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
7 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
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
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
3 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
7 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
7 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
4 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
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 3.8
Family 2.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.5 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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