6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We went on a Panama Chanel Cruise in March 2019. Here are our good and less impressive experiences from our trip. Stateroom: We lived in a veranda on the 10th floor. Beautiful view. The stateroom was really nice. We were supposed to be ... Read More
We went on a Panama Chanel Cruise in March 2019. Here are our good and less impressive experiences from our trip. Stateroom: We lived in a veranda on the 10th floor. Beautiful view. The stateroom was really nice. We were supposed to be 4 people in our cabin why they arranged 4 beds the first evening – 2 regular beds, one bed coming down from the ceiling and the sofa was changed to a bed. The last bed made it difficult to get to the veranda but it was only arranged as a bed at night time – not optimal but I prefer that solution compared to the solution with 2 beds coming from the ceiling as we have experienced before as you almost need to be an acrobat moving back and forth in the stateroom. As we were only 3 they only arranged the bed from the ceiling at night and moving around even at night was no problem at all. The bathroom was great and big with a nice bathtub. There was a nice TV with plenty of both life TV, movies and more available. The TV was somewhat small but did it’s purpose. The staff was friendly but not very effective e.g. they never removed dirty dishes from the room – we needed to put them outside the stateroom to avoid the smell and have our small stateroom properly organized. Dinning: The food was generally okay – great during gala nights but below expectation other nights. It was a big disappointment we were charged extra on gala nights to get an extra serving!! We ended up with anytime dinning but ended up eating most night at the same section i.e. getting the same servers which was nice. The afternoon tea in the dining room was really nice The buffet on the Lido deck was nice but that section was severely under dimensioned. At most meals we had to walk around for a long time to find a table. It was also understaffed, or the staff was not properly trained – you were lucky to get a drink 5 minutes after asking. Resulting in us going after our drinks our self. The drink section was poorly arranged making it difficult to get a drink – had they swapped the drink machines and the glass/cups then more people would have been able to get drinks at the same time!! In our opinion then they utilize the boat poorly – there are many areas where there was almost nobody – why not remove many of the redundancies at the buffet, make more tables and then more food options other places on the boat?? My son went many times disappointed to get an ice cream – the ice cream shop opens and closes with the rest of the buffet – why??? The had a great Dive-In shop with fantastic burgers and hot dogs – my oldest sons favorite. Unfortunately, the Dive-In was next to the buffet so no seats Entertainment: We were disappointed by the entertainment. Some of the shows at the main theater were spectacular others were okay but disappointing they substitute an evening with a movie shown in poor quality – really!! The varieties of activities were below expectations – everyday was almost the same which is nice if you like bingo, trivial and cooking show but … They had some sport activities which we liked to join – some of them were great and some of them – yeah it seems like they forgot – nobody showed up to organize. We somehow got an activity going but … We knew Zuiderdam is a smaller boat, but the entertainment director could have done better e.g. ice sculpturing, magic show, parrots, juggler and a lot more. Amenities: The two pools were nice and deep enough to swim and play though small. There were many hot tubs which we enjoyed as well They had a giant chess board – we played it once risking our health – the board was not properly fastened and very slippery – again one of the many small but important details which would not cost them much to ensure was proper, but it was not taken care of Two nice table tennis located in a corner giving as little wind as possible – very nice The Explorations Central on deck 10 was impressive. Great view, games, books, monitors showing details about the boat and how it was operated. Large interactive touch screens showing highlights of the destinations and tour description. We really enjoyed that a lot. The HAL club was nice – fairly small but there were less than 10 kids on the boat so it did its purpose at our trip – not sure how it would work on a trip with more kids?? The staff there were amazing. My boys did not spend much time there, but they were always in the middle of some activities they were excited about when I picked them up. I enjoyed staying there for a little while following the activity waiting for a good time to break off – big respect for the staff there They could easily have utilized areas almost vacant throughout the cruise for more exciting activities – a strong recommendation from us. Overall: A nice trip with interesting destination but too many shortcuts from Holland American making the trip overall disappoint and not worth the money – we will search other cruise lines for our next cruise. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Our family chose the Panama Canal 10 day cruise with Holland American. We had 6 adults and 3 children. We planned this cruise a year in advance. When we got to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale 2 of us had passport cards and were not ... Read More
Our family chose the Panama Canal 10 day cruise with Holland American. We had 6 adults and 3 children. We planned this cruise a year in advance. When we got to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale 2 of us had passport cards and were not allowed to board the ship. The passport cards would not work, so if you are planning a cruise that requires a passport do not get the passport card and note you can not fly internationally with the card. Holland America does not post passbook cards are not accepted for international cruises. There were a least 5 couples that had this issue and were not allowed to board. If this situation happened with just myself and husband we would have cancelled and got 100% refund for the cruise. This totally ruined the cruise for us. We had to go to Miami Passport Agency the next day with a 8 hour wait for emergency pass port book, then fly to Aruba to catch the boat there. With hotel expenses, fees for the pass books, air fare $1600 later. We got assistance from the Port Director not Holland American. It was on a Sunday and you could not get a hold of anyone at HAL. It was very frustrating. The Port Director was fantastic, she told us step by step what to do, so we follow her directions to the T. She called us everyday to check our progress. We did not hear one word from HAL, at that point they had our $6,000 and did not care at all. When we got to the Port at Aruba we still were not listed on the manifest to enter the ship. We had to wait for the Port to get all the information to them. Never again will we cruise with HAL. The ship was clean, the crew was fantastic but the management at HAL could care less once they got your money. Buyer beware. Also make sure you check your bill after the cruise.We found discrepancies, so unless you check thoroughly you will be billed for additional items or not get refunds from drink cards. Also we were charged $14.50 per day for gratuities that we were not aware of. I felt like we were nickle and dime for everything. Just include it in the cruise price. Holland American totally ruined cruising for us in the future. Very sad because they were a great company 6 years ago. I am a very positive person and I always shake off any hurtles I experience, but this one was more than I could gut. Aruba was beautiful, safe, very friendly and the family had a great time there. We will do a family vacation there. Please be very aware if you plan a cruise with HAL. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We recently returned from a partial Panama Canal transit aboard the Zuiderdam. This was our tenth cruise on a Holland American vessel and as always we were very satisfied with the voyage and especially the service. On the one occasion ... Read More
We recently returned from a partial Panama Canal transit aboard the Zuiderdam. This was our tenth cruise on a Holland American vessel and as always we were very satisfied with the voyage and especially the service. On the one occasion when we complained of an issue, after resolving the issue, Holland America staff made multiple attempts to follow up to ensure we satisfied and even sent a complimentary bottle of wine as an apology. We had a very large Vista suite cabin #6076 midship on the port side. From our spacious balcony we seemed to always be on the side with the port view so the view was much more interesting. I also must note however the continual creaking of the boat when there was any sort of sea motion. It did make a good night’s rest a little harder. Highlights of this trip was the cave excursion in Aruba and the train trip across the isthmus of Panama, which included a stop at the visitor centre for the new larger lock complex. We appreciated that the captain periodically opened the bow area for passengers to get a better view of what was ahead when sailing. Food and service were up to the usual HAL standard. We were a little disappointed with the entertainment as many of the shows were the same as we saw on our last cruise a year ago. However, I must single out the steel band that performed twice during our trip as being excellent. We very much enjoyed the performers on the Lincoln Centre stage, though the Billboard pianists were nothing special. There were many other interesting shipboard activities during the several sea days, most particularly America’s test kitchen and the lectures done by members of the excursion team. As always, the excursion team themselves functioned extremely well for the duration of the voyage. We ate most nights in the dining room, with two nights at Pinnacle. All meals were very tasty but in most cases not too much food. We used the Lido only for breakfast and lunch but most times went outside as the inside dining areas are both crowded and noisy. I heard some people complaining about the relatively sedate nature of evening activities during the voyage, but if you want dancing and late night entertainment, you are best served by a line such as RCC or Disney that caters to a younger demographic. HAL has changed their internet packages to be based on data used rather than time online. I liked this approach better as our data needs are low. Prices have also been reduced though response time still needs improving. We have booked three additional cruises on HAL ships over the next 18 months so I think that tells you all you need to know about our ongoing satisfaction with this line. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this particular Panama Canal cruise for the itinerary. The ship stopped in Aruba, Curacao and Costa Rica, in addition to traveling through the canal, which were all new ports for us. After reading reviews, I did not expect a ... Read More
