We are a couple from south Florida who booked this cruise as an (early) celebration of my 60th birthday. Because of a small inheritance, we had some extra money, so we really "splurged" on this cruise! We flew business class ... Read More
We are a couple from south Florida who booked this cruise as an (early) celebration of my 60th birthday. Because of a small inheritance, we had some extra money, so we really "splurged" on this cruise! We flew business class from Miami to Zurich to Venice, and booked a deluxe suite on the Zuiderdam in the stern of the ship with a huge, wrap around balcony. We flew into Venice a couple days early and stayed at a great B&B near St. Mark's Square. It was great to have extra time in that magical city, but it wasn't near enough.
We boarded our lovely ship at around 13:30 Thursday, October 23rd. It was a little disorganized and, although we went to the shorter line for suite check-ins, it didn't really matter because there was a huge line for the security scans. No matter. Even with the long line, it only took us about 20 minutes or so to get aboard. Although it was close to 14:00, a staff member greeting us as we boarded said that our rooms weren't ready. So, we went up to the Neptune Lounge to wait. But when we reached there, they cheerfully informed us that, of course our suite was ready and escorted us to our room. What a room! We'd had an SS suite before on the Westerdam, and the SC cabin was similar, but with some nice additions. Six roomy closets, half with optional shelves, cabinet space all over the room; a dressing room with a three-drawer vanity; and a huge balcony! I practically lived on that balcony. I don't know if we would have gotten so much use out of a side balcony because it was cold and stormy during some of the trip. But our completely covered balcony was out of the wind and weather if you didn't go over to the side section. I'd never had a wake cabin before and found the sound of the water hypnotic. It sounded like a waterfall (Niagara?) and I found my eyes closing too often as I sat out there and gazed at the water. The room was in good shape, though there was a slight stain on the carpet. Our cabin steward, Dedi, was fantastic, going beyond the call of duty several times during the cruise.
The sailaway in Venice was breathtakingly beautiful. We enjoyed it from the Crow's Nest as we met our fellow Cruise Critic cruisers from our roll call. We had an extremely active roll call and about 60 of us showed up at the Meet and Greet. It was great to have "friends" aboard whom you'd been "talking" to online for ages as we all anticipated our upcoming cruise. Sorta like having a ready-made family aboard. It really increased our enjoyment of the cruise to have friends to hang with on shore excursions and on the ship. The hotel manager, Mark, was very welcoming to us. He attended both the first Meet & Greet, but also our second one on our first sea day. Then he surprised us with a special luncheon for CC'ers at the Pinnacle Grill. What a treat that was!!
HAL has a reputation for good service, and it lived up to its reputation as far as we were concerned. We had great service in the dining room with waiter Ali and assistant waiter, Kadek. They were so sweet and went out of their way to anticipate our needs. All the crew, especially those that worked in food service, were working double and triple time because of the extra burden of being under Code Red for most of the cruise. Yet, almost every one of the crew and staff we had any dealings with were unfailingly polite and professional. We had no complaints whatsoever about the service on the Zuiderdam.
We really disliked what they've done to the Crow's Nest - adding the internet cafe and library. Why would anyone put a library and nightclub in the same room?? It has completely destroyed the ambiance of the Crow's Nest, which used to be our favorite place to enjoy a drink and do a little dancing. Adding the screening room was a nice touch on deck 3, but we never got to see a movie there because the seats were always taken. There also seemed to be fewer shops with fewer choices than we had seen on the Westerdam in March 07.
We both found the food to be excellent in both the dining room and lido. Loved all the ice cream choices - totally free. Nothing feels like "vacation" as an ice cream cone. And, of course, the scrumptious bread pudding with vanilla sauce!! Pinnacle Grill was great for dinner and breakfast.
We didn't see as many shows as we normally do. Part of that was because the entertainers were sick with Noro virus. But mainly the problem was the change of time for the shows. We had fixed dining at 8pm. In order to see a show, we had to go to the 7pm one, which was just too early for us, especially days we were in port. We used to enjoy the 10 pm shows very much, so were disappointed with the change of times. Again, can't figure the logic of whomever made that decision.
We greatly enjoyed all the ports: Dubrovnik, Corfu, Sicily (Taurmina), Rome, Cartegena, Cadiz, and Madeira. The only complaint I had about the ships tour in Rome was that we couldn't hear the tour guide on the headsets. Combination of static and a heavy accent. We used CC - especially our roll call - to guide what we did at each port. Our fellow cruisers were informative and helpful.
Yes, I got the noro virus despite taking all precautions, but, thankfully, it was while we were making the crossing, so I didn't miss any of the ports. The medical staff, the Neptune Lounge, and our cabin steward all were wonderful about taking care of me and making sure we had everything we needed. Didn't like getting sick, but at least had a great room to be quarantined in!
Used the spa a lot, and the quality of their services (massages, seaweed wraps, etc.) was great! Love the wrap around promenade on the HAL ships. Loved the piano bar, cigars under the stars. Too many things to count, and this review is already long. We had a fantastic time on our "cruise of a lifetime." We might not be able to afford to go all out again, but are already planning a Hawaiian cruise on the Zaandam - probably in a regular balcony room. Read Less