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Ship vs. Shape

Zuiderdam Eastern Caribbean 10/1/05 - 10/8/05 Review

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Zuiderdam 10/1/05 - 10/8/05 Review


Arrival: Holland America reps greeted us at the Fort Lauderdale airport and told us what to expect, where we could grab breakfast, etc., which was nice. The reps weren't always on the same page, however. One said the bus for the transfer to the pier would come around 10:30 a.m.; another said that it'd be 11:30 a.m. It ended up being 10:30 a.m. At least they were all pleasant.


Embarkation: Went very smoothly overall. Got to the cruise terminal at about 11:00 a.m. Line outside wasn't managed terribly well but once in the embarkation terminal things improved a lot -- in fact the embarkation process was much better than it was during my last HAL cruise 8 years ago. We got on the ship around 11:40 a.m. and went to have lunch at the Lido Restaurant.


First afternoon: Ship was a little warm during this time because of open doors and not being fully revved up. Announcement that rooms were available came at about 1:30 p.m. Luggage arrived around 3:30 p.m. or so. The staff was working at a good pace but there was a lot of luggage so it's understandable I suppose. Information was waiting in the cabin. One note said to confirm my Pinnacle Grill reservation. I tried by phone but there was no answer so went in person and had to stand in line for about 30 minutes. The Pinnacle Grill reservation confirmation process needs improvement. After confirming the reservation had fun just walking around the ship. Evacuation drill was at 4:30 p.m. Photographers snapped pictures of people during the drill to sell at the photo shop, so be ready! The crew takes roll call during the drill too, by cabin number.


Food: I thought the food was great. There was a pretty good selection at the Lido Restaurant and I never found the service wanting even during crowded periods. I really enjoyed the ice cream bar; I had 17 different flavors during the week. My favorites were the Butter Pecan, Black Cherry, Pistachio, and Pralines and Cream. Pinnacle Grill was very nice, too, with good food, though my salmon wasn't the greatest I ever had. The Vista Lounge was great fun. Our service was great -- fast, efficient, funny, friendly, although our waiter had a heavy accent. I looked forward to dinner every night. Mind you we had 8 p.m. seating. I hear that the earlier seatings were rushed in order to clear out for the last seatings.


Entertainment: So-so. Joel Mason, a.k.a. Elton John impersonator, was terrific. He's funny and extremely talented on the piano, as a singer, and even on the guitar. Unfortunately the entertainment drops off a lot after him. There weren't many shows worth seeing aside from Joel Mason, and one of those was an impromptu one originally not scheduled. The Northern Lights nightclub wasn't that good -- lots of people sitting on their hands and usually older music. On my previous HAL cruise the club played more modern stuff. There also were no fun Caribbean bands/music on this cruise so the sail-always weren't that festive, unlike my last HAL cruise. The frequent rain scrubbed the deck party but you can't fault the cruise line for that.


Exercise: Nice gym, great Promenade deck to stroll around, ok basketball court, two pools but both are small, though nice. Ping-pong tables by covered pool.


Atmosphere/Decor/Ship's Condition: I liked the relaxed atmosphere of the ship. It wasn't old and stodgy but wasn't wild and raucous, either. I liked the decor and color scheme though I know other reviewers haven't. The colors are bright and lively but not garish. I also have read a lot of complaints about the ship's condition -- those must have been nitpicky reviewers. I thought it was clean and in very good condition. There was a little wear but to me it was pretty little considering the constant use the ship gets. Only something brand spanking new could have no wear whatsoever.


Ports of Call: Rain affected each so bear that in mind...


Half Moon Cay: Very picturesque, very clean, very well organized. I wish the weather had allowed for more time there. There is a trolley that runs from the Greeting Center to the Food Pavilion but it stops at 1:30 p.m. We were able to get on the beach and use clamshells but HAL still refunded me due to the rain, which is classy. You tender into HMC, by the way.


Tortola: Nice day early but we were in a tropical depression by about 10 a.m. From what I saw the island was very lush and pretty. I didn't get to do much there, however. I wanted to go over to Virgin Gorda and the Baths.


St. Thomas: Charlotte Amelie is a fun and fairly clean place, though bustling and busy. The immigration process is a pain but HAL does a good job of make it go quickly and smoothly. If I had it to do over I'd have gone to St. John, as the beaches in St. Thomas were so-so. The harbor where the Zuiderdam moored however was a nice one. Again rained in the afternoon.


Nassau: Looks great from afar -- in fact the most-striking place to sail into; dumpy though once past the cruise docks. We went to Atlantis, which is near the dock, and found it very nice in a Vegas type way. Cab fare is $4 per person from ship to Atlantis. Senor Frogs is overrated; the staff was very unfriendly.


Disembarkation: Very smooth and well done. HAL starts collecting info about your departure on day one, which on the one hand you feel like not thinking about so early on but on the hand does make for a very easy process.


Overall loved the Zuiderdam. She's good for all types of cruisers but the very young and active might be better served elsewhere; I wanted a very relaxing cruise and Zuidy was perfect for that. I think HAL has improved in some ways since I last cruised with it, and declined in other ways. I want to try out some other lines but I will sail HAL again in the future.

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Great review. DW and I were also on Zuiderdam Oct 1st. thru Oct. 8th. YOur review pretty much reflects what we experienced. In fact, we more than likely ran into each other and didn't know it. It seems that we did just about the same thinks in Tortola and St. Thomas and we had lunch at Senor Frog's in Nassau. I'll agree it is way overrated. Wish we had known that you were on the cruise. You could have been part of our Cruise Critic Get-Togethers. We had nine couples who struck up some good relationships.



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Thanks for the review!


Hopefully the rain will let up and we can get all our busy activities in!

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Thanks for taking the time to post a review. We sail on the Zuiderdam in December and I enjoy reading as much as I can about her :).



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