The Zuiderdam is barely one year old, but because of the number of passengers, over time its starting to show some wear and tear in the dinning room, state rooms and other high traffic areas. The elavators in particular are nicely appointed with red velvet interiors but hardly any of them escape the street artist who wants to write their name or do a finger painting to personalize their ride to the Lido Deck.
The quality and variety of the food was very good and as I remember, slightly better than what was served on the two Norwegian cruise line ships my wife and I sailed on not long ago. My only two regrets are that we sailed during the Thanksgiving holiday,and even though the dining room and some other areas were decorated for Thanksgiving, it seemed like just another day at sea. The other is that I was attracted by the price. The reason it was such a good deal was because the cabin was on the Main Deck. Even though our cabin was large and amidship, we experienced three distinct noises that caused 7 sleepless nights. We were gettinga very strong vibration that ran right up through the bed. It was as if we were in a Motel 6, on a coin operated vibrating bed. The second noise sounded like a fog horn and was cyclical, on for 13 seconds and off for 3. That went on for hours on end. The last was because we were on the Main Deck, the crews quarters were directly below us and several times each hour of each day it sounded as if something huge and metallic was being dragged along the narrow hall way. I complained to the front desk about the noise and was told that I should have addressed that sooner, that perhaps they could have moved us into another cabin. I pointed out that we tried that even before the ship left port but was told the cruise was sold out. So my reaction to the Zuiderdam is mixed. Its still a beautifull ship with very good food and an exceptional staff. But I may not want to sail on her again. And as far as HAL's no tipping policy, we still tipped, but they won't give you any guidlines so you have to use your own judgement.
Below is my opinion of the Zuiderdam formed by my experience on the ship. This was my second cruise. by all counts, though, it should be considered my first cruise since I was a drunken 18 year old on a senior cruise for my only prior voyage. I hope this helps clear up some issues and inform those who read it.
Rumors and Myths
"Odors" - None detected anywhere on the ship.
"Engine Vibrations" - Yes and no. During the first two nights we had rough seas and strong headwinds so the engines had to compensate. This caused vibrations at our table on the 2nd floor dining room. And do I mean vibrations. The ceiling grid was vibrating along with all the silverware. One minute quiet, the next was shaking the room. One evening, the Cruise Director, Dottie, announced that we had a medical emergency on board so we had to proceed full stream ahead. She warned us there would be some vibrations in the dining room. BUT, on the evening(s) with light seas, you would not know the engines were turning. Regarding engine vibrations, it does exist but it's degree ofintensity depends on several factors.
"The ship rocks and rolls" We had rough seas for the first three days and the boat was dramatically rocking enough to make several in my party seek Dramamine. Being my second cruise in 20 years I have no idea how it compares to another ships accept the passengers from the Golden Princess told me they were dramatically rocking as well. I do know that 6 days after the trip, I still have occasional feelings of sea motion.
Embarkation and Disembarkation
Embarkation and disembarkation was a snap. We arrived around 2:00 pm for our 5:00 pm sailing and, after 20 minutes of check-in, we walked right to the ship. It would have been even shorter for 2 people but I had 2 kids to check-in as well. Disembarkation was even easier. We had a No. 1 card so it may be a different story for others behind us. We got the early release because our flight was leaving @ 10:45 am. From the time INS cleared the ship to the time I sat down in the cab was about 15 minutes. The longest part was finding my luggage.
I was left disappointed with the dining experience. Perhaps I should not compare a cruise dinner with a land-based dinner due to the logistics involved. Aside from the poor quality of the beef dishes, (my wife chose everything but the beef and was very satisfied) service was less than par. Examples:
Entrees coming out while eating soup and being told "Sorry, the food is just coming out of the kitchen so fast" - and then receiving our salads.
The wait staff did not identify who they were and what roles they would be performing for us. It took me two days to figure out the guy with a small hubcap on his gold chain was the one to ask for all drinks.
When we got the waiter, asst. waiter, or the sommelier's attention to ask for something, they would politely come to the table, find out what we needed, and then promptly leave without seeing if anyone else at the table needed anything. by the end of the evening I felt we were running him to death but if he took the time to ask the question, he could have saved some trips.
When my next drink would come, the empty one would sit until I asked for them to take it. Once, I had three empty glasses in front of me. (plus one empty water glass, which is a whole other gripe). Yes three and no I'm not a booze hound. Dinner took on average two hours and fifteen minutes so I had time to imbibe.