We chose this particular Panama Canal cruise for the itinerary. The ship stopped in Aruba, Curacao and Costa Rica, in addition to traveling through the canal, which were all new ports for us. After reading reviews, I did not expect a "new" ship, but since it had been in dry dock less than 2 years ago, I figured it would be okay. My husband and I have taken about 10 cruises over the years, and this was our first Holland America cruise. The cruise before ours had a norovirus outbreak, and we received an email the day before embarkation alerting us to a late embarkation due to their need to sanitize the ship. A bit disconcerting to say the least, but we preserved. As a result, embarkation was a bit hectic due to the larger crowds boarding the ship at the same time. The embarkation agent forgot to give us the activities planner for embarkation day, which we did not realize until much later, when we did not find any information in our cabin. After asking our room steward for the activities information we kept hearing others speak of, it was only then that we realized we were missing information. That did not start us off on the right foot, but we let that go and had a nice evening. The first stop was Half Moon Cay, the private island of HAL. There was another ship on the island that day as well, so it was extremely crowded. The ship arrived around 8:30, and after disembarking and being tendered over at 10:00, the clam shells we had signed up for (and paid for) were nearly gone. We had to walk a VERY long way down the beach, speak with a variety of (grumpy and inattentive) personnel at stations along the way to continue to direct us to some open clam shells. We stayed on the beach for a couple of hours -- which WAS beautiful -- then decided to head back to the ship. The thought of fighting for a meal with so many on the island was unappealing. Not the most auspicious start to our much anticipated cruise. Recommendation for Half Moon Cay - many of the loungers are under trees and are nicely shaded. Save your money and do not get a clam shell. We would not have had to walk so far if we wanted a free lounger in the shade. The next day was a sea day, and we attended a wonderful wine tasting. The day was really relaxing and enjoyable. The following days at the various ports of call were fine and we enjoyed Aruba and Curacao. Going through the Panama Canal is an experience not to be missed. We THOROUGHLY enjoyed the experience, and we very happy with the day. We opted to get off the ship in Colon "just to say we were in Panama." We spent about 10 minutes there and got back on the ship. Not a nice place, to say the least. Unfortunately, it was POURING rain in Costa Rica. We did go on a canal tour, but honestly, it was pretty miserable due to the weather. It was raining so hard, it was hard to see into the jungle at times, and we were just plain wet. No one's fault, to be sure, but it did take much of the enjoyment away from that day. Overall, the cruise was enjoyable, and we met some wonderful people with whom we dined with and enjoyed our time with on sea days. Our experience in the main dining room was EXCELLENT. The staff was warm and accommodating. We had anytime dining, and never had to wait more than 5 minutes to be seated. And as the cruise went on, we went to dinner with a group of other couples, and were easily and quickly accommodated. The food was varied and tasty. I think there was only 1 night that I was underwhelmed by the choices for the evening. The wine stewards were helpful and accommodating as well. We had ordered a wine package which we felt was a good value. However, there were some problems that HAL needs to address, and we did tell them so in our survey response to HAL. 1. Maintenance: It was VERY disruptive the amount of maintenance that was ongoing during the cruise. There was the smell of paint/varnish several times when sitting and relaxing on our veranda. Also, one day after arriving back on ship, we grabbed a meal in the Lido and went to sit outside to enjoy our meal. Amazingly, there was LOUD banging and sanding/sawing going on right above the area where the tables were -- so that option of where to sit outside was totally out of the question. WHY?? And to our shock, one day when we had just arrived in a port and were readying to leave our cabin, all of a sudden a man was on our veranda hosing down the entire deck, and he was opening all the dividers and washing all the decks on our side of the ship. No warning given at all by anyone. All the cushions were soaked, as was a beach towel we had left on a chair. We were flabbergasted to say the least! If maintenance such as this needs to be done - and it so disruptive to those of us who have paid a considerable amount of money to enjoy a vacation - this ship should spend a week out of rotation to be attended to. Much of this was "routine" maintenance, not something that broke while at sea. We found this unacceptable that we were forced to endure noxious fumes and "wet paint" as well as sanding/noise etc. on various decks. 2. Lido Dining: Okay, so Lido is the buffet/cafeteria style dining. I do understand one has to pack some patience for the buffet, We went there for lunch when on the ship, and for breakfast on days when we were heading out early for an excursion. . But the drink stations were woefully inadequate - there were only 2 for the entire dining room. That means only 2 water filling spots for a ship that had 1,700 people on board. Waiting in line for a glass of water, from machines that trickled out water (thus the line) and the ice machine that was frequently empty, was inexcusable. We did discover that the staff in the eating area inside would bring you water (they had pitchers), but they were busy with lots of folks, and it was hard to get them to focus to get to your table. We really did feel that we had to "work too hard" just to get a glass of cold water during dining times. Also, while in ports where we had early calls, they did open the Lido earlier than usual so we could get breakfast -- the problem was they only opened half the available stations, so the lines were VERY long, and the staff was fairly inefficient. This made for a stressful start to a vacation day - as we were on a time schedule to make our excursions. Fellow cruisers: We are in our late 50's and had plenty of company. There were very few younger than us, however, and there were plenty older. Disembarkation: We opted to take our own luggage and leave as soon as they allowed as we had a morning flight. This was the quickest disembarkation we ever experienced. From the time they let us off the ship to arriving at Ft. Lauderdale airport less than 30 minutes. No stress at all! Overall, in spite of some "head shaking" worthy circumstances, we really did overall enjoy our vacation. We chose to focus on the positive. Interesting ports of call, meeting wonderful people whom we hope to remain in contact with, and for the most part, very accommodating and caring staff. Was it the best cruise experience we ever had - no - but honestly, when we reflect back on the trip, it was a good trip overall, one that we were happy we took. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
We have always wanted to see the Panama Canal, and this cruise checked all the boxes. We embarked the ship at Fort Lauderdale, the process was quick and efficient. We went to our room, cabin 5013, dropped our carry-on and proceeded to the ... Read More
We have always wanted to see the Panama Canal, and this cruise checked all the boxes. We embarked the ship at Fort Lauderdale, the process was quick and efficient. We went to our room, cabin 5013, dropped our carry-on and proceeded to the Lido deck. On our Alaska cruise, we purchased the hydrotherapy spa; we again purchased the hydrotherapy spa on this trip. After our muster station and safety review, we departed from Fort Lauderdale on time. Our overnight sale was smooth and uneventful, we decided to eat at the Lido restaurants as we had been traveling since 2 AM. There were a lot of options to choose from. We arrived at the Half Moon Cay, Bahamas on the second day and took a tether to shore. We purchased a Clam Shell Lounge, a good Investment to have a shaded area during the day. After a full day on the beach, we returned to the ship. We enjoyed dinner in the main restaurant; we purchased a bottle of wine, if you do not finish the wine, the will cork the bottle and provide it to you at any restaurant on board. The next day we were at sea and enjoyed the day at the hydrotherapy spa and exploring the ship. The next day we arrived in Aruba, we booked the CATAMARAN SNORKEL & BEACH GETAWAY. An enjoyable experience. We returned to port, and my wife said she wasn't feeling well. We returned to our cabin, and my wife fell ill. By the late afternoon, she was in full gastrointestinal distress. We had planned a dinner on the island, however, due to the gastrointestinal illness, we were unable to visit the island. The following day, we arrived in Willemstad, Curacao, we had planned to go on the CURACAO BEACH EXPRESS, my wife was quarantined to the room and insisted I go by myself. The resort location was beautiful and I was able to do some snorkeling off the beach. I return to the ship and again tended to my wife. Another day at sea and we were unable to use the hydrotherapy spa due to gastrointestinal outbreak on the ship. We learned the ships was in the midst of a novirus outbreak; many passengers were affected. I too became ill, experiencing vomiting and explosive diarrhea. Day 7 brought us to the entrance of the Panama Canal. Fortunately, we were cleared and we're able to enjoy our THE CANAL EXPERIENCE FROM GATUN TO COLON experience. Our guide was excellent and we spent time in Old Panama City and time at the Gatun Canal. On day 8, we arrived in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. We booked the Jaguar Rescue and Rain Forest trip. An excellent trip and extremely rewarding. The tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and patient. We returned to the ship. We arrived 10 minutes before the scheduled all aboard timeline. The next two days were at sea and we're less than optimal. During our trip, we were unable to participate in the gala dinners and lost several days of enjoyments due to the novirus outbreak. Buffet were restricted; one morning, we waited 20 minutes for toast. That same evening, 30 minutes at the pasta bar in the Lido. On the last night, the Lido Bristo ran out of shrimp and beef tenderloin. Never have we experience this on any other cruises. The Alaska cruise on Holland America was the exact opposite of this trip. The thermal spa package was an additional $306 for 11 days, due to the novirus outbreak we were unable to use the package for 6 days due to quarantine. No refunds or credits were offered. We made the best of a bad situation; our memories of our Panama Canal cruise will be of gastrointestinal destress and many trips to the washroom facilities. I'm not sure how many people were affected by the outbreak, i did drop off my questionnaire at the medical center and there was approximately 30 people waiting for assistance. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
My wife and I thought Holland America was a step above and tried the Panama cruise. First the ship is in disrepair ie: broken windows, window seal deteriorated causing windows to fog in main dining room, burnt out bulbs throughout ... Read More
My wife and I thought Holland America was a step above and tried the Panama cruise. First the ship is in disrepair ie: broken windows, window seal deteriorated causing windows to fog in main dining room, burnt out bulbs throughout especially at the elevators and Old wooden deck chairs on deck three of which 50 percent were broken. Attitude of the Hotel manager was not his problem. Staff throughout the ship in restaurants, cabins, bars etc. A 10 +++. The main dining room meals were over cooked much of the time during dinner hour though breakfast was fine. First night of cruise turkey was served bright pink ( scary !). One night tuna was so overcooked , it was like saw dust and most left it on their plates uneaten. On another evening the wiener schnitzel was served and waiters came around suggesting that we add gravy before we even tried the dish and through the gravy was not part of the menu the waiters were trying to correct another bad meal. Now the Pinnacle Grill was a great experience but we were forced to pay the extra charge to have good food compared to main dining room and we ate there four nights. Entertainment was very good and we enjoyed every performance. The shore experience in Costa Rica called canal tortuguero was a 100% waste of time. When we arrived by bus, there were bathrooms on the second floor of the building that were so unbelievably filthy that I perferred to not use since thing did not flush and one small sink to wash hands shared by men and women with nothing to wipe hands. The boat tour showed two iguanas,three birds and a couple monkeys. The second part of the tour was a banana plantation which consisted of the bus pulling off the main road to point out a few banana plans and return us back to the ship. So much for a plantation. Holland America charged 100 plus dollars and does not care how bad it is. Now it explains why Holland America does not even get mentioned in many ratings and independent reviews. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
The Panama Canal was exciting.it was awesome to see how it was done, The crew on the ship was fabulous expecially as follows Danny , was so amazing always making sure everything was okay, and went out of his way to make you feel so ... Read More
The Panama Canal was exciting.it was awesome to see how it was done, The crew on the ship was fabulous expecially as follows Danny , was so amazing always making sure everything was okay, and went out of his way to make you feel so welcome and enjoyable Rene our drink guy , was so informative of drinks , wines ,if you weren’t sure what you liked he was sure he’d bring something you like and he did Zeri, our mint man after dinner was so entertaining and such a comedian , he even went out of his way to take a picture with the professional photographer. Lucky, our waiter was so deliteful to see every evening, how he remembered everyone’s name was amazing, so astonishing. Aguhn, our server, was so remarkable how he knew everything on the menu. Olivia in Lido restaurant, was so sweet and pleasant. It was a delightful day to see her smiling face every morning and afternoon who went out of her way to make sure you got what you wanted and came and talked to see how your day was going. Sweet as cotton candy, I told her. I will cruise again with Holland American. One complaint, was the evening menu, seem to be a lot of the same, except each night things were changed a little. We did start with the norovirus, it was amazing to see how well everyone was sure not to make it spread. , very well accomplished so our cruise was deli. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
