The main lounge musicians were excellent too. We had 2 shows from the ship dancers, 2 excellent shows from a musician duo. On this cruise we noticed that the passenger population diversity was important, so a stand-up comic may not be suited for an international passenger diversity. I would have preferred magicians or juggler, etc. Regarding the general activities onboard our cruise director hasn't been too proactive. We have seen far better on other HA cruises. We had a very informative conference on the famous Fabergé and the sory of the Fabergé Eggs. We called at Tallin (Estonia), St-Petersburg (Russia), Helsinki (Finland), Stockholm (Sweden), Warnemunde Port for Berlin and Kiel (Germany). As the tours are expensive we took three tours, St-Petersburg, H elsinki and Berlin. Taking a tour is quite mandatory in St-Peterburg because of the Visa required and the location of the Port. Our two days tour was intensive but excellent with competent toour guide and bus drivers. In Helsinki, the Port being quite distant from the city we took a tour to visit the city, had some stops along the way and also a boat tour in the bay. At Warnemunde Port you need to take a 3 hour train run to Berlin to visit the city. Our tour guide was competent and informative. We had lunch and water provided in the train back and forth. In Tallin and Stokholm you can go by yourself to the city. Kiel in Germany is a nice place to visit by foot too. The ship docked along the boardwalk and marina. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Holland never disappoints and this cruise proved it again. We were a little worried having read some negative things about the Zuiderdam recently. No idea what those folks were talking about. The ship came out of dry dock this year and it ... Read More
Holland never disappoints and this cruise proved it again. We were a little worried having read some negative things about the Zuiderdam recently. No idea what those folks were talking about. The ship came out of dry dock this year and it is beautiful! The stateroom was terrific; the bathroom actually beautiful! The entire ship looked good - we didn't seen anything that needed maintenance. The food was the best we have had so far on Holland. Crew was wonderful, Lido was full of friendly and efficient staff and even more choices than before. The only complaint we have is that the library has been mostly dismantled in favor of putting the excursions desk up at Crow's Nest. Not cool. Also that moved the coffee over into the bar area, also not really appreciated. But, those were small things in comparison to the great time we had. Oh, and the pop up Sel De Mar dinner was fabulous! Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We chose this cruise to check another destination off our bucket list and are totally satisfied with our choice. Our cruise was the first after the Zuiderdam's recent rehab, and everything was bright, airy, polished and ... Read More
We chose this cruise to check another destination off our bucket list and are totally satisfied with our choice. Our cruise was the first after the Zuiderdam's recent rehab, and everything was bright, airy, polished and 'shipshape'! The food was above the standards we have had lately on Carnival and Royal Caribbean on the Lido deck and in the main dining room. Every meal we had in the dining room was superb in presentation, taste, and in the service by the waiters. Room service was also excellent. The casino was fresh, which was quite a change, and did not allow smoking. I didn't find anywhere on board the ship where I smelled smoke. Our veranda rooms were nice, clean, and included a bath tub. Very spacious. Our cabin steward did an excellent job of keeping our cabin fresh and clean. The entertainment was exceptional, in the main theater, the movie theater and in the lounges. We booked the Panama Canal Excursion via EXEC, and were completely satisfied as well. In all, we came away in good moods, full of 5 star food and service, and educated in the building of the Panama Canal. It was a very satisfying 10 day cruise. The only bump in the road was embarkation - it seemed to take forever, but we made it! This was our 12th cruise. Our stop at Limon, Costa Rica was exceptional. We booked an all day taxi with Lobo, or the Wolf, and he did an exceptional job of showing us around the country with many fascinating stops and commentary. I would recommend his service without reservation and encourage you to ask for him by name when you get off the ship! Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
I would never recommend this cruise to see the foliage with a mid-Sept embarkation date and so I struggled with giving it an excellent rating since it was advertised as "10-day Colors of Canada & New England". But it could be ... Read More
