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Tarkus

Zuiderdam 5/28

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I know Showdog (as well as others) are likely to follow... but here's my take (cut-and-pasted from a lengthy trip recap found on my personal website):

 

 

Summary

 

Okay, here's where I summarize what I liked, what I didn't, and whether I'd sail this vessel / company again. So here goes:

 

POSITIVES

 

The Ship and its Layout. Lots of people criticize both the layout and color scheme in the Zuiderdam, but I'm the opposite - the quirky color schemes were nowhere near as gaudy / tacky as I'd been lead to believe from reading online (of course, I don't have an aversion to red - which is good because there's quite a lot of it), and the meandering asymmetric hallways and room placements always gives you the feeling that the boat just isn't as full of people as it actually is (the one exception is the photo gallery area, especially just before an evening meal - where it is very difficult to make-way through the gaggle of passengers).

 

The Captain and his Crew. It all started-off on a good foot when Captain John Scott arrived in the Crow's Nest to greet our little group from cruisecritic.com - from that point-on he seemed to remember me throughout the cruise, even chasing me down right after having our formal portrait made to inquire if I'd have a drink with him one evening (I would have loved-to, but it never happened). And what they say about the crew being friendly at all levels is no lie... this is the first cruise I've been on where EVERYBODY - from Cabin Stewards you don't know, to Deck Stewards, to Maintenance Guys - every single one of them looks you in the eye, smiles, and says "how are you?" or similar. I was impressed... but especially with Hunky Dory (a Lido greeter who somehow manages to remember everyone's name who goes through his line that week... stand quietly and listen to him say, "hello Marion... hi Bob... good afternoon Janet... hello William... good day Helen..." Damndest thing I've ever seen!)

 

Half Moon Cay. Damn. Just damn. I would seriously consider taking another Holland America cruise that arrived at HMC for Day #2; went at sea for Day #3; returned to HMC for Day #4; went back to sea for Day #5; came back one last time for Day #6; then returned to FLL on Day #7 (of course, I would guess those sailing other Caribbean itineraries might not be too thrilled with my monopoly idea). It's everything I'd read about online and then some (although I did hear one diver proclaim that she liked Princess Cays better... but of that I have no direct knowledge).

 

Embarkation/Disembarkation. Easily the fastest / smoothest I've experienced. Other cruise lines should take note.

 

NEUTRALS

 

The Entertainment. I have mixed feelings here - James Cielen is the best illusionist I've seen in person (and I'm a bit of a magic buff, having attended shows of many of the world's best... having seen him it's clear how he has won his many awards from his peers). His technique is flawless - even illusions where I knew the trick held me in rapt amazement watching his execution. I said above that the Zuiderdam Cast's "Stage and Screen" show was the best I'd seen on ship - but that glow is tempered with a poor mix on both supporting cast microphones (I think they're better singers than we were allowed to hear) and not particularly caring for the lead male's diction (nice timbre, but his singing style is as though his jaw is wired-shut from some kind of accident). Julie Barr was inconsistent; I'd seen her previously on both TV and live and was disappointed with her work on the first night... but she redeemed herself by putting tears in my eyes on adult night. I developed a fondness for Rhonda Cryan, resident pianist, who has an immense song library from which to choose and an infectious enthusiasm; but her vocals sometimes ranged from sweet to scary (causing me to rethink when I tell people that I can't sing). My favorite keyboardist of the cruise was a fellow in a beret named Jim - but I found it difficult to figure-out where and when to catch him playing. And while I liked the musicianship of The Five Seasons, don't plan on singing-along unless you really know the words well - it's obvious that English isn't their first (or even their second or perhaps third) language. ;-)

 

The Food. This one is strange... I had no problem keeping my weight in check this week, and the only reason I'm listing here rather than negatives is the Lido - this is the first cruise I've taken where the food in the Lido is better than in the Dining Room... which makes no sense at all. Honestly, it's not that the food in the Dining Room is bad - it tasted fine - it's just that there was nothing memorable or remarkable. I'd illustrate it this way: on the second formal night my friends and I were discussing how disappointing we found the food - but no one could put their finger on a specific complaint to address. I asked several of them "what was your dinner entree two nights ago?" and nobody (including myself) could remember (my recap here is courtesy of written notes to myself throughout the cruise). But complaints we could identify? This is also the first cruise I've sailed where you only have one salad choice at dinner - I skipped a few of them just because I got tired of the only meaningful change being the dressing you select. Similarly, while I don't really have that much of a sweet tooth, this is the first time I've actually found nothing appealing on the dessert menu on repeated evenings - opting several nights to either skip for an after-dinner drink or go with the sorbet. The chocoholics in our group made similar pronouncements about their orders - desserts that ranged from "bland" to "dietetic-tasting" - and if my experience with the key lime pie is any indication, I believe them.

 

NEGATIVES

 

HAL's Passenger Demographic. While I knew about this issue in advance, I had hoped to come-away without it being a negative. No joy. Holland America has a reputation of being geared to, uh, how best to put this? "Seasoned" cruisers? And while I was surprised that the passenger complement wasn't as geriatric as I had expected, the cruise itself is clearly geared to that demographic. An example? Why do they have one dessert extravaganza for the entire week at 3pm instead of every evening at midnight? Our only conclusion was that most of HAL's guests just can't stay awake that late. This would also account for why - on more than one evening - there was nothing to do onboard after about 11pm except gamble in the Casino or listen to disco music in Northern Lights (neither of which I find very appealing). As I wrote on my "Additional Comments", they desperately need more late night options.

