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shrimp56

Home for the Holidays: Christmas on ms Zuiderdam

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Herein I will provide pictures, pull together random facts & opinions, and, hopefully, not duplicate my sporadic "semi-live" thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1957475

 

It was the first Christmas without my mother,which meant no more negotiations as to who was to visit when. And my DH's 3 wonderful sons were focusing on the failing health of their mom. So. We left town. More specifically we left Fort Lauderdale on a 'dam ship. As I said "Home for the Holidays." We had eyed Westerdam's 7 day Western Caribbean cruise, but it would involve spending Christmas Day in St Thomas with 20,000 or so of our closest cruising buddies. We opted for the Zuiderdam's Christmas Day at sea.

 

Any regular reader of this board knows that Zuidy has been getting not so great reviews lately, although it is unclear how genuine some of those reviews are. So I set out to see how Zuidy actually was. Her decor is garish and inconsistent, however there are pockets of of decorative rationality here and there. Both will be shown in this pictorial view.

 

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Our Waterford seahorse in the Atrium.

 

We heard of one AC problem on Deck 4 that lasted 11 hours. All tested toilets flushes and in the process I learned the secret of how to best flush a HVAC toilet. There were very small amounts of wear here and there, but overall she was a clean and well run ship. Only reported untoward smells were on shore. But then what do you expect from a park full of pigeons? Only noticeably slow service was the first night in MDR. The MDR food was the best I've had on HAL. Embarkation and Debarkation were decent speed. I've had faster and slower. The customs line in Fort Lauderdale on our return was not speedy, but the line did move. It did help that we were the only ship in port that day.

 

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A view from our Rotterdam Deck Verandah cabin

 

We smuggled our non-starred traveling companion into Mariner's Lunch without a problem. It was the same menu as I've seen twice before, but this time the Pasta Primavera was delish.

 

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The summer fruit tart was its reliable self.

 

I looked for the CC group both at the midships Lido pool and the seaview Lido pool and did not find them. So the three of us settled down at the latter and made the first dent in our key cards. I was worried that we'd be drowned out by HALcats as we were on our Eurodam Norway cruise, but they must have been someplace else. What we did have was a sampling of the other entertainers, including a steel drummer who was excellent.

 

We were in port with Maasdam and a Celebrity and Oceania ship. Maasdam left first.

 

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And then it was our turn to slip quietly out to sea.

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**My apologies for the oversized pictures. I will resize for the next installment**

Edited by shrimp56

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OK, you've whetted our appetites, literally and figuratively:) So keep them coming...And I third or fourth it, DO NOT resize the photos, they are perfect!!

 

Joanie

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Well I've already resized two posts worth, so we'll see...

 

As I noted the first night dinner in The MDR was slow. We did have great waiters though, Odhe and Wartam. Despite being "any 'dam time" diners, we managed to get on their station for every evening and ended up having a blast with them. We were downstairs.

 

DAY 1: Day at Sea

I've come to the conclusion that every cruise should begin and end with a sea day as a buffer between LIFE at both ends of the cruise. Zuidy complied. We did have rough seas the first few days as we were headed into the wind. This created a sensation I have named "chuddering", a mix between shuddering and chattering. You are well aware that the ship and the sea are involved in an ongoing negotiation. It was ok for us, but by the time we turned around after Philipsburg we were ready for the joys of having the wind at our back. Our 1st time cruising companion was terrified the first night, certain we were doomed. We assured her that it would take a LOT more than that. In fact in the Captain's Q&A he said the ship could safely roll to a 50 degree angle. But at that point the water would rush in the lower promenade deck and render that moot. He said, I think, that the worst he has experienced was a 30% roll.

 

The Zuiderdam Lido is one of the places where I think the bright colors work. The ceiling seemed lower and the area near the buffet was narrower, but the seating area itself had low walls that made the actually eating experience feel quieter.

 

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The Zuiderdam magenta, blue, orange and turquoise color scheme at its best.

 

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I did not retouch this photo. The water was just that blue

 

As a retired teacher I was fascinated by the Steel Drumming class at the Lido Pool area. The drummer taught just the way my Japanese professor teaches.; bit by bit. It took a long time for them to put 3 or 4 sounds together, I left for about 20 minutes and when I came back they had several longer phrases under control and, while not up to performance speed, not at a dreary pace either.