I would never recommend this cruise to see the foliage with a mid-Sept embarkation date and so I struggled with giving it an excellent rating since it was advertised as "10-day Colors of Canada & New England". But it could be I guess if the weather had been cooler than normal instead of warmer than normal. We wore shorts every day except one and that was the last day in Newport. But that being said, the cruise was great. We met some fantastic people from Canada, Germany, London and of course the US. We arrived in Quebec City four days early and did most everything we wanted before we boarded on Wednesday. We chose to board after 1 pm to miss any crowds and we walked on with no lines. Our SS suite was ready and luggage delivered (we had dropped it off in the morning before we went exploring). Suite 6072 on port was close to elevators, mid-ship and really quiet. We didn't even know we had neighbors. Rarely saw anybody in the halls. There is plenty of closet space and bathroom is large with 2 sinks, tub and separate shower. Great beds, pillows and sheets. A few of the bath towels were pretty thin, but most were good quality. The balcony is about twice the size of balcony staterooms'. Our room stewards Komang and Reinaldo, were great - in and out very quickly and always professional and called us by name. Dining - breakfast - several omelet bars, lots of fresh fruit, other stations had many choices, pretty much the same everyday, but a nice variety. Lunch - Italian bar much better than most with make your own pasta and really good pizza. Hamburger station was cooked to order and very good. Buffet was different daily and had a large selection. Dinner - we only ate once in the dining room and weren't impressed with service or food. It was better in the buffet, but then again we ate anytime dining and we choose to eat late so they were trying to end the night. Dinner in steak house was excellent, service was still a problem. We never got asked for more water, wine, bread, etc. We did not leave a tip and told them we weren't happy with it. Our reservation was at 8 pm. Now the Italian rest. was good with no problems. We really liked the buffet because of the selection, timing and service. We weren't thrilled about the buffet closing at 8 pm, but another opens from 10:30 to 11:30 and although it was limited, it was quite good. The service in the buffet is outstanding. There are servers who get all of your drinks, basically anything you need. Don't set your coffee down without something else, because it will be cleaned when you get your food. Entertainment - the piano bar was packed every night and we agree it was great. But the Zuiderdam production shows were very good - we were surprised how good they were. The non Holland acts were also excellent. The activities were pretty standard and at times we wished there was more going on, but loved the Crows Nest with the library, computer stations, coffee bar, although, we understand it is going to be changed in the Nov. update. It was a great place to have a nightcap after dinner because it was quiet after 7 pm trivia. Service - no complaints at all. Joel, John, Stephen, Reuben, I can't even name all of them in the bar service from the Philippines are wonderful. We ran out of Crown Royal and Baileys with about 3 days left in the cruise and I complained on my daily comment card. We were in Boston that day and to my surprise, the bar was replenished. Excursions - We only booked a couple with the ship Baddeck on your own and Titanic Cemetery and Peggy's Cove and they were as described. Folks complain about Sydney, but they should relax and enjoy the weather. We don't need to be entertained 24/7, just enjoy the view. We will definitely cruise Holland again, but our fall foliage will be a flight from Texas to Vermont/New Hampshire and rent a car. Problem - disembarkation - may not have been HAL problem. We were at least an hour late from leaving the ship from our appointed time. We were ready to get home and even though it was nicer on the ship than at the airport, we hated the delay. Better info on airport transfers would have been GREAT. A cab to LGA was $65 and we could've given HAL $58 if we had known how far it was. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Have never been to any of these countries, ports, or cities. What a opportunity to see as much as possible on one cruise! I chose HAL because I had cruised with them previously x 5. I had read some reviews that made me concerned that ... Read More
Have never been to any of these countries, ports, or cities. What a opportunity to see as much as possible on one cruise! I chose HAL because I had cruised with them previously x 5. I had read some reviews that made me concerned that their level of service, etc. had diminished, and it was 2 years since I was on a HAL ship. The demographic (avg. age) is older than the huge ships, but this is a niche I think is needed in the cruise industry. No worries once I got to the check-in desk in Copenhagen - very speedy, and I was on the ship in a short time. It felt so comfortable. Easy to get around, elegant décor, fresh flowers, art, & plants everywhere. Very few intercom announcements. My cabin was an inside, #7014, very quiet and never felt motion of the ship. The storage was very spacious for me, as I travel solo now. It would have been very tight for 2 persons, but I had no problem storing everything I brought for 24 days (and I bring a lot)! Shower only, which I prefer. I had 2 room stewards who were the nicest and most efficient I have ever had on any cruise. I felt that the dining experiences were much improved since my last HAL cruise. More choices, better tasting, and plated