Some may consider me as too picky, but if you are going to present a five course meal for your guests, follow through with the premise.
The ship was beautiful with many different places to explore. Our secret place was on the front of the ship. If you take the corridors (on floors 6, 7, & 8 only I think) all the way to the front of the ship, you'll come to a door. Pass through the door to private balcony reaching from one side of the ship to the other over looking the bow. Wonderful for pictures when approaching ports of call.
Cabin and Cabin Steward
We had an A Verandah which was very nice. Even with my wife and two kids we were not incredibly cramped. The cabin steward, Wasi, was incredible. You never saw him but the room was always clean and made. After dinner the beds were turned down (stow away bed was dropped from the ceiling and sofa bed pulled out) with notes and chocolates on the pillows. Twice a day the ice bucket would be filled.
Note on Alcohol
We were able to purchase duty free alcohol in the ship's store with out any corkage fee and take it back to our room. Cheap, cheap, cheap!. 1 liter of Absolute Vodka or Meyers dark rum - $9.95 normally $17-$19) We were also able to bring on booze from the islands with out a single question and they did not confiscate it.
I would try HAL again but only after gaining more experience with other lines. Maybe then I'll have an appreciation for HAL's product but for now, I'll look else where. After re-reading my review, I have found if you took dinner out of the equation, it would have been a great trip. Hopefully my poor service experience was just a fluke.
After not having sailed on HAL since 1994, it was a pleasant surprise to see that where other lines have left go of excellence; HAL is still providing quality. The current cruise director Dottie is the crown jewel of NCL, and she came over to HAL about 1 1/2 years ago. Dottie and her staff made this an outstanding voyage for my 30th cruise.
The diversity of the passengers made this an extrememly enjoyable cruise. The ship is in top condition and the staff is an amazingly happy, professional crew. I would not hesitate to recommend this line or this ship. Probably one of the best "values" in cruising right now. Enjoy!
I thoroughly relaxed on this cruise and enjoyed the company of friends but the ship itself was so so.
My room (S Suite) was GREAT. LOTS of closet space and a nice spot for entertaining. Two friends has SS suites (one cat down) and the room they had was smaller although adequate. The best thing about the S suite is the concierge and the free laundry service. Not to mention the ability to rent a cabana at Half Moon Cay. The cabana was by far the best part of the trip and well worth the $$. Go to the excursion desk ASAP to get one as there are only 4!
The food was OK, nothing exciting, but passable.
The pool area was poorly designed with a dome than took up way too much space on the deck above.
The ship itself was disappointing. No grand spaces. It was more like a Carnival ship--kinda flashy and lacking charm. I much prefer the style of the Celebrity ships.
The service was great. Some of the best service we have ever had.
So many times, people complain about bad things & fail to compliment successful efforts, & my recent one was certainly that. My wife & I were traveling with another couple & went on the October 18 Zuiderdam Western Caribbean trip. It was our first experience with a Holland America cruise, third overall.
I have to say that upon reading some reviews of the Zuiderdam online at different sites, I had some concerns, but either major problems had been overcome, or they were substantially exaggerated based upon how things went for us. We were on deck 5 in outside verandah suites, midship & starboard, though not adjoining. The couple we were with did experience some kind of sewer odor in their room the first night upon returning from dinner, but it never resurfaced during the voyage. My wife & I did notice a foul smell one evening upon going out on our balcony, but quickly returned inside & that problem never occurred again. Those were the ONLY unsatisfactory aspects of this cruise. Our highest compliments to Rubai, our cabin steward, who always saw to our needs when we were out, but was sostealth in achieving it that we virtually never actually saw him except for when I tracked him down in a supply room on the last night to extend thanks & a gratuity.
