I cruised on the Zuiderdam for their Easter sailing from Fort Lauderdale.
The ship is nice but we ran into a big problem with the location of our room. We were in room 4174 the back of the ship. Beautiful view and nice veranda but when the ship picked up speed the whole back end of the ship vibrated so hard and so loud it was impossible to sleep. We questioned other folks in rooms next to us and they had the same problem. After two nights of no sleep we asked to me moved to another location.
We were told by the front desk that nothing could be done. When we would not accept that as a solution we were moved to the lowest deck for one night and then given a veranda room on the deck six. This room was excellent with no noise problems at all.
The main dining room is located on deck two and the same horrible vibration and noise went on each night under our table.
There is definitely a problem with the rear of this ship and Holland America is not facing up to it.This ship should be put in dry dock until the problem is fixed.
Background: Married, late 30s-early 40s, been on 8 cruises (Carnival, Cunard, RCI). First family cruise with 2 children, ages 6 and 14 and first time on HAL.
Embarkation: Very organized, arrived port by taxi (had made independent arrangements and arrived 2 days prior). Arrived 11:30am, went through security-customs, signed document saying that we were not in contact with or have symptoms of SARS virus, checked-in, had photo ID taken, waited in comfortable waiting room for an hour,in our cabin by 1:15pm. Compared to other cruise lines - this was more organized and actually not a bad wait - even with kids (had books, crayons, Gameboy to entertain kids and snacks)..
Room: Crew gave warm welcome, directed us to our cabin. Our steward, Hasan, was there to greet us. I requested a few extra items and they were in our cabin by suppertime!
We booked a Verendah Suite Category B quad. It was much bigger and better than expected. My previous rooms were all inside staterooms, only once in a suite on a Carnival ship in 1985 and don't have any other comparisons.
The balcony was twice the size expected. Plenty of room for 4 peopleto sit out there and have breakfast. The bed was king size, the overhead bunk bed was very comfortable, according to my 14-year-old son (who is 5'9" tall), so it definitely fits an average size adult). The couch had a pull-out single bed which was perfect for my 6-year-old daughter. I didn't need to worry about using a bed guard (she tends to fall out of bed). There was enough armrest on either side of the couch with a couple pillows tucked to keep her from rolling off the bed.
The room, in general, had enough space for storage, a little cramped if the pull-out couch was down - but while 2 people were getting ready - the other 2 would be on the balcony enjoying the view, so I never felt claustrophobic at all. The bathroom was decent sized and had a nice small tub in it. The shower head was portable-moveable and had excellent water pressure (same for sink faucet)-best I have seen on any cruise ship.
Noises: Our room was cabin 4169 (back of the ship or aft - about 4 rooms away from the extreme back of the ship). We heard the usual muffled engine noises that I have heard on every other ship and slept soundly each night.
However, there were people that we met in the halls who were unfortunately in the last 2 rooms in the back (which I guess have really nice large balconies). They complained about really loud engine noises and vibration and were very upset about it.
They said they were unable to get a good night's rest. These were folks in our same age group with families. I felt really bad for them. However, we did not experience this at all in our cabin.
As far as smells, we did get a wiff of a bathroom odor in a couple of areas - but to be honest - from hearing about it in some reviews, I was looking for it. I really don't think I would have thought about it much.
The ship, overall, smelled wonderful with coffee, fresh baked goods and pizza, and the aroma of garlic near the kitchen door - for some examples. Food Service: We were in the lower Vista dining room in the very back right at the window. It was a GREAT location for the view (there was some engine vibration in this location - more than on other ships - but it was not very loud and did not interrupt our dinner in any way.)
The waiters were pleasant, efficient, organized, and sincere. Very accommodating to any special requests.
Entertainment: Shows were VERY good. Disco and other clubs were okay. Only bustling with people after 11-11:30pm - more of a mellow older crowd or with families. Very relaxing.