attractively. Of course food is so subjective, and I read comments that the food is bland, not my opinion at all. I ate in Pinnacle x 2, Caneletto x 1, and the very special Le Circ x 1. All just excellent service and food. Lido was also better this cruise with the staff serving the plates, seemed to make the lines a lot faster. Very tasty Asian choices each days. Those persons critical of the "bland" food should have tried them! The Dive-in fries & the Taco Bar are sooo good, I enjoyed the cooking demonstrations, and the flower arranging demonstrations. Also the afternoon teas, and the "Sip & Savor" presentation. There are lots of activities, no "hairy chest" or belly flop ones, those are reserved for the "other ships", thank goodness, Daily movies in a screening room with very comfy overstuffed chairs. The evening entertainment was varied, some singer/dancer shows, other singers & musicians. The "Frozen Planet" shows were just excellent. I attended the "Adagio Duo" every time that I was able - few cruise ships present classical music. "The Band", the Blues Band, and the Piano Man seemed to always have a crowd also. I found the service in all areas to be excellent, the front desk personnel were most helpful with a change I needed to make in my return air reservation, dining room staff, everyone greeted passengers whenever they met in the hallways or public rooms. The ship officers were very visible each & every day - many of them ate in the Lido for lunch. Loved the ports & excursions I took. Some HoHo buses, some private tours, some HAL tours. I would like, please, for HAL to equip their tour guides with headphones. One of them had 40 passengers all trying to get close enough to the guide to hear her. I think the WiFi cost is pretty high - $100 for 250 minutes when the connection speed is not very fast. Summary - I'll stick with HAL whenever I can, if they have an itinerary that I want to see. It is so easy to take a cruise when you don't have to go thru a long "orientation" to the ship & its culture. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We are seniors and this cruise was tailored for us The ship is a bit old, but is laid out well . I walk a lot and like the full promenade deck. Cabin (7028) has a very good design. Liked the curtain between the bed and bath as ... Read More
We are seniors and this cruise was tailored for us The ship is a bit old, but is laid out well . I walk a lot and like the full promenade deck. Cabin (7028) has a very good design. Liked the curtain between the bed and bath as wife is late sleeper. Shower is nice and large but curtain is pesky as always. We were not bothered by motion even though seas we a bit high a few days( neither of us have any problems with motion) Stewards were very good which is common on Rotterdam deck. Furniture is pretty worn and the TV has a very small screen. Food was very good overall in all venues. Nothing fabulous, but almost all well prepared. On the minus side, not a great selection of fruit, eggs Benedict not warm in the Lido even though prepared to order, coffee was not a good as previous HAL trips, and specialty coffee bar (Explorations Cafe) was not very convenient to large areas of the ship. Enjoyed almost all the entertainment, especially the live lounge music, but remember we are seniors and this music caters to that niche. Shows were good and sets outstanding. Lecturers and enrichment activities were good and varied, as they should be on a transatlantic. Wonderfully friendly, helpful crew; only saw 1 person that was a bit sour continually. Bad weather in Horta and Cherbourg. Been to Ponta Delgada before so just took the little train and walked around, very pleasant. Walking tour in Brugge with a guide from last year and did the canal cruise. Nice docking in Amsterdam itself,great city. Stayed extra day in Copenhagen and was rewarded with a beautiful Saturday! Great, relaxing cruise, but leave the kids and young adults at home. They will be bored stiff. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We chose this cruise because we had not been to either New York or the Maritimes before. We had cruised Holland America many years ago and enjoyed their ship and service. Zuiderdam is very spacious, well laid out, and by the 10th day ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we had not been to either New York or the Maritimes before. We had cruised Holland America many years ago and enjoyed their ship and service. Zuiderdam is very spacious, well laid out, and by the 10th day we found it easy to navigate. The crew and staff are very well trained and were always smiling and eager to help with any request. The shore excursions we booked with HAL were informative and satisfying but we feel that they are starting to get pricey. We booked an independent tour in Halifax and found it extremely informative and fairly priced. Cabin was clean and up to our expectations - lots more storage space than initially thought - the bathroom was definitely larger than on our previous cruise with Princess. Cabin layout is comfortable and balcony on cabin 4027 is deeper than other cabins on decks above. We chose open dining as we preferred to eat a bit earlier than late sitting - lucked out with great table companions the