Our dining staff of Abe-waiter, Din-assistant and Lilik-maitre d', was absolutely wonderful. They were always very polite & went out of their way to please or meet special requests (even putting up with others at our table who sometimes were quite honestly a bit rude & hard to please), & made great efforts to make every night a 5-star dining experience. We made the decision after a few days to NOT eat at the Odyssey, because we so appreciated this staff, were impressed with the meals we were being served in the Vista Dining Room, & just didn't feel the need to miss out on an already superior time of enjoyment. The staff & service at the Lido buffet were always courteous & helpful, as was the case in general at every venue on the ship. We immensely enjoyed the nightly entertainment in the Vista Lounge & rated it superior to prior cruise experience. We never had any major problems or delays in getting on or off at ports & the arrival & disembarkation procedures were far quicker than we might have expected & went off without a hitch. The only itinerary issue we had was the time in Cozumel. We elected to visit the ruins in Tulum, which was a great experience, but due to the extended time, it left us no time on Cozumel itself. Any potential to extend the evening departure time by even a few hours would enable those who visit the ruins to get some benefit out of Cozumel itself, even if for a short while. Otherwise, we enjoyed all ports & our experiences at each of them. We participated in shore excursions, including Tulum @ Cozumel, as well as snorkeling & scuba-diving @ Grand Cayman, & although they were not cheap, we believed that they were reasonable values for the prices paid. We had no problems getting around the ship itself & were positively impressed with its decor & overall condition. I would highly recommend the Zuiderdam & the quality of service provided by Holland America before, onboard & after the cruise.
Holland America Line Zuiderdam by jhor9 Western Caribbean October 4, 2003
I've been on approx 35 cruises inc silver seas crystal and seabourn,the cabin I had was the best ever. I booked an ouside/balcony and was upgraded to a suite about 15/35 ft. with a powder room and a large balcony.
complimentary concierge room with tasty treats, also able to have breakfast and lunch. Also complimentary breakfast/lunch in the oddessey room (dinner $20 pp).
The service throughout was excellant, the food was average amd the shows were good. Yhe overall ship was beautiful.
I am 45 and my husband is 46 years old; we have been on 31 cruises since 1984 -- Celebrity, Princess, RCCL, Holland America and a couple of lines no longer in existence. While we do have our favorite (Princess), we have not had a bad cruise on any line.
Pre-Cruise Stay Our Rating: A+
We stayed at Embassy Suites and thanks to BurBunny and www.betterbidding.com, I felt comfortable going thru Hotwire. I paid $55 for a room plus $12 taxes for a total of $67 – a great room, great hotel, great location, GREAT PRICE.
Embarkation Our Rating: A+
Arrived at the port at 11:45 am and entered the Neptune Lounge on board the ship by 12:05 pm. Yes, being in an S suite helped, but I did not hear any complaints about embarkation, regardless of cabin type.
Cabin Our Rating: A
We booked a Category S suite (number 7133, aft corner, Rotterdam Deck). The room was huge and the veranda is at least 500 sq. ft. Was privacy an issue? Yes. Do not book these cabins if you don't like people looking down at you, or noise from other aft cabins.At one time or another, my husband complained about both. (I told him next time we could book a side cabin. But he said he wanted the huge back balcony and could put up with a few small annoyances. I was not bothered by any of it -- maybe because I had read so much about it and knew exactly what to expect.)
The suite itself is noticeably smaller then the S suites located on the sides of the ship. But I knew this before I booked it and it didn't bother us. We had plenty of room, plenty of storage space, and would book it again without a doubt. I did notice that drawers were at a minimum, but that did not bother me. There are plenty of closets with pull-down shelves and hanging spaces. We didn't use half of the available storage space.
The cabin was clean, the bathroom was huge with two sinks, a bathtub with a shower and Jacuzzi, and a separate stall shower. Nothing in the cabin looked worn, rusted, or broken. The one thing my husband commented on immediately was the size of the TV. It's this tiny TV in this huge room. Princess' mini-suites have two fairly large sets, and this huge suite only has a TV with a 15-inch screen. I know you don't go on a cruise to watch TV, but we do enjoy watching movies late at night and when we are getting dressed. (As for the movie selection in the Neptune Lounge, it is pretty lame. We never go to the show, do not have any movie channels at home, and could only find two movie titles in their selection that we had not seen.)
The veranda did get minimal debris from the Lido deck, but hardly enough to notice. I wouldn't have mentioned it except for previous posts that found it a problem. Our room steward even wiped the deck every morning, making sure it was clean and dry. The Category S suite amenities were wonderful. They really made a difference. I loved the free laundry service, private cocktail party with the captain, special concierge service, private lounge, preferred check-in and private breakfast and lunch in the Odyssey restaurant. The only reason I did not rate the suite A+ is because it is smaller then other cabins in its category.
The Ship Our Rating: B
The Zuiderdam is a nice, new ship. I've been on other HAL ships and on many other ships much bigger then this one. The things that I thought were very good about this ship were the Lido layout, the cabins, and the gym.
