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starryowl

Just back -- Zuiderdam 05/21-28

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This was my first cruise, and, while I expected I would enjoy it, I didn't know that I would be one of those people starting to think about my next one as soon as I started packing to get off the ship!:D

 

We were blessed with fantastic weather -- sunshine during the day and perfect temperatures (OK, so it was a bit hot in the Mexican jungle), full moon on the 23rd, and lovely to look at it and the stars every night from the Observation deck. Seas were smooth to calm -- I wouldn't have minded a bit of a swell one day, since I've been on some fairly wild seas on 2 day ferry trips in the past, and rather enjoy a bit of motion -- but it was wonderful that no one was having too much trouble with it.

 

The cabin was great, and we spent a LOT of time on our verandah -- room for 4 people to have a drink if one sat on the stool, there was room to add the swivel chair from the room. I was the one on the port side hollering out the dolphin sighting one evening -- it was great to see all the heads appear to watch them play! Also saw another group of dolphins, a large marlin, and a whale! And lots of flying fish. Possibly not exciting for experienced cruisers, but I certainly enjoyed it. :) Our room steward, Evan, was excellent, and our room service guys were wonderful!

 

I enjoyed the ship's decor, it didn't really make me gasp in either dismay or admiration, but it was diverse enough to be interesting, and I actually liked the colours. Flowers were great, art was eclectic. I was impressed with the care taken with the carpeting -- I guess that's what happens when the public areas are vacuumed 4 times a day, and the cabins twice daily. (good thing I have hardwood at home)

 

Was glad to meet up with other CCers from the roll call the first night in the Crow's Nest -- we were a bit late joining the others as we had the 8:30 dinner seating, and were travelling with a group so dinners tended to be very leisurely. It sure was great to put faces to some of the folks from the roll call board!

 

Days at sea were wonderful! So much to do, but I found I was happy just sitting on the verandah with a glass of wine, or up on the top deck with a bucket of beer and some friends. And afternoon siestas did seem necessary after some early mornings and late nights in the piano bar! We really enjoyed Rhonda Cryan in the piano bar -- she has a sweet voice, tho not really a singer, but a good player, and she really wants the passengers to participate and sing, so there was lots of group singing, and lots of us getting up to try out the mike. Fell in love with Jeff singing Berkely Square, and Tim's rendition of Brush Up Your Shakespeare was a nightly highlight! Her piano has 3 broken keys on the bass end, and hopefully HAL will get that fixed for her, it was a pain for everyone. It was quite a group by the last night.;)

 

As far as shows went, we really enjoyed the Elton John guy, I'd read so many good things about him on these boards, and it was a GREAT show!!! We missed the first night crew show/comic, tho many of our friends saw it and thought it was great. We checked out the 2nd crew show, 50's 60's 70's music, but left after 2 numbers, not very inspiring singing or choreography, but then that's not the kind of show we'd likely go to. Next day met 1 fellow who absolutely loved it. Since so many people had enjoyed the comic, we went to her adult show, but left after about 10 minutes. I'd heard most of her old people jokes before, and I found her offensive without being funny -- and we usually have a blast watching stand up comedians, but were really unimpressed. Again, those of our friends who'd loved her the first night said that if we'd stayed, the show got better, especially when she interacted with the audience, but for me to stay, she needs to write some new material for the first 10 minutes.

 

We went to the late night Indonesian crew show, and loved it. The performers had varied levels of accomplishment, but there was such a spirit of joy and excitement in performing, and pride in sharing their culture with us, it made it a wonderful night. The hand clapping number was super!!!

 

We enjoyed all our excursions. The day at HMC was wonderful -- we were the only ship there, and had lots of empty space on the beach. Lots of lying about and playing in the water, walked up and down the entire shore, maybe worked off the frozen pina coladas? No problems with waiting any length of time with the tenders.

 

We took the island tour and stingray cruise on Grand Cayman, never having been before, and it was an interesting overview, tho not enough time at the Tortuga rum stop! The turtle farm was interesting, the rock formations at Hell were cool, and it's good to get an overview of a place sometimes. But, being in the water with the stingrays was INCREDIBLE!!! If you've never done it, do so at your next opportunity. The water was shallow enough that people didn't have to swim, but deep enough that those of us who wanted to could, and the stingrays are softer than dolphins. Great fun feeding them the squid, and the younger ones seemed to be interested in checking out the humans -- they stayed around long after the squid was gone, the older ones left pretty quickly. Lots of photos on the disposable water camera that day!