We have sailed on well over 20 cruises with most main cruise lines. Carnival, Princess, NCL, but mostly with Celebrity which we have elite status. Celebrity did not offer a partial Panama Canal transit, so we opted for HAL on the ... Read More
We have sailed on well over 20 cruises with most main cruise lines. Carnival, Princess, NCL, but mostly with Celebrity which we have elite status. Celebrity did not offer a partial Panama Canal transit, so we opted for HAL on the Zuiderdam with 22 of our friends and family. To a person, we all said we wouldn’t book another HAL cruise, as we were disappointed with the lack of activities that interested our group. Most of us are around 65-70 and one couple in their 30’s. PROS: Boarding the ship was the easiest we have experienced. We parked the car at Park N Go (great experience) and were taken to the ship about 11:30. We checked in immediately and were group #13 to board. They were boarding 9 when we got there and were called in no more than 5 minutes after using the restroom. The best part was the rooms were ready immediately so we could drop off our carry on before seeking a libation and lunch. It was especially nice since we brought on 2 bottles of wine and a 12 pack of water in a small roller bag. The luggage was delivered to the room within a couple of hours. The ship is lovely. Not fancy, but clean & well cared for. The only place I noticed wear and tear evident was on our cabin balcony. There were rust spots and the one deck chair really needed to be replaced. The crew were great. Very helpful. Always smiling, good service. By far HAL’s biggest asset. Several of the crew mentioned that HAL really treated the staff well, and they have many long term employees. The captain was very visible around the ship and seemed very approachable. A+++ for the crew . Best entertainment I have seen at sea was the Island Magic steel band. They played two days. The first was a mix of show tunes and classical. I know, classical steel drums, right? It was just awesome. If you have the opportunity to see them, don’t miss it. We did not purchase a drink package. However, at various hours and at different venues, there was Happy Hour, which meant buy one drink, get the same for $2 more. We took advantage of that, so that kept our bill quite reasonable. We enjoyed all of the ports. The itinerary was good. The excursion talks were very good and interesting. Half Moon Cay is awesome. I did have a very good lunch there on jerk chicken and salads. Curaçao is beautiful. We did a Tuk Tuk tour through Viator that was really fun. Aruba is fun, but we arrived late due to windy conditions. Panama was fantastic. Don’t miss the Panama rolls served on deck 4, the bow of the ship, during the transit. Costa Rica was very interesting and we enjoyed our Canal our there. CONS: I know food is subjective. We are not fussy eaters. I had heard that HAL food was pretty good. We were disappointed in the dining room food and selection. I can’t say that I had one memorable meal, and had several that I’d like to forget. I know you can always order something else, but I just won’t do that. The food was served hot, which is good, but sometimes that meant things were dried out, like the potatoes. We went to the Pinnacle Grill one evening. Even that was hit or miss. My steak was good, my husband’s and our friend’s were rather tasteless. LIdo food was much better and the hamburgers and fries from Dive In were really good. I didn’t lose any weight, but it was just disappointing to look forward to a nice dinner and not having one. Our biggest complaint and why we will not do another HAL cruise was the lack of activities that we enjoyed. No music around the pools, no dancing in the evening, no silly games to participate or watch others do. The gift shops were closed for the first 5 days of our trip for remodeling. So no shopping. And when they did open, a lot of the shelves were empty. Finally, on the next to the last day of the cruise, there was a deck sale. It was all items you could have used during the cruise like hats, coverups, totes, jewelry. People were flocking all over that. The casino is small and the slot machines weren’t paying much. Most evenings there was only one black jack table open. BB King’s was good, but not always playing when you were looking for entertainment. Anyway, all 24 of us were always trying to find something to do, so for the first time in over 20 cruises, I was bored. We were bored. As I mentioned, we are no spring chickens, but this cruise definitely skewed much older than us. I suppose the 10 day itinerary and Panama Canal was of more interest to that crowd. We didn’t see much of the cruise director and the port shopping guy wasn’t very interesting. SUMMARY: We had a nice time but if asked, I wouldn’t recommend a HAL cruise to a friend. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
This was my 25th cruise and my first with HA my sister was her first and having nothing to compare with she is more leaneant than I am With ther evaluation of the cruise. I had the impression that HA are trying to updgrade the services ... Read More
This was my 25th cruise and my first with HA my sister was her first and having nothing to compare with she is more leaneant than I am With ther evaluation of the cruise. I had the impression that HA are trying to updgrade the services with newer way of doing things so they picked up a little bit from each cruise lines offers them but do not quite master the process. From my perception still a long way to go to top certain cruise lines with more cultural feartures. Example: there were beautiful art work on the ship why not offer a free showing on what they represent, something on the authors or artist; meanings etc. Ship’s 10th floor is not easily accessible so if you want to purchase shore excursions you have to find them first. Why not put them on the 1st floor with information desk and newpapers? Cabins: Our room was super clean and maintained that way all through the cruise with Faisal and Oom our room stewards. Those who complain about an obstructed view need to know that there is an extra cost to get the non obstructuve view. Beds very comfortable, lots of movies, information on flat screen tv; lots of closet space; bathroom with bath, lots of how water, and shower big shower head. The ship showed its age in many places but inside cabins and some areas have been redurbished in 2017. On our balcony, there was rust and the oustside chairs extremelly stained and one was covered with a more stained fabric made us wonder how much it would cost to buy new ones considering the cost of the trip. Dining: Main dining room on the 2nd and 3rd in the back of the ship made it easy to travel from our room to the dining room as we were 8th floor in the back so an elevator hop and we were there.The dining room director Alfan and his assistant Krisna went out of there way to please us. I am scealiac and found it very difficult to find food with no gluten as the menus did not indicate in what there was gluten I was sick at the beginning and was asked to choose the meal for the next night something I did not want to do so chose to eat at Canaletto ($15 each night extra) on the 9th floor next to the Lido. A small restaurant, no more than 75 places, with Denise as the Lido manager who made sure with the executive chef that my food was not contaminated with other flours.and his team in the dining room. I am not a fan of cafeteria food and could not eat at the lido when I missed the dining room lunch I would have a salad with all kinds of ingredients: very good but always the same very little variety. Pineaccle is the other specilaty restaurant grill meat and sea food. We went twice but returned very quickly to Canaletto. Be aware that if you choose the select dining approach you will be asked to eat before 6pm or after 8h30pm. There are no other timeframes that can be provided. I always choose that on other ships and never had a problem to eat at 6h30 ou 6h45. At the Canaletto I was able to eat at the time I wanted to. Entertainement and activities: Music awesome and for every taste. Classical offered live in a small salon where a sign was showing quiet please live performance The Classical musicians were fabulous and did play a variety of offerings even accompanied documentaries of Planet earth I did not miss those! 2 pianist and awesome signers Aidan and Meaghan who sang wonderfully and asked for requests. Aidan immitated Elvis and Meaghan had more of a country signer voice sang Patsy Kline and other great signers wonderfully. Too bad this music was next to the casino we could hear the bells and all noises coming from there. The entertainers are very dedicated in involving everyone. We were encouraged to sign with them and some danced. Test kitchen during the day with lots of information from the captain. Other that Royal C, I have not seen a captain so present he was very reassuring a no nonsense person with a nice sense of humor. Safety: There was constant maintenance going on. Buzzing and drilling, cables hanging from the ceiling as well as mineral wool on the floor. My sister slipped and hurt herself quite badly we should have been instructed that the front of the ship which was opened for the crossing at Panama was wet! Wood treatment with epoxy next to the pool is at the height of the day when people were sunning and swimming had a strong chemical odor; elevator stopped from the 9th floor to the 6th never heard why no notice at all! Unacceptable. The drill took more than 45’ I could assuredly tell you that with the quantity of challenged and less mobile people on the ship it would be disastreous if there was an evacuation. Service: Intended to go the morning stretch but never found the so called gym! Trying to make my way there past the pool everything became a commercial fare: was asked to do an imprint of my feet. Anti aging talks were commercials for skincare. They even do botox and fillers! And teeth whitening! Bought my sister a good oil and get for her back after the accident got so much pressure to have her go in for assessment and massages and accupuncture...just decided to short cut them when possible. If you own a time share you will get my jist as they pressure you to buy another one and go to meetings by promising all kinds of free promotions that lead into a big expense. There were no passenger participation activities! Specifically no talent show., trivial pursuit or other. This was the first cruise I was on where they didn't have, at the very least, Karaoke! Very different that other cruises. Our Shore excursions: two 3 hours excursions with Holland were okish and quite expensive nothing Special to write about would not repeat the experience or encourage it. Having been on that cruise with Celebrity I had done the zip lining in Costa Rica, the Panama City tour which are very good. Colon should not be a port stop it is extremelly dangerous, lots of drugs and promiscious night life looking for the balcony looked like a ghost town with run down hotels and buildings. I am sure there were other places we could have stopped to pick up the people who took the shore excursions. Love the Fort Lauderdale tour. Gatun lake it so beautiful. Embarkation and disembarkation: Other than river cruises, this was probably the best and most efficient disembarkation i have ever experienced. Cannot say I will not be going on another Holland America Cruise, but not on the Zuiderdam! My next cruise will be on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
As a three-star mariner with Holland America, I have enjoyed many of their ships over the years. The latest improvements did away with the wonderful library and great coffee bar. Explorations Café is now up on deck 10, with nice places ... Read More
