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  #1  
Old September 12th, 2004, 03:24 PM
mom-of-three mom-of-three is offline
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Default Family of five aboard the Zuiderdam 8/28

Thanks to all the helpful reviews on this and other boards. We got a lot of great information and helpful hints.

We had a wonderful time. It was our best cruise ever! We were in connecting cabins 1069 and 1065. I (age 43) was traveling with my husband (age 44), daughter (age 15), son (age 11) and another son (age 5). The connecting ocean view cabins worked out wonderfully for my family. The cabins were nice, the beds comfortable, and the location was great. We were cruising with another family, with one daughter (age 16) and son (age 12). They had an inside cabin 1015.

Great things on the cruise:

1) The entertainment – it was fabulous. I never laughed so much in my life. Edge (juggler), Julie Barr (comedian), Bob the magician, and Joel the singer (Elton John impersonator) were great.

2) The entertainment – I repeat this. With additional days at sea and a canceled port day, they kept things fun and added new shows.

3) The Indonesian staff. What warm and gracious people work this ship. Every request was greeted with a smile. They were truly wonderful to my children as well and got to know my children by name. What a welcome contrast to our prior carnival cruise, were the kids were ignored when trying to get a soda. My kids all felt special and welcomed.

4) Hunky Dory – How does he remember so many names?

5) Club Hal. If my kids are happy, my husband and I can be happy. My daughter wants now to work on a cruise ship. The Zuiderdam carried 200 children on this voyage. My daughter loved the teen activities and went to most of them. My older son and his friend liked club Hal, but were a bit annoyed at the 9 year olds who sometimes got too wild and “wrecked” the games for them and wanted some older activities. The boys loved the night entertainment, and soon were going early to get seats. My 5 year old son is a bit shy and took a while to warm up to the staff. Club Hal let me stay with him while he played playstation, so he could get used to things. By the end of the cruise he was staying an hour in the a.m., 2 ½ hours in the afternoon and 2 ½ hours in the evening. Overall, all three children were upset to leave the cruise and said it had been the best vacation they had ever had.

6) Half Moon Cay – As beautiful as reported. Watch the sun. My friend from India, got burned for the first time ever in her life. She underestimated the Caribbean sun and didn’t put sun block on.

Not so good things on the cruise:

1) Lack of laundry facilities. Anything that got wet – stayed wet even though we hung it on the wash line in the bathtub. Then it began to stink. They had a special $45 unlimited laundry deal, but you had to sign up for it by the end of the second day, and we noticed it too late. We took advantage of the $12 a bag laundry, but still had stinky shirts.

2) Hurricane Frances. I still will cruise during hurricane season. It is far better to be in a ship, which can stay out of the way of a hurricane, than it is to be caught on land during a vacation. We never had rough seas. I think we were always safe (except, I am not sure how close we were in Tortola – it was kind of scary in town, everyone had their radios broadcasting the emergency information). We didn’t get to do any of the shore excursions we wanted to do. All the boats were in dry dock in Tortola and St. Thomas. We missed out on the Virgin Gorda Baths, and Trunk Bay in St. Johns. The only shore excursion which wasn’t cancelled was the dolphin swim, but it should have been. Other boats dropped these ports and added others. Not sure if HA could have done better. Perhaps HA is the stepchild of the Caribbean, since it only has one boat, or Seattle was slow to react to the weather in the Caribbean or this was the best that could be done. We were happy enough except in Tortola.

3) Dolphin Swim in Tortola (due to Hurricane Frances) - My daughter swam in thunder and lightning. (I know, I know, I could have made my own decision about this). Holland America could have made it optional, so at least the $140 wouldn’t have been a part of the decision. We decided to go, and hope the storm would let up (duh - - it was the leading edge of the hurricane), then once there it was hard to be the only one to say, no you’re not going into the water. HA shore excursions told me, after the fact, that it really was safe, since the dolphin cove is in an area with trees surrounding, and the tour operator wouldn’t run the tour if it wasn’t safe. I didn’t really buy this. Does anyone have an opinion about this? Other than that, it is a great excursion. I highly recommend it! You can easily do this on independently. It is a few minutes cab ride from the dock. Don’t let them sell you the video for $50. They tried this, when no one wanted to by at $50, they gave us a bad weather discount for $30. When I went on their web site after returning, it is advertised at $30. They also told us that a couple going alone after us weren’t from our boat (they were – I had talked to them while my daughter was in the water).