first night - we ate dinners together the rest of the cruise. Getting a table at 6:30 pm was sometimes delayed but usually no more than 15 - 20 mins and the maitre d was most helpful - seated us at a window table at the stern - fabulous view. Food everywhere on the ship was excellent - dining room choices were varied and selection in Lido cafe also very good - very sensible having staff dish out portions as tendency was not to overeat. We attended half the shows - ships band was very good - most shows good but typical cruise entertainment - could never say "fabulous". One excursion in Saguenay Quebec, La Fabuleuse at a theatre in La Baie was incredible !! The sights and sounds on stage, with animals, vehicles, gunfire, fires, floods made for a spectacle at least equal to the best you might find on Broadway or theatres around the world. Embarkation was painful !! we stood in a snaking line for more than an hour - no place to sit - no rest room breaks - wonder why they can't take passengers on the way they let them off - in stages - by deck or by category - or spread out by arrival time. there has to be a better way. Disembarkation went very smoothly - lineups were minimal and handling of luggage and taxi s was great. In summary, Holland America is a line for mature travellers - Zuiderdam a very comfortable and classy ship - outstanding staff and service - above average dining and an experience worth repeating. The New York to Quebec City itinerary was very interesting and mostly smooth sailing although the Maritimes were hit with the tail end of Hurricane Matthew just days after our cruise ended so I wonder how the passengers doing the Quebec to Ft. Lauderdale route managed . . . Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We had not ever toured the NE coast of the US or the Maritime provinces, so this cruise leaving from NYC and calling in MA ME and NovasScotia and Prince Edward Island was a treat. Then sailing up the St Lawrence seaway into Quebec was ... Read More
We had not ever toured the NE coast of the US or the Maritime provinces, so this cruise leaving from NYC and calling in MA ME and NovasScotia and Prince Edward Island was a treat. Then sailing up the St Lawrence seaway into Quebec was interesting. Quebec City is historically appealing recalling grade school history of the Colonial period of both the US and Canada. Amusing hearing French spoken and being in a French inspired city and knowing we,e still in N. America. We had hoped to see the changing of the leaves but we were too early. Sailing later in September would have been better or October. We heard later sailors did see more color but also more rain and overcast sky. We had beautiful warm clear days. The SS Zuiderdam was about right for our tastes. Decoration was a bit garish is some respects but service was first class. Entertainment was just enough, we really enjoyed more the cocktail hour piano and violin duo in of the lounges. Piano bar and dance combo were adequate. Limited stage productions were Ok, we did not expect or want Broadway or vegas style. The passenger list of about 1800 was about our limit. W can't imagine a ship of 000 to 5000 as being very enjoyable. We did not need a lot of extras. We enjoyed the experience and would sail HA again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
This was our first cruise on a Holland America ship and we found it to be the nicest we have yet experienced. We have sailed on NCL and Celebrity in the past. We combined two separate cruises to get a 29 day total. The first was a 17 ... Read More
This was our first cruise on a Holland America ship and we found it to be the nicest we have yet experienced. We have sailed on NCL and Celebrity in the past. We combined two separate cruises to get a 29 day total. The first was a 17 day transatlantic repositioning from Ft. Lauderdale to Copenhagen and the second was a 12 day Baltic Sea. We found the itinerary to be wonderful, with stops in 11 different countries and a number of sea days. The ship offered quite a few options onboard during sea days and you could find things to participate in or not depending on your taste. Yes, most of them were geared toward an older crowd, but that is what we looked like on a HAL ship and on a trip this long. The entertainment changed often and was extremely varied and top notch. We found the food to be better than our previous ships in the main dining areas and the food in the specialty restaurants was better. Granted you don't have a lot of options on the Zuiderdam, but there were enough not to get bored with the food. The service was the best we have seen, especially our cabin stewards who kept our cabin spotless the entire voyage and kept us entertained with towel animals each night of the cruise. We had seen some comments about the maintenance and looks of the ship on this forum before we left and were a bit concerned. However, we did not have any issues along those lines during our trip. Sure the ship is getting a little age on her and may be a bit rusty in spots on the outside, but hey, so am I. The deck crews were outside chipping and painting during every day of our cruise, they replaced some worn carpet during the cruise and they are constantly cleaning all over the ship