As a three-star mariner with Holland America, I have enjoyed many of their ships over the years. The latest improvements did away with the wonderful library and great coffee bar. Explorations Café is now up on deck 10, with nice places to sit, but no books to browse. The "passenger exchange books" shelf had a dozen or so books in foreign languages, but none in English until I left a few had brought along. The bar here handles both specialty coffee and alcoholic drinks. One latte proved to me that it wasn't that great a cup. So it goes. The new Lincoln Center Stage was filled to capacity at each performance, with some classics on the heavy side for my taste. I loved the old piano and violin combo that played more Strauss and standard melodies. Billboard on Board with its twin pianos was crowded at each performance, with standing room across the way in the casino for the overflow. The area shared by B.B.King's All-Stars (evenings) and America's Test Kitchen (daytime) also has more people than seating. The permanent lounge seating at the back of the room is fine in the evening. Folding chairs are added for the daytime cooking shows, with those in the lounges seeing only heads and backs since the closely lined up chairs are quite a bit higher. The food in the dining room is still very good every evening (and breakfast and lunch). The Dungeness crab benedict was wonderful, and on the breakfast menu every day. The one evening of surf and turf featured perfectly done lobster. Wine prices have continued to rise, but asking $79 plus 18% for a bottle that retails for $15 seems a bit over the top. My big disappointment on this cruise was the scenery from my ocean view cabin. Cabin 4114 gave new meaning to the term "obstructed view". From my floor to ceiling window, I could view lifeboat #16 and its davit....a bit of sky above, and looking directly down could see those walking on deck 3 below. Not a bit of "ocean" aside from the time they lowered the lifeboat to use as a tender at one port. The room itself was fine, and my steward was outstanding as always. Lots of hanging closet space but no drawers other than tiny ones in the bedside tables. Nice tub with shower in the bathroom, and lots of storage space. Now if they would just give loyal passengers a few complimentary minutes of internet time like the other cruise lines do, I would continue to be a happy camper on Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
there was many disappointing things on the cruise. And a lot of excellent things. The staff was amazing her room stores were exceptional everyone seemed very friendly. The food was very average gnome memorable meals. We had prime rib one ... Read More
there was many disappointing things on the cruise. And a lot of excellent things. The staff was amazing her room stores were exceptional everyone seemed very friendly. The food was very average gnome memorable meals. We had prime rib one night was very good, had steak it was tough and seasoned odd. Breakfast want anything special. The entertainment on mainstage was OK the comedian was excellent only there one day, he was an improv comedian working off the audience which was excellent. Then to piano players a young woman and a young gentleman that played the duration of the cruise they were amazing unbelievable very enjoyable to listen to. it seems like most of the day planned activities during the day on the ship were trying to sell you some thing a spa treatment or shoe inserts. The most disappointing thing was for afternoons our cabin had a strong paint smell which they were painting in different parts of the ship and it went to do the air conditioning system . And there was a couple days they were working on the electrical system outside the cabin banging away. We called and voiced our concerns and were told they were trying to improve the ship for future cruises, didn’t seem to care about us. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
It was a good cruise. Our main attraction in selecting this cruise was to go through the Panama Canal. The ship goes through the first lock. We bought a ship tour that took us through all the locks. It was a great experience! Wish the tour ... Read More
It was a good cruise. Our main attraction in selecting this cruise was to go through the Panama Canal. The ship goes through the first lock. We bought a ship tour that took us through all the locks. It was a great experience! Wish the tour took us to see the Panama City also, as the tour was not cheap. The service, food was good. I would like to recognize Gede, Eko, KD and Mauro for their excellent service and taking care of us during dinner. Our room was serviced by 2 pleasant people. Computer classes were a hit, the instructor was pleasant and wonderful. But the space was limited. 5-10 more computers would help. Shows and entertaining was good. Enjoyed the drums show. Went to all the bingo games, thought it was a bit expensive. Adding one or two more ports would have made the experience a bit more fun. We were at sea for more than 2 long stretched days, Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We wanted to see the Panama canal in a confortable cruise with excellent food and relax atmosphere. Embarkation and disembarkation went very well, quick and smooth. We reverved for the first time an Inside cabin and we found it a little ... Read More
We wanted to see the Panama canal in a confortable cruise with excellent food and relax atmosphere. Embarkation and disembarkation went very well, quick and smooth. We reverved for the first time an Inside cabin and we found it a little tight (150 square feet). We missed the day light. But the cabin was very clean at all time and our stewards were very attentive to our needs. We bought a wine package and we appreciated a lot to have a drink (our wine) anywhere on the ship at any time, including different bars and main dining room. Food was excellent in the dining room and at the buffet. At both places, service was incredible. Entertainment was great and we appreciated to watch the superbowl live on giant screen at the main stage. It was fun to have superbowl food (chicken, tacos, pizza,.....) in the main stage. Unfortunatly, we didn't stop at Half Moon Cay because of rough waves but we agree with captain as safety is number one on ship. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We have wanted to see the canal for years. We always choose HAL. For us they are the best! The ship is newly refurbished, the verandah cabin fantastic and comfortable. Most of all the service all over the ship is extraordinary! The food is ... Read More
We have wanted to see the canal for years. We always choose HAL. For us they are the best! The ship is newly refurbished, the verandah cabin fantastic and comfortable. Most of all the service all over the ship is extraordinary! The food is delicious and there is a lot to do for the older adults ( us!). We went on shore excursions and enjoyed all of them! The Hato caves in Curacao were amazing, the Gatun Lake and Locks fabulous and the Tortugua Canals and Verugua Rain Forest amazing! All of the days at sea were filled with interesting things to do and the evening entertainment full and we'll done. All of the food was nicely presented and delicious. We are at the Lido a lot for convenience and there was always more than enough selection. I am a vegetarian and I had no problem finding great meals. The salad bar is awesome! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
The food was worse than you could imagine -- think truckstop, then go three grades lower. The problem is the sourcing of their ingredients -- EVERYTHING loaded up for an 11 day cruise in Ft Lauderdale and frozen or refrigerated, and ... Read More
The food was worse than you could imagine -- think truckstop, then go three grades lower. The problem is the sourcing of their ingredients -- EVERYTHING loaded up for an 11 day cruise in Ft Lauderdale and frozen or refrigerated, and NOTHING brought in fresh from ports visited, as I've seen on many cruises. Rancid looking shrimp, overcooked dried out chicken, beef you can't cut, slimy BBQ chick at island stop, flavorless bland food, and RECYCLED ingredients constantly -- leftovers are used for 2-3 days. Fruit unripe and flavorless. Flies all over the saladbar ingredients. Only good thing was bread. We had to eat at ports just not to lose weight. I saw things that should not be in any restaurant or ship (I've taken 38 cruises so I know). It's not the staff (which was wonderful) -- it's the company and their rules to put as much $$ on the bottom line by reusing food. Cheating practices -- We were supposed to get a credit for an excursion we did not go on. We are still waiting for this credit 28 days later. Poor entertainment, and nothing to do during the day that didn't lead to you buying something. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
My wife and I had been planning this cruise for several years to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary as well as her completing her PhD. We had booked an ocean view cabin on Deck #1. We did not find out until out first night that we ... Read More
My wife and I had been planning this cruise for several years to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary as well as her completing her PhD. We had booked an ocean view cabin on Deck #1. We did not find out until out first night that we had a cabin under the B.B.King nightclub! Could someone please explain to me why a cruise line would put passengers in a cabin under a noisy night club! We complained to Guest Services several times and finally we moved to another cabin. 4 nights of a 10 night cruise spent in a cabin we could not sleep in! GRRRRR! I wrote to Holland America corporate customer service after the cruise to express my displeasure with their accommodations. They offered us $500.00 in Ship Board credits on our next cruise. So in order to avail ourselves of their offer we have to spend several thousand dollars. Not a good option. We also booked a Romantic Getaway Package. We were supposed to get complimentary pictures, casino lessons and credit at the casino, as well as flowers, sparkling wine, (upon entering our cabin on the first cruise day) and chocolate covered strawberries in our cabin. The wine was not chilled. We were told the florist was running behind. In order to get the pictures and the lessons and credit at the casino the letter with the package was not accepted. We had to go back to Guest Services and get a card showing that we should receive the services. We ended up doing this over several days as we tried to get our package services. So, basically we went to customer service on a nearly daily basis. GRRRRR! Holland America had many opportunities to make things right. Many of the onboard staff did a commendable job trying to resolve these problems. Corporate could have done a better job. The dining room staff and the Green House spa staff were great. The excursions were good. Overall I would have to say that when a problem arose the onboard staff tried to make the situation right. Holland America Customer Relations - Not so much. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Cruise staff was excellent. Ate in MDR every night. Daily vegeterian options every day or weekly always available. Dive In & Taco Bar were fantastic, but only available in afternoon. They have some of the best smoothies anywhere at ... Read More
Cruise staff was excellent. Ate in MDR every night. Daily vegeterian options every day or weekly always available. Dive In & Taco Bar were fantastic, but only available in afternoon. They have some of the best smoothies anywhere at bars or MDR. Wait staff was excellent and catered to our every need. We had table for two entire cruise, and the wine steward helped us pick out Mocktails several times. Surf & Turf (lobster tails for no extra charge on last night of cruise in MDR (I got 2 tails). We tried lots of things (escargot, Chilled pineapple soup, fancy veggeterian options) we would never think of trying. Shore excursions were great, and lots of selections for every budget. Several EXC tours ran late, but ship waited for them. Several times saw people on private tours running down the dock to barely make ship departure. We stayed on board during Canal locks, and got great pictures from several angles. Even participated (with certificate) in pool swim across canal (aft pool late morning). Several people who took shore tours from Canal complained about length, heat, food, bathrooms ( availability, cleanliness, etc). Several said they would not recommend their tours, especially anyone with mobility issues. If you do Dolphin Encounter/Swim go to photo area immediately. They get backed up in a hurry. Make your selection, pay, and then go to gift shop, cafe, exhibits, etc. Go back and pick up photos, and they had package of 3 photos (1 framed), extra photos on USB. Atlantis submarine was great, even with people on canes. Tight fit, but everyone had access to window. Water was a little cloudy, but we saw dozens of varieties of fish & several wrecks. Costa Rican rainforest/tram ride was great, even for people with significant mobility issues. Great butterfly garden with lots of different varieties flying around. Wish you could have bought nectar and feed them like I have at other places. I got off ship in Colon, and found great shopping center within 150 ft of exit gate. Cross street and take a left. Cheap souvenir shops, restaurants, and large grocery store with great prices (many crew shopping). Billboard, Licoln Center, & BB King music great. Mainstage acts were excellent, especially comedian. Backstage tour good, but crowded. Took Galley tour, get there early. Digital workshops great, with handouts for every class. Some times extra handouts for other classes, but can get filled in a hurry. All classes Windows 10 based, but he sometimes could answer IPAD questions. I tried to go to several Test Kitchen programs, but seating fills up in a hurry. Did not attend any of the movies in small theater. All were available on room TV, with restrooms readily available (pause function works great. Even saw some long movies with break for food or beverages. Would go back on HAL & Zuiderdam anytime money allowed. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
