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'Twas the Cruise During Christmas - Zuiderdam 2018

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'Twas the night before HAL Cruise, and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not Poohby. Not spouse.

The suitcases packed, we had at least five,
In hopes that the Zuiderdam soon would arrive.


Good morning ladies and gentlemen, boys & girls, moms & dads, teens, tots, toddlers and wee little shavers!  It’s time once again for another research project / trip report from the National Institute of Cheer.  We leave tomorrow on our first ever Christmas Cruise. (Yay!) It’s a 10 day Southern Caribbean itinerary that calls on some of our favorite ports: the ABCIslands of Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao.


The closest we’ve come to an actual holiday cruise was a Eurodam sailing that ended Christmas Eve back in 2016, but this will be our first one that actually includes the holiday.  It’s also our first cruise that’s longer than a week since 2014. (Double yay!)  For us, a 10 day sailing hits the sweet spot lengthwise. Seven days is just too short. Don’t get me wrong. We’ll take what we can get, but we prefer 10 or more days.


Our itinerary takes us to the picturesque southern Caribbean, where we haven’t been since early 2014. Our port stops are:


  • Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
  • Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos
  • Amber Cove, Dominican Republic – A new port for us
  • Kralendijk, Bonaire – One of our favorite snorkeling destinations
  • Willemstad, Curacao
  • Oranjestad, Aruba

We have several deep and profound research projects planned for this voyage, covering a broad array of subjects important to you, the VIP cruising public.  The Department of Gastronomics will attempt to get copies of all the menus. I don’t know about you, but we like to review menus for our upcoming cruises so we can determine the best days to schedule specialty dining.  It also helps you to plan your pairings if you’re bringing your own wine and paying corkage.  The Department of Harmonics will explore the music venues on the Zuiderdam: Lincoln Center Stage, the B.B. King Club, and Billboard Onboard. The Department of Theatrics will report on the shows and the clean, bright entertainments available in the main show room, The Mainstage.  Our world-renowned Department of Alcademics® plans to research the cocktail menus, wine lists, and drink packages – in painstaking detail. We’re doing this - not because we intend to drink - but rather because people have a lot of questions about the beverage packages and we aspire to perform valuable research, which will enable us to report back to you. Selfless, I know.

Edited by POA1
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One BIG FAVOR:  If at all possible, try not to quote the whole post when replying to long ones. It’s a lot to scroll though, particularly when we’re dealing with the super-speedy internet at sea.  I do realize that there are times when you need to quote a post in order to ask a question, but anything you can do to reduce the amount of extra scrolling would be appreciated.


The instructions for partial quoting are at the link below. It's pretty easy to quote just a snippet of a post in the new system.





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* “It’s good to be on a well-run ship” was Holland America’s slogan back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I stumbled across it when I was doing some fact-finding for our upcoming mission. Since I am in my 50’s and was born in the 60’s, I decided it would be a good time to bring the tagline back. Perhaps it’s not as catchy as “Signature of Excellence,” “Savor the Journey,” or “Hey! We got us some Oprah over here” but I like it. It’s direct and to the point.



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21 minutes ago, ger_77 said:

Bon Voyage and Merry Christmas to you, spouse, and of course, Poohby Joe! 


9 minutes ago, Vict0riann said:

Hope you and the spouse have a great cruise on a well-run ship.


Thank you!

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This is our first trip on the Zuiderdam since 2003.  As some of you may recall, the Zuiderdam’s interior spaces were originally designed by Joe Farcus, Carnival’s lead designer. It showed. The ship had much more of a Carnival vibe than anything else in the HAL fleet at the time. (Fun fact: The Zuiderdam was designed to appeal to a younger demographic and was going to sail the Caribbean year-round.)  My lovely wife put the 2003 Zuiderdam trip together as a 40th birthday present for me.  We brought two other couples, neither of whom had cruised before.  They got bit by the cruising bug and continue to cruise to this day.  

Fast forward 15 years to 2018 and here we are on the Zuiderdam once again. In 2003, we were living in Maine.  We arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day early and spent the night before the cruise at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper on Fort LauderdaleBeach. (It’s now the B Ocean Hotel.) This time, we’re already in Fort Lauderdale, so the journey should be a tad easier.

We’re traveling with Huskerchick’s father on this trip. He’s been our cruising buddy since 2014, and this will be our fourth sailing with him in recent years.  In the past, he’s driven down from Tennessee, but he’s elected to fly in this time. That makes perfect sense because you can’t make the drive in one day, and his return trip would be in the post-holiday rush on the day after Christmas.

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Brian,  I soooo enjoyed your 2016 cruise 

and all your wonderful photos and especially you and your dear wife in a photo. It’s nice to have a face that goes with all of your fabulous writings!! It reminds me of the year you did your own versions of Christmas Carols 🎼🎼🎼

Have a very Merry Christmas on board and so take the time to savor the season with your wonderful family!


