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.
Holland America Zuiderdam 8/04
Carnival Triumph 8/02
Sun Princess 12/95