 

At Costa Maya, we went on the Kuhunlich Ruins excursion. It's very long, I wouldn't recommend booking a non-ship trip, just in case anything held you up, you could easily miss the ship. We met at 11 a.m. on board, walked in (you could ride a shuttle) and right to the bus. Make sure to take water, it's a jungle out there, and we drank water we'd brought on the bus (yes to air conditioned) on our way there. They gave us each a bottle at the site, and our guide, Olda, was very informative, yet also gave us some time to just explore some of it on our own. I would have liked about another half hour on site, but I get caught up in the feel of some of these ancient places. I found this one to be very welcoming and soothing. There was also lots of shade, which was good (Chichen Itza for example has next to none), and there are some interesting buildings. Of course, the highlight is the temple with the masks. Unlike Chichen Itza, there are not shops and restaurants on site, so you can't pick up souveneirs there, if you're someone who cares about that. They tell you to wear good walking shoes, and they aren't kidding, uneven terrain, and loose rocks if you're climbing up to the temple -- couldn't believe that I saw some women in lightweight heeled sandals -- yikes! A glass of beer when we got back to the bus, (when they ran out our driver, Juan Carlos brought out some cans and passed those out) and I was grumbling that I'd rather stay longer than stop for our (very late!) lunch on the way home -- until we stopped at a restaurant on the Laguna de los Sietes Colores, at the Blue Cenote, and had an easy supper (grilled chicken breasts, rice, pickled onions and beer or pop) right on the lake. The breeze was great, and it was beautiful. Got back to Cost Maya at about 7:30, and since we were leaving at 8:30, we pretty much just walked back to the ship. Some of the shops and bars were still open, but we've shopped in Mexico before, so didn't see anything that caught our eyes. Friends who didn't go out on any excursions -- those who got into drinking tequila in the square were happy, those who went into the village and to the beach were also happy.

 

Key West, trolley tour and Catamaran sail and snorkel -- EXCELLENT snorkelling! Quite reasonable equipment supplied, crew was great at going over safety and snorkelling tips for inexperienced folks, and they have my favourite way of getting in the water -- going down the steps on your bottom (we called it "bumbling" when we were kids), and there was so much to see! Including many fish of many colours, and 3 huge fish that were bigger than me -- I was told these were tarpin -- my DH says my eyes were huge when they came by -- but as soon as I saw they weren't sharks I was hardly overwhelmed by them at all!:D . At numerous times I was surrounded by a school of bright fish, and the hour in the water went by very quickly. Another water proof camera's worth of photos.

 

Food on the trip was good -- not outstanding, except for the lobster tails, which I love -- and when we asked for seconds on the crab, it turned out the kitchen had just closed down, but our waiter asked the woman in the white jacket (steward?) to check, and she convinced them to do just 4 plates -- and it was SUPERB. Sometimes the descriptions would leave out key ingredients (eg potato soup sounded delicious, but had bacon as an unlisted ingredient, which for someone who can't eat pork meant I couldn't have it once I'd smelled it), however, it wasn't hard to get a different soup. We didn't dine in the Pinnacle, enjoyed the food and service in the Vista, found the Lido a bit limited in choice -- rather wished there was an Indonesian station -- but certainly never went hungry.

 

Re the pools, I wish that the hot tubs could be kept open much later -- there's nothing like sitting in one under the stars at midnight. Spent most of our teak chair time up on the top deck, and really liked the ability to step in and out of the deck showers to cool off if we didn't feel like going to the outdoor pool. Never went into the Lido pool, found just walking through that area could be a bit hard to breathe, so just avoided it.

 

Disembarkation was easy. Only glitch was a charge that appeared on our bill that morning that wasn't ours, and Ken had to go down to the front desk and found that they were rather rude. They even brought out a receipt from a charge we weren't contesting and tried to say that was proof we'd made the charge -- a totally different amount -- anyway, something that could have been handled much better by their staff. Maybe the staff was feeling overwhelmed because there were also people there with problems from charges earlier in the week, and those had been supposed to have been brought down the previous day before 8 pm.....

 

Anyway, had a MARVELOUS time, and would be quite happy to sail HAL again. Think I'm spoiled for anything other than a verandah room. Though I hear those S suites are pretty nice -- and which category has that hot tub on the balcony? Hmmmm. Sure wish I'd won that free cruise draw!

 

Margarette

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Thanks so much for the great review! We are heading out on the Z in a two weeks on the 11th, but for the Eastern Car. We can hardly wait. Would love to hear back from the ones who are on it now, see how the Eastern half is treating the Z.

 

Chris & Allan

Zuiderdam June 11, 2005

:D

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Good review. Sounds like the refrigeration is finally fixed. We wer on the "Z" the week before when they had all the problems keeping the food cool.