 

Bobbling some details that should otherwise be givens. An example? While I wrote that I loved the crew, this is the first cruise where the Cabin Steward made no effort to introduce himself on the first day (I only saw who he was late on the second day when he saw me leaving my cabin and said "Good Evening, Mr. Presley" from afar - yet never actually introducing himself). Similarly, this was the first time the Room Steward has forgotten to prep my cabin for the evening - returning home one evening to find it as I left it early that afternoon was kind of a jarring surprise. Overall, I can't fault how he otherwise maintained things... but can't help but wonder if the automated tip makes some of the crew a little lax with the intros and follow-up.

 

Please note that I do not hold the experience with Stuart Cove against Holland America - in fact, the pace with which they gave each of us a satisfactory resolution and apologized profusely left a very nice taste (at least in my mouth). The same cannot be said for Stuart himself, who couldn't even find it within himself to tell us "I'm sorry". As I wrote elsewhere, never again...

 

 

dsprule.gif

Conclusion

 

Would I sail Holland America again? Just as I've given a mixed review I have mixed feelings... I had fun - had this been my first cruise, where I had no expectations, I would say a definite "yes". But, having sampled other lines - and developed some expectations - my inclination is to say "no". This sentiment was echoed by most in my group - towards the end of the cruise, discussion about the next group vacation seemed to be centering on a land-based Caribbean all-inclusive, or perhaps either Princess or Celebrity. I also found similar reactions from others whom I met while scuba diving and in the various bars and public areas (which means I or my friends aren't the only ones having these thoughts). For those who are reading this recap and now questioning your decision to go, please don't. As I say, it was nice and you'll have a good time - but the reaction I (and most of my friends) repeated was along the lines of "I just don't see what all the hubub is about!". You'll likely have a good time - but if you're like us, you won't rank it as one of your most memorable cruise experiences.

 

 

BTW, the Stuart Cove remarks likely make no sense as they're out of context here... if you're curious what happened, click here to read about it. While no one thing was immediately life-threatening, the combination of issues in concert with some newer divers made the day a LOT riskier than it had to be.

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Excellent review and very easy to read.

I went on this cruise too and I am writing my review as we speak.

I pretty much agree with everything said above. If this is your first cruise you'll have a great time. Even if you've cruised other lines you'll have a nice time.

PS: Great website and photos!

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Good review. Very well written and balanced.

When we sailed 5/14, we took our daughtes and their boyfriends [all in their 20s] along. They enjoyed themselves and found a lot of night life ... but they all agreed if they were paying for a cruise, they would choose another line simply because of the age issue.

They loved the ship, the crew, the shows, the food -- but felt the pax were on the older side!

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It was nice meeting everyone on Sunday. We were lucky that we got to see everyone here or there the rest of the week. You are correct that we will be writing review as well.

 

Couldn't agree more on the food. There were two desserts that stand out in my mind in the Dining Room, Key Lime Pie and Chocolate Souffle. The Pinacle desserts need a bit of work.

 

Also, I wouldn't monopolize HMC. Two visits would be good. Dump Nassau and do a second visit to HMC.

 

I do have one big complaint about the cruise. The clock kept on ticking while we were away, the vacation seemed too short. Should have stayed aboard for Western Carribean. :p

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Good review. Even though my "Z" cruise was on 5/14, I have to agree with you on many points. As with you, I will probably go with another cruise line myself on the next cruise, but still enjoyed this trip as well.

 

Ray

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Im interested in a HAL cruise and have been looking for some information. Can you expand on what Half Moon Cay attraction is? Since it is a private island, can you use your sign and sail card on? How long are you there? Is it too long? or too short? What is the British Virgin lsland like?

Thanks in advance

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Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay is Holland America's private island, is located in the Bahamas, less than 100 miles southeast of Nassau. In order to preserve the setting's natural beauty, Half Moon Cay is built on just 45 of the island's 2,500 acres of crescent-shaped, white-sand beach. The island offers a variety of shore excursions, as well as a Food Pavilion and West Indies Village, an aquasports center, Club HAL playground, supervised swimming area, nine-mile stretch of beach, wild bird reserve, Bahamian-style chapel, and beach chairs. In 2003, Half Moon Cay won the Editor-in-Chief award for "Best Private Island" in the cruise industry from Porthole Cruise Magazine.b.gif

 

 

some photos I found on the internet of Half Moon Cay

 

http://community.webshots.com/album/95436884WzPGwR

 

http://community.webshots.com/album/278817765TVuPfe

 

another helpful site

 

http://www.britishvirginislands.com/

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Interesting to hear that so many of the above cruisers enjoyed their Zuiderdam cruise but would likely chose to cruise with a different cruise line the next time. I am new to this board, and am taking my wife and three older children on the 6/18 Zuiderdam cruise, our first on Holland America. We really have liked our past several cruises with Celebrity, but thought we should give Holland America a try. I hope we are not disappointed.:confused:

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Thanks for the write-up, Dave

 

 

Very thorough, and to the point of everything.

But your cabin steward .... a character of that type is rare on a HAL ship. Who knows, maybe he got distracted.

 

But don't let that make you give up on HAL. Plenty of other cruises with them to try in the future!

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Johnski, I doubt you will be disappointed with your cruise. I was apprehensive about sailing the Zuiderdam after some bad reviews on this board, but I'll tell you, we loved it and would sail that ship again without hesitation. Go with an open mind and you'll have a great time. Don't try to compare Celebrity and HAL. I am sure you will find some things that Celebrity does better than HAL and that HAL does better than Celebrity, but you'll have a great time.

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btw, since diving is a curiosity to many, i thought some of you might enjoy a pic or two to see what's "under" half moon cay:

 

20050529-14_HMC.jpg

 

20050529-03_HMC.jpg

 

:D

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