4) Internet charges (due to Hurricane Frances) – Wrote 2 or 3 e-mails home, to let people know we were safe; also wrote Disney to cancel hotel arrangements, changed car arrangements, and booked new hotel, to the tune of $75 in internet charges. We were lucky our flight wasn’t until Tuesday since we had planned to stay a few days extra. Many people were scrambling to change plane reservations twice. I am glad I wrote home, because my sister said Holland America was the last cruise to post information regarding the hurricane.

5) Shore excursion staff – They were nice and probably would have been wonderful without Frances. They didn’t know whether the public ferry was running to St. John’s. It was. Or whether Trunk bay beach was open to snorkeling (sounds like it wasn’t according to a previous post). We decided to play it safe and take a cab to Sapphire beach. We had a good time. The snorkeling was good, but I would recommend taking your own snorkeling gear. They only had about 15 masks and that were functioning. They never had any available, and they would tell everyone to come back in 15 minutes and never kept any kind of list. Eventually, I had to hang out at the snorkel shack and make sure they gave me the next mask and fins.

All said we had a fabulous time! It would have been the perfect time, without Hurricane Frances.

A side comment… if you don’t want to see kids, don’t cruise the Zuiderdam during the summer. Our school didn’t start until September 9th. The Zuiderdam with Club Hal, many connecting cabins, bargain rates, family oriented entertainment will appeal to many families. Most of these families will have children who are well behaved, but a few will not. Many people smiled and talked to my children. One elderly couple joined my older son and his friend for lunch and had a nice time. On the negative side, one couple frowned and looked disgruntled because my two sons on the lido deck near the center pool waved at an incoming tender and said “Hi ” because they were excited their sister was coming in with another family. This was while my husband supervised them. Also one couple looked very upset that my 5 year old son came to the atrium bar to get a soda with me. I assured them that we would be leaving as soon as he got his soda. I would never ruin a couple’s quiet time in a quiet place. They told me how spoiled children are now. I told them that my son was excited because he never gets soda at home and he is allowed one a day on the ship. For the most part, the passengers of the ship were very nice and tolerant of a little controlled youthful exuberance, and parents were watchful of their children.

All I am asking is for people who don’t like children to have a little patience, and not assume the worst, especially when a child is accompanied by an adult. I have been shocked by a few of the hateful posts about children on the board (people saying things like throwing kids overboard, target practice and the like). That is scary.

That said, there are bad parents and because of that there are some misbehaving kids. I did see one couple who were at the aft lido pool bar at 1p.m. drinking. They were having their six or seven year old supervise their three or four year old around the pool. Yikes! Two other unaccompanied children of about 9 and 7 years of age were pretty wild in the pool and there were no parents around. I’m not saying all parents or kids are good or bad, but don’t rush to judgment.

O.K. I am off my soap box. If anyone has any questions about the Club Hal activities, feel free to post. I have the activity list for each age group.

Caroline

Holland America Zuiderdam 8/04
Carnival Triumph 8/02
Sun Princess 12/95
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  #2  
Old September 12th, 2004, 04:10 PM
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gliles gliles is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mom-of-three
My daughter swam in thunder and lightning. (I know, I know, I could have made my own decision about this). Holland America could have made it optional, so at least the $140 wouldn’t have been a part of the decision. We decided to go, and hope the storm would let up (duh - - it was the leading edge of the hurricane), then once there it was hard to be the only one to say, no you’re not going into the water. HA shore excursions told me, after the fact, that it really was safe, since the dolphin cove is in an area with trees surrounding, and the tour operator wouldn’t run the tour if it wasn’t safe. I didn’t really buy this. Does anyone have an opinion about this?
I consider myself a good Mom and I probably would have made the same decision as you. Yes HAL could have offered a refund but I do believe they are concerned about safety. I can't imagine telling one of my kids at that age that they would be able to swim with dolphins then tell them no. All's well that ends well.
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  #3  
Old September 12th, 2004, 05:15 PM
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Thanks for your review, I enjoyed reading it.