Ray

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Anyway, had a MARVELOUS time, and would be quite happy to sail HAL again. Think I'm spoiled for anything other than a verandah room. Though I hear those S suites are pretty nice -- and which category has that hot tub on the balcony? Hmmmm. Sure wish I'd won that free cruise draw!

 

That would be the Penthouse Suite. :)

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Thanks for a great review of the ports as well as the ship. Sailing that route on June 18.

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I was also on the ship with you.............my review will be posted tomorrow.....what a wonderful week we had!

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Thanks for sharing your experiences. I look forward to reading more from the 5/21 gang.

 

So -- did you have ice cream?

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Hi Margarette,

 

Enjoyed meeting you & Ken at the Crow's Nest. Sorry to get off topic, but could you remind me the name and/or author of the book you recommended to Connie & me?

 

Glad you had a nice experience for your first cruise. Keep it up, it only gets better each time.

 

Thanks,

 

Debbie

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We had a wonderful time!

The Zui is great and we'd sail her again, no problem...not sure what the hoopla is about the decor--the only time we noticed it was when one of us remembered all of the fuss people online were making about it. I guess we were more into enjoying the service and less about the non-important issues. That said, we've always previously sailed the smaller HAL ships, and we both prefer them. We love the at sea days (wish there were more) but on the Vista ships we really noticed the extra 400-600 pax that are there as opposed to the smaller ships. But, someone who's been sailing the larger ships like Carnival or Royal Caribbean would have a completely different impression!

 

HMC was beautiful, as usual. We did the semi-submersible at Grand Cayman--that was pretty interesting for those of us who don't scuba or snorkel. Didn't care for Costa Maya--what a congested port! (it reminded us of Cozumel, which we also didn't like). We were disappointed that we didn't get to dock at Mallory Square in Key West, but the locals said they try to keep the cruise ships away from there except in overflow situations (we were the only ship this time). We had to dock at the naval base and the shuttle situation was a hassle. But, we enjoyed walking around Key West and people-watching.

 

We had lots of fun playing trivia, and did OK! We really enjoyed our regular team mates, Nick from Baltimore and Steve from Austin. We were also alternately joined by Pat and Roy (from CC) and a couple from SC, Rick and Gloria. Gloria had her wallet stolen from her bag in Key West, so that's a reminder that tourists can be walking targets anywhere.

 

We had the best table mates in the dining room than any other cruise! We laughed every night to the point of pain. Tried the Pinnacle but actually prefer the dining room. Our steward was unobtrusive but attentive. The only night that they didn't have anything on the menu that would work for me (the vegetarian thing) was Friday night (that was the only day we didn't check the menu first--too much time at Margaritaville:o ). We were going to excuse ourselves and go to the Lido but the dining captain found out, came and talked to me about what I liked, and within minutes I had a wonderful pasta dish with my favorite ingredients!

 

The entertainment was also the best we've had on a cruise. Joel Mason is so talented, and who knew he could also play a mean guitar?? Alfreda was wonderful, and we really, really enjoyed Julie--I bet she'd be a blast to have a drink with! The only "disappointment" was the gal in the piano bar--she does not have the right voice for "pop" tunes and the piano had definite issues with the low keys.

 

The embarkation and disembarkation were seamless....now I just have the unpacking and mountain of laundry (glad Monday is a holiday!)....I need to get busy, but first I have to figure out why my house has started gently rolling from side to side as I walk...:confused:

 

we're already scoping out the web for our next cruise!

Connie

 

__________________

5/21/2005 HAL Zuiderdam

12/6/2003 HAL Zaandam

4/12/2003 HAL Maasdam

12/1/2001 HAL Veendam

 

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=008080&cdt=2005;5;21;17;00;00&timezone=GMT-0500

 

We're growing older but not up!

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Hi all,

 

Have a blast on your cruise, Chris and Allan, I think the Eastern journey might be upcoming for us sometime! I'll look for your review.

 

Ray, no problems with the refrigeration, but they did run out of buckets of Corona!

 

Owench, we DID have icecream! Whenever Ken disappeared on the Lido, I knew he'd re-appear with a bowl in hand.

 

Connie and Debbie, it was so good meeting you and the other CCers. I wish we'd seen more of you guys. Re the book, I remember talking about one with you, but can't wrap my brain around which one we talked about (lots of book chat this week) -- if you want to email me and describe the topic, I can give you the info. I think Connie has my email, if not, let me know and I'll give it to you. Connie, nice review! I tried to make it to one of the trivia matches, but was either still in port, at a reception or sleeping when they were on! And yes, laundry, sigh.

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