day and night. They repainted the entire hull while we were on board, taking care of the scrapes they picked up during the winter on their Panama Canal cruises. We found everything mechanical worked as advertised during the entire trip. We took a fair number of the shore excursions offered through HAL and had a great time on all of them. The days in A Coruna, Normandy, Brugge, Holland, Copenhagen, Tallinn, Berlin and St. Petersburg were outstanding and the other ports were also interesting. We found them organized and professionally run, especially the ones which used headsets so it was easy to hear everything that was being said. Many of these excursions ran in excess of 10 hours and we didn't think they wasted any time. We will admit that many of these ports and excursions required a fair amount of walking, but they are pretty good about saying that up front. Some of the ports were just fine to tackle on your own and we did so in about 5 of them. For some of them it just makes sense to take the tours and let them handle the logistics. We found embarkation and disembarkation to be pretty simple and straightforward. Yes our flight got in fairly early on the day we left and we didn't have to wait long to get on board. Our cabin was ready when we got there and our luggage followed pretty quickly. The lines moved quickly and they had a bunch of people working to get you ready to board. We had an early morning flight out on the last day and they were ready for us at 4:15 am with a transfer to the airport. We did run a few minutes late getting started because some of the luggage was a little late getting off, but we were still at the airport with plenty of time to spare. It may get harder to get off during the prime times, but early was simple and easy. We did use HAL to set up our flights from home to Ft. Lauderdale and then back home from Copenhagen and those all went off without a hitch. Our seats were good and our layovers worked well both coming and going. We did use their transfers to and from the airports, which we found to be worth every penny. Overall, we have no complaints. We loved the size and the layout of the ship, the food, the service, our cabin, the staff, the shore excursions and the ports where we stopped. We would happily travel with HAL again and would hope to make it back to the Zuiderdam. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
I had cruised Holland before, service was great in every way. entertainment good, ship was very clean , we really enjoyed our cabin with a balcony.. we had breakfast on balcony every morning great.;,,food was excellent. the shore ... Read More
I had cruised Holland before, service was great in every way. entertainment good, ship was very clean , we really enjoyed our cabin with a balcony.. we had breakfast on balcony every morning great.;,,food was excellent. the shore excursions were delightful,,,yes I would go again we really enjoyed going thru the rain forest in costa rica the most our cabin stewerts were wonderful so was the waiters assigned to our dinning table also very friendly and entertaining .I was able to attend digital workshops everyday the instructor was very helpful I really enjoyed this. ,while my room mate enjoyed the casino,.watching the sunsets was just beautiful from our balcony most evenings .the beds were very comfortable . we had forgotten a drop cord for my c-pap machine so our cabin stewert didn't hesitate to find me one.. my room mate really was empressed with all the towel animals found on our beds each night upon returning to our room. going thru the panama canal was very exciting .was different than what I expected.yes we're ready to go again Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
First time with Holland America, although my 7th cruise. Had a Signature Suite for 3 of us. Plenty of room and closet space. Embarcation was easy. Room steward was great. I requested ice one day and for the rest of the trip had ice ... Read More
First time with Holland America, although my 7th cruise. Had a Signature Suite for 3 of us. Plenty of room and closet space. Embarcation was easy. Room steward was great. I requested ice one day and for the rest of the trip had ice in the bucket. Had slippers and robes also. Bathroom was huge, 2 sinks, whirlpool bathtub and a separate shower. Also had a large section under the sinks to put things plus 2 medicine cabinets. Had fresh fruit everyday. The balcony was large, while we were on the cruise we received new balcony furniture. All 3 of us could be out there with room to spare. I thought the food was wonderful. Went to the Pinnacle Dining Room one night and the food was great. Had hand packed ice cream everyday with a sugar free option. Lido buffet was always good. Had a coffee bar which was extra but pretty reasonable. You could get breakfast items there in the morning and little sandwiches at lunch. Music on board was great. Went to BB King's almost every night. Enjoyed the comediennes on board. Wanted to take in one of the computer classes but space was really limited so never got the opportunity. They need to offer them more often. There were a couple of times that some of the toilets wouldn't flush in the public restrooms which was annoying as you had to wait or find a different restroom Took in a couple of movies which was fun. They had free popcorn. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