Some of the things I thought were OK, but much better on other ships: The layout and visibility of the Vista Lounge; the Queens Lounge is a very nice room b ut bad for movies (you can only hear and see well if you are in the front row of seats). The Atrium was OK but too closed in for me. The pool area was also adequate, but nothing spectacular. The Crow's Nest is a great room; it should be the disco. Northern Lights is also a nice room, but too small and disjointed to be the disco. The shopping area is OK, but did not (IMO) lend itself to "calling my name." It is in an area of the ship that is easily avoided and the shops seemed small, without a lot of inventory. I did find things to buy, but only because I sought them out, not because I walked by and could not resist.
Laundry Our Rating: A
We sent quite a bit of laundry out and it always came back promptly, clean and pressed. We did have two bright red cotton shirts come back a deep purple, but they were brought to us personally, along with a credit form. The settlement was fair and relatively easy to negotiate.
Room Service Our Rating: A+
I used it almost daily. It always came prompt, correct, and with a smile.
Neptune Lounge Our Rating: A
Used it several times a day, Debbie, Susan and the waiter did an excellent job. I did not have any complicated requests, but several small ones. All of my needs were taken care of promptly and also with a smile. A lot of suite people, including myself, did not fully understand that just about anything you need to do, or have arranged, can be done through the girls in the Neptune Lounge.
Cruise Director and Staff Our Rating: B
Dottie (the cruise director) was on board for her first week -- not only her first week on the Zuiderdam, but her first week working for HAL. I liked her; I understand her husband was also an entertainer on board, a comedian. Most of her staff was good. The only person we had problems with was Mike, one of the Sports Directors. He would not show up at scheduled activities, or would be there and ignore the passengers that did show up. Also, at sports trivia late one night in the Crow's Nest, he was very rude, yelling at people, and not being nice at all to anyone who asked any questions. Some of the trivia questions he was having trouble reading (they did not make sense). After repeating them several times he would be belligerent to anyone who couldn't understand what he was saying. Yes, I did add that to my comment card.
Dining: Our Rating: B
In the Vista Dining Room, we had first sitting. We were at a table for 10. Nice Room, nice set up. We were on the upper floor, table 89, aft center. Nice location. The food was very good, but service was bad. Basically, the waiter and busboy ignored our table. We didn't starve, but we would get there at 6 p.m., not even hear or see them until 6:15, then not get our first course until 6:45. On all but one night, we were the last table out of the dining room -- and NOT by choice. Iced tea, water...forget about it. It was unbelievable. The table was great, and we made the best of an unusual situation. We tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, but eventually we just joked about it. We were joined two nights by the Environmental Officer (Paul) and his wife (Marissa) and they were delightful. On those nights we were sure the service would improve. Not on your life. On the last formal night, when they turned out the lights and started walking around with the baked Alaska, we had just received our entree. The officer even remarked that he never had to eat in the dark before.
Odyssey Restaurant: I recommend going to the Odyssey at least once. The service was great; we went the first night and got the two-for-one special. (We paid and made our reservations prior to boarding.) The food was excellent.
Lido Restaurant/Grill/Taco Bar: The Lido is well laid out. And the variety was excellent. We like the idea of different food stations from the Deli to pizza to taco bar to sushi.
Overall the food on the ship is very good. I had plenty to eat and the choices were endless. If I was disappointed in anything it was the desserts. I could always find something I liked, but the variety I am used to was not there.
Entertainment Our Rating: B-
The juggler was pretty bad, the comedians were OK, and the Zuiderdam Staff Variety Group was pretty good, nothing spectacular. I did like the piano player in the Piano Bar. I went to all shows except the last day (recap variety show.)
Overall Experience Our Rating: A-
Overall it was a great cruise. We would go on the Zuiderdam again, and Holland America remains my second-favorite line. After reading all of the horrible reviews, it was good to find that most, if not all of those concerns had been taken care of. I did encounter one "smell" often, though. I walk on deck a lot and always encountered the smell of bread being baked. I can't really remember that on any other ship!
Let me add a final thought on public bathrooms. I am an expert on bathroom availability. I can't pass one without going in. While they have added some since the ship came out, it is still a bit difficult to find one in some places. And many that they added (women's) had three or four stalls and one sink (with an additional two or three places for sinks, but no sinks). I am sure they added what they could, and will add those sinks while in dry dock. One day I walked into one such bathroom and an older woman (who had 700+ days on HAL) came in and went ballistic when she saw the line waiting to use the sink. She went on and on about how she was going to contact the powers-that-be at the company and have them fix this. She kept saying, "What is happening to the Holland America I know and love?" While it was comical, I could tell she was a HAL loyalist and it was a bit ridiculous to only have one sink. I only realized at the Mariners get-together who she was -- she and her husband got some special award. After the get-together I saw her talking to the Captain for the longest time and couldn't help wondering if she was telling him about that sink.