We were invited to join this particular cruise because of some close friends participating with the Bells of the Cascades (a professional handbell group). We enjoyed the English bells of course. However, the ports of call, self arranged ... Read More
We were invited to join this particular cruise because of some close friends participating with the Bells of the Cascades (a professional handbell group). We enjoyed the English bells of course. However, the ports of call, self arranged excursions, meals and personalized service exceeded all our expectations. We made our reservations through a local travel agent and received several added perks, the best being a fine dining experience at the Pinnacle Grill. (You also can reserve lunch there!) Kudos to the Captain and entire staff. If you are lucky enough to have Wii and Ari as your room stewards, you are definitely in for extraordinary service and a delightful surprise every evening. I am an underwater photographer and brought on board all my dive and camera gear. Although my self arranged diving was very good, I will not bother with all the extra gear for just two days of diving on a ten day cruise. I will schedule a week long vacation at one of the islands we visited to have a more worthwhile diving trip experience. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
I was worrying before the cruise due to many negative reviews and feedback here regarding the ship and the cruise line itself. I think if someone is "hardly American or Canadian" should be a different category in the reviews. ... Read More
I was worrying before the cruise due to many negative reviews and feedback here regarding the ship and the cruise line itself. I think if someone is "hardly American or Canadian" should be a different category in the reviews. These people usually cannot recognize any kind of food but hamburgers and fried things. Every other food is just an "unknown thing" for them and after, they write a really negative review, mostly complain about the food. European cruise lines (HAL, MSC, Costa, NCL) are really different then Princess, Celebrity and especially Carnival. If you hate European food and don't like the European vibe and style - stay away from there companies and don't mislead others with your negative reviews. Zuiderdam is a little bit old ship and you can see some signs of her age (Carpets, walls in the elevators), but the staff tries their best to keep it clean and good condition. There is a lots of elderly person on board, not such much child you can see on MSC or Carnival. However HAL doesn't focus on families with children, there is enough activities and programs for children. My kids ( 8 and 11) loved the Club HAL and the pool area. Dining room staff entertained kids during every dinner, made their dining time funny and unforgettable. Embarkation and the check in is very well organized, it was very quick and smooth with only few minutes of wait. Our room steward was excellent, but I can say the whole crew on board was extremely nice and helpful. I have not experienced this kind of service before. The only negative I can say is the hotel service charge. HAL charges the same amount for kids and adults ($14.50 per person for a balcony stateroom). But, you can ask the customer service to reduce this amount or even remove every hotel service charge. We decided to make it zero and we gave cash for our steward and our dining room waiters. It was out first cruise with HAL, but not the last. I have already booked a new one on board for the summer break and I definitely recommend this cruise line for everyone who is not afraid of the European things. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose the Holland America Zuiderdam ship for our 2018 Christmas family vacation. The only reason I would give any stars for this cruise is for the room and dinning stewards who provided the utmost impeccable service. Cheers to all of ... Read More
We chose the Holland America Zuiderdam ship for our 2018 Christmas family vacation. The only reason I would give any stars for this cruise is for the room and dinning stewards who provided the utmost impeccable service. Cheers to all of you!!! However, Holland America Ships are severely lacking customer service, acommodations are poorly described. The cabin layout was terrible and considering this was a Holiday cruise, it severely lacked festive activities, entertainment and decorations. We were advised by Holland America the Zuideram Veranda Cabins accommodate 3-4 passengers. We had 3 in our cabin. However, to accommodate anymore than 2 passengers, access to the veranda balcony and bar fridge are "completely blocked" and they had to "remove furniture" from our cabin to make room for the 3rd person for the entire cruise. I guess the 4th person would have had a caught on the balcony because there is absolutely no room for a 4th person. This was extremely disappointing when we had paid the extra $2,000 to have a balcony cabin but couldn't access the door to get out onto the balcony. SAVE your money a book an Ocean View or Interior Cabin for a much lower rate. The Ship's Customer Service Relations were not helpful in providing any alternative nor compensation for the extra cost we paid to have a balcony we had no access to. There were minimal Christmas decorations throughout the ship not making it feel very festive for a holiday cruise. Santa came aboard the ship to visit the 40-50 children on board and gave them all a dollar store gift that broke within the day. We expected much more for a Holiday cruise considering the inflated cost for a cruise during this peak time. We would never consider Holland America for future Holiday cruises. PS to Smokers: there is only 1 smoking section on board and they refuse to let anyone smoke prior to the ship leaving port. It was a long 6 hour wait from the time we boarded to leaving port. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
This was my third HAL cruise in the past 3 years. Overall, I enjoyed it, but there were some serious flaws, and some expected impressive wins. SHIP- This is an older vessel, I was surprised by how some things were quite shabby ... Read More
This was my third HAL cruise in the past 3 years. Overall, I enjoyed it, but there were some serious flaws, and some expected impressive wins. SHIP- This is an older vessel, I was surprised by how some things were quite shabby especially since it was in dry dock recently. The wooden railings were very worn, the carpets were tattered and showing wear in the hallways especially. While onboard they seemed to be replacing all the stairs carpeting, and would do it at odd times. For example during dinner service one night they were replacing carpet between floors leading to the MDR floors, forcing everyone to take the elevator for the final flight(s) down? Strange. The furnishings were all nice and up-to-date. I especially liked the chairs and high tops in the Gallery Bar. CABIN- Had a veranda, aft. It had a very deep balcony, nice sized. New flat screen wall mounted TV, bathroom not updated. Beds are wonderful as ever, as they have been on HAL cruises in the past. Room was very clean and of course well kept by attendant. DINING- Main Dining Room was run very smooth, better than other cruises I've been on recently. We had any time dining, and never waited for a table regardless of size requested. The breakfast and lunch food was noticeably better than the dinner in regards to timing, temperature of food, and presentation. The lack of vegetarian main menu items was glaring. They offered only one entrée a night that was veg on main menu and it was either a pasta or a grain/veg combo every single night all 11 days. That was annoying. The Canaletto had great food, worth the upcharge. The Dive-In was my favorite and the Asia distant lands counter in the Lido was my 2nd favorite for casual dining. In room dining was hit or miss with the food quality, but it was always on time and we had no temperature problems. Wrote in things on breakfast card, and all but once we got what we asked for. ENTERTAINMENT- Only went to Mainstage a few times, it was better than years past but we went only on nights they had special performers. Don't care for the ships singers/dancers. Lincoln Center Stage was top-notch, each performance was only a half hour. America's Test Kitchen was good when the menu was strong. One class was tomato soup and grilled cheese; I don't need to hear how to make that or improve it. Very few O magazine events. Many sales pitches were listed as activities-- no thanks. Don't put in a event for me to attend and find out they are just trying to get me to go to the spa or pay for a trainer, or buy some jewelry or buy some art. Annoying and beneath HAL. SERVICE- Best we have had. PORTS- Great. Enjoyed each stop. EXC staff was dismal and some ports seriously lacked any good options so we went with private tours for one port. I prefer to book through ship. CHILDREN- very very few on ship. Probably less than 10. CROWDS- Ship felt overly crowded on sea days. Port days it felt especially empty and lacked things to do. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
First a bit of history. My husband and I are not retired and do not gamble. We are in our early 60’s and very active. This cruise was great! We have been on previous cruises but this was our first Holland American. The embarkation at FFL ... Read More
First a bit of history. My husband and I are not retired and do not gamble. We are in our early 60’s and very active. This cruise was great! We have been on previous cruises but this was our first Holland American. The embarkation at FFL was the smoothest we have ever experienced. Fast and organized. The food was wonderful on the Lido buffet but we were not too impressed with the main dining room’s food. My husband is diabetic and he was able to eat at both areas- just better/warmer/tastier at buffet Lido area. This is just the opposite of our view on the Carnival Cruise line. Carnival has better food in their seated dining area than their open buffet. IMO Royal Caribbean’s main dining and buffet were about the same. The overall food was best on HAL second on Carnival and then Royal Caribbean. But we never went hungry on any of them! The Zuiderdam has wonderful entertainment but caters to a older population so violins, piano, steel drums live music presentations were available (I loved them but my husband was just mildly impressed but he did like the magician and dancers). On the Zuiderdam there is no “hairy chest contest” or similar activities. They have great educational presentations, new movies in the screening room and the best TVs and in room free on demand movies ever! Zuiderdam’’s WIFi was about the same as all cruise lines, slow and you can get kicked off often. I was able to do the work I needed to though. We paid $189.00 for 11 days. We had room SS6073 with a great deck. Very quiet and lots of room. The Panama Canal was an amazing cruise and I would take this cruise again. We did the EXC all day excursion and it was wonderful but as others have mentioned you need to do it but only once! And don’t drink much before leaving the Zuiderdam- it could be almost three hours before you can use the facilities- depending on how fast they load the busses and if you have to wait in the non bathroom buss to clear the locks to go over them. The bathroom stalls are very small on the boat that you go through the locks on. I’m thin but tall so closing the stall door is challenging if you are big or tall... It’s very hot and humid! We went on Trikes (motorcycles) in Aruba (our second time) and it’s by far the best experience we have had! Booked online-private. There were two children (I only saw one but hubby thinks he saw another one) around 12 years old on this cruise. I’m sure they were board. This was a partial Panama Canal crossing but I was so impressed that we may do the whole crossing next year. We had anytime dining but did not eat in the dining room but 4 times and no waits. People on this cruise seem to be mostly retired but still enjoying life! Bottom line- if you want to party until dawn and eat their wonderful Lava cake- pick Carnival. If you are looking for a bit more relaxing and life enriching choices (in my opinion) chose HAL. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