The long & short of this cruise was that quite a few passengers ended up with Bronchitis. Was this the fault of the ship, of course there is no way of telling. However, it certainly did color our enjoyment of the trip. While we are ... Read More
The long & short of this cruise was that quite a few passengers ended up with Bronchitis. Was this the fault of the ship, of course there is no way of telling. However, it certainly did color our enjoyment of the trip. While we are both pushing 70, this cruise did not fit our style. The Zuiderdam is showing her age and yes I know that she is going into dry dock in a couple of months (April 2015). However, small things add up and put an edge on the experience. There were lots of activities to choose from: Dancing with Stars at Sea - had I felt better I would have given it a try; Cooking Shows; Windows 8.1 Workshop; the typical Shopping Seminars; etc; etc. One thing that the Zuiderdam can not be faulted on was the service - our cabin stewards (Holly & Dee) knew that we weren't feeling well and went out of their way to check on us, water, ice, extra blankets, etc The table staff in the Lido restaurant were all friendly and more than willing to help finding a table bringing water, coffee, etc. When asked they helped me take food back to the cabin when we wanted something other than what Room Service offered. When I found that I had locked key to my TSA lock inside my luggage, the locksmith was there in less than 10 minutes. On the third day we mentioned to our steward that the shower/tub appeared to be draining slowly - 15 minutes later there's the plumber at the door. Compared to our previous cabins, this one felt small. It may only have been the layout but the perception was there. The one area that I was less than thrilled with was the dining. We ate once in the Vista (opening seating). The service was fine and the new friends that we met made the dinner enjoyable. The food failed to impress, lukewarm food won't impress anyone. The food in the Lido restaurant suffered the same handicap. Service from a steam table should be HOT not tepid, the exceptions to this were the Omelet, English Breakfast and the Pasta Stations. The answer is simple, each of these are prepared to order not off the steam line. Ice cream was melting as it was put in the bowl, turn on the freezer. Our experience with Shore Excursions this trip was limited. Half Moon Cay has much to offer and is a nice break. The excursions around the island are impressive but the downtown core of Aruba is a bit shoddy but with a great selection of shops ( Diamonds Int'l, etc, etc). Curacao is a pleasure to visit with its brightly painted Dutch Colonial buildings. We toured Cartagena with a group from Cruise Critic. We had 4 hours with a guide and saw the key points of the Old City and touched the newer areas. Don't miss La Popa Monastery, it high overlooking the harbor, much like the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janiero. We skipped the Panama Excursions only because our bronchitis was really bothering us and the coughing was a distraction for those around us. The last port was Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. As the antibiotics were being to work we decided to venture forth to see Tayutic Hacienda. DON'T SKIP THIS ONE. Yes, it's a two hour bus ride each way and we left at 7 AM. The bus is an air conditioned highway coach and the roads are in excellent condition. The scenery is exceptional. At the Hacienda there are demonstrations of Macadamia nut, Coffee bean and Sugar Cane processing with a delicious traditional lunch and a visit to RC chapel on the property that was built by the original owner from pieces that they salvaged from other churches that were being updated. The Hacienda is only 13 miles from Mt. Turrialba,an active volcano. We chose to taxi to and from the airport; it's only a 15 - 20 minute ride fare runs $15. HAL offers Baggage Direct service for $20 / person. Bags outside the door before midnight and they take them to airport check them through to your final destination and issue your boarding passes. All you have to do is walk off with your carry-on and get to the airport. The airline baggage fees are added to your stateroom account. Don't get sick on a cruise ship..... The prescription prices are exorbitant and make certain that your medical insurance will cover it. All in all, it wasn't a terrible cruise! As I stated at the first, our experience was tainted by an illness. We are certain that we would have enjoyed the cruise in more favorable circumstances.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Just finished our cruise and omg, it was an amazing ship! We embarked from Port Everglades and I have never in my life been without internet access that long, but that's the point of a cruise, right? To experience it all? We did! We ... Read More