Kids Program - great folks, very organized, and my daughter LOVED it. Made many friends. Only area of improvement is to add more activities while in ports - so adults could particpate in excursions that exclude children. Private babysitters VERY limited - I was able to get only for 1 of my 3 requested.
Western Caribbean itinerary is okay - prefer Eastern Caribbean. Most breathtaking place was Half Moon Cay - HAL's private island - beach.
Still love Royal Caribbean International, but will definitely take another cruise with HAL.
Overall - I rate this an 8 out of a perfect 10.
Zuiderdam 2/1/03 - Eastern Caribbean This was the ship's 7th sailing. Full ship - 1823 passengers onboard.
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 style. For Caribbean cruises, we book for the ship 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 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.
Our vacation didn't start very well when our flight from Denver was delayed by over 6 hours but we finally made it to our hotel in Fort Lauderdale about midnight. On the bright side, since the delay wasmechanical not weather, we were given free round trip tickets to be used within the next year. Saturday morning we joined my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Tom for breakfast and then we all taxied to the port.
We arrived at the terminal about 20 minutes before the doors were opened and stood in a line of about 100 people. Once the doors opened the line progressed through security quite quickly and then a Holland America staff person checked to make sure you had all your documents - we were missing one form and stopped to fill it out before going to the check-in lines. We also had our pictures taken, which are used for identification each time you reboard the ship - when your keycard is read, your picture comes up on their computer. There were two counters for suites and all four of us were checked in within ten minutes. I'm glad HAL is now imprinting your credit card at check-in rather than having to make a trip to the purser's office later in the day. We went upstairs to the waiting room and killed about an hour "people-watching."
At about 2:15 the wheelchairs and other disabled people were being assisted and "S" boarding was called. Since my Uncle uses oxygen, we were shown to the front of the line, just following the wheelchairs. We were escorted to our S suites 7047 and 7049; located just aft of the Penthouse on starboard. We were escorted, but when we arrived at the suites he just pointed at the doors and left.
Chilled champagne, flowers and fruit bowl awaited us in the cabin. The suite itself is noticeably smaller than on previous ships, but is well- decorated using bright colors. All the soft furniture was upholstered in leather and was very comfortable. The dressing room which leads into the bathroom is about half the size of previous ones, but still functional. I really like having a dressing table that is not in the cabin itself. As we explored the suite Evan, our steward came and introduced himself and asked if we had any special requests. Then he opened the door in the divider so that our verandahs were joined - I really like this feature when you are traveling with others. The kingsize bed was wonderful (of course, it was new!) and there were feather pillows. The bathroom included a whirlpool tub with shower and a separate shower. (The separate shower was broken but was fixed on day 4.) There was also a long vanity area with two sinks and plenty of storage space. The two fluffy robes were hanging in the closet.
We then checked in with Sherry and Tom to see how they were getting along in their cabin and found that we had different dinner times/tables. A quick trip to the Concierge in the Neptune lounge and this was fixed. Tom's oxygen was delivered about 30 minutes after we boarded; so that worry was taken care of and we could all relax.
We located our lifejackets and laid them out in preparation for the drill and then popped one bottle of champagne. I made a quick trip to the Neptune for some finger sandwiches and we all sat on the verandah and watched the preparations dockside. Our luggage arrived in good time and we began unpacking . soon it was time for the safety- at-sea drill. Following the drill we went to the sail-away party at the aft pool on the Lido deck. The band played Caribbean music and we had a "rum punch in a plastic souvenir glass." It was rather cold and windy so we went back to the cabin to get ready for dinner.
We explored the ship a little on our way to the Vista dining room. The decor is quite art deco and very bright - not like HAL's older ships. Its WOW- factor is high; individual pictures of the different areas can't give you the feeling of how it works together. I really liked the style and although some of the furniture is funny shaped, it is all very comfortable. Each area is unique in its style, which makes finding your way around even easier. For example, the mid-ship elevators and lobby area are done in blues and the forward elevators and lobby in red. I enjoyed the art throughout the ship; it ranged from whimsical to very elegant. There was always something to look at, a new piece of art or the style of a room; except for the hallways by the staterooms the whole ship is visually stimulating.
