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'Twas the Cruise During Christmas - Zuiderdam 2018


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I was surprised at how little the Lido Pool area had changed in the last 15 years.  The polar bears are still by the pool. The ping pong tables and chess set are still there. And the Lido Pool Bar still had those oh-so-comfy "fish butt stools."  In fact, if you look at the photos below, you'd be hard pressed to tell if they were old or new without looking at the caption. You can kind of tell because some are scans of older photos taken with an APS camera and its 4"x7" prints.



Zuiderdam Lido Pool Bar in 2018 - Same super comfy bar stools



Lido Pool in 2003



Lido Pool in 2003. Loungers are different today.



Ping Pong Tables 2018



Chess Set 2018


The biggest change is that the Terrace Grill has become the DivepIn. The Dive-In's 1/3 pound burgers and jumbo Nathan's all-beef hot dogs are a step up. The Dive-In fries are so good that we had to actively avoid them or at least agree to split an order. (Most of the time, but not always.)  On the other hand, the Terrace Grill had a lot of the Dutch fast food that I had to hunt down in Curacao.














Edited by POA1
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I am happy to report that we received a full 10 days of spending credits on our 10 day cruise. We do our best to keep your cruise fares low by making sure we have sufficient onboard spending. I think the $10 (Special! Poolside Sale! One Day Only! Just for this cruise!) tote bag we bought put us over the top. I was a little bummed to find that we could buy tote bags that were just as nice in Aruba for $8, but we don't have buyer's remorse or anything. We weren't really tote-bag-shopping, but we were going from store to store on a madcap quest to find a new souvenir t-shirt for Poohby Joe. He's hard to fit and we hadn't found anything in his size since Key West in 2014.  The looks on store clerks' faces when Michelle asked if they had t-shirts in Teddy Bear sizes was pretty priceless.


"So this American lady came into the shop, and she wanted a t-shirt for a bear...." 


But perseverance paid off and we found one in Aruba. We probably could have found one elsewhere, but it didn't become a crucial priority until our last port stop, where she was bound and determined to get a shirt.


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This post is a little light on photos. Oh, who am I kidding? There is one photo and I almost didn't include it because it's just going to make people angry or sad. Or sangry. The 2003 Erasmus Library:





As you can see from the Official Institute of Cheer Wayback Machine Deck Plan Comparison above, the Erasmus Libarary has become the Erased Library and is now part of the shops.  The old Internet Center is now the Movie Theater/Screening Room. The Internet Center is sort of split up between the EXC area up by the Crow's Nest and the Windows Digital Workshop. If I recall correctly, the only guest computer is in the Neptune Lounge. I don't know if you can use the machines in the Digital Workshop for things other than classes, because I haven't had the occasion to look for a computer. (Recall that I was toting two laptops in 2003. I'm a BYOC kind of guy.)


The other interesting change is that there used to be a Java Corner on Deck 3. It wasn't for specialty coffees. It was just regular 24 hour coffee, tea, and decaf* for guests.  Paying extra for coffee was new 15 years ago and specialty coffees were in the Windstar Cafe on Deck 2. The Java Corner is now a shop.


* - Hot, brown sadness water.


Edited by POA1
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Let's raise a glass!


Way back in 2003, when you communicated with loved ones back home by purchasing International Calling Cards and lining up for pay phones (Remember them? The used to hand handsets without the cords ripped off.) in port, we starting taking Champagne Toasting Candid Shots.


This is us on one of the formal (Yes, you read that right) nights on the Zuiderdam in 2003. That's Michelle's brother Mike in the background and DSIL Jodie on the left. I should probably mention that Jodie's nails are stunning. All shiny and red.





Another angle of the same event. These were quick shots, at about chest high (or bow tie level on formal nights.) You may note that there's a flute still on the table on the right side of this photo. It belongs to someone who no longer cruises with us. I'm not saying that the lack of Champagne consumption is connected to the "no longer cruising with us" thing, but read into it as you will.




We were toasting with Mumm Cordon Rouge, which was a gift to all of us from our TA. Each couple was given a bottle in our rooms. We were gifted a bottle of 1995 Dom Perignon. Michelle and I declined to share it, and had it in the room. (Our friends weren't really wine drinkers at the time. This may be the first time that they know about this. Sorry kids.)


When I scanned these photos in, Michelle noticed something really disturbing. There's an unfinished bottle of wine from a previous meal on the table. I would have sworn on a stack of bibles that we always finished our wines. In fact, I've stated that here on Cruise Critic on more than one occasion.


Yet there it is.... Photographic evidence of both our shortfalling and my duplicity. A carry over bottle of Cab. I hang my head in shame.





I have this same basic photo from every cruise we've been on. (Not with the unfinished wine. That would be heresy.) I also have it for still wines, beers, Cognac, and even grappa. It seems to be losing its mojo of late. Here's our 2018 Toasting Photo Op. I offered DFIL some Champagne for toasting. He declined. I'm thinking of hiring a "stunt flute" next year, because the water glass just ain't doing it for me.