Just finished our cruise and omg, it was an amazing ship! We embarked from Port Everglades and I have never in my life been without internet access that long, but that's the point of a cruise, right? To experience it all? We did! We started our trip staying at the Quality Inn & Suites Airport/Cruise Port South. This is key: THEY HAVE A FREE AIRPORT SHUTTLE AAAAAAAAAND A FREE CRUISE SHUTTLE! Well, at least FROM/TO the airport and TO the cruise. It's $10ea to get a shuttle back to the hotel from the cruise port, which isn't bad. The rooms were musty smelling, but overall nice-ish. The chairs had stains and the bathroom floor left much to be desired, but the curtain is curved, so at least it doesn't touch you. Wish the cruise one was curved! Also, gotta love the sign telling you to not steal the towels, they are inventoried. You get what you pay for spending $99 a night, but it's next door to the Oakwood Plaza where we got a bunch of last minute stuff. That strip mall has a LOT. Getting on the ship early is key! I was expecting to queue for hours....we got on the shuttle from the hotel at 10:30. They ask you to tell them the night before you need a ride and they ask you what ship/day and they assign you a time. They have a huge mini bus that takes passengers to cruise port, because they attach a mini UHaul looking thing to the back to store everyone's luggage. We were at the cruise terminal 15 mins later. You can have your luggage checked from the curb and put on the ship or, if like us, your luggage is small enough to go through the airport scanner looking thing, you can bring it on the ship yourself. We only had a duffle bag each, so this is what we did. HAL lets you bring ONE 750ml bottle of wine or champagne for EACH person (assuming 2 ppl per room), no hard liquor or beer on the first night. The Dollar Star in the plaza next door sells CHEAP wine, $4/10 that people were going crazy over because it's GOOD cheap wine, so we bought 2 bottles on board and had to sadly toss the half drank chardonnay at the scanner. You can also bring booze you buy on board and they hold it until the night before for free...or you pay an $18per bottle corkage fee. We got our alcohol back the last night. From there you have to go through HAL front desk to get your room key, show passport etc in a terminal meets a hotel front desk. They give you a cruise group number in line to get to this and after you check-in, you sit and wait to be called to take escalator up to get on ship. Total time between getting off of shuttle and on to the ship? Maybe 20mins. Then again, we were also SUPER early. Our number was in the teens to get on. Other passengers told me their wait to just be called was like 45 mins. Anywho, they make you scan your card and sanitize your hands to get on the ship. All of the crew were very friendly all of the time, even when you knew they wanted to smack you or the person treating them rudely. They were all genuinely nice to me, because I wasn't rude to them. Then again, like I said, even the people I wanted to harm FOR them for being so rude were treated calmly and politely on this trip. We carried our own luggage on and the stewards meet you all along the way and at the elevators to direct you to your room on the first day. This was helpful and nice. Our room was right in the middle of the ship and close to the elevators. Score! It was an HH Obstructed View room, which just meant the lifeboar was RIGHT outside your window. We came in and checked out our room. Plenty of space to put your items for a long or short trip. They give you a daily tri folded itinerary. This ship uses a LOT of paper. They need to automate it somehow and make it a channel,too, to save on paper! We dropped our stuff off and went exploring....ie....to get food. O.M.G...as a first time cruiser, we decided to forgo paying for meals, so we stuck to Lido dining on 9 and once or twice the Vista Dining Room on 3 for our meals. Vista for dinner on the majority of nights was formal or semi formal. One guy declined wearing a jacket. Seriously? They give you one if you don't have it. He had a sweater and slacks and said no, so they declined him entering. You could have taken the jacket off at the table. We did Vista Dining once for lunch and once for dinner and just did Lido all other times. Lido is come as you are all the time and is open ALL the time, so we started our journey there and spent all of our time there for the most part. They have Asian, deli, bistro, ice cream, drinks and salad bar. Each table is pretty much ocean view. One side of each station is always open, both sides are during lunch and dinner. We never made it to breakfast and never utilized the free room service. If we wanted to eat, we could go ourselves. It was useful if you were doing shore excursions and wanted to sleep in, but even then, they slipped us notices the night before port saying it would be better to just go upstairs to the dining, since so many would use room service. We ate A LOT. Soda is not included in meals, so we stuck to water, iced tea and lemonade. It was a nice change. Other than at the salad bar, they serve the food to you and the wait wasn't really that long, even when there was a line. Why they individually heat up pasta in skillet at the salad bar is mind boggling. Do you know how much time that delays? It saves on freshness, though. So they don't waste. The variety of food reminded me of my college. Pizza, pasta, ice cream, meat, salads, sandwiches. It was 