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Orcrone

Random thoughts about the Zuiderdam

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This was a much needed vacation. In the last month DW and I decided to buy the store where she's worked for the last four years, so we've been going non-stop until we left for Fort Lauderdale.

 

We headed over to DS's house around 5:30 to get a lift to the airport. Upon arriving at his house I checked online, and sure enough our 7:45 PM flight was ontime. So off to the airport. Upon arriving there we checked in at a kiosk. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something about a 9:47 departure. OUCH!!! Bad weather. As it was the flight did not actually leave until 12:50 AM. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 3:00 AM and gave the hotel a call. Of course the shuttle stopped running two hours ago. So hail the nearest cab, and the four of us climbed in with our five large pieces of luggage. Luckily it was a short ride to the hotel.

 

As some of you may remember I was concerned about booking a priceline room for four of us and only getting a king size bed. Luckily the Sheraton accomodated us with two double beds.

 

Right now I'm going to skip over the cruise and tell a little bit about our trip home. We had a 5:08 PM flight on Sunday evening from Fort Lauderdale. I once again checked on line and it showed that it was delayed by 1 1/2 hours. I then called Delta. After waiting 10 minutes to get through I hit the refresh button and lo and behold, our flight was cancelled. After spending 80 minutes on the phone with them we determined that every flight from Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami that would get us to any airport near home was sold out for Sunday AND Monday. The kids needed to get back for school and we're buying a business on Wednesday. So we rented a minivan, hit the road at 5 in the evening, drove through the night and arrived home at 8:30 this morning. So if I'm slightly more incoherent than usual, you'll understand why.

 

Next: Heading to the ship

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Welcome back.....!!:)

 

I sure hope the cruise was better than your travels to and from FLL!!!!:rolleyes:

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Talk about rolling with the punches! I salute you!

 

I look forward to hearing all about your cruise, and I certainly hope you had a smoother time of it on the water! I know you needed the rest.

 

Best wishes in your new business venture!

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Even after arriving at the Sheraton at 3:30 in the morning DW and I were still up before the wakeup call. We spent a little time sitting by the pool before rousting our daughters. On the way up to the room we struck up a converation with two ladies who were also sailing on the Zuiderdam. We made a comment about taking the stairs on the ship, but since we were heading to the ninth floor in the hotel we'd just settle for the elevator. They declared that they were on the tenth floor and they thought it was a great idea and headed up the stairs. DW and I stared at each other in disbelief as we entered the elevator. On our way up to nine the elevator doors opened at the second floor and guess who walked on, with sheepish grins. They figured that they would pretend and get on a different elevator on the second floor. We never met them again during our week on board, but they were typical of the fun-loving people we met all week.

 

Just before 11 I asked the concierge to call a cab, preferably a minivan. We headed outside. I soon learned that a family of three, Jeff, Dawn and their 10 year old son, that were waiting were also heading to the Zuiderdam. Out of the blue Dawn asked me if I posted on Cruise Critic. I told her that I did and that my handle is Orcrone. She then informed me that she was Dinscoe. So I met up with fellow CCers before leaving the hotel.

 

As it is the concierge called a limo service (actually, a large van with a U-haul trailer for the luggage). Make a note: ask the cost before entering. Generally a cab would have been $15.00 at most. However, we piled in and upon arriving at the pier he informs us that it's $8.00 per person. I felt $32.00 plus tip was pretty expensive for a ten minute cab ride. Oh well, we're on vacation. Then, before taking the luggage a porter informed me that tipping was expected. I considered telling him that I normally tip, except for when I'm told that it's expected. But realizing I needed my luggage on the ship I just handed him his tip and smiled.

 

We were now at the cruise port before 11:30. I didn't time it, but I would guess that it took us about 20 minutes from the time we dropped off our luggage until we were on the ship.

 

Next: finally on board

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From my Maasdam cruise last year I was familiar with the drill. Cabins are not ready yet, so head to the Lido. DW and I did just that. When I looked at pictures of the ship online I was disappointed by the decorations; oranges, reds and bright colors all over. However, in person the theme, although not nearly as elegant as the Maasdam, worked much better than I expected. So as I was saying off to the Lido. Don't remember what we ate, that was many meals (and pounds) ago. However, while going through the line who do I meet? Hunky Dory, asking everyone's name. And sure enough he learned them. Occassionally he'd forget, but after you told him the first letter of your name, he'd remember.

 

And now he has competition. Hunky Dory stayed on the starboard side of the Lido. On the portside was Reynold, who did the same thing. He'd introduce himself as Burt Reynolds and also remembered everyone's name. That was one major thing about the Zuiderdam. Everyone was so friendly, and although they were working hard they appeared to be enjoying themselves. I'll get into that some more when I talk about the dining room.

 

While eating I got a call from my brother. The rest of our group was just arriving at the cruise port. I figured they'd be about 40 minutes as it was later and the crowds were increasing. Imagine my surprise when I get a call not 15 minutes later stating that they were outside the mid-ship elevators on the Lido deck. My brother has vision problems and his partner has extremely limited vision. For all intensive purposes he's blind. Rather than have them wait on line they took them (the whole party) to a sitting area and filled out all their paperwork for them.