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38 minutes ago, POA1 said:

I should probably mention that Jodie's nails are stunning. All shiny and red.


I agree!  I have to admit to some major nail envy (love that color!!) and the first thing I noticed about the photo. 

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18 minutes ago, wombatKY said:

I agree!  I have to admit to some major nail envy (love that color!!) and the first thing I noticed about the photo. 

She'll be pleased to hear that. 

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51 minutes ago, Vict0riann said:


I have to admit I noticed the bubbly first!:classic_smile:

It's just been so long since I've had a manicure, that I couldn't take my eyes off those nails.😍 


Maybe no self-respecting woman should be drinking bubbly before she's seen her manicurist, but my daughter and her 2 cats didn't care this holiday season.🍾🥂

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Monday, December 24, 2018 - 2nd Gala Night


Way back on Post #597, I reported in on our Pinnacle Grill Caviar. In the interest of getting things as out-of-sequence as is humanly possible, I am now finally getting to dinner on our second gala night, Christmas eve. If you recall - and I hope you do, because there might be a quiz later - our menus were not the standard 10 Day S. Caribbean set. They mixed things up because it was a Christmas sailing.


Our servers handed us our menus and immediately explained that "the lobster will be on Christmas." Apparently, people were freaking out when they reached gala night #2 and the crustaceans were missing in action. (We already knew this, because the F&B Director, Niek van der Kolk was nice enough to give me menu copies to help cut down on the amount of scanning I would need to do.)  The normal gala night menus are silver (first night) and gold (second night.) We had silver, green and red (for Christmas.) A lot of people might not get excited about new colors. I am not one of them. I was digging on the extra colors. I was also jealous of the New Year's people on the next sailing. I bet they got blue. :classic_smile:


And it's Monday....





The Yum Yum Man made an appearance as shorter, sleeker Santa Claus.





Everybody started with the Thai Crab Cakes with Sweet Chili-Ginger Sauce, Lime, and a Papaya Salad. (A winner of an appetizer.)





For her second course, Michelle opted from the Roasted Butternut Squash And Apple Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who likes fall dishes more than her.  There would have been some Hot! Soup! Action! on this course, but we didn't have the camera at the ready.





My father-in-law decided on the Mango And Papaya with a Cilantro-Balsamic Maple Reduction for his second course. Kind of a contrarian pick, but it continues the papaya theme from the starter, which I respect.





I went to the danger zone and order the Gazpacho with Corn, Cilantro, and a Lime Juice Reduction for my soup course. I ordered it because it was Michelle's second choice. I feared it because there's not a lot of room for drips, drops, and drizzles on gala night. (My bow tie was read, as were alternating stripes on my pocket square, but if I hit anything else, it would have been bad.) Fortunately, decades of experience in eating liquids with spoons helped me avoid any peril.





Michelle had the Crackling Pork Belly with Braised Red Cabbage, and Boiled Potatoes as her main course. We always worry about pork belly. It's sometimes under done, limp and sad. This dish was outstanding. The pairing was a little tricky for Michelle's entree. It called for something Gamay based, like a Beaujolais, but that wasn't an option. I went off-wine and chose a glass of the Lagunitis IPA for her main course accompaniment.  (A nice, hoppy IPA is a money pairing for pork belly and red cabbage.)




Michelle's father ordered the Scallop, Crawfish And Crab Jambalaya with Peppers & Smoked Sausage (Those are split crab legs on the sides.)





I was afraid that I was going to screw up when I placed my entree order. I chose the Roasted Goose with Red Wine Braised Cabbage, Poached Apple With Cranberries, and William Potato. Goose is tricky. (I knew that going in.) If it's not selling well, and it has to sit, it will get tough. The goose was not a big mover, and it was tough. I was hoping for a Bob Cratchit prized goose with a Tiny Tim, "God Bless Us, Everyone!" moment. Not quite what I was wishing for - although the presentation was very attractive.





The Potato William "pear" made of riced potato was really cool though. (Delightful, really.)  The sauce was delicious as was the red cabbage. The poached apple with cranberries was excellent too. (Not the best photo.)





Michelle, being a lover of fall foods - and knowing that I was going out on a limb with the goose entree - ordered "for the table" - Sweet Potato Tortellini With Cherry Tomatoes And Basil, Green Zucchini, Cilienginie Mozzarella and Pine Nuts. It was very good.





For dessert, DW had the Chocolate Yule Log with Almond Nougatine.





Her dad had the Fruit Pavlova with Almond Nougatine, Whipped Cream & Fresh Fruit





I went with the Southern Pecan Pie with Vanilla-Bourbon Sauce





I placed another "for the table" order and secured a dish of Egg Nog Ice Cream. If you are a nog-luvin' individual, this was an incredible ice cream. I'd have crawled head-first into the container if I could have. Seriously. If people are going to write poems and songs about dessert, they'd start with this ice cream. Pair it with a flight or bourbons or nice, deep rums and you'll have your Tiny Tim moment.





