This was my first cruise on HAL, after having cruised with Oceania, Princess, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean. It may not be my last, but were I to do this again, it's not going to be on the Zuiderdam, which needs to go into ... Read More
This was my first cruise on HAL, after having cruised with Oceania, Princess, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean. It may not be my last, but were I to do this again, it's not going to be on the Zuiderdam, which needs to go into dry dock in a bad way. Yes, I know it was just there in April, but interior decoration was apparently not on the list. We had cabins 4166 and 4170 (originally booked 4164, but that disappeared somehow, thanks HAL). The bathrooms were standard inserts; the balcony of 4166 was, as other CC's have noted, extremely spacious. The rooms, however. . . I nearly cried. No kidding. The carpet was a dingy brown stripe; the walls had extra screw anchors where apparently one larger picture had once hung and been replaced by a smaller one; the curtains, greenish, matched nothing; and--borrowing Terry Pratchett's apt description of the Octavo--the tiny reddish sofa might charitably be described as "'slightly foxed', although it would be more honest to admit that it looked as though it had been badgered, wolved, and possibly beared as well."
Peeked into some interior cabins, and they looked reasonably spacious and well-appointed in comparison: none of the thrift shop ambiance of 4166 and 4170.
The corridor art on 4 consisted of prints of old Dutch masters' florals, looking so flat that their original artists would cry to see the indignities wrought upon their original oiled depths by modern technology (or cheap paper). That being said, the linens were clean and the room stewards attentive, providing the towel animals without which, IMHO, no cruise ship has the right to describe itself as such. I'm still not entirely sure what two of them were, but I sincerely appreciated the effort.
At least four of the passenger cabin decks looked exactly alike, amounting in no small amount of confusion since they're not particularly clearly marked and bear the same colors and furnishings. MIddle decks had a decidedly 80s vibe, reinforced by the 80s music that seemed somewhat ubiquitous in some of the lounges. However, the public rooms at the top of the ship were certainly nice enough; the pool polar bear, who looked decidedly grubby when we arrived, was freshened up by the second day.
The food was absolutely great in both variety and taste. The buffet at the top of the ship had a mindbogglingly generous selection of dishes for each meal; the dining room so well prepared a variety of perfectly done selections that I truly believe it could easily nudge Celebrity out of its top "foodie cruise" position.
We didn't take the shore excursions offered by the ship: this was our second time on this cruise itinerary, (the first on RC), so we took advantage of the hop-on hop-off buses to revisit favorite places (about 20 euros) in Athens right outside the port gates (they're offered also in Istanbul) and private tour arrangements, which were (oddly) significantly less expensive. I recommend getting the Museum card in Istanbul, BTW, which is about 85 TL (maybe $30) and allows you to skip any lines at most major attractions.
We did the drinks package on the ship, but I don't recommend it. The package is limited to drinks under $8, which limits options, and frankly, unless you really put your liver (and tastebuds) at risk, there's no advantage in it (my husband did the math, bless his sodden little soul).
The entertainment options were variable; the singers were unobjectionable but the stage sets non-existent. One night there was a comedian who described himself as "cheeky" and I thought that was only true in the sense that he was a bit of a donkey's rump--jokes recycled from Daingerfield, lot of fat jokes, ugly wife jokes-meh.
Disembarkation was one of the better experiences I've had on any line: you could stay in your cabin until your number was up--no more hovering around impromptu lounges with stale croissants, or the herds of passengers aimlessly milling about the public areas.
All in all, the cruise had ups and downs, but the room itself was so soul-crushingly disappointing that I don't think I'd be up for another Z cruise. Would definitely give HAL another chance, though. Read Less