Assigned to cabin 1029 on the Main Level of the Holland America Line (HAL) ms Zuiderdam, I had only a single flight of stairs from the boarding level (A) to climb. Picking the port side, I found myself walking past even-numbered rooms as I ... Read More
Assigned to cabin 1029 on the Main Level of the Holland America Line (HAL) ms Zuiderdam, I had only a single flight of stairs from the boarding level (A) to climb. Picking the port side, I found myself walking past even-numbered rooms as I walked to the bow. A short young man popped out of an inside room to ask if I needed assistance, and I replied I was doing a tour, as I was on the wrong side. He asked my room number, and surprised me to address me by name: Joe would be one of the two staff assigned to keeping my room up. After dropping some of my stuff from my backpack (toiletries, change of clothes, electronics), I climbed the stairs to the Lido deck (9) to get lunch. Deciding that a salad might be a good way to start the trip, I queued up, only to have them completely run out of lettuce with the person in front of me. After waiting 15 minutes, it was announced that the lettuce was then being brought on board, and would be unloaded during the afternoon. So I had a lettuce-free salad, taking my bowl out on the deck with a glass of water. Well, it was the wrong side, as the aft deck port side was the sole smoking area for the ship. I headed back inside and found a free seat, and had my salad. Skipping dessert, I walked to the bow and up to the observation deck (10) and made an inquiry regarding the specifics of the Panama City tour, and whether I might be able to skip lunch to spend more time at the cathedral. Then, since I’d purchased dinner upgrades, I took my reservations to the Pinnacle Dining Room (2) to book late meals for 5 of my 10 evenings. While I’d only bought 4, apparently getting the 6-bottle wine bundle earned me another. Then it was time to muster to the emergency stations (3). Unlike RCCL, HAL has you out on deck under the lifeboats. We were instructed to queue up rather than be in random groups, and then told to remain silent. The very short Pilipino responsible for our station was very strict and humorless, but I’d rather that we all did what was necessary should conditions require it. Once dismissed, I returned to my cabin to find my suitcase still hadn’t arrived. No cork puller in the room, although a HAL bottle of wine sat alongside the wine card. Another climb to the shops level (3) and I met the Catholic priest, Fr. Desmond, who would be saying Mass daily; I agreed to meet him at 5 that evening. Up to the spa (9) to see what was offered, and then a trip to check out the gym, on the same level. Time for Mass, so back to 3 and a full room. Fr. Desmond, of Metuchen, gave a short sermon, seemed to get a little lost during the order of prayer; the ship’s staff attending him provided him with a white chasuble, which I questioned. Meanwhile, the ship left port. Returning to my room, the suitcase had arrived. After unpacking into the shelves (ships don’t seem to have drawers, although I later found two drawers under the beds, filled with ship’s stuff I didn’t need.) I headed to the Gallery Bar (3) for a pre-diner beer and bought tickets for the two wine tastings I didn’t already have. At 7:45pm I headed to the main dining room for dinner. Assigned to table 234, there were 4 couples and me. A starter of spicy bean soup, scallops and a green salad, we seemed to be doing well. Mahi mahi for my main, however, lacked an umphf, needing more grill spices, as well as not being particularly tender. I opted for the cheese plate for dessert – four cheeses all too cold, and the bread had been removed. I got the first of my six bottles of wine, which we all had about 2/3rds of, with the remained left for the following evening. I headed back to the Gallery Bar for a cognac night cap. The lead bartender there is a Pilipina, a mother of a 4-month old whose husband became my favorite mixologist later in the trip at the Billboard Bar. Initially, as we got underway, my stomach felt a little queasy, so I put the elastic bands on my wrists to deter motion sickness. A bit of chocolate seemed to help, and I did find the that ship was pretty steady. I slept with the bands. I also had to get Joe to help with getting my room a bit warmer – it felt like an ice box with the low air conditioning setting. 26 November: Cruise Day 2 – Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Due to arrive at 8am, I looked out my window to see us approaching Half Moon Cay at 7:30. After cleaning up, I headed to sit-down breakfast, and was seated with a Dutch couple and 3 single women. Over steel-cut oatmeal and decaf coffee, we discussed plans and options for the day before heading to the tender for a ride to shore. With no plans, I began to stroll, walking as far as the stables on a road, and then walking along the beach until a sign prohibited further progress. Returning, I turned off the beach at the horse path “up the mountain”, looking for the purported ruins. There’s a picture of a stone which might have been used as a mortar. Back to the more populous area, I found the Lobster Shack and got my lobster roll and conch chowder which I’d ordered at dinner the night before. A couple sitting next to me turned out to be from Ft. Lauderdale, and were planning a cruise including Havana. I related my experiences and put them on to ViaHero for personalized concierge service. With little else to do on the island, I caught the launch back and took a nap. I’d removed my seasickness bands before my shower, and didn’t put them back on for the duration of the trip. While I still felt the rolling motion, I was stable enough with the occasional bite of chocolate. After my nap, I climbed to the foredeck (10), an enclosed space with a coffee bar, and found a seat to read until we got underway, taking a break to listen to the EXC guide give a talk on sea life. I continued to meet and talk with folks from all over. At dinner we had our first fallout – Stewart and Nora had rescheduled their dining to the early seating, as they found they couldn’t wait until nearly 8. My main was osso buco, which was fabulous. After dinner, back to the bar for a Napoleon cognac. (There is a promotion at the bar from 9:30 to 10:30, where your second round is $2. I just got doubles.) Photo link: Half Moon Cay 27 November: Cruise Day 3 – At Sea While underway, there was a time change, with clocks being set forward to accommodate eastern Caribbean time. Rousing a bit earlier, I made it to sit-down breakfast of corn beef hash and eggs. Interesting, they topped the hash patty with salsa. Next on my calendar was a meet-up with the CruiseCritic.com members. SueAnn had alerted me to this website, telling me that it was a great resource for anyone who might cruise. I signed up, found my particular cruise, and was helped by others who answered my newbie questions. A “meet and greet” was scheduled in the Billboard Lounge (3), near where evenings two young men entertained playing dual and dueling pianos. I shared one of my Shutterfly books because I’d raised a question regarding the cathedrals we’d see. From the meeting forward, I was known to about half the ship as “Cathedral Ken”. Having pre-purchased a “bottles of wine” plan, I was invited to a wine tasting in the afternoon. Figuring that I might not get enough dense food to eat sitting down, I climbed up to the Lido deck and stood in line for the pasta toss. Three young men worked skillets while singing just about everything – at least the choruses to pop songs. I got sun dried tomatoes, chicken, turkey, broccoli, zucchini, onion and garlic, with the meat sauce and some extra marinara on my pasta. That did the trick preparing for the wine tasting; I was full. Four wines: Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, Simi Chardonnay, R. Mondavi Pinot Noir and Boom Boom Shiraz. Jude, the head wine steward, walked the novice group through the tasting over about 30 minutes, doing a decent job. I did note that he does not have syrah in his vocabulary – all variations are the Australian version. A discovery I’d made the night before drew me back to Lincoln Center Onstage. Five young classical musicians were giving 3 performances daily, with the earliest repeated again in the later evening. That afternoon was a program of dance music, which this piano with string quartet played arrangements from the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake as well as Saint-Saëns’ Dying Swan. Attendance whenever I was on board became a regular item for me. Jude had invited the wine tasters to his 5pm wine pairing. Set on the Main level outside Guest Services, we bellied up to a bar or sat at small tables along the wall to enjoy an amuse bouche with one of two wines he had selected. The pumpkin crème with cilantro and sprouts was paired with a Beaujolais Village. With nearly 2 hours before my first upgraded dinner at Pinnacle, I walked down the hall to the cabin and had a half hour snooze. Freshening up, I grabbed a sports jacket and long pants before heading to the promenade deck to walk three laps (a mile) after I climbed to 10 and back. The members of quintet were playing again, this time music written by women, which included the expected Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann and Amy Beach, as well as Alicia Keys. Pinnacle does not seat to fill up a table – so I was seated by myself. After ordering my meal and wine, I slipped downstairs to get my ereader so that I would have something to slow down my dining. I started with Steak Tartare, followed by the rack of lamb with Brussel sprouts and grilled asparagus. I also asked for a small side of the pumpkin risotto, as I was curious as to how it tasted. (Bland.) The cheese plate was the same as in the main dining room. My wine was a nice cabernet sauvignon/sangiovese blend, served in a Riedel glass. After dinner I headed to the main stage for the singer/dancer presentation. A forty-minute show, there were 3 singers (soprano, tenor, baritone), 3 male dancers and 5 female dancers. I found the lighting effects pretty good, but I didn’t recognize about half the songs. Typical of US audiences, they were talkative throughout the entire show. 28 November: Day 4 – Oranjestad, Aruba The Zuiderdam was due in Aruba after lunch. I was up and presentable for sit-down breakfast and had regular oatmeal (still not hot enough) and a banana while dining with 5 others, including a couple from England. A mile walk around the promenade deck and then up to 10 to speak with Joann, the future cruise specialist. The prior evening a flyer with some of the more exotic longer cruises was left on the bed. I was intrigued enough to see what the single supplement rate was: 50, 80 or 100%, depending on cruise and cabin. For the trip I’d been curious about, a 77-day voyage around South America in a cabin similar to the one I was in would run about $25K! As I hadn’t signed up for the Internet package, I wasn’t able to look at the itinerary in detail vis a vis ports-of—call and cathedral locations. Besides, I really don’t think I could take two and a half months in a small room, and I really don’t feel any need to visit Antarctica. Sit-down lunch was limited to fish and chips and shortened hours. Joining me as we exited from the ship were a couple Olga and Fernando, who became fast friends and joined our dinner table as more attrition occurred. We split at the pier, and I used Google Maps to guide me to the cathedral. From the outside, the taupe with teal and coral highlights on the single tower church were appealing. I feared that the school bus out front might make my picture taking difficult, but it was soon away. The interior was having work done – air conditioning was being added under the balconies. Simple, there is no bishop’s throne as this is a pro-cathedral (the diocese is ruled from Willemstad in Curaçao.) After being inside, I was able to speak with a couple of teachers at the church school, both non-native. Leaving the church, I did a bit of a wander, as it felt very safe in town. I didn’t book a tour, as most seemed to be related to visiting beaches or circumnavigating the small island. I saw some interesting black&white graffiti on a building with a parking lot. I’d heard at a talk that much of the building construction was natural rock, covered with stucco. Down near the port was the larger Dutch Protestant church with a very tall tower. Along many of the walkways were the blue fiberglass horses, a symbol for Aruba. I wandered the market, and wound up picking up a diamond stud – a bit bigger than the canary I’d collected in 1995 in Antwerp. After boarding the ship, I went to the Ocean Bar and ran into a woman passenger named Mary. She is 82, and doing this trip three times back-to-back. My second glass of wine (the $2 one) she had before she headed up to dinner. After her departure, I caught a brief nap while I tried to get my phone to Bluetooth to my tablet. (No