 

In fact ship's services, the front office and the crew always seemed to go the extra mile. DB called ahead of time to ask some questions. Ship services arranged for them to have reserved front row seats for the shows and provided books on CD for them during the cruise. When our DR stewards saw them in the Lido they would go out of their way to help DB's partner to his seat. And throughout the cruise you always had the feeling that they did these things, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

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After lunch we checked out our cabins, all on upper Verandah deck. DW and I share adjacent verandah cabins with my mom and her DH. Nice cabins, but a little smaller than the outsides we had on the Maasdam in the fall. DDs are in an inside J category cabin around mid-ship. This is a large inside, over 200 square feet. DB and his partner have the handicapped verandah cabin at the bow (cabin 6003). This is a very large cabin, probably bigger than an SS. However, because of its placement they complained that the cabin shook as if in an earthquake whenever the bow thrusters were being used. Normally not a major inconvenience except for disembarkation day when they knew that we arrived in port at 6:50 AM.:(

 

We had a table for eight at the 8:00 PM seating. They put us at an oval table, which made for much easier conversation than would have been possible at a rectangular table. However, the location left a little to be desired. It was the very first table to the left of the doors to the upper dining room, right next to the serving station, and no where near a window. Our waiters were Rocky and Johannes (Joe). This is where we noticed a big difference from our cruise in October. I couldn't have picked out our DR stewards during that cruise. However, Rocky and Joe went around the tables, introduced themselves and made sure that they learned everyone's names. And when we saw them in the Lido they were just as friendly. In fact, everyone in our party commented that this crew was the friendliest they had ever encountered on a cruise.

 

After dinner we went to the show. A couple of numbers by the cast and a comedian who was not particularly impressive. However, I received a very pleasant surprise. I had learned on these boards that Joel Mason was no longer on the Zuiderdam. However, that's changed. The CD, Dane Butcher, announced that Joel Mason would be performing the next day. Sure enough he did, and he lived up to his hype.

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Orcrone,

 

You were at my table! That was exactly the same table I had on the February 8th sailing of the Zuiderdam! I had different Stewards, but they provided the same friendly service as yours did. My initial reaction to the location was like yours, but I quickly found that I did not object to where it was. Being closer to the galley may have helped the service.

 

Dane Butcher also was the Cruise Director and I think he does a very good job!

 

Thanks for your comments about your trip!

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Marc - Anxiously awaiting the next installment... thanks for taking the time post so soon after your nightmare drive home!

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Well, the bookends sound terrible, but the cruise sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

 

Great reading your report---can't wait for the next installment.

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Awesome review Orcrone !!! It made me feel as tho I was back on my Zuiderdam cruise! Thanks for taking the time to share it with us! Welcome home and Good Luck on the new business adventure as well!:)

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Orcrone,

 

You were at my table! That was exactly the same table I had on the February 8th sailing of the Zuiderdam! I had different Stewards, but they provided the same friendly service as yours did. My initial reaction to the location was like yours, but I quickly found that I did not object to where it was. Being closer to the galley may have helped the service.

 

Dane Butcher also was the Cruise Director and I think he does a very good job!

 

Thanks for your comments about your trip!

I'm out of it today. After reading your comment I didn't noticethe 'February 8' portion, and my first thought was "who was that?" I then remembered that I dined with my family.:o

 

You're right. I think that the location helped with the service. Not many steps to get to the table once exiting the galley.

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Marc, we were on the same cruise. Sorry We didn't meet you, but I think I saw your brother and his partner at Half Moon Cay. I noticed them because my husband is blind, and I had never seen 2 visually impaired people together on a cruise. We were impressed with their independence. I'm so sorry about your nightmare trying to get home. We had a really long, bad day that day but finally got home at 4:00 am. I thought about renting a car too. We got out of Ft. Lauderdale about 1:30 or 2;00 but ended up stuck in Newark for 6 hours waiting or our connection to Chicago.

 

I enjoyed reading your review, what a great week it was!!!

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Marc, we were on the same cruise. Sorry We didn't meet you, but I think I saw your brother and his partner at Half Moon Cay. I noticed them because my husband is blind, and I had never seen 2 visually impaired people together on a cruise. We were impressed with their independence. I'm so sorry about your nightmare trying to get home. We had a really long, bad day that day but finally got home at 4:00 am. I thought about renting a car too. We got out of Ft. Lauderdale about 1:30 or 2;00 but ended up stuck in Newark for 6 hours waiting or our connection to Chicago.

 

I enjoyed reading your review, what a great week it was!!!

That was probably them. My brother has poor vision, but can function pretty well. His partner lost his eyesight later in life, but manages to get around extremely well. He's somehow managed to maintain a tremendous amount of independence.