This was our second sailing on Zuiderdam, the first was on her seventh sailing in early February. Many of my comments will reflect changes from this early sailing.
First, a little about us because not everyone looks for the same cruise experience. We are Jim and Sue, in our lower 50's, all kids grown and gone. Our cruising choices tend toward the ships that offer a more elegant experience rather than a casual one. For Caribbean cruises, we book for the ship, the suite, and number of sea days, not for the ports. Our routine onboard any ship is similar (others probably would find it boring) - a lazy relaxed morning with coffee and sometimes breakfast delivered by room service. We spend a lot of time in the cabin and on the verandah so for us a suite makes a lot of sense. Since we usually only eat two meals a day, we usually skip lunch and have appetizers late afternoon prior to dinner. We rarely attend the shows because we enjoy having a nightcap on the balcony before going to bed.
We always fly to the port city aday ahead of time to avoid any air delays or other mishaps and to be able to board the ship relaxed and refreshed. Our flight from Denver to Ft. Lauderdale was on time and uneventful and our stay at the Embassy Suites was very nice. We particularly enjoyed meeting several new friends from the message boards at the complimentary cocktail party at the hotel.
Saturday morning we had breakfast and then taxied to the port. We were quite early and waited in the line outside the terminal for about 20 minutes, but after the doors were opened check-in was a breeze! We had received all paperwork with our documents and had it all filled out as well as having done the online immigration forms so we went right to the counter for Penthouse and Deluxe Verandah Suites (S). They checked us in and took our pictures with a small camera attached to the computer and we went upstairs. Within about 15 minutes they called for priority boarding and we went onboard. I think this is the biggest improvement Holland America has made - allowing you to board the ship and use the public areas until the cabins are ready at 1:30. We went directly to the Neptune Lounge and I asked the Concierge (Susan and Jasmine) about booking a cabana on Half Moon Cay. We got the Pink one - just as we had hoped! We also arranged for appetizers to be delivered to our suite every afternoon at 4:30. After a few munchies in the Neptune Lounge we decided to see if we could get to our cabin. On our previous cruise our suite was located near the Neptune and we used it often - this time being on a different deck and all the way aft, we didn't use it at all.
We booked S suite 8135, an aft suite with a balcony that is covered by the Lido deck above and wraps around the side of the ship. The verandah was everything we had hoped for. it had two lounge chairs, a table with four chairs and two chairs with ottomans - we spent much time on it. On the other hand, the suite left much to be desired. It was much too small to be considered an S suite. The bathroom was the same as other S suites; it included a whirlpool tub with shower and a separate shower. There was also a long vanity area with two sinks and plenty of storage space. The two fluffy robes were hanging in the closet. I really like the dressing room, which includes a dressing table out of view of the cabin so I don't have to worry about cleaning it up and the closet doors have full-length mirrors so you can really see how you look. All of the S suites on Zuiderdam are slightly smaller than on the older ships, but this one was barely bigger than the king-sized bed. There were no drawers in the cabin except those in the nightstand - the ones under the bed were filled with extra bedding which we could have asked to be removed, but made do without. We had no barware and had to ask for champagne glasses for our complimentary bottle of champagne for sail-away. For the rest of the trip, we made our in-cabin toddies in the water glasses. We had one chair removed, but the other blocked the mini-bar and the closet. Later in the cruise I spent some time with Nick Berger, the Hotel Manager (we knew him from previous cruises) discussing the suite and I recommended that they reclassify it as an SS. Ok, enough complaining about the cabin.
The ship is really interesting and many of the problems we found on the early sailing have been (for the most part) fixed. We didn't encounter any bad odors and there seemed to be plenty of restrooms in the public areas. The service is still rather apathetic, not what we were used to on the older ships, but also nothing to really complain about. I thought the flower arrangements were spectacular - this is one of Holland America's real strengths, not using artificial flowers! I enjoy the artwork throughout the ship, but the "masquerade" window is my favorite. then again I really like the miniatures near the elevators and the large photos that cover the photo gallery when it is closed. The colors through out the ship are much brighter than on the older ships and the style is mostly art deco. My husband was particularly happy to find that Monday Night Football was on in the Sports Bar (Broncos /vs. Raiders). Being from Denver, we were interested in the game and it was fun to watch it dressed in our formal attire!