Our table in the Vista was on the upper level at the aft windows so we had a great view of the wake. It was a rectangular table for six, but only the four of us were seated there. The chairs are upholstered in a flowered fabric and have arms. I dislike dining room chairs without armrests! Our waiter and assistant waiter were pretty good, but we often sat with dirty plates in front of us for quite some time before they were removed and each meal at least one item was forgotten; one person's appetizer or another's soup. We only ate in the Vista three times and the food was well prepared each time. We had room service on the verandah twice, Lido once and the Odyssey once.
The Lido is very well designed with different islands for the specialty foods like pizza/pasta and oriental (good sushi) and of course, the ice cream bar. We had one lunch and one dinner here. The number of items to choose from should keep anyone happy. Although no one ever offered to carry my tray, someone always assisted my Aunt and Uncle.
I thought the Olympic restaurant was beautiful, but heard another couple say it was the ugliest room on the ship. It is basically white and silver/chrome. As suite passengers we could eat breakfast and lunch here (like the Kings/Queens room on the older ships). We had one breakfast and one lunch here that were exceptional. Sadly, our dinner experience wasn't as good. While being seated we told the Maitre de that we would like to order cocktails prior to dinner and that we wouldn't be ordering wine. We sat for about 15 minutes before anyone even filled our water glasses; he then called over a waiter to assist us. We ordered our cocktails and dinner; two fillet mignons and two lamb. The waiter couldn't remember who ordered what. This is certainly not what I expect from a restaurant that is supposed to be fine dining. When the entrees came - there were three, two steaks and one lamb.. So we waited for about 15 minutes for another lamb entree to be brought and then ate (ours were, of course cool by then). The steak was delicious and so tender you could cut it with a fork and the side of asparagus and mushrooms was good too. When we finished eating, we sat back waiting for the dessert choices; after 15 minutes of sitting with dirty dishes in front of us- we walked out.
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. The Explorers Lounge is very nice but was used almost every evening for private receptions; we attended two receptions there for Suite guests. The attention from waiters at during the dinner hours was very good, but at any other time of the day at most of the bars the waiters seemed to cluster talking to the bartender and it was difficult to get a drink even when you went up to the bar. The Atrium Bar was never open when we walked through, but I loved the sculptured look of the furniture and floors.
We missed the Mariner's Party because the time conflicted slightly with the Suites lunch.
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. I saw several people taking an afternoon snooze in them.
This ship is the first to have a dedicated nightclub, the Northern Lights. This room is interesting to say the least. As you walk down the entry hallway lights in the ceiling light and dim over your head following your path into the nightclub; there are fiber optic lights embedded in the carpet and sparkles on the walls. The "Iceberg" is located here, but I must say it didn't do anything for me. But the most eye- catching feature is the black and white cowhide upholstery on the booths. One of the Officers told me that the crew has nicknamed it the "Cow's Nest."
The Spa area is really beautiful, I enjoyed the thermal room for a while one afternoon - and used the Therapy pool twice (both times were on sea days) - there was no charge for these because they are still working out problems with the facilities. I was looking forward to the therapy pool and was very disappointed to find that it still had not been fixed. The water was quite cool and only a few jets were working - the bubble loungers were not working at all. I looked into a couple of the treatment rooms - they were the nicest I've ever seen - the tables were draped in bright colored fabric and had fresh flowers laying on each.
Ports: Half Moon Cay: We tendered in to the island after room service coffee and some sweet rolls from the Neptune. Our Priority tender passes allowed us to walk right onto the boat instead of waiting in lines (another perk of an S suite). The day was a mix of sun and clouds and a bit too cool to be in the water although a few brave souls were swimming. We had the buffet lunch on the island (hotdogs, hamburgers & ribs); it was ok. We were the only ship at the island - think it would be awfully overcrowded if there were more than one ship. This remains one of the best things about sailing with HAL!
