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Bridges300

Zuiderdam 4/2-4/9 w 2 kids. Review

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Just off the Zuiderdam. I cannot compare it to Celeb or Princess or Crystal or NCL but compared to our Carnival Victory trip in April 2004 and our RCL Enchantment of the Seas trip in January, it was far superior in almost all categories. I will comment briefly on my impressions but I will mainly focus on Club Hal and the 5 shore excursions we took because many board members have previously written about the rooms and the food and embarkation and disembarkation and the ship facilities and the service and the shows and they are far better writers than I am. But I have not seen much written about the shore trips or club Hal.

 

Briefly, the room was great (7048) and even the pull-out sofa mattress was better than the main bed on Enchantment. (I still liked the trundles that Victory had for the kids as the best 2nd bed). The 3 sheet service and pillows were excellent.

 

The food in the dining room, especially the soups, and the variety of foods were very good. We ate one night in the Pinnacle. Very good. The Thai lemon chicken soup was the best soup I have ever had. The three sauces for the great steaks were above average with only the béarnaise sauce being ho hum. The Lido food was way way better than either of the buffets on the other two ships. And the service at the lido deck buffet was also so much more attentive than on the other ships.

 

Well I haven’t talked about Club Hal or the tours yet and I am out of time for right now. Will continue shortly.

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One of the interesting things we found in talking to other parents aboard the Zuiderdam is that many of them were fist time cruisers who were not familiar with Cruise Critic or other boards (i.e. not experienced travelers armed with the insights gleamed from Boards such as this). The reason I bring this up is that although there were over 200 kids on board, Club Hal never seemed to have more than 8-10 kids in each of the age group programs. (Our kids are 7 yr old boys). The parents we talked to were not really aware of Club Hal or if aware did not understand that they provided real entertainment and activities for the kids.

Our kids loved Club Hal and I thought that the counselors were quite charming and fun. However, I would compare the program to RCL’s program. It did not have the disciplined structure, and variety of Camp Carnival. For example at Camp Carnival if an activity was to start on the sport deck at 11:00am. The counselors were there in their identifiable uniform, with a desk for sign-up and instructions as to when and where to pick up the kids. It was not so structured at Club Hal. One time when they weren’t where they were supposed to be, I found them back at the Camp Hal room because they were running a little over on an activity. Often, they would have to dig up the sign up sheet. Nevertheless, our kids LOVED all the personal attention they got and they would rank Club Hal the best of all the programs. One other observation, purely personal, I thought they seemed to be working for and expecting tips at Camp carnival whereas at Club Hal, I think they were genuinely surprised to be tipped at the end.

 

Well we didn’t have our kids spend all their time at Club Hal. We went on 5 HAL sponsored tours. The first time we have been on ship sponsored tours (previously, I would plan the outings independently).

 

Three were excellent, (the stingrays at Half Moon Cay, the Tortola Dolphin Swim, and the Tortola Virgin Gorda Baths). One okay, (St Thomas catamaran snorkel trip) and the last snorkel trip in Nassau, (called Bahamas snorkel adventure), forget it. (FYI - My ratings are based on having two 7 year old boys of average and slightly below average swimming ability with us)

 

Okay, I’ve gone on way too long for anyone to stay with me on this thread, but if you’re a parent searching Club Hal and come onto this thread even months from now, I will be happy to answer any questions.

 

I will finish details of the tours later.

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Thanks for that great review. I'm glad the kids had a great time at Club HAL. We will be on Zuiderdam 12/29/05 New Years Cruise with our 6 year old boy. He has two Royal Caribbean Adventure Ocean experiences so far and he has enjoyed them both.

 

It would seem HAL is putting a good foot forward in attracting younger families especially to their Vista Class ships. It sounds like they're doing a good job. We expect a lot of children on the holiday cruise.

 

How were the pools on th Zuiderdam?

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The lido pool is great because it has a retractable top so it is available in good and bad weather. Both pools are fresh water and since HAL has a slightly older crowd, they were never that crowded. Great for the kids. Your 6 year old and you will have a blast

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A little more about the tours. The first tour we took was the 1:00pm sting ray snorkel on Half Moon Cay. We spent the morning at the gorgeous beach. Had a clamshell over our lounge chairs (there are unlimited number of lounger chairs but only a hundred or so clamshell spots). At 12:00p, we left our things in the clamshell, walked to the barbecue and had a nice lunch then to the information deck for a fun truck ride to the stingray site. It was well organized, with very good snorkeling equipment. The tour was sold out but it didn’t seem that crowded in the enclosure. It was an absolute blast and the snorkel vest gave my kids a lot of confidence. A diver goes in the water with us to feed the rays and let us feed them. What a kick! He picked them up also to show them off. The water is around 5 ½ ft deep so even though you shouldn’t stand in case you step on and hurt a ray, you can stand if you need to. They even give you special water shoes in case you need to stand so you don't hurt your feet on the coral (no fins allowed). The tour was well staffed by a helpful and polite but firm staff (rules are rules) and no one was looking for an extra tip. Afterward, we had time for another hour of sun and play on the beach. We were on the very last tender back at 4:30p.

We got back to the ship, had a snack,showered, took the kids to the lido for dinner and then to Camp Hal at 7:30pm. Then we were off for drinks and dinner at the 8:00p main seating. One of our kids stayed for the 10Pm to 12:00am after-hours camp ($5 per hour) the other went to the very good magic show at 10:30pm with us. We all slept in till 10:00am the next day at sea. A great tour and excellent day on HAL.