We had several breakfasts and one lunch in the Odyssey (a perk for suites) and enjoyed them. The Indonesian wait-staff there was recently replaced with Hungarians and (comparing with our earlier sailing) the language problem was solved, but they seemed to be rather unorganized. We didn't have dinner in it so I can't give any opinions on that. The Odyssey remains one of my favorite rooms on the ship - I love the white and silver color scheme. I do think that lowering the dress code to follow that of the ship is rather a shame; it used to be coat and tie or better every evening.
Our table in the Vista Dining Room was on the upper level (3 Deck) at the railing overlooking the lower level. We really enjoyed listening to the musicians that played at the start of dinner, and missed them when they stopped playing about 10 minutes after seating time. Our tablemates were great, Pat and Christine (a mother & daughter) and Sherry and John.
Most evenings we went to the Ocean Bar either for a before- or after-dinner drink. This is one area that, although convenient to the dining room, isn't well designed. The band and dance floor are located on one side that has very little seating and on the other side you can't hear the music. As on our last sailing, the Atrium Bar was never open when we walked through, but I like the sculptured look of the furniture and floors.
We attended the special Captain's lunch for suite guests in the Crow's Nest; as usual the food served was excellent and they didn't skimp on the caviar! The Crow's Nest is similar to those on the other ships with the exception of some great lounge chairs that face out the windows.
We didn't get off the ship at any of the ports except Half Moon Cay as we had sailed this route several times and our goal for the trip was just to relax. The ship is very quiet the pace is slow during the times that most of the passengers are ashore - I enjoy these times immensely - in fact, it's the only time I'll go to the pool. Our last day aboard ship was the stop at Half Moon Cay; it gets better each time we go. The water and weather were perfect and we loved the private cabana. Currently there are only four available with another just about finished. They are offered to PS and S passengers for a cost of $149 and go very quickly. That cost includes the cabana with a ceiling fan and air conditioner, sodas and beer, a vegetable and dip platter, fresh fruit platter and chips and salsa. There is a table with six chairs and two chaise lounges with cool misters along side each, and a shower to rinse off the salt water and sand. You are also provided with floaters and snorkel equipment. Stewards from the ship will get drinks from the bar and deliver your barbeque lunch right to the cabana. Life is good! We had invited Pat and Chris (our tablemates) to join us and we all had a wonderful time - really the highlight of the trip.
In summary the trip was ok, not great. As I said at the beginning, our style of cruising includes a lot of time spent in the cabin and this cabin was a disappointment. We did not let it spoil the trip. the verandah was wonderful and we spent hours out there reading. We did get our money's worth as I booked the trip on a special offer sent via email to Mariners and we had free air passes! I think I prefer the older ships like Maasdam and will plan to book one of them next time, but would sail Zuiderdam again if another special offer rolls our way.
We just returned from our most wonderful cruise thusfar. This is our 8th cruise and we have been on Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity and Holland America (by far our favorite cruise line). We went on the Zuiderdam, rather daring of us with all the bad press, but as we suspected it appeared to be a snowball type effect. There will always be complainers and they love to jump on the bandwagon, but you will not go wrong by booking a cruise on the Zuiderdam. We are spoiled for life!!!! Our cabin was terrific, lots of room, great service, clean and could not think of a thing more we needed. The food was the best, in fact we had planned to go to the Odyssey (we had heard wonderful things about the food there) but we enjoyed the food so much in the dining room that we hated to miss a night there, we never went to the Odyssey.
Our servers were right on top of things and the head server was working right along with them. The entertainment was outstanding and we accidently found out that the dancers and singersworked at the library so we had the added pleasure of talking to them and finding our where they were from and some additional information about them which made it even more fun to watch them perform. The decor was very different from other Holland America ships but a nice change. I like to think we are never so old that a move in another direction does not rock our boat so much that we cannot make adjustments. Thats what keeps us young. The only two things that could stand improvement were the lack of a laundry or at least some place with an iron and ironing board and the room where the movies were set up just did not work. I actually found the Zuiderdam to be terrific in all ways except for the two negatives above which could be corrected in a day. So let me assure you, book a cruise on the Zuiderdam. You will not be sorry.