Can you tell me more about the dolphin swim at Tortola?
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  #4  
Old September 12th, 2004, 06:02 PM
mom-of-three mom-of-three is offline
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Thanks gliles and gizmo for your nice responses. The prior post was my first post.

Here's the info on the dolphin swim.
The dolphin excursion is held at a place called dolphin discovery (web site www.dolphindiscovery.vg). The compound is very nice looking and clean. There is a brief information session, then the dolphin swim. During the dolphin swim, the customers were divided into groups of ten and put in different areas or dolphin pens. The ten people stood on a metal platform in the ocean in about waist deep water. The dolphin went down the row to each person, first for a kiss on your cheek, then you could kiss the dolphin back, and then raise the dolphin up on his two fins and he bobbed back and forth treading water. Then each person swam out into the water and grabbed hold of one fin and then the other, and the dolphin pulled the person into the platform while swimming upside down (you were kind of on its’ belly). Then the whole group went out into the deep and the dolphin sang, and swam around the group and danced with the group. The dolphin waved to the group (for an unexpected splash) and the dolphin swam back and forth many times letting the group feel its belly. The instructors told you what signals to do. The dolphin also did the classic leaps out of the water.

My daughters group had one dolphin; the other group swam with two dolphins. This was luck of the draw. Both groups had a great time from young kids (8 or 9 – I forget the youngest age allowed) to people 50 – 60 years old. Just about everyone said it was one of the best experiences of their lives. Afterward, you got to view the custom video for sale.

For $20 you could do a ride along and watch them, which I did. I also didn’t bring a camera, because somewhere I had read that you couldn’t. Guess what? Ignore that instruction if you are a ride along. Everyone else brought theirs, got great shots, and didn’t have to pay the very expensive price for a photograph. You can’t take photos if you are in the water, because the camera could get knocked off the dock and could injure the dolphins if they ate pieces of them. A 5X7 photo costs $12.





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Old September 12th, 2004, 06:34 PM
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Krazy Kruizers Krazy Kruizers is offline
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Glad you had a great time on the Zuiderdam.

Sounds like your children enjoyed it - including the extra days.
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Old September 12th, 2004, 07:01 PM
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" Internet charges (due to Hurricane Frances) – Wrote 2 or 3 e-mails home, to let people know we were safe; also wrote Disney to cancel hotel arrangements, changed car arrangements, and booked new hotel, to the tune of $75 in internet charges. We were lucky our flight wasn’t until Tuesday since we had planned to stay a few days extra. Many people were scrambling to change plane reservations twice. I am glad I wrote home, because my sister said Holland America was the last cruise to post information regarding the hurricane"

We were on the Caribbean Princess during this same time and Princess made all phone calls from the ship and the internet complimentary as soon as it was determined that we could not return to port on time. Princess treated their people right.

I read on the Carnival board that they were also charged for this.
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Old September 12th, 2004, 10:25 PM
Dotsie Dotsie is offline
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I was on the same cruise and my internet charges were also very high.