 

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I'm not sure what Mr Polar Bear and cub thought of the drums and the warm temperatures.

 

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I took our friend to the Le Cirque cooking demo. She enjoyed it immensely. The space for the cooking demos on the bigger ships is too spread out to really see, except on the TV monitors. I had seen this demo twice before and despite my "no not again" feeling, I had a good time. Both the chef and the host spoke clearly and were informative as well as amusing. I learned a lot more than I had in the previous demos. However, it's time for HAL to change the Le Cirque menu or the dishes they demo. Creme sans-Brulee was passed out in nice plastic spoons like those used for Asian soups. I am sure this is why we were "sans brulee."

 

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Poached Lobster starter and Creme Brulee

 

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My Pompano fish dinner. Both delicate and flavorful. I am beginning to think cruise lines have their own preferred vegetable. Someone on the Celebrity forum was complaining about constant carrots. HAL seems to be favoring broccoli.

 

After dinner we usually retired The Explorer's Lounge to listen to Adagio. I will reserve extended comments on them for another day as they were discussed in my "semi-live" thread. Classical music was followed by our second night of "chuddering."

Edited by shrimp56

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Zuiderdam seems to be short on Christmas decorations. I would have been extremely disappointed. Didn't care for the ship or our Neptune Suite in May either. My least favourite ship so far. Glad to read you are enjoying yourself. Happy New Year.

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TBH I thought most of the holiday decorations were pretty tacky and showing their age. I do have 2 photos later in the report. Someone liked toy trains a lot and the blades on the windmill in Explorers Lounge had trouble staying on. On the other hand how do you decorate a ship whose color palette is orange, blue, magenta and turquoise? My answer would be to have all the decorations silver, with a few gold touches. You can't fight those colors and win.

 

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Zuidy. It isn't my favorite 'dam ship either, but I would cruise on her again.

Edited by shrimp56

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Did you have anything like these displays on the Prinsendam? They seem to have been created by the pastry shop and I thought they were very nice:

 

Dining room lobby:

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Forward stairs deck 7:

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Roy

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Zuiderdam seems to be short on Christmas decorations. I would have been extremely disappointed. Didn't care for the ship or our Neptune Suite in May either. My least favourite ship so far. Glad to read you are enjoying yourself. Happy New Year.

 

I was on the cruise just before Shrimp's and they put up the decorations while we were on board (we disembarked 12/20). On 12/19 I went through the ship, top to bottom and photographed all the decorations I saw and will be posting them once my photos are all edited and ready to go.

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Oh my, that Pompano fish dinner looks so yummy. I absolutely must try that next cruise. Obviously food is on my mind, I keep zoning in on the food photos, LOL.

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Day 2: Grand Turk

Pulling into Grand Turk the basic elements are visible: blue-green water and sand, chairs on the beach and buildings for shopping, eating and drinking.

 

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We docked alongside Maasdam,

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so a family portrait was essential.

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We began this day with good intentions. After all GT is designed to trap and sate the cruiser. So we were going break the pattern by visiting The Turks & Caicos National Museum and eating at Jack's Shack. We'd show 'em! We were slowed by the new heat and humidity (compared to Chicago) and decided that we needed something cool to drink before we started... you know where that leads... straight to Margaritaville.

 

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After a cooling drink and a passing downpour we lost our will and sucumbed, just as they wanted us to. We did a bit of shopping, then we went back to the ship for lunch, leaving our friend ensconsed in a shady beach chair.

 

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And then we watched the Maasdam sail away...

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Edited by shrimp56

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Oh my, that Pompano fish dinner looks so yummy. I absolutely must try that next cruise. Obviously food is on my mind, I keep zoning in on the food photos, LOL.

It was delicious. It came with saffron rice and a bit of slightly spicy mango salsa.

 

Day 3: San Juan, PR - Arrival

After leaving Grand Turk I wandered up to Observation Deck, home to what our companion called "The Crobar", referring, I suppose to what it takes to get us out of there after Happy Hour. It also houses Explorations Cafe and The Observation Terrace. The latter seemed to be one of the best places on the ship for warmth, sun and solitude.

 

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Here we have the Zuiderdam's color range in full bloom. The problem with the decor, Venetian/Italian thematically, was not individual elements, but the failure of those elements to form a coherent whole. These chairs represent Italian furniture style, but make no sense as part of whole, other than to make sure your eyes are open wide. OK a question. The forward elevators were RED inside, the midships ones BLUE. What color are the aft elevators?

 

To the relief of the classic ship lover, this fine specimen was on display as you enter The Crobar.

 

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San Juan

Sailing into San Juan is storied for its history and beauty and it did not disappoint. Since we were to be there from 1pm to 8pm, no sleep deprivation was involved. Port side was where to be.

 

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El Morro Fortress

 

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Getting closer

 

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Docked

 

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Zuidy at rest

 

It was our first visit to The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It is fair to say that we fell in love with the architecture, the people, the art galleries and the drinks. Getting off a ship in a port that is US, but also not, was fascinating. I felt both at home and an intruder. Security was good and very American in style, which whatever we think of what the world has become, was reassuring. DH took the El Morro shorex, which was fascinating, but also quite tiring. It really should be marked with three little people rather than two according to him. Our friend and I decided to explore the old part of the city on our own.

 

Next: Our afternoon in San Juan, PR

Edited by shrimp56

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It was delicious. It came with saffron rice and a bit of slightly spicy mango salsa.

 

Very much enjoying your review, Shrimp! Love your writing style. We are doing another cruise - the Mediterranean on the Noordam in April next. 22 days and very port intensive. Will be very different to Norway!

 

All the best,

Ozcruizer

 

Aug 2013 - Eurodam - Norway & Baltic States

Nov 2012 - Volendam - Great Barrier Reef & Asia Discovery to HK

Feb 2010 - New Zealand

May 2007 - Alaska Inside Passage

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It was delicious. It came with saffron rice and a bit of slightly spicy mango salsa.

 

Very much enjoying your review, Shrimp! Love your writing style. We are doing another cruise - the Mediterranean on the Noordam in April next. 22 days and very port intensive. Will be very different to Norway!

 

All the best,

Ozcruizer

DRAT! I was hoping you'd be on our June 17 Nieuw Amsterdam cruise, but in any case have a fabulous time!

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Thanks for the kind words folks. We keep saying to each other that it was a perfect cruise. 2 sea days, 2 beach days and 2 city/cultural days. Just the right amount of everything and all on a 'dam ship.

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My apologies for the delay here. We had a family illness, as well as being frozen in place here in Chicago.

 

Day 3: San Juan, PR continued . . .

 

Our decision to take a taxi from the dock to the Cathedral ran into a small snag. The Governor of Puerto Rico was in residence at La Fortaleza, a light blue and white mansion perched on a cliff overlooking the sea at the end of the main shopping street, Calle Fortaleza. Consequently streets were blocked off and police were much in evidence, so our driver had to drop us off a few blocks short of our quarries, the cathedral and the hotel, El Convento, a beautiful re-purposing of ... yep an old convent.

 

A small restaurant on the way to the cathedral.

 

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An aside: You could take the free trolley to the cathedral. We just wanted to get started. It is a nice morning, or afternoon in our case, self-guided shorex: Cathedral, El Convento for a cool drink, browsing shops down Calle del Cristo including a charming craft gallery, AGE Gallery; turn left at Calle Fortaleza and shop and drink your way back to the ship.

 

As you look up the street the first thing you see is the hotel, rather than the cathedral.

 

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Calle de San Juan, the street just below the hotel and opposite the cathedral is typical for Old San Juan, with its Banyan trees.

 

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A delightful sculpture in the little park is of penguins in a boat by local artist Jorge Zeno.

 

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Facade of The Cathedral of St John the Baptist

 

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Interior of The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, a blend of Spanish and local sensibilities. We learned during our ramble that the 3 wise men were central to the Puerto Rican celebration of Christmas. Here's more information: http://gopuertorico.about.com/od/eventsandholidays/tp/The-History-And-Meaning-Of-Three-Kings-Day-In-Puerto-Rico.htm You will see statues of the 3 kings in every medium in the craft shops.

 

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It was very hot and stuffy in the cathedral so a rest stop for a cool drink was added to the schedule... Fortunately the El Convento Patio Bar was close by.

Edited by shrimp56

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I was on the cruise just before Shrimp's and they put up the decorations while we were on board (we disembarked 12/20). On 12/19 I went through the ship, top to bottom and photographed all the decorations I saw and will be posting them once my photos are all edited and ready to go.

 

 

Looking forward to them.

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Your review is great and your pics are fabulous. Really enjoying this. Thanks so much.

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Day 3: San Juan, PR continued . . .

 

After the hot and stuffy interior of the cathedral we needed something cool to drink, so we headed for the Patio at the center of Hotel El Convento. What a beautiful hotel! Very Spanish mission in style and decorated for the holidays.

 

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We sat at the patio bar and enjoyed our glasses of Perrier. The Spanish (and others) knew what they were doing placing an open space at the center of a building in a hot climate. The gentle breeze was very refreshing as was the sound of water from the fountains, not to mention our drinks.

 

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When we reached the corner of Calles Cristo & Fortalza we were drawn to Cristo Chapel and Parque de la Palomas, or "pigeon park." Apparently the Spanish word Palomas means "dove" and applies equally to those lovely white doves of peace as well as the garden variety pigeons, which these were. Pigeon poop and its aroma were in evidence. The wall at the back of the park had cubbyholes built in for the pigeons to roost in.

 

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The structure at the end of Calle Cristo turned out to be a chapel, built there to prevent people from falling into the sea.

 

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We then turned right on Calle Fortaleza. At one end, blocked off, was the Governor's mansion. In the other direction lay shopping and our pina coladas.

 

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Edited by shrimp56

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Your photos are lovely. What camera do you shoot?

 

BTW, the Spanish weren't too far off in naming it Parque de la Palomas ... pigeons and doves are in the same bird family (Columbidae) but obviously the experience would have been way more pleasant had you found it full of doves. ;) I do like the pigeon holes in the wall, though.

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Thanks for the comments:) My camera is a Sony Cybershot, an older H series I think. Although it has a G on the front. 16x optical zoom. Nothing fancy. The closest I can see on the current Sony page is HX50V, but I didn't pay anywhere near that much for it.

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Your photos are wonderful. As I was reading through, I was stopped by the colors and clarity of your pictures. If possible, please don't resize, they are great.

 

And thanks for sharing, you have an eye for details that are very interesting.

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Thanks for the kind comments:) I do love detail. I also confess to using Adobe Photoshop to color correct and sharpen images, but I try not to over do it.

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Day 3: More San Juan, PR

Can you tell how much we enjoyed Old San Juan? And how easy it is to do your own walking tour with stops for cooling drinks?

 

El Punto at 105 Calle Fortaleza is a restaurant that is recommended for its tasty local cuisine at a good price in a funky setting. I had though of El Punto for dinner if we had lasted that long. (Which we didn't.) The reviews I read said it hard to find , but that issue has been corrected, with an orange awning over the entrance to the long corridor that leads to the restaurant and menus on the outside wall. We poked our head in to take a look. Maybe next visit we will eat there.

 

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My companion looked down a side street and saw some figures hanging from underneath the balcony of a bright green building. On closer inspection this revealed itself as a Nativity scene created with hand-crafted puppets. A bright beacon not to be missed.

 

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In every shop we stopped in our friend asked where the best Pina Colada was and the unanimous choice was Barrachina. In one craft gallery we were told to ask for "Big José." You should too. He is a warm hearted character who was an excellent waiter and a lot of fun. Since we sat in the air-conditioned restaurant part we felt we should have a little food. We ordered and shared a delicious plate of fried plaintains stuffed with shredded chicken. It was not spicy, just full of flavor. We had eaten half of it before I thought to take a picture. Sorry.

 

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Barrachina claims the creation of the Pina Colada. I will not adjudicate that claim, but I will say it's the best pina colada I've ever had, and I've had a few. Creamy, thick, plenty of rum and very yummy. The quality of the ingredients was such that it remained the same luscious texture to the end. We had been smart to choose inside as a total downpour with wind passed through while we were in Pina Colada heaven. It freshened the air considerably as we rededicated ourselves to window shopping as we headed down Calle Fortaleza towards our ship.

 

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Edited by shrimp56

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Shrimpie; how do you get your large pics onto CC. Used to be able to do it no prob, but can't anymore; Muchas Gracias! My "attachments" bar on top is just blank

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I use photobucket as my host. I pay $25 a year I think for bandwidth. For me it's worth it since I post a lot of pictures here and there.

 

PS I found you on FB.. my message went to your "other" folder I am sure. If you ignored me on purpose that is cool, but if that isn't the case "begs nicely." I'm Sally Fowler there.

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