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Thanks so much for posting Bridges. Do you think there will be enough to keep a 15 year old busy?

 

I can answer that - YES. We got off the Zuiderdam 2 weeks ago and loved the Teen Club HAL program. BTW - my son will be 17 in 2 weeks. I know he will be disappointed when he is 18 and is too old.

 

In all of our cruises he keeps in touch with his new found friends via the internet.

 

Joni

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Thanks for all the great info on Club Hal. Our entire extended family will be on the Zuiderdam 7/16. My sister and brother have kids in the six year old range that will love Club Hal. I have a 14-year-old that thinks everything is boring :)

 

Did you happen to see a lot of teens, and did they seem to enjoy their activities? I also have a two-year-old who will turn three on the cruise. I understand the Club Hal age minimum was dropped to three, so hopefully he can participate part of the time. Really looking forward to the trip!

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Interested in hearing more about the Champagne Catamaran Snorkle Trip in St Thomas. I am scheduled to go on that one next week. I have a 17 year old son. I assume this is the snorkle trip that goes to Honeymoon Beach in St John. Am I correct ?

Your opinion would be appreciated.

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If you're still checking these boards, can you tell me what was not good about the Bahamas snorkel Adventure excursion offered through HAL? How many people are on the boat? Was the snorkeling bad? Thanks for any advice!

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Great review, thanks for sharing your thoughts. When we sailed HAL with the kids, they loved the personal attention they received from the Club HAL counsellors also. They all said they felt so special. We now have a 10-day family cruise booked for next Feb. on the Volendam. The kids are so excited about Club HAL and cannot wait to participate in the Club HAL activities and experience the new kids area of Half Moon Cay.

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Maybe its just for the sake of completeness but I wanted to finish my review of the tours on the Eastern Carribran cruise. Sorry for the gap in time.

The 2nd tour we took was St Thomas Catamaran Snorkel. This was not the same as the wildly popular Champagne sail. We were with our kids so didn't want to be on the party boat.

Our trip left in the early afternoon so we took a cab to downtown to wander the streets in the a.m. and then back to the ship for lunch and the snorkel trip tour. We were on the first of two taxi buses so we got to the boat first and took the better seats around the trampoline in the front. The crew served ice water while waiting for a third bus of passengers from the Queen Mary to arrive. The lady captain gave a perfunctory hello and then it was a nice 50 minute trip to the reef which had at least 15 other tour boats there (there were 8 ships in port). Very nice snorkel equiptment distributed. One of the two crew was going to guide the 30 of us around the reef. But by the time I had my two kids set in the water with my spouse we were already behind the group. And he had no special flag he was toeing so that we could find him again.As we set off snorkeling we ran into several others from our group who had also lost our guide. We knew they were from our boat because of the bright new snorkel vests we had been issued. It was a little disconcerting because with 15 other similar tour boats in the area we didn't know which or where our boat was when we lifted our heads up. But no panic, we knew we could find it. Fish to see was so-so. We got lucky and saw a turtle and we`wandered into the largest school of Jacks I have ever been in which both delighted and scared my kids. They had their snorkel vests inflated so they were not scared of the water it was just being amongst a school of tens of thousands. The trip back was nice although the snacks and punch were minimal. A taxi bus was there to pick us up but unwitting cruisers not part of our tour who heard the driver yell Zuiderdam jumped aboard and aced out some of the snorkelers.Hopefully, the others got back alright.The cruisers only figured out they were on the wrong bus when they asked us how come nobody was collecting money from them.

 

Okay, as always I have gone on ridiculuosly to long.

3 more tours to write about.The Vigin Gorda Baths=Good;The Tortola Dolphin Swim-expensive but if you have kids a once in a lifetime memory.Unbelievable to ride a dolphin.The Nassau SnorkelAdventure-badly organized,very long uncomfortable bus ride, no amenities, no bathrooms(captain told us to pee in the sea) no water or soda for 4 hrs.

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Thank you Bridges - Keept it coming. I have been lurking on this board because we have our first cruise coming. Noone ever talks about the actual tours or Club Hal. I registered just so I could tell you to keep the details coming

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regarding club HAL. We're looking at HAL for our next cruise...we cruise with children from 2-16 as a group of friends and family, and have cruised Disney, Celebrity, RCL, NCL and lastly Carnival. Our last cruise on Carnival was a bit of a disappointment, so we decided to look towards a cruise more suited to the adults taste (and that would be HAL or Celebrity), rather than the children's.

 

Even our kids weren't impressed with Carnival, and my 15 year old didn't seem to have much in common with the other teens on this cruise, nor was the teen program very much in evidence. I'm really looking forward to a quieter, less crowded, more refined atmosphere. Our good friends just came back from the April 16th sailing of the Zuiderdam with their two sons and raved about it.

 

Foxy, can you give some more detail on the teen club? My sons will be 13 and 16 when we cruise again next March. Thanks.

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Thanks for all the info - does anyone know if the water in the pools is still fresh? Our youngest loves to swim, but was not comfortable in the salt water.

Thanks!

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Hi,

You may want to verify that they will recognize your child turning 3 during the cruise. On our sailing, they went by the embarkation age and wouldn't admit my son who turned 5 (previous age minimum) during the cruise.

 

I hope they make an exception for you. Have a wonderful cruise!

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