St. Thomas: We wandered around the jewelry shops.
St. Kitts: We took the new Railroad excursion. It had only begun running two weeks prior and is a very nice trip. You have a choice of an upper (open) seat or a seat in the lower enclosed car. Complementary rum punch was served and there is narration that gives much information on the island.
Nassau: We did the dolphin encounter. It was very well done with everyone having a great deal of time to interact with the dolphins.
Additional items to note: Our mini bar was broken and removed for repair - it was returned on day 6. It didn't bother me much, but irritated my husband who wants a cold Coke with his Jack Daniels.
There was a nasty sewer odor in our cabin 2 days. The only other place I noticed it was in a hallway near the Queens Lounge one time. It seems to only affect small areas of the ship and at different times. No one could answer my question about what caused it.
The service is still a little confused, but should improve with a little time. With the exception of a few bar staff, everyone was attentive, friendly and smiling in the usual HAL style.
Formal nights - we wear tuxes and gowns. I noticed fewer tuxes at early dinner than late and although most people did dress for dinner, there were more suits than on past sailings.
The Neptune lounge is very nice and the staff was very helpful; it was nice to just take forms to them instead of running down to the main desk. Our cabin was very close to the lounge so we used it often for snacks and appetizers. If the cabin had been further away such as the aft S suites, I don't think I would have used it as much.
We also enjoyed the casino and actually spent a couple hours playing the slots. It was large and well laid out.
We thought the photos were high priced (but I'm finding that on all the ships we've sailed lately) and not as good in quality. There were many backdrops available on formal nights. But, as usual, we bought a number of them for our trip album.
The fresh flowers throughout the ship remain one of my favorite things!
To sum up: it was a good trip, but not great. I think I prefer the smaller HAL ships, but price and itinerary being right I would sail Zuiderdam again.
This is my review of the new HAL Zuiderdam's New Year's Cruise. There was both good and bad to report for this trip; and since I've cruised Carnival and Celebrity before, I had something to compare this to. My wife has cruised much more than I have, so she may interject some things, or see some things differently than I did.
First, the good:
1. Zuiderdam is the best-looking ship at sea. It's truly a floating art gallery. Some of the art borders on the spectacular, and it's spread out through every nook and cranny of the ship. There are glass elevators with a view of the ocean from both sides of the ship. There are sight lines providing a view of the ocean from almost every public area - truly a wonder to look at.
2. The shows have some of the best-looking sets, costumes, and talent at sea. The sets and costumes were designed by Bob Mackey, and had a truly professional air. Although they curiously inserted the theme to "Titanic" in one of the shows (bad luck, anyone?), the talent was truly top-notch. Comedians were also entertaining, but curiously the"adult show" was scheduled for a smaller lounge, which then overflowed. The guy in the piano bar - Matt - honed his skills at a college-style "dueling piano bar," and since I'm in my mid-30s, I really enjoyed it. Some people, however, were offended. Make that VERY offended.
3. Food stand-outs: the Osso Bucco in the Vista Dining Room, the Porterhouse steak at the Odyssey dining room (extra charge of $15 per person to eat there if you are not in a suite), and anything anywhere on the ship made with flour, water, and sugar was the best I've tasted at sea. Great coffee as well. Although it was mobbed and not designed well for easy access, the "chocolate extravaganza" was, well, extravagant. The long lines did anger some people at that event.
4. The rooms had the best shower pressure I've ever experienced in a cabin. Our verandah was relaxing and romantic, and had us spending a bit more time in the cabin than on a normal cruise.
Now, the not so good:
1. Service was sometimes surprisingly inaccurate in the dining room. Not all the time, mind you, but enough to be noticed by all at the table at several seatings during the cruise. Service was slow at times, and others at the table said that room service had made mistakes with their orders.