4.75/5, only because of the whole pasta delay. But yes, the food was great. The BB King All Stars were great entertainment on the ship in the Queen's Lounge and once in the Vista Lounge/main stage. There were also Zuiderdam singers and dancers, but the BB King people made the trip SO much better. We were never bored on the trip. We slept a lot, ate a lot and just sat on the deck a lot watching the world go by. Deck 3 has chairs everywhere and up on 10, the observation deck. We noticed that is NOT the case with the other ships we saw. Celebrity X gives everyone their own veranda with 2 chairs and you could walk between them! The deck everyone uses had like 2 sets of chairs. How un-inviting. We thought we had a big ship, until other ships like Celebrity, Norweigan and the Disney one made ours look like a tugboat. Even with 1900+ passengers, it never felt that way. It sure wasn't loud on the ship. It was peaceful the majority of the time. Like our own huge private yacht. The staff were great. Always polite and never cross. Hamish the cruise director was a riot. I liked that he seems to like his job. Allegra was another story. The "free" jewelry she is hawking at you to get is just costume jewelry in each port. Beware. Yes, this cruise is said to have an older crowd and sometimes it was like walking behind dinosaurs because people are so slow, but when I'm that age, would I want someone to treat me this way simply for being alive? Heck, the passengers who were older were the life of the ship! Dancing and participating in the events. I had a great time. I even had lunch one day with an older gentleman when we were docked in St. Martin/Marteen who just decided to sit at my table while I was off getting lunch, because he said he lost his wife, but we were at sea, she'd show up eventually. I came back to my table that had my bag at it and I was like "hello, how are you?" Did I expect to see him at my booth? Nope. But hey, we were at sea. Live in the moment. I was able to wave at him when I saw him on the ship on other days, same as the couples who sat at our table when we ate in the Vista Lounge. Being friendly is key on this cruise. Strangers talked to us all the time, simply because we made eye contact. We went to Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Martin/Marteen and Half Moon Cay on this holiday cruise. We were in each port just long enough to not wear out the welcome. I spent a lot of $ in ports, but it was well worth it. The ship also gives you sturdy navy and beige booksized totes with their logo and name on it. It screams I'M A TOURIST while in port. I cared before the first port, at all the following ones, at least one of us carried ours. It was raining on day 2 when we got to the first port of Grand Turk, but 20 mins later it stopped and was sunny skies ALL day. Make SURE to call your bank to tell them you will be out of the country, so when you use your card in different ports, you won't get locked out at the first attempt. I called my bank and gave a heads up a month before the trip in case I forgot. I had to tell them every port and which days I'd be there. The front desk also lets you use their courtesy phone to call your bank or card company for free, as my family member had to do on day one. I shut off my cell's data, roaming and backround data while still in FL and put it on airplane mode JUST to be sure. The ship has it's own time that may not match your own, but you can always turn to the "where are we?" map channel that has the date, time, ship location and temperature. If you have a magnetic wallet, don't keep your room key in it. I demagnetized mine TWICE before having to keep it in the separate padded insert you get at check-in. At the end of the trip, you still have to go through customs. That was the longest line we were in the whole trip. Because we again, carried our own stuff, we got expedited disembarkation. It took us about half an hour to get off the ship and wait in the customs line. The ship was going SUPER fast home, because we were back in FL by like 6:15a and that was even including the 90 mins we moored off the coast of Half Moon Cay as they tried to locate two passengers the day before. We were at the airport by 9:30a, which sucked, because I booked a LATE AFTERNOON flight, thinking it would have taken longer. This included stopping at the post office at 8a and waiting an hour for it to open. The ship was not rocky at all. So if that is what they were like WITHOUT the stabilizers, well gee, wonder what it is like WITH them. Don't get me wrong, you FELT the up and down, up and down, up and down when in the front of the ship in the Crows Nest, Vista Lounge or observation deck, but only there. I definitely will cruise with HAL again. For a holiday cruise, the price was great, less than $500 and that included the upgrade to HH. I only got the room around Thanksgiving....so it was a steal. Thumbs up!   Read Less
Sail Date December 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
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
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
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
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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