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In fact ship's services, the front office and the crew always seemed to go the extra mile. DB called ahead of time to ask some questions. Ship services arranged for them to have reserved front row seats for the shows and provided books on CD for them during the cruise. When our DR stewards saw them in the Lido they would go out of their way to help DB's partner to his seat. And throughout the cruise you always had the feeling that they did these things, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

 

That is the intangible that makes our cruises on HAL so special.

The week we were on the Zaandam there were lots of kids. My 13 yo son said that the crew were always so friendly and it wasn't just because they were suppose to be! :) I knew he was a smart kid;)

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We left Fort Lauderdale almost an hour late on Saturday due to a late arriving plane (they must have also been flying Delta:rolleyes: ). I believe we arrived slightly late at HMC on Sunday, but not terribly late. DW and I are early risers, but most of the rest of our group are not. It was about 10 AM before everyone was ready to head ashore. Shortly before this the CD made an announcement that people should head ashore soon, as the tenders will soon be getting crowded and causing backups. So you can guess what happens next. Everyone heads down to the Queens Lounge to get a tender, causing the huge backup. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy.

 

We waited about a half hour to 45 minutes to get a tender. Once on the island I noticed a number of differences from November. When I went in November it was only a couple of months after the hurricanes came through and the damage was obvious. A lot has grown back since, plus it appeared that HAL had done some landscaping. The water in late March is a bit cooler than the water in early November. The new attractions were up and running. The kids area was to the extreme left side of the beach, not far from where the tenders enter. Several from our group tried to do the horseback riding, but it had been sold out. They weren't too disappointed as they weren't sure whether they wanted to be outside in long pants on a hot day. DW and two DDs took the banana boat ride and had a great time. My mom and her husband even went ashore at HMC for a couple of hours and thought it was a beautiful beach. Yours truly hid underneath a clamshell, unsucessfully trying to avoid becoming toast on the first day. DW and I were going to go snorkeling, but didn't think it would be that good (even though we didn't check), so we just carried the snorkel equipment to and from the island.

 

Last time on HMC I was sailing the Maasdam and we were sharing the island with the Oosterdam. Big difference on this island when there is only one ship present. Chairs were easy to get, barbecue was not too crowded.

 

Around 2:30 I decided I had enough and headed to the tender. By now there was a long line waiting to return to the ship. Witnessed some very classy behavior. While waiting for the tenders more than a few people decided to use the fountain at the entrance to HMC to wash their feet.

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Washing their feet in the decorative fountain? How quaint! There are some folks who seem to have been raised by wolves!

 

I'm enjoying your review. Keep it going. Anxious to hear the rest.

 

Note to self: Stay away from Delta Airlines!

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Marc:

Welcome home. Glad you had an enjoyable cruise. Am very much enjoying the review/musings. It seems you have struck the middle ground between the 'magnum opus' review (guilty!), and "food good; service bad" fortune cookie.

Now back to the bidniss world.

How's your FIL?

Cheers

MarkB

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I figured I'd throw in some random observations and information I learned/observed.

 

At the "life at sea" talk someone asked the CD about the construction of the ship. He claimed that the general design is used by HAL, Costa and Carnival. The mechanicals are identical for the ships and each cruise line customizes the upper levels for their own use. He said that HAL builds the Vista class with a capacity of 1854, Costa with a capacity of about 2100 and Carnival with a capacity of 2400.

 

I'm not sure if this is true, because I've never seen a ship with a pinched-in midship like the Vista class. However, I can definitely believe the numbers. Even with the ship over capacity it did not feel very crowded.

 

On the same note it appeared to me that the pool areas on the Zuiderdam are the same size as the pool areas of the Maasdam, making the S class ships even roomier.

 

Although far from a 'party' boat, there did seem to be more activities on the Zuiderdam, more music by the pools, etc.

 

There seemed to be much less smoking on board this cruise. If was especially evident at the Lido pool. Being a 7 day spring break cruise, vs. the Maasdam's 10 day November time frame, the average age was quite a bit younger. That may have had something to do with it.

 

With the exception of Joel Mason, the shows were not as good as on the Maasdam. The "Under the Boardwalk" show was cancelled due to technical difficulties. It turned out that there were medical issues with three male cast members. One had just had surgery, one had to be med-evaced and another was having surgery later in the week. They rescheduled the show for the last night, when they shared the stage with a juggler. Their portion of the show was less than 15 minutes.

 

I'm sure I'm forgetting many things and will post them as I remember.

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Marc:

Welcome home. Glad you had an enjoyable cruise. Am very much enjoying the review/musings. It seems you have struck the middle ground between the 'magnum opus' review (guilty!), and "food good; service bad" fortune cookie.

Now back to the bidniss world.

How's your FIL?

Cheers

MarkB

Mark,

 

Thanks for asking. He's still in the hospital undergoing radiation. Prognosis is not good. He actually has two different types of tumors in his lung and brain. DW is going to fly out in a couple of weeks to go visit him.

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"Note to self: Stay away from Delta Airlines!"

 

Now Jim, Delta cannot control the weather. All of the airlines had problems that weekend. They are making lots of time changes and equipment changes (as are the other airlines) but I hope they stay in business to give competition to the other airlines. I love low ticket prices:)

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