2. The salads in the dining room usually had iceberg lettuce and were generally uninspired. You never saw that in the dining room on Celebrity. Many of the standard buffet lunches and dinners on board were good to very good in quality, but the pizza wasn't great, and the rice used for sushi made it unappetizing (even in the Odyssey dining room). Most surprising - No midnight buffet! Not that we starved, but we looked forward to it for the "food artwork." There were very few photo opportunities for the food on this cruise.
3. No self-service laundry facilities were available, even though it was advertised in brochures and on the Internet.
4. Outlets in the cabin are not located near the bed. I have a medical device I need for sleep - but luckily, we brought a couple of extension cords.
5. Because of circumstances beyond the ship's control, we arrived late at several destinations. However, the Cozumel shore excursion to the Tulum ruins was quite hurried - and not very enjoyable. I think it might have been better to cancel it, but they wanted to try and "fit it in" - big mistake.
6. There was a weather delay at Half Moon Cay, with a lot of us (400 or so) getting rainy, wet and cold for several hours, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was the lack of information given to us by HAL employees about what was going on. Some heard the announcements at certain times, some didn't. A bullhorn might have been appropriate in that situation.
I'm sure I've left out several things (they even managed to anger people with bingo), but overall, I'd suggest you wait a year before you try this ship. It still has some kinks to work out.
As in all new ships the staff/stewards needs to work out their routines. This should have been done prior to the first sailing. Perhaps a seasoned staff would have been a better approach. Most of their efforts seemed uncoordinated. For us the selection of The Zuiderdam on this their secong weekly voyage, would have been better put off until the ship had been in service for a good while, in order for all to get their act together. The lack of attentiveness and abundance of indifference was quite apparent and not at all like the other HAL ships. The lower dining room vibrated all during dinner and was a distraction to normal conversation. The Odessey dining room was another experience. Three times to get the filet mignon cooked properly and then a much smaller portion than originally ordered was provided. The Rotterdam had this one down pat.
The photo gallery was another dispaapointment. Original order was incorectly done and cancelled at my request only to find that I was re-billed for a re-do and then not notified that the redone product was available for pickup. Sounds like a recharge without delivering the goods.Readyour final billing is my advice. Stay away from the (dining room) Puerto Rican version of Paella, Taco Bell can do a better job. My general impression is that on these shorter (7 day cruises) HAL is trying to (willingly or not) pattern itself after some of the things I dislike about their parent "Carnival". Now the good- The ship was quite nice with ample cabin space and good views from within.
I recently returned from 3 weeks on the new Zuiderdam and found the ship to be great! Yes, it's a departure from the HAL norm - bigger, brighter colors, but it's designed for Carib/Alaska 7 day cruises and is trying to attract more younger clientele. My first week, they had over 250 kids on board (spring break) but they were rarely intrusive (except for the last day). I talked with a HAL rep who told me that the Oosterdam will have more subdued décor.
First I'll address the "odors problem:" THERE WERE ODORS EVERYWHERE!! The Windjammer café always smelled like bread/cookies/coffee! The Lido restaurant smelled like Italian or Chinese or American food!! The grill area smelled like tacos and burgers!! The mid-ship pool smelled like a swimming area!! Some of the bathrooms smelled like they'd been used and cleaned!! And the promenade deck smelled like the ocean!! TERRIBLE!! Can't they remove these odors?? And a lot of the women smelled like perfume at night!! Puhleeze!!
Itinerary - I won't go into it - there are plenty of reviews about locales elsewhere.