As always, we end with Poohby Joe, who likes to "tux it up."





Poohby Joe says, "Please sir. May I have some more?"
(That's from Oliver Twist, not A Christmas Carol. - Ed.)




Edited by POA1
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I should point out that that this cruise was the most formal one we've been on since we first started cruising in 1994. Working our way to the midship elevators on deck 7, we saw only tuxedos. Down on the Promenade Deck (3) it was all suits, jackets and tuxedos. I know that this is not typical, but you'll want to keep it in mind if you are on a holiday sailing. 

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2 hours ago, Vict0riann said:

All that food porn is making me hungry.  How did you get those steaks in the Pinnacle so seared, and were they still pink in the centre?  And was there a risk of setting the kitchen on fire?  


The steaks were still medium rare, which is how we ordered them. However, on the advice of @frankc98376, we asked for more of a char. The terminology varies, so you'll want to make sure that everyone understands what you want. It might be called "sear" or "crisp" or "crust." The center of the meat was the same as expected, but there was more caramelization on the outer layer.

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Santa Arrives on the Zuiderdam - Tuesday, December 25th, 2018




Poohby Joe scans the skies, looking for a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.




Santa arrived on the Zuiderdam at a very respectable 10:30 AM. That's very respectable for adults. It was probably way too late for the children on board. As I mentioned earlier, there were 60+ kids on board and we would have never known there were more than a dozen had it not been for seeing them in the main showroom when jolly old St. Nicholas arrived.


We arrived in the showroom about 10:00 AM so that we could get good seats. We were among the first people there. (No, the bear did not come with us. There was, however, a woman from our roll call who posed with Santa holding a stuffed tiger she carried everywhere.) The officer of the watch announced that they had picked up Santa on radar around 10:20 or so. He made subsequent announcements to keep us updated. At 10:30, he announced that Santa was spotted descending from the ship's funnel. 


At this point, the screen on stage began playing a short film showing Santa's arrival. It started with him climbing down the funnel. I filmed the film on my camera, but missed the first five seconds or so. (That's the thing about being an old fart. You aren't always filming things 24x7 like the kids nowadays.)  I wasn't sure whether to include the movie of a movie, but the ship's AV people did a really nice job, so here goes.






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Cruise Director Andy announces Santa's arrival







Waiters passed cookies, cider, hot cocoa and egg nog.








Some parents went all out. This little tyke was dressed like the Elf on the Shelf.



Presents were given to the the children. Most of them seemed to be inflatable HAL ships.




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One of the things you won't find in the daily program are the impromptu "happy hours" that occurred between shows. They were more like "happy 15 minutes" but they happened regularly and often.


We didn't pay a whole lot of attention to them because they were a non issue since we had the EBP, but if you are in a venue between shows and you are willing to stay put, there are bargains to be had. 


These pop up happy hours happened in the BB King lounge and the Billboard Onboard bar almost every time the performers took a break. It may not be this way on your sailing, but remain vigilant. There are deals to be had. 

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Thanks POA1 for your marvelous review/info on your cruise.  I'm boarding the Zuiderdam in one week for an 11 day cruise and you've provided so much valuable info.  This will be my first cruise on this ship so all your photos are very much appreciated.  I'm hoping that the current lead singers with BB Kings will still be on board given your reviews 🙂  My cousin and I generally end each evening at the BB King Club.  




ps I would love to cruise with you and your lovely wife one day - you two seem to be a hoot!!

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32 minutes ago, Jinty684 said:

I'm hoping that the current lead singers with BB Kings will still be on board given your reviews 🙂  My cousin and I generally end each evening at the BB King Club.  

If I understood them correctly, they'll still be on when you sail. Have a great trip, and we hope to sail with you in the future. 

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Holiday Cocktail Mixology Class


After our Santa Clause Encounter, we headed up to the cabana. Not for rest and relaxation mind you, but to study. We had the Holiday Cocktail Mixology Class in the afternoon and we needed to be prepared. I mentioned this before, but there were a number of martini mixology classes and other beverage events scheduled. If the event was priced at $15 or less, you were on "Full Scholarship" with the Elite Beverage Package and you could participate in the event at no charge. It did, however, count as one of your 15 drinks  for the day.  All of the mixology classes were included as was the daily Sip & Savor in the Pinnacle Bar. The daily "Martini Madness" was included also. People withe SBP could take advantage of the Sip & Savor and the Martini Madness events.  Here's a link to our Beverage Events flyer. It will open from the Institute of Cheer site because it was a pretty large image to embed here.


Our class was taught by Alvin from the Gallery Bar. He was our favorite bartender on the ship. A genuinely good guy.




The first item on the syllabus was the Candy Cane Martini.  This was Michelle's favorite. The base spirit is vanilla vodka, and it's accompanied by white creme de cacoