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Zuiderdam, Jan 12 - 23, The Halfway Point

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Day 1 – Embarkation and First impressions

Leaving the snow of Nashville and driving into the still bitter cold of Atlanta on our way to FLL, we arrived to (again) much colder temperatures than normal. Fortunately, we had prepared for the chilly weather but still spent 2 more days wearing jeans, sweaters and jackets and waiting for the opportunity to break out the shorts and t-shirts.


On Tuesday morning, January 12th, we awoke with great anticipation knowing that we were only 3 hours away from boarding the Zuiderdam for our 10-night cruise to the Panama Canal. We had chosen this itinerary (1) for being “drivable from Nashville and (2) the roundtrip voyage from FLL. As we made our way into the port, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Z’dam was the only ship in port that day. Driving up to the parking lot and dropping off our bags was a cinch. The flow of traffic was fairly well organized, but several buses had arrived just prior to us at 11:30 a.m. and a line stretched all the way across the front of the terminal. I had read on the CC Boards that there have been some problems of intimidation by the stevedores requesting tips. We did not find this to be a problem. While we did tip the one man who assisted in taking our 3 bags out of the car, he only lifted the bags about 4 feet to the sidewalk where all bags were being stacked. We tipped $10 but later decided that $5 probably would have been fine as the bags were being stacked on top of each other and then a second porter arrived several minutes later to put the luggage into carts.


Parking was equally easy. The garage is directly across from the Terminal 26. One U-turn and you zip right in to the garage and plenty of spaces were available.


While the line was long, it moved very quickly. Our wait was probably no more than 10 minutes. Once through initial security screening, we were shown to the Suites lines and were headed to the Welcome Aboard picture area in about 15 minutes. There were 4 hostesses processing guests, but if you happened to get in a line that moved slowly, people coming in after you were processed ahead of you.


Once onboard, we were told to head for the Lido Deck for lunch. Mention has been made of a Mariners lunch in the main dining room on Embarkation Day – not so on this cruise; the Lido was the only area serving food.


We headed first to the Neptune Lounge, checked the location of our dinner table (we had late seating, table for 2) and were pleased with the table we received. While in the Neptune Lounge we also signed up for the Rustic French Cooking Class (review to follow), then left our carry-on bags with the concierge to find lunch and explore the ship.


When we first booked our cruise, we had booked a Superior Veranda “suite.” About a month prior to sailing, we were given the opportunity to upgrade to a Deluxe Suite, and what more can I say: “we are now duly spoiled.” The size of the room and veranda is spacious with a kingsize bed and more than ample storage and closet space with lots of hangers. The bathroom is large with double sinks, a Jacuzzi tub with shower and a separate shower. We did end of using only the tub shower, however, as the separate shower is little more than small closet size with very little room to move.


While impressed with the size and location of our cabin (deck 7, midship), we were disappointed with the actual condition of the stateroom and many areas of the ship in general. I will address these issues in my post cruise review.


We set sail at exactly 5 pm; and while the air was still a bit brisk and cool, you could tell spirits were high as we and our fellow passengers looked forward to 10 days of relaxation and warmer weather.


Suite guests were invited to a Welcome Aboard meet and greet with Captain Timmers and Hotel Manager Kees Van Santen in the Neptune Lounge. We attended and discovered several other ship’s managers and officers in attendance as well. Credit is given to Captain Timmers and Mr. Van Santen for their graciousness and willingness to provide a warm welcome the first evening.


Day 2 -- Half Moon Cay

It was a perfect day on the island. The weather was probably in the low 70’s, the water cool, but blue skies and the beautiful beach provided us with a good day for island exploring. We did not take any tours, but spent a good 2 hours hiking to various points (including going up the horse trail for a great view out over the ocean). The barbeque lunch was good and provided several options to please just about any palate. The outdoor dining huts were placed about in several areas, so you didn’t feel as though you were packed into a single “cafeteria.” The only complaint we had was that one man smoking a cigar at the bar nearest the food lines virtually kept the bar cleared of other people. Even sitting across and at the other end of the bar, the cigar smoke wafted in our direction. HAL – do you think you could at least prohibit cigar smoking away from eating areas?


Day 3 – Sea Day

Spent the day relaxing and exploring the ship. Took the kitchen tour, which we enjoyed. First formal night and most passengers were dressed accordingly. Spent a very rocky and rough night at sea; got very little sleep.


Day 4 – Aruba

Arrived about 30 minutes early into the port at Oranjestad. Took the Green Zebra TomCar afternoon Northern Coast Snorkeling Tour. This is a tour not to be missed! We had the best time; a review of the tour is posted on the Ports of Call, Aruba board. As we were quite tired after an afternoon in the sun (and quite dusty and dirty as well), we returned to the ship, cleaned up and remained on the ship for the evening.


Day 5 -- Curacao

Began this morning in Code Red. The letter from the Captain was under our door when we returned from dinner last night. What a pain! From the looks of the ship, the “little hits and misses” on the cleaning standards obviously set by housekeeping and maintenance management, one might begin to wonder what the “common denominator” is since ms Z has had three Code Red’s since Thanksgiving. Passengers come and go, but the cleaning standards remain the same. I would venture to say that our stateroom and the other observations of “just passing” cleanliness might have more to do with HAL’s standards than passengers not washing their hands.


So Code Red it is: you can’t even pick up your own pool or spa towel, yet the fruit bowl and water dispenser in the Thermal Pool remained on a table to serve yourself as of 3 pm this afternoon. As of 9 pm this evening, passengers were still able to use the touch-screen TV’s to view the location of the ship (and no sanitizer dispenser anywhere to be found).


The weather in Curacao was island perfect today. Lots of sunshine, temperatures probably in the mid to high 80’s, but the breezes kept things comfortable. We spent about 2-1/2 hours taking the self-walking tour around Willemstad. We found the Kura Hulanda Museum an outstanding place to visit -- and to learn so much about Curacao’s cultural history and the African slave trade. This is definitely an experience not to be missed. We were unable to visit the Mikve Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest Jewish temple in the Americas, as it is Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) and services were being conducted.


I took advantage of a Port Day massage in the spa. Wonderful! I have always found the spa personnel and spa amenities to be of 5-star quality. The Z staff does not disappoint in this area at all. We did take advantage of booking the Thermal Pool couple package on Embarkation Day, and we have made good use of the pool, the heated loungers and the steam rooms every day. As far as other spa services, wait until the specials are posted in the Daily Program; there are definitely deals to be found.


And speaking of the new Daily Program format. We like it. It organizes activities by category and is easy to read. For us, we prefer looking for the “category” of activities we are interested in versus looking through the “laundry list “ of activities by time.


So there you have it. A brief review of our cruise thus far. Today is a Sea Day, and so far the seas are cooperating: mostly smooth sailing with only light waves and ship movement. We’ll be up early in the morning to transit the Panama Canal. We are scheduled for the Embera Village Tour and are really looking forward to a great day (although a very hot and humid one).



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Thanks for your halfway point review. We were on the cruise before yours, so I read with great interest. I'm truly sorry that you are in code red. :( Your theory about that is interesting, and so is the evidence that you present. It does make one wonder. Due to a double-organ transplant and current chemotherapy for cancer, my immune system is suppressed. I watched everything on that ship with an eagle-eye and did what I could to stay well. Our stateroom, also mid-ship on Deck 7, always seemed to be extremely well cleaned. One of the more experienced room stewards working on that deck left the ship on 12Jan for 4 months at home, after being on the ship for 9 months. I wonder if others left the ship, too, and maybe there were new crew members??? Anyway, I hope the code red ends soon and that you and your wife stay well.


By the way, the little shower stall in the bathroom? That's actually an area for drying your swimsuits. :D And I liked the new Daily Program format, too.



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I was on the cruise before you and they were constantly cleaning. I did not find the ship dirty at all, perhaps a bit worn, but the ship IS almost 8 years old. You have to expect that.


I am sorry about the code red, but that can be blamed on people. If people would be conscious about washing their hands, this would not happen.


I was very ill after disembarking the NCL Pearl Thanksgiving week 2008. I became violently ill on Monday evening after disembarking the Pearl Sunday morning. Now, we had at Mexican for lunch on Monday at a local restuarant, so I may have had food poison, but because of this, I was VERY conscious about washing my hands and even bought individually wrapped wipes from Kroger so I could wipe my hands again after going through the Lido. I plan to do this every cruise from now on.

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If you are at Sea today then tommorow morning (early) you will be entering Gatun Locks. I would be forward by 5:30 AM for your trip through the Gatun Locks. Enjoy, it is really worth seeing and going through.

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