This is a copy/paste from the RCCI boards from someone sailing on the Navigator the same week:

~~~~Another thing I was not charged for were the phone charges, I called my husband at home from my stateroom phone several times, no charges! Nothing on my sea pass bill and I checked my home phone account on line and no charges there either! So 4 or 5 phone calls at $7.95 a minute-with no charge is superb! ~~~~

Dotsie
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Old September 13th, 2004, 08:54 AM
kelelmel kelelmel is offline
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Hey Caroline,
Thanks for the great post. Sorry to hear that you experienced some negativity towards the young-ins. I don't have kids but always try to remember that we, too, were all kids at some point!
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Old September 13th, 2004, 11:18 AM
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Caroline-

Thanks for the great review! You family definately took lemons and made them into lemonade!!!

It is unfortunate that a few bad parents could give the rest of us parents and children a bad name. A child will behave as he is taught to behave, and unfortunately there are those that will allow their kids to run wild as it is their (the parents) vacation!! My kids know what is expected and know if they "blow it" there will be consequences! (Yes I did wash my kids mouth out with soap on the Disney cruise, but he didn't behave that way again!!)

Thanks again for the review!
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  #10  
Old September 13th, 2004, 11:53 AM
karensj karensj is offline
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Default Mom of three

I'm glad you had a great time. I am also a mom of three planning a cruise for February. What type of activites are there for 9 year old boys and 14 & 15 year old girls? On our Carnival cruise the kids were disappointed with the activities. Our Celebrity cruise had a great childrens program. Please share your experience with HAL. Thanks.

Karen
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  #11  
Old September 14th, 2004, 08:59 AM
mom-of-three mom-of-three is offline
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Default Club Hal

Thanks to everyone for their posts – I think I’ll write to HA about the internet charges



This post gives further information about club hal.



The teen activities my daughter liked best were : the liars club (4 teens are given a word to define– three lie as best they can and one gives the correct answer – the rest vote about which is right), Teen disco (they take over the queens lounge). DDR Dancing, Spoons tournament (your daughters will probably know this - - I have no idea), teen talent show (I think lip-synch), name that tune, Casino night, karaoke, cranium, pictionary, basketball, teen movie (pirates of the Caribbean), scavenger hunts for prizes, ping pong tournament, Caribbean cards, and psychiatrist (not sure what that is) - - the list goes on and on. She was busy the whole day and night between teen activities and the usual ship entertainment. We only saw her and her friend during dinner. They made many new friends as well. She and her friend also went on a carnival cruise and they were not happy with the activities. We had the extra two days on HA and they were very sad when it was over (nine days - 6 of which were at sea). They really liked the teen counselor, Allison. They said she was cool. Their activities were all over the ship.



Your nine year old will probably like HA better than my son. He will be in the tweens group 9-12. My son and his friend are 11 and 12 respectively, so they thought they were too old for the group. The 9-12 group does many of the same activities as the 5-8. They liked: DDR dancing, name that tune, crazy cards, arcade raid (a big hit - - an hour of free arcade). T-shirt tie dying, a game called Mafia (very fun tough to explain but you have to figure out who committed the crime), and pathfinders (also very fun – the kids have to find the correct path across a twister mat (there are pretend mines and healing spots which bring people back to life). They liked Brian, their counselor.



Here are the activities they weren’t wouldn’t go to (to girlish or babyish): friendship bracelets, crazy crafts, bead buddies, paper bag puppets, hair wraps and face painting, drawing contest, graffiti art, Caribbean beads, and sand castles). All in all, there were probably three hours a day, they wanted to go to the children’s club. I forgot to say that they have 5 or 6 playstations in the children’s club.



Since he had his friend, he wasn’t bored. They started to go to some of the adult activities (BINGO with me, and giant pictionary). They also hit us up for some extra money for the arcade. They rarely went in the evening, because the shows were great for the kids. They skipped the Las Vegas style singing and dancing shows (2), but went to all the other nights. They definitely liked the entertainment better on the Zuiderdam than Carnival Truimph.



Overall, they thought the kids club at Carnival was better (they missed having a scavenger hunt), but they were 9 at the time and perhaps easier to please. Virtually all their activities were held in the kids’ club room (called wave runner); I think they felt confined. They also were mad that the girls had “all the fun”. Surprisingly, the tweens had no prizes and the teens had a handful of activities with prizes (another source of contention).



I am not sure all HA ships are as kid friendly as the Zuiderdam. Another big plus is the retractable roof over the lido pool. We only had one day of rain, but it sure is nice to have the option of swimming.
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Old September 14th, 2004, 09:17 AM
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Mom-of-three, my son was 12 on our August 21st cruise (will be 13 in October), he was initially assigned to the tweens group but was able to get to the teens group.
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Old September 14th, 2004, 09:29 AM
mom-of-three mom-of-three is offline
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Default Tweens or teens

My son was only 11 (though his friend was 12). It would have been a nightmare for them to have been separated, and 11 was a bit of a stretch. We did ask the camp director if they could be allowed to join the teen scavenger hunt (while forgetting to inform the girls). When they arrived my daughter and her friend got the teen counselor to turn them away . Needless to say we had a discussion.

Anyway, you do bring up a good option for the older tweens. HAL did seem to be flexible (if only my daughter was).
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Old September 14th, 2004, 02:37 PM
Jacqueline Jacqueline is offline
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Great post. We found many children on our summer HAL cruise as well and that was in Europe. We did not encounter any overt grouchiness towards us and the kids were treated royally by the staff. They really enjoyed being fussed over !
My teen did not really care for Club HAL and on our cruise the teen club was not well attended at all from what I could see (there were 180 of them having sufficient numbers wasnt the issue). I think that your observation on the talent of the individual running the teen program is paramount- the kids need to feel that person is really tuned in. The space also was not the best and they let the little kids use it. On X and Princess the teen centers are more seperate and "off limits" on many of the ships enhancing their desireability.
We would definately sail HAL again also. The Vista class ships were designed with families in mind, so I think this is something that people who don't want to be with children should bear in mind, particularly when booking during a vacation period (which is about half the year, between summer, thanksgiving, xmas, presidents week, spring break, etc).
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Old September 14th, 2004, 04:09 PM
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Caroline,
we are on the Z on oct 9 and have scheduled the dolphin swim in Tortola directly with them rather than through HAL. Are you saying that if some of our group is not doing the swim they will have to pay $20 each to watch? Thanks for the other info as we also have 3 kids and, funnily enough, we did the Triumph last year so it will be interesting to see the comparisons.
thanks again.
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Old September 14th, 2004, 07:42 PM
mom-of-three mom-of-three is offline
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Default Ridealong for dolphin swim.

I don't think you will have to pay any money to come and watch. I paid $20 to HA, but remember they provided transportation to dolphin discovery and back (plus they have to make some profit on anything you do). I think I remember the Bahamas place charging to watch, but I don't think Dolphin Discovery does.

Enjoy the Zuiderdam! All five of us loved it. (My son, despite the Club Hal disappointment, likes it overall better). The food is better (not exactly top notch, but better than the Truimph), the service is outstanding, the atmosphere is much more relaxed, no fighting for a deck chair, and huge crowds anywhere. The ship is maintained beautifully. I wish I were going again. If I remember right, the Zuiderdam is about the size of the Truimph, but 1000 less passengers.

If you can, get a spa treatment. Their spa is gorgeous. I went for a seaweed body treatment, where they rub you with some seaweed stuff, then they submerge you in a waterbed like thing and gradually warm you up. Then you get a massage. You can get this for half price if you book by the first evening.

Post your experiences after you get back!
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Old September 14th, 2004, 09:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justhere
Caroline,
we are on the Z on oct 9 and have scheduled the dolphin swim in Tortola directly with them rather than through HAL. Are you saying that if some of our group is not doing the swim they will have to pay $20 each to watch? Thanks for the other info as we also have 3 kids and, funnily enough, we did the Triumph last year so it will be interesting to see the comparisons.
thanks again.
Here is a link with the answer to your question, you'll need to scroll down...http://dolphinencounters.com/faq.html. The long and short of it is that if they take transporation with dolphin encounters, there is a $20 fee, if they are already on the island they can walk to the gate and get in for a $5 fee.

We too are on the October 9th sailing and have signed up for the Dolphin Swim directly rather than the encounter offered as part of HAL's package. HAL does not offer the swim, just the encounter.
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Old September 15th, 2004, 12:40 AM
justhere justhere is offline
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Default Sierrachik

That link is for the Bahamas location. Are you doing it there or in Tortola? If you are doing it in Tortola, what time are you doing it? Maybe we'll be there at the same time...
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Old September 15th, 2004, 06:16 AM
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Sierrachik Sierrachik is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justhere
That link is for the Bahamas location. Are you doing it there or in Tortola? If you are doing it in Tortola, what time are you doing it? Maybe we'll be there at the same time...
Oh, sorry. I was so tired last night I didn't pay attention to the location. I forgot about the Tortola swim. We are doing Nassau. I debated which one to do, however, the times listed were nearly double for Nassau as Tortola. I think it has to do with the boat ride to the island and back. I thought it would be a nice little extra to have the boat ride

There is a thread on the roll call board for our cruise, there are a few of us that post that will be on this cruise and we're going to plan a few times to meet. Join us on that board and as the date gets a bit closer we'll arrange the times and places
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Old December 8th, 2004, 01:25 PM
dinscoe68 dinscoe68 is offline
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Hi mom-of-three,


We are travelling on the Z in March with my 10 yo. You mentioned one of your children playing the Playstation. Was that in Club HAL? Also, was there a charge for that? One more question, do you happen to recall if the TV had the AV outlets where you could bring and plug in your own PS in the cabin?

Thanks!!
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