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Rookie review of Zuiderdam 6/4-6/11..bear with me

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First just a little background. First cruise for my family [me, wife and 13yo son] and her identical twin [sis, husband and 8yo son]. Their older sis and husband were seasoned cruisers. Also, we were all booked into "S" class suites so I am also writing from an extremely spoiled point-of-view as a rookie.


EMBARKATION: Other than the extremely grouchy woman manning the line getting everyone's documents in order it went fine. We had a goof by the TA and had people mixed up in a couple of rooms, but this lady was really a grouch. Time to get out of the people business IMHO [laugh].


ROOM: Wow...we were caught off guard. The room was big...well appointed..big. The bed was very comfortable and even my son said his pull out from the large sofa was comfortable. Must have been the way he slept! Bathroom was very nice and the dressing area was used extensively by my wife. TONS of closet space which was nice. I had read a lot of negatives about our rooms [we had 7067 and wife's twin sister had 7068] because of the verandah's proximity to the elevators. Never had any problems with a feeling of lack of privacy. In fact, at night when going up the elevator you couldn't see into our verandah due to all the reflection from lighting inside the elevator. We never ran the lights on our verandah so that might have helped. In any case...we would take those rooms again without issue due to them being close to the elevators and the Neptune lounge. The Neptune was great...always great snacks and I would have packed the cappucino maker if I could have. Gary, the concierge, was always helpful and smiling. Our room steward, Agus, was fabulous. Great towel animals that my son loved and the ice was always fresh. We loved the complimentary laundry and dry cleaning...that spoiled us immediately.


THE SHIP: I loved the ship. The colors were fine for me and the layout was pretty easy to get used to. Never seemed too crowded except for the Lido pool on sea days. Did not spend much time there though due to the overwhelming smoke. I guess all the smokers come there to sit and do their thing. Constantly smelled like a smoky bar. Everywhere else was great. The aft pool and deck never felt full and overall thought the ship just felt like a good size. There were areas that looked more worn out than I thought they probably should given the age of the ship. The carpet was pulling up in some hallways and looking faded in some transitional areas, but overall I liked the ship and its decor. On one note, we were originally scheduled to sail the Caribbean Princess but ended up on the Z due to a goof. After driving past the CP on the way to port I am glad for the goof. That ship is almost an oddity it is so big. I cannot imaging being on a ship that is double the passenger size of the Z.


THE FOOD: Loved it all. Really did not have any complaints. The dining room was very nice and our waiter, Herry, was fabulous. He always had something up his sleeves for our kids, from little foil animal statues mounted on wine corks or puzzles to work out. The Pinnacle grill was very nice and the filet I had there just melted in your [or my] mouth.


THE STAFF: These people were fabulous. They were friendly, smiling always and just went above and beyond. They quickly learned your names and preferences, as noted by one guy in the Crow's Nest. We met there before dinners most nights and he led us to the same tables every time after the first time. Hunky Dory was hilarious. He had a hard time getting a couple of names down, but otherwise was amazing. I hate others following our cruise will miss him.


THE PORTS: I really don't use the ports to define my cruising experience because I think the ship is what sets the tone. Half Moon Cay was fabulous. Would have enjoyed several days there. Never seen water that clear nor sand that soft. After standing out in the water looking back at the beach it was clear that they could, and should, expand the number of cabanas and shells. They could very easily double the number of cabanas and shells without having any significant impact on the aesthetics of the beach. Grand Cayman was nice. We shopped a while, enjoying the beautiful jewelry and art in the Passman Gallery...truly amazing stuff. The men then headed out for the Stingray swim. Never done that...was fantastic. Costa Maya...could have done somewhere else. If fact, the guys stayed on the ship and the ladies went shopping. We were there with the Carnival Miracle and the RCI Explorer of the Seas I believe. The wives said it felt like spring break on shore with lots of young people walking around drunk. We stood on the verandah late in the visit and watch a lot of young kids, many that looked too young to be drinking, stumbling back down the pier to the other ships with arms loaded with those long neon drink glasses. I have no issues with people drinking and don't want to sound like a fuddy-duddy [Lord knows I did my share on the ship] but am thankful I was not on the ships with those other crowds if that was par for the course there.


KIDS PROGRAMS: This is the only area I found lacking. For my nephew, who was in the tweens program, it went very well. The counselors were great and the activities kept him very entertained. The teen program was a bust. My son complained that his counselor was constantly handing things out to the kids and then just sat on the laptop working all the time. Now, I understand that for teens they normally do not require much direction...but don't have a program if you don't plan to put something into it. It was also clear that the 16-18 age group don't mesh that well with the 13-15 kids, which I understand. That could have played a roll as my son said that there were more of the older kids around the club than his age. My wife talked to the supervising couselor and she admitted that this counselor was doing work for her on the laptop all that time. They do not have The Loft completed for the teens yet, so there was no place for them to just hang out when activities were not planned. The Wave Runner had a table of PS2's sitting there, but was not available unless activities were planned. Holland has a lot of catching up to do in this area but I understand this is a new area for HA and give them some stars for what they have in place already. All that being said, my son loved the cruise and said he would like to do it again but just hoped the teens program was better organized next time.


DISEMBARKATION: They made us get off...nuff said.


FINAL THOUGHTS: Absolutely loved the cruise. We have already discussed maybe doing the Eastern on this ship. Not sure I would want to be on a bigger ship now, but again have never having been on one so not sure how much different it would be. I understand the lure of cruising and the reason people do this. I discovered Mango daquiris...which I plan to begin experimenting with today. I discovered that you CAN have a complete group of individuals who are dedicated to service with a smile..and really mean it. I discovered that a cruise ship is a great place to reconnect with family. I discovered the meaning of "post-cruise depression" when I woke up this morning realizing it was already over!!


Thanks to everyone here who have helped me by answering my pre-cruise questions.

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Glad you had a great cruise experience. I read other postings that said 300 kids on the Zuiderdam was a nightmare and that they would never sail her again. All I can say about that is more room for me! My husband (first time cruiser) and myself (cruised the Veendam in the 90's) first sailed the western route on the Zuiderdam in May 2004 - fell in love immediately - got home and had the Eastern Caribbean route booked within 30 days for a fall sailing! Cruised the Zuiderdam again in November and it felt like we were finally home again. Met up with all our previous staffers (love them!!!!!) and had another great cruise. We did luck out and have Hunky Dory as our dining room waiter. What a trip. You were very lucky to meet him since that was his final cruise until September. HA was very fortunate to re-sign him to the Zuiderdam. I hope they gave him a great contract. A questions for you....did anyone have a going away party for him that you know of? I sure hope so! Glad you have a great cruise and enjoy booking the eastern route...you won't be sorry!!:)

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Thanks for posting your review of the Zuiderdam.

In May we also had Agus as our cabin steward - we had him on a previous ship. Loved his animals. We had a hard time some nights finding the appropriate food for those critters.

We also had Gary in the Neptune Lounge. Actually Marjorie was the concierge and Gary was her assistant.

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