We just returned from our b-to-b's aboard Zuiderdam.
Volumes have been written on all of the Boards re: vibrations and odors (neither of which were evident to us); the decorating and color scheme, itineraries, shore excursions, entertainment etc, so the comments I wish to make will not reflect any of that.
We did not do any ship's sponsored shore excursions and did not go to any shows....I don't wish to do a "traditional review". What I am posting are simply comments about our experience Aboard the ship.
Seeing as we were aboard Zuiderdam in April for b-to-b's, we were interested to compare our experience then to our experience for the 8/30 and 9/6/03 sailings.
With no qualifiers, we totally enjoyed our April cruises and had no hestitations that we would also enjoy our return cruises. And enjoy them we did.
In April, we knew the ship was still a "work in progress" with some fine tuning still occuring but, nevertheless, we thought the ship beautiful and the crew fabulous.
The subtle differences between our April cruises and our recent ones displayed the success of the fine tuning IMO
The crew "knows" the ship (and eachother) better; the rhythmn necessary for superb service has been established, the crew's smiles no longer show the stress we sensed in April and the interaction with pax we are accustomed to on all HAL ships is evident.
We were delighted that many of the crew we met in April were still aboard and some we knew from other ships had boarded. We so enjoyed the usual bantering and friendliness with stewards that has always been a highlight of our HAL cruises.
Those Mariners who have resisted sailing Vista ships (due mostly to early reports re: Zuiderdam having some "new ship difficulties") might wish to rethink trying Zuiderdam, Ooosterdam and soon Westerdam. The first of a new series of ships is always bound to need some time to settle into the high level we all expect aboard HAL ships and Zuiderdam is now definitely delivering a great HAL cruise experience.
From embarkation (which has been vastly improved in recent months), throughout our cruises and up to disembarkation, Zuiderdam provided us the cruise we expect from HAL and FAR more in MANY, MANY ways.
Dining in every venue was presented beautifully, served efficiently, offered wonderful variety and was of fine preparation and quality.
Service was always prompt, with a smile and as sincere and genuine as on all HAL ships. The stewards we usually encountered (Ocean Bar bartenders [Ricky and Romeo], aft pool deck stewards/bartenders [Edwin, Nic, Bong, Archie, Jesse etc], our cabin steward [Jazam], and our dining steward [Agus] could not have done more to assure our enjoyment. Not only would they bring an ice water to us at the pool but returned often with ice to refresh our cups.
I mentioned a few preferences to our cabin Steward [Jazam] and he always remembered those little details. Our cabin was always made up beautifully, everything we needed or wanted was tended to but he was never underfoot. He would make himself available (subtly) at various times and anyone who needed/wanted to find him had no difficulty doing so.
He went that extra bit out of his way to assure we had no unmet needs/desires and several times throughout our cruises, he inquired if all was well. We so appreciated the obvious desire he had to "satisfy". If someone wants an extra towel but doesn't ask for it, how is the Steward expected to know they want it? ASK.....and your wish will be granted.
The ship is spotlessly clean and very beautiful...to our eyes. The housekeeping on Zuiderdam is a continuously ongoing activity and "eagle eyes" seem to spot something that needs tending to that most of us would probably not even notice.
But, it has always been my observation that the stewards/ deck crew/ navigation/sailors etc aboard a ship....reflect the Senior Officers. And, on Zuiderdam, it is very much the case IMO that the "service crew" take their lead and example from the likes of Hotel Manager Nick Burger; Food and Beverage Manager Firmin van Walle; Chief Housekeeper Peter Janssen, Purser Peter Wallis and absolutely from Captain Hans van Biljouw.
Guest Relations Manager Marion Koopman is such a delightfully capable lady with such desire to "make every guest happy" that I marvel at her creativity in situation solving. When we had to miss St. Maarten as a result of Hurricane Fabian, I heard pax mentioning things she did to assist them in cancelling private excursions they had booked and other personal situations that applied to individual pax. It is "going that extra mile" that so effects a pax enjoyment.
I know this is far from the "normal review" most posters write but I hope that some of these comments can reflect the excellence Zuiderdam is delivering and, perhaps, this "different angle" can reflect to experienced (and less experienced) cruisers what we observed and compared and enjoyed about Zuiderdam.
All ships are beautiful, in their own way.....Every ship is the crew that sails upon her IMO and it is that crew who provide us with a wonderful (or less wonderful) cruise experience.
MY husband and I so gratefully thank the fabulous crew of Zuiderdeam for two more extraordinary cruises.