The Pros: Many familiar friendly faces from Maasdam in the bars/crew/staff. The first weekI was in a cat. A cabin and it had plenty of space. Well kept by Herudiante. Some of the storage areas are hidden (under the bed and under the loveseat). Bathroom had plenty of space and never had toilet problems. The second week I was in a Penthouse suite (also with Herudiante doing the housekeeping), and it has some glitches. My main complaint was that the lighting was either "on" and very bright, or "off" - no smaller lamps for the beds. The TV system in the bedroom doesn't work very well - it's IR sensor is below the cabinet molding so didn't work well. The tv/stereo system in the living room sounded very good, once I figured out how to use it - quite complex. TV was pretty poor - CNN-financial/ESPN/TNT and the local movie/info channels. The bathroom in the PH suite was magnificent - big as the whole Cat A cabin! The shower (with Plexiglas door) had sprayers/spigots everywhere with strange devices I was afraid to try. Strong water pressure. The tub - wow - could seat 3 easily - 6 whirlpool jets and lighted under water! With a REMOTE CONTROL!?! It took me 2 days to figure out how all the controls worked. But it is a little tall to get in to & out of.
Gold plated twin sinks and faucets in the main part, another in the toilet/bidet ROOM, another in the guest bathroom. Closet space - tremendous. Bed - King-size, but solid to the floor - no storage space for luggage underneath. Oh, yeah - almost forgot the ELECTRIC Curtains in all rooms. Two writing desks, makeup table (well lit - like I needed it). Beautiful artwork including 19th century bronze statue (perfect for holding Mardi gras beads) and 19th century oil painting. The verandah - again huge - 4 chaise lounge chairs, 2 easy chairs, dining table, and whirlpool. THIS whirlpool is quite tiny - good for one - too shallow. Nice wooden ceiling and dividers on the verandah. The entertainment - Paul Pappas (main stage pianist) is a good technician, but not very big on feeling. The Las Vegas-style shows are great. Didn't see others. In the Piano lounge, Matt Newbold is a refreshingly different act for HAL - young, fun, great Billy Joel/Elton John stylist and sing-along stuff, no matter what the Captain's wife thinks (a long ugly story for a later date). Bar service was good and they usually remembered what I wanted after the first order, and knew me by name. One SUPER staff guy - Mark Dirk Zeller - the Bar Manager - super! The first day I asked him if they had Bacardi "O" orange flavored - he said no, no one had asked for it before. The next day, he went in to town and bought 10 bottles of it, of his own money, and at noon, proudly told me that the bars NOW had Bacardi O!! - Now THAT'S SERVICE!! Food at the Odyssey was superb. Believe it or not, I never ate in the main restaurant - it was either Odyssey or Lido - the first night I went to the main restaurant and saw my tablemates and decided against it - sorry, I know that's judgmental of me, but I'll just leave it at that - nothing racial, nothing ageist, they just looked unfriendly. Lido food was great, minimal lines, no trouble getting a table. Leaving the ship on the last day, since I had a suite - I was off the ship and out the door with my luggage by 8:05 a.m.!!! Lots of little innovative things everywhere.
The cons: just a few. PH suite problems mentioned above. Staff was undermanned (Hotel manager told me that they were having huge problems getting people from S.E. Asia their work visas so were almost 150 undermanned). The Queen's lounge really needs to be re-done for sight-lines - it just doesn't work. A little crowded in the Ocean Bar and Piano Lounge at certain times. The crow's nest was highly underused and almost seems too large, with weird separate rooms. One person told me he'd gotten the Norwalk virus and the Doctor was rather surly with him, telling him it couldn't possibly be virus and he couldn't possibly have gotten it on the ship. I got a little bug a couple days later, but don't think it was Norwalk. I saw the doctor (a new one) and had no trouble, but it cost $150 including 5 pills. Public bathrooms - WAY TOO FEW! But the same HAL rep said they're already adding more to the Oosterdam (possible reason for it's delay?)
All in all, IMHO, it's a fabulous ship and I'd gladly sail on her again.
Long time HAL folks - realize it's not your grandma's HAL ship, but their old ships aren't all disappearing immediately so you still have the options.