Our cruise party consisted of my wife and I, in our sixties, and our grown son and his fiancée in their 20's. This was the 5th cruise for my wife and I, and the first for the "kids". We had booked two balcony cabins on the sixth (Upper Verandah) deck, which were near the stern on the port side of the ship. (The cabins were sound insulated and well worth the price difference for the balcony which we used a lot.)
Fearing that the category 5 hurricane, "Isabelle" would disrupt the planned itinerary and perhaps even cause Holland America to cancel the Zuiderdam cruise, I checked with the home office in Seattle before making the hard "red-eye" flight from Spokane to Ft. Lauderdale. The customer relations representative asked me to hold while she checked, and came back on the line to tell me that after some discussion of alternatives that the course of the hurricane appeared to be a non threat, and the cruise would depart as scheduled, with a possibility of some enroute adjustments to the itinerary. (I give HAL high marks for this kind of response to my question---many lineswould have a "don't worry, everything's fine" response without checking.)
I dreaded the embarkation processing, especially after a long, tiring night of travel. I had visions of a repeat of our last trip where we stood for hours in a long line at the airport, pushing all our luggage as we worked our way forward in the hot unairconditioned room to be interviewed by ship's staff. Not so. We were greeted by the HAL staff, collected our luggage, got on a bus and drove to the port, with only a short wait for enough passengers to fill the bus. The driver dropped off the luggage that would be delivered to our cabin, and then we went to the "processing area". This was an air conditioned room, with a line reminiscent of the old college registration routine; going from station to station completing the processing in just a few minutes. We were on board by 12:30 and in our cabins by 1:30 for the 5 p.m. sailing. This was the best organized processing I have observed to date, as were the lifeboat drill, going off and on the ship, and other routine functions.
Two other worries turned out to be non problems for us. One was the reported "vibration" at the rear of the Zuiderdam while underway; the other was the reported sewage smell in the ship. These things were discussed in some reviews. We were seated in the lower level of the gorgeous Vista dining room, right at the rear window where we could watch the sunsets and the ship's wake through the beautiful Caribbean waters. There was a little noise and vibration, but nothing distracting. This is a ship, and without the gentle beat of the screws, we wouldn't go very far. And smell? We didn't notice any at any time, anywhere on the ship.
All the mega ships seem beautiful to me, but the Zuiderdam is really quite new, and was truly impressive. The equipment on board is quite obviously top quality stuff. I'm not a physical fitness nut, but the workout room, the changing rooms, and all the athletic facilities are very impressive. The architecture is more conventional than some of the mega ships.the Atrium is only a few decks high instead of nine, and the stairways a little less impressive than some, but the ship is truly beautiful, and new, with impressive décor. The decks are arranged so that no one area gets crowded, and there is not the feeling of being in a herd.
We attended one of the floorshows. I thought it was very good; probably the same quality as comparable production numbers on the Carnival ships. There was a good selection of shows including magicians, comedians, jugglers, etc.
Shore excursions are great for the first time cruisers. The "kids" especially enjoyed a snorkel-party catamaran-beach tour. We enjoyed the Half Moon Cay (private island) port of call, partly because of the interesting tendering operation that got us there. But it's a beautiful clean place, with lots of water activities and shopping.
Ports of call are beginning to seem all the same.a row of Diamond International and Carlos and Charlie's or Senior Froggy's and T-shirt stands. This is the time to negotiate an informative drive around the island with a local taxi driver.always very interesting.
Food service has to be one of the highlights of this cruise. The food is delicious and served very well. The staff was most courteous and efficient. Even the informal buffet food is delicious and attractive. The kids preferred the informal venue.
My wife is a "shopper" and loved the onboard boutiques and shops. The Zuiderdam's price guarantee was reassuring. My wife thought the service and quality of merchandise was outstanding, and prices very reasonable compared to shops at home.
There are a couple of criticisms I would make, but then I'm a value conscious traveler. I feel that the picture prices, and drink prices are getting a little out of hand. There are a lot of "extra charge" things that become profit centers for the line, as well. We were advised that gratuities were included in the cost of the booking, but the message was conveyed that it was really expected, if we thought the service was good. (And the service in every respect was exceptional) However, I did like the policy to allow bottled liquor purchased on board to be taken to the cabin to be used.
I put this ship at the top of the list of any we have sailed on. Very good service, wonderful food and beautiful cabins showed that the staff of the Zuiderdam is indeed trying to make a difference.