go.) Cell coverage wasn’t terrific in the room, as I faced away from the port. At dinner, Karen and Howard suggest I join them for the next days’ martini tasting once we returned to the ship in Curaçao. We also went to the B.B. King All Stars show and stayed for two sets. Great music! Photo link: Aruba 29 November: Day 5 – Willemstad, Curaçao We would have a short stay in Curaçao: arriving at 8am and leaving at 4pm. Getting a cheese omelet at buffet dining on the Lido deck, I was out on the pier awaiting my EXC tour promptly. We boarded a bus and after passing a cemetery, headed to the Museum of Curaçao, a nice classic old building with examples of Colónial furniture and a polka dot kitchen (to confuse the flies.) I found the carillon of interest, and strolled the yard. Next off to the salt flats where we saw a good number of flamingos, having passed the up-thrust lime cliffs. After passing the Hato airfield, we arrived at Kuebe di Hato, a cave complex which we had to climb up to enter. Photography is restricted to specific chambers to avoid startling the bats. We returned to town, passing the oil refineries to stop at the “Genuine Curaçao Distillery”, where we were able to try the local version of triple sec. This orange-flavored liqueur comes in clear and 4 colors (red, blue, green, yellow) and there are chocolate and coffee flavored versions as well. These latter make a great Mudslide. Returning to the port, I got a few shots of the high bridge before walking the pontoon bridge to the taxi stand. Highway robbery is the way there, as I had to pay $50 for a 45-minute trip to the Landhuis Bloemhof gallery. An illuminated labyrinth with walls made from the local thorn plant, the Cathedral of Thorns, sits on a concrete base. I met Herman Van Bergen, who conceived of the structure, using the native thorns which grew after the mahogany had been harvested. The artist is including religious and cultural images in the thorn panels as he strives towards completion next year. My Jamaican woman taxi driver returned me to the taxi stand, instead of the cathedral as I’d requested, so I used Google Maps again to guide me along the water to the cathedral. Feeling doomed, a pink trolley car was parked out front, but that turned out to be a blessing. The tour guide had a key to the front doors, so I was able to enter and get my inside photos, and then outside photos after they left. Next on my agenda was the synagogue. Mikve Israel-Emanuel is the oldest Jewish temple in the western hemisphere. The floor is sand (to remind one of the 40-years in the Sinai desert), and there is an organ in the “loft”, indicating a reformed congregation (and reminding me of the synagogue I visited in Budapest last year.) There is a lovely two-floor museum (no photography) and some tombstones in the foyer. Returning to the pontoon bridge, I crossed and headed to the St. Ann’s Basilica, a co-cathedral. Per the web, this is one of the world’s smallest basilicas. The street gates at both sides were closed and locked, so I was unable to enter. My walk took me deeper into the non-tourist part of Willemstad, as far as the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. Still, the houses were painted in brilliant colors. On board with enough time, I freshened up after turning over my boxes of Curaçao liqueur samplers to security and headed to the wine pairing, where shrimp with corn flake coating was featured. Off to the Billboard bar for martini tasting – lemon drop, guava and blue Curaçao flavorings. My dinner was again at Pinnacles, where I started with a mushroom amuse bouche that was superb. Deciding to stick to fish, the crab cake appetizers were fair, but the cioppino was wonderful. I had a vanilla souffle to wrap up the meal. My wine was a white blend from Franciscan. My nightcap was Drambuie on the rocks. Photo link: Curaçao 30 November: Day 6 – At Sea Overnight we recovered the hour as we moved back to Eastern Standard Time. Trying something different for sit-down breakfast, I asked for the banana bread French toast. No great flavors, but very filling. After a climb to 10, I returned to the main stage for an EXC talk on the Panama Canal in preparation for the next day. Climbing again to 10, I shared the Cathedral of Thorns information with the EXC guides, as they had not heard of it, and it would give them something to share for someone who was returning to Curaçao. The ship invited the frequent cruisers to an early lunch in the main dining room, so my dates with Mary and her friend Janice were squashed. While I tried to find them at our rendezvous, I was left alone, so I climbed again to the Lido to get the pasta toss, as there would be a 10-wine tasting walkaround at the Billboard Lounge at 2. At lunch I spoke with Olga and Fernando and we set up a date to meet after our respective tours in Panama to cab to the cathedral in Colón. The hour-long wine tasting showcased a red and a white from the countries of France, Spain, Australia, Canada and Italy. The French white (George Dubouf Macon Village) was my favorite of the bunch, with the blush from Canada being my dog. There were probably about 40 participants. I headed to the cabin for a nap, and then joined the wine pairing, which featured a salmon tartare. While there I met a landscaper from Maine who labored under the misinformation that one needed to be age 55 to buy a home in my hometown of Venice! Couldn’t convince him anyhow. Then off to the martini bar where I met up with Howard and Karen for a ginger lemon drop, followed by two more froufrou samplings. Dining in the main dining room required men to wear long pants, so I went and changed, and grabbed the Powell Hill Pinot Noir, the bottle of wine which I had brought on board to share at dinner. 1 December: Day 7 – Panama, Panama City and Colón Because we would be approaching the breakwater before the entry into the Panama Canal at 6:30am, I was up at 6 and on Deck 4 shortly thereafter. Fortunately, we’d gained an hour overnight as we sailed into Central Standard Time. Coffee and rolls were served under a tent, and all the chairs had been snagged much earlier. Slowly the ship approached the almost completed twin-tower suspension bridge. Off the port side was Colón, with the cathedral barely visible in the haze. Gradually we cruised between the bridge supports while easily passing underneath. As we approached the first of the Gatun locks, we watched the Turandot, a container ship, maneuver into the lock alongside. A large cruise ship was ahead of her in the third lock. As the gates to our lock opened, a frenzied crowd angled for shots with their cameras. Alongside the “mules”, small trains, came to guide the Zuiderdam on its passage. Once the Panamanian pilot began to position us in the lock, I descended to the promenade deck to get a better shot of our close fit and the mules. Down into my cabin, I took a shot out the window of the lock walls. Once forward motion was halted, the ship slowly began rising in the lock. This was repeated twice more, and I scrambled up to the Lido deck for a shot back to the Caribbean, and then to the Observation deck for a view into Gatun Lake. The dam which formed the lake was off to starboard. Once we were in the lake, the tenders were launched and tour groups were called to offboard. Once at the pier, we were loaded into a bus and then we took off for the “new” locks – considerably longer and wider, with baffles that allow them to recycle 70% of the water. After a rest stop, we crossed the continental divide and began a descent towards the Pacific Ocean. High rise towers came into sight, even as we approached the ruins of Vieja Panamá. Our guide seemed to find it important to point out every occurrence of an American multinational, repeatedly calling every McDonalds the US Embassy. A break for a buffet lunch with chicken stew, rice, salad and a plantain, we soon continued to the historic center city. Here we got out and began our 2-hour stroll of that part of this huge city. Of particular interest to me was the Metropolitan Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop Primate for Panama. The cathedral was closed. It had been open for one day the week earlier after an extensive cleanup and restoration had been completed. Now the rest of us will have to wait until February to enter, once Pope Francis visits in January. Our walk took us by both well kept and rundown building facades, shops, plazas and a waterfront promenade. Off across a coral flat were high rise towers, and opposite in the haze was the TransAmerican Highway bridge. A monument to the French, the initial builders of the canal is topped with a cock. After some shopping and personal exploring, we returned to our bus and began the 90-kilometer trip to the port in Colón. As we arrived at 6pm, the ship was just tying up, having been held up exiting from the canal. So with about 8 tour buses full of guests wanting to get back on the ship, and another 200 who had stayed on the ship wanting to explore a port, there was a bitt of confusion and rather long lines. I was looking for Olga and Fernando so we could cab to the cathedral. After about an hour, I opted to go myself, arriving after dark. Mass was underway, so I limited my picture taking to outside and that one telephoto shot of the celebrant and altar boy with the cathedra behind. When I returned to the ship, the lines were gone and I was quickly back on board. My impression of Colón was very unfavorable – most of what I saw was warehouse and industrial space, with roads in a very poor state and filthy. Having seen it, I understood why the guides I’d corresponded with advised against walking to the cathedral or even leaving the immediate port area. After cleaning up, I headed to the Ocean Bar outside the dining room for a glass of wine. Bringing the fourth of my Shutterfly books to share with my tablemates, I looked forward to my last night in the dining room. I had upgrade dinners planned for my last 3 nights. While seated at the bar, several of the older women I had assisted while touring Panama came up and thanked me for my help – made me feel great. Dinner started with just Karen, Howard and me. I went to see if Olga and Fernando had sat at their regular table, but it was empty. A full table near us, on inquiring what I was looking for, suggested I ask another couple sitting alone a big table to join us, so I did. They were Ken and Barbara. Shortly thereafter, Olga and Fernando joined us, so we were 7. They had been held up by their tour, as they “lost” a guest. It turned out the guest had returned on a different bus, and the ship didn’t know until the 90-minute return had dropped him off. They arrived about the time the ship was to leave! Onion soup to start, since almost everyone had tried it and approved of it. I found it needing seasoning. Beef for my main, but an order of the squab for the table, which was dry and tough. Best part of the chocolate mousse was the dark chocolate shell it was served in, but the rhubarb tart was yummy. To finish, a Rusty Nail to enjoy with the show in the Billiards Lounge. Photo link: Panama and Colón 2 December: Day 8 – Puerto Limón, Costa Rica For some strange reason, I not only didn’t journal about this Sunday, but I didn’t even make some notes on the following day. It was a short distance from Colón to Limón, so we were in port by 8am. I had booked a tour of the Tortuguero Canals, so I go off the ship and went to the gathering location. Once again, the Dutch were fairly strict about single-person lines, but we were soon on a bus. I had boarded with the initial group, and found a clean window to sit at; when a late arriving couple joined us as we were ready to leave, I was asked to move to an inside seat and said no. The guide chose to yield his seat in front. [Why a couple needs to be constantly joined at the hip still amazes me!] In any case, we got to the open air boats and took seats. The guide and navigator spotted various wildlife as we cruised north towards Guatemala, and we all scrambled to get a picture. While I can’t remember the names of all that I’ve included in the pictures, the first hairy animal in the tree is a three-toed female sloth, which is followed by a picture of howler monkeys and then another 3-toed sloth. The green lizard is a “Jesus Christ” lizard, as it cups air in its hands which allows it to run across the surface of the water. That’s a two-toed sloth in the picture before the railroad bridge. Photo link: Tortuguero Canals On our way back we paused at the entry to a banana plantation. Our guide explained how cultivation has changed, and that bananas are now fertilized by man and manipulated to yield bigger harvests. Once fertilized and trimmed, the fruit grows in the blue plastic bags. As we approached the port, I spotted the dome and tower of the cathedral in the city. Once we left the bus, I crossed through the large air-conditioned (tourist) selling area and headed outside. Despite warnings that I’d need a guide (from the group of guides standing idly by), Google Maps was right on getting through the rectilinear street layout to the church about 8 blocks away. Open air and somewhat dark inside, the nave is breezy and the high ceilings slope to focus the attention to the altar. When I got back to the ship and stood on the Lido deck at the stern, I was able to get an aerial shot of the tower. As we left the harbor, out to sea was the island Columbus had anchored at on his fourth trip, as he never quite made it to land although his crew did. Being both Sunday and the anniversary of my mother’s birth, I again attended Mass on board. Father Desmond wore green (which would have been appropriate the week before) and not purple for the first Sunday of Advent. I had changed to a purple polo, so gave him a bit of razing. He said, “God is colorblind!” Then on to the Martini tasting, and following that to Lincoln Center Stage for music “From Piaf to Peanuts.” My dining arrangements took me to the Pinnacle, but for an even more upgraded experience at Rudi’s, a seafood grill. Again, they seated me by myself, so my ereader provided companionship. Wine steward Jude came and heard what I would order, and headed off to find me an appropriate wine. Two appetizers, foie gras and bouillabaisse were both wonderful, and went nicely with the Austrian Gruner Vertliner. I had thought to have two mains, but the duck cassoulet was enormous and so filling I cancelled the red snapper. Dessert of profiteroles was overkill – five puff pastry and a boule of vanilla ice cream, doused with dark melted chocolate. Sated, I waddled down to the main stage to watch the illusionist entertain. Photo link: Limón 3 December: Day 9 – At Sea Overnight we again gave back the extra hour as we moved clocks to match the time in Florida. Breakfast was with three women from the Northwest – one a Canadienne from Vancouver. I’d talked with them all prior to breakfast, but still we had a lot to discuss, particularly Panama and Limón. I had come into the dining room in slip-ons, so I returned to get closed shoes as I wanted to join the kitchen tour. While we were shepherded past various cooking and prep stations, we heard about how they prepare meals for up to 2000 people. At the end we were offered a small vegetarian appetizer. Only a few steps away was the America’s Test Kitchen space (shared with B.B. King’s All Stars in the dark hours) where we learned about making gnocchi and then creamy polenta. No samples here, as it wasn’t a certified kitchen! No notes about lunch, but I had another wine tasting after that – this time the premium tasting. Sit down, with Riedel glasses and appropriate foods, we started with a sparkling wine (Valmar) to clear the palate. This was followed with Veuve Clicquot champagne (Brut) and a Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay (’16 RRV.) The chardonnay was initially poured into a standard dining wine glass, and then we transferred it to the appropriate Riedel glass. All appreciated the improved taste in the Riedel glass. Similarly, the Labouro-Roi Pommard and the David Lake Doyenne 2013 Aix red blend went through tasting in different glasses. Because we were close by, I caught the end of the Lincoln Center Stage recital, a program I’d heard earlier on the cruise which ended with the finale to Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. Off to the cabin for a nap until the wine pairing, followed by the martini mixology fun. Brahms was to be featured at the recital before I went to Pinnacle, so I was I a truly mellow mindset when I joined Karen and Howard. The shrimp cocktail was standard, but the 10-ounce filet mignon was perfection. We shared my last bottle from my package, leaving some for my last dinner. We strolled down to mainstage, but I only stayed a short while before retiring to my cabin to read. 4 December: Day 10 – At Sea The American breakfast started my day. Then I climbed the stairs to the Observation deck to share the Iberian trip Shutterfly book with the guides. After checking the lunch menu at the dining room, I decided I’d rather replay the pasta toss for lunch. Another nap until an encore presentation by the Island Magic Steel Band on the main stage. Brilliant musicians, their last numbers were Amazing Grace bleeding into The Saints Go Marching In, and closed with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Not a dry eye in the house. Needing to check attire requirements at Canaletto’s’, I climbed t the Lido deck and was advised that long pants are required. Back down to the Promenade deck for a pair of laps, spotting flying fish off the starboard bow. Then to Lincoln Center Stage, at which point I stopped journaling. Since I had a pattern, I know that after the concert I’d head to the wine pairing, then to martini time. Dinner Italian style involved veal and sage polpettine (meatballs), ravioli al gamberi (garlic shrimp ravioli, shellfish brandy cream sauce), beef short ribs brasato barolo and a delicious torte caprese al limone. I grabbed my dessert and brought it down to the dining room so I could say goodbye to my table mates. Ken and Bonnie had returned (original tablemates, they’d disappeared Day 3 or 4), Ken and Barbara were back, as were Olga and Fernando to join with the anchor couple, Karen and Howard. Photo link: Cruise Food 5 December: Debarking and return home As I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be early, I chose a late departure, which gave me a chance to have one last breakfast onboard. Since I’d enjoyed the oatmeal, albeit cooler than I’d like, I opted for it once again. I’d packed my bag and put it outside the room the night before, so all I needed to do was gather up the incidentals into my backpack. I knew that I probably shouldn’t do too much screen time as I needed to drive once I recovered my car, so I just relaxed until it was time to go to the lounge to wait to be called. Probably 10 minutes later, I was heading down a gangplank, waving my passport at Immigration and finding my big blue roller. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
I chose the Zuiderdam because I had cruised on it in 2013 and had a fabulous time. This was my 6th, but my sisters 1st cruise. We were celebrating each of us turning 60, me the year before. We were so excited, but that did not last, as we ... Read More
I chose the Zuiderdam because I had cruised on it in 2013 and had a fabulous time. This was my 6th, but my sisters 1st cruise. We were celebrating each of us turning 60, me the year before. We were so excited, but that did not last, as we slowly discovered that Holland Americas cruises are a mere shadow of what they used to be. The ship itself is still beautiful and as always the crew are always ready and eager to please. I could not have asked for more as far as service. Sal and Donny, our room stewards were the best I've ever had! And every single service person was fantastic. Now the not so good to bad. There was constant maintenance going on. Buzzing and drilling, sometimes at 8 or 9 am! At one point they were treating the wood where the pool is at the height of the day when people were sunning and swimming and the stuff they used had a strong chemical odor. Unacceptable! I know stuff needs to be done, but I have never been on a cruise where it was constant and interfered with the cruise enjoyment. The Lido Deck seemed to always have stations closed so the food variety was limited and it was closed way more than it should be. The food was for the most part just okay. Sometimes it was great, but for the most part it was mediocre to tasteless. The dining room food was the same. Nothing to write home about. In room dining was a challenge. Especially at night after 12. We would sometimes be put on hold for 15 minutes and then just give up. We were told that there were only 2 people on at night, one preparing, one delivering! Are you kidding? 2 people to service a ship with almost 2000 people! Again.....unacceptable! During the day it was pretty much the same offering of things to do day after day. And I was not at all happy that any activity we chose seemed to be a commercial promoting something to buy. I went for the morning stretch and was asked to do an imprint of my feet. The stretch (it was very good) turned into a commercial for the product Goodfeet! Anti aging talks were commercials for skincare. They even do botox and fillers! And teeth whitening! Oh brother! My sister got 2 massages and that is because the masseuse was incredible. I had a sample when I got a mini neck and head massage. Yes, they were fantastic! The casino staff were wonderful and helpful. Daytime activities were pretty repetitious and boring. The computer "expert" was anything but. Now to the entertainment.........or lack there of....... I don't know who came up with the idea of "The Music Walk", but they should be fired. Night after night it was the same. The BB King Allstars, were very good, but every night they played the same songs and by the middle of the cruise you could tell that even THEY were bored! And that was the only choice for dancing. One club. The Classical musicians were fabulous and did play a variety of offerings. Then we come to "Billboard Onboard" featuring something I assume was supposed to be like the movie The Fabulous Baker Boys, with 2 Baby Grands face to face. Unfortunately their voices and playing were mediocre at best. The singing was pretty bad, so off key and not just a little. I will say that the crowd, which as I mentioned in the title of this review were an average of 70+, seemed to really like them. I just couldn't get past the poor vocals. And finally we come to the Mainstage entertainment. The Ship Singers and Dancers were sub par. The 3 vocalists were just not good. The shows were boring. The female singer had zero passion and sang off key consistently. One of the male vocalists was okay, the other one was also off key a lot. 2 of the dancers were fantastic and full of passion and enthusiasm, the rest of them could have phoned it in. So mechanical! Such a complete disappointment! The guest entertainment was a mixed bag. Island Magic Steel Drums were superb! I absolutely loved them! Thomas John, the comedian was side splitting funny. Love love loved him! I was so looking forward to the magician and so, was a bit disappointed. He was okay, but his delivery was awful. He would preface each trick or illusion by telling us how great it was going to be or how we were going to be talking about it the rest of the night or the cruise for that matter. Really? He laughed at his own jokes which were far from funny. I will say that some of his illusions were good and his little dogs were adorable. Also, there were no passenger participation activities! Specifically a talent show. This was the first cruise I was on where they didn't have, at the very least, Karaoke! What a complete bummer! Our Shore excursions, two with Holland, two with vacations to go were great. I will not be going on another Holland America Cruise, even though my Mariner status went up a notch. They have gone so far downhill. They are nothing like I remember. They have gone from 5 star to 2 star. Everything but the incredible service of the crew has suffered.They have become a series of commercials for various items for sale. My next cruise will be on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
First time with this cruise company mainly because we wanted to see the Panama canal in action. From start to finish the cruise was faultless in every aspect. Every destination were worth the visit, with interesting things to see ... Read More
First time with this cruise company mainly because we wanted to see the Panama canal in action. From start to finish the cruise was faultless in every aspect. Every destination were worth the visit, with interesting things to see made more special by excellent tour guides. The cruise staff from top (the captain especially who regularly walks around) to bottom were all happy, efficient and always there to help. Food was excellent and fine dining was true to its word. The most important and impressive part of this cruise company is the fact that they have brought the old style of cruising to the present day. Guests are more sophisticated and pleasant to talk too. I know this might sound snobby but this is not the cruise for you if you like to party till 4am and make noise!! String quartet, piano bar, band, singers and dancers first class. Excellent gym and knowledgeable staff. Food is served by staff everywhere, therefore better for hygiene and waste control. Thank you to all and will look forward to our next cruise. Better than Norwegian, Costa and on par with Royal Caribbean. Read Less
Zuiderdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.5 4.1
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 3.5 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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