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Have a great time on Zuidy, Brian and Michelle, and enjoy those three Dutch islands! Right "across the street" from the dock in Kralendijk is Wattaburger Bonaire if you guys are interested in some Dutch treats like krokketen, frikandellen, frieten with mayo, Sate with peanut sauce, you name it


As discussed, in Willemstad right on the Santa Anna  Baai entrance channel is Iguana too with covered open air seating 


Image result for WattaBurger Bonaire


Related image


Image result for Willemstad Iguanatoo


Image result for Willemstad Iguanatoo





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Our first HAL cruise was this almost same itinerary on the Volendam in 2003 and I am looking forward to following you on this cruise. BTW we loved the smaller ship feel of the Volendam. Have a Very Merry Christmas!!!

Edited by terrydtx
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54 minutes ago, Copper10-8 said:

Have a great time on Zuidy, Brian and Michelle, and enjoy those three Dutch islands! Right "across the street" from the dock in Kralendijk is Wattaburger Bonaire if you guys are interested in some Dutch treats like krokketen, frikandellen, frieten with mayo, Sate with peanut sauce, you name it

Thanks for the tip. I don't know about Michelle, but I loves me some Dutch "health food."

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Film cameras were still the norm in 2003 when we last sailed the Zuiderdam.  At the end of the cruise, I collected everyone’s film rolls and put them in envelopes to send off to the photo processing company.  We had to make a stop on the way to the airport to find a mailbox because we didn’t want to send our valuable vacation memories through the security X-ray scanners.  We ordered double prints (Remember those?) so that we could share photos among the three couples who went on the trip. (Photo sharing meant ordering double prints in case this whole film thing is an alien concept to you.)

DW was very good about making photo albums back then, so we have a nicely organized photo record of our trip. Of course it was in storage, so we got it out when we went to fetch our Christmas decorations.  It’s great to have a physical photo album you can flip through.  Somehow it seems better than, “Here’s my phone.” Finger-flick, finger-flick, finger-flick.  The downside is that you didn’t get your photos in digital format back in 2003 I think you could order a CD of the images, and I may have, but I got rid of a lot of computer disks when we moved to Florida. 


Since we're on the same ship, separated by 15 years, we thought we'd crank up the Wayback Machine. I scanned a bunch of the photos to put them back in a format I could use here, and we'll try to get the same angle on shots from 2018 for comparison. I'll even throw in some pictures of us - because everybody looks pretty good through a fifteen year old lens. I've taken to adding some silver highlights to my hair. I call it "kissed by the moon."  Michelle’s hair color is holding steady. She’s delighted when people mistake her for my daughter.




The big structural changes to the Zuiderdam are the addition of the extra cabins to the aft if the Crow's Nest and the addition of the Retreat Cabana area, which we'll cover in detail later.  Here's a set of Before & After pix showing you where the changes occur.









Edited by POA1
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Have a great Christmas and a great cruise !!!


Look forward to reading your comments about the new wine lists (as introduced on the Nieuw Statendam) if they have been implemented on the Zuiderdam yet.  I had a quick scan of the new lists and it seems that Mr Suckling may be a bit out of touch with HAL's cruising demographics, their wine knowledge and their willingness to pay exorbitant prices for wine.  Just one example:  Wolf Blass Yellow Label $51 USD on board - $16.95 CAD (equivalent to $12.66 USD) at our local store 🙄   Total Wine suddenly seems even better !

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Have a wonderful cruise.  As you leave, please give a friendly wave to the Nieuw Amsterdam as my brother and his SO will be on board.  This will be the first time my brother has sailed a HAL ship before I do.



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1 hour ago, DeeniEncinitas said:

It reminds me of the year you did your own versions of Christmas Carols


Ah yes... They're four years old already. Some were inspired by the switch to Gala Nights from Formal Nights in case anyone reads them and wonders about the context.


As a former Boy Scout, I try to Be Prepared. So, I had a new one in the can in case it came up. This particular ditty has been inflicted on
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" by Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne, written in 1945.


Gotta Cruise! Gotta Cruise! Gotta Cruise!


Oh, the weather is cold and crappy
Need a cruise to make me happy
But we haven't got one booked
Time to look, time to look, time to look


Gonna sail the Caribbean
And it's pal trees I'll be seein'
The water is greens and blues
Need a cruise, need a cruise, need a cruise


When we finally book our trip
We will love getting out of the cold
Umbrella drinks by the pool
This kinda thing don't get old


My skin, it is slowing tanning
And my view is so enchanting
My vacation is so upscale
Gotta sail, gotta sail, gotta sail



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The ship photos above reflect the addition of the new cabins on Deck 10 (Observation Deck) and the addition of the cabana area on Deck 11, the Sports Deck.  You'll note that the Observation Deck is located on the Sports Deck.  If you ever find yourself lost on a ship, it's just this kind of labeling that messes you up.


Deck 10 Forward Then & Now:




Deck 11 Forward Then & Now:



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So happy you are taking us along on your cruise! I always enjoy reading your posts from the ships, and learning from your extensive research. Thanks to you and your staff for the hard work.
Merry Christmas, and enjoy the time away!

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