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mimii

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  1. We just finished a cruise in Zuiderdam with As You Wish dining. At first, we'd go and wait in line, about five minutes. After a couple nights, we learned you could make a reservation for the time you wanted, as long as you did so by 4pm. We still had to wait in line, but about 1-3 minutes max. The only time the line was longer was on gala night, but even then, it was still only about 5-7 minutes total. There are 2 parallel lines - one for Reservations and one for walk-ins. When one line is empty, the hostess will take from the other line, to keep things moving. I've never seen such efficiency at dining check-in as I did on this cruise - they are ON it! We once went at 5:30; once at almost 8pm, and at different times in between - never had to wait like I've experienced on other ships. We asked to "share" our experience, becuase we thought that would be quicker, so we sat at different tables each night and met different cruisers. I'm not sure if that made it easier for us. I think you are not going to have any trouble eating at the time you prefer on the Zuiderdam. You are in for a wonderful experience on this ship. I've cruised many times , but this was my first Holland America cruise and I loved it.
  2. I just returned from a cruise on the Zuiderdam. This was my first HAL cruise, and I consider the MS classes to be the BEST onboard experience of the cruise. I wanted to try HAL because my friend has gone on many and has told me about the learning experiences, such as lectures, but I was unaware they offered MS classes. Our instructor Erika trains the other instructors for Microsoft, so I believe they follow a similar plan on all ships that have these classes. She told me this partnership is only for HAL. I hope this is helpful: 1. There are at least six different classes, possibly 9 or 10. They offer them more than once, in case you have a conflict with another activity. One of the classes is called "Studio Time," essentially practice time, where you can also get individual help or advice from the instructor. 2. The classes are what I consider "relevant" - they are themed around what interests the passenger demographic, and especially around travel. In fact they describe them with these terms - travel, explore, create, share! They are also updated fairly regularly, as I learned this series is new. 3. Every class I attended was FULL and there were folks sitting or standing around the walls of the room. I learned to show up early and still did not get a seat every time. The instructor was very gracious and welcomed even those who came late or just wanted to observe. 4. The classes were simple and user friendly for any level of expertise. These are not classes like Power Point, which would require some expertise with MS and a lot of time. For example, the first class I took was about feautures of Windows 10 that are not commonly known. I've been using Windows for over 20 years - Windows 10 for the past I don't know how long, but I didn't know the things Erika shared in this class. 5. She was able to address the needs of the least experienced as well as the most experienced, and do so efficiently. She covered her whole curriculum each session without rushing, and she answered any and all questions. She even accepted questions specific to our own use. The sessions lasted about 35 minutes, but there was time after each for further questions. 6. There was a class on how to collect and store various formats of information (photos, documents, websites) while planning a trip. There was another on journaling while ON the trip - adding photos and sharing the work with others. I took one on Safety/Security, and learned so much in that one. I think I took one more but cannot remember at the moment, and there were several I did not take because I didn't have time, such as photo editing. I just went back to look at your post, and see I did not address your questions (sorry): a. You cannot book the clases in advance, even while on the ship. First come, first served. b. The schedule comes in the daily schedule you recieve in your cabin each evening, or you can see it on the free HAL on board app (if it works for you!) I went to the studio on the first day I believe - or it may have been the first class, and I asked the instructor to see the schedule. They don't have a handout, but she allowed me to take photos right off the pages of HER schedule. It seemed like an Excel document. This reminds me, several times during the cruise I requested something and staff told me they don't offer it becuase HAL is committed to reducing their use of paper, but you will SEE all the marketing and promotional documents they will bring to your cabin each day, lol! I hope you get to attend a class and really enjoy it!
  3. I took a cruise on Zuiderdam with my good friend and we just returned three days ago. It was my first HAL cruise and she has cruised many times on various HAL ships. I found the food on this cruise - in the buffet, dining room, and room service - to be unquestionably less impressive than Princess and Azamara ( have not sailed Celebrity). My friend said that the food has gone down in quality over the last year, and even zince her last HAL cruise 2 minths ago. There were some good dishes, and the gala nignts had the best food, but many of the dishes, and nearly all the desserts throughout the cruise were disappointing. We loved the pool side burgers though, and everyone raved about the french fries they serve there. The ice cream in the buffet area was also plentiful and very good. The Pinnacle Grill food was excellent - lunch is very economical (only open on sea days). We were put off by the constant upselling of food. All cruises I've been on touted their specialty restaurants, but on the Zuiderdam, every menu in the dining room had items only available for purchase! At breakfast in the buffet, the FIRST server was always the one trying to sell you Evian bottled water. The worst food, in our opinion, was the afternoon tea. On other lines, we enjoyed small sandwiches with the crusts cut off - on HAL they were made of sliced baguettes spread with cream cheese and with cucumbers or other items laid on top. They also served tiny scones about the size and shape of a small meatball. They were so dry I could not eat them, but my friend asked if we could have some jam and they did bring that and cream, as is customary. But they did not serve those until she asked. I remarked to her that they didn't even serve the sweet items I was used to at teas, so after we finished, I decided to go have something sweet in the buffet. As we got up to leave, the servers told us they had been planning to serve us little cakes and eclairs! There were only three tables to serve, so what were they waiting for? Service was also inconsistent. Twice I saw dinner companions receive something other than what they ordered. The staff is are overwhelmed and work very hard, but I didnt notice this inconsistency even on my Carnival voyages. The employees DO have consistently friendly and helpful attitudes however. I hope this information is helpful.
  4. We just disembarked from a HAL ship there three days ago, and I have never seen such a crowd waiting for shuttles, taxis, etc. - just from our ship and there were 3 or 4 more ships in port ! We were going to our hotel (which was also full of dozens and dozens of people coming from, and going to ships), so I can't comment about going for a car rental, but I want to add to the comments made by others who suggest a taxi or Uber/Lift. We took Uber, which was not pricey, but it was the longest I have ever waited for an Uber anywhere, ever! We must have waited about 15 minutes, while others lined the partly shaded walls to wait for whatever transportation they were going to use. There were port personnel there funneling off those going to the airports, to shuttles just for these destinations, and the rest of us fending for ourselves. I'm not sure if some may have taken those airport shuttles to get rental cars, nor if there may have been a charge for those shuttles.
  5. I did not find the app useful on our Zuiderdam cruise last week, although I was not trying to use messaging. I wanted to use the app because a few years ago I used one on a Carnival cruise and it was fantastic. So I was pretty surprised that the HAL app was useless for me. As stated here, you must be on wifi but you don't need to buy an Internet package. Your smartphone will pick up the free wifi for the app, and there are instructions in your cabin. I have an Android, and I wanted to use the app just for it's other features, such as the daily schedule, the additional place where I could make my own schedule/favorites, the ability to browse and purchase shore excursions, look at my account, and more! But the first 2 days they said they were doing an update so the app was not working. After that it did work, but I could not access the features. Eventually I was able to do so and saw they were wonderful, but they only worked for a few minutes before the wifi died or something - the app just kept spinning . This happened EVERY day, whenever I tried to use it. Either it would not connect at all, or else I was not able to complete whatever I hoped to do. I saw on the daily schedule that sometimes the IT person had hours he would answer questions, so I went to see him near Guest Services. After about 20 minutes he got it to work, but by the time I reached my cabin, it didn't work any more. I asked him if others had reported it never worked, and he said others were using it without complaints, but I find that hard to believe, especially since I took several MS Studio classes and the Internet was intermittent and exceedingly slow there!! At any rate, I would hope the messaging would work well for you, as some here have answered, but I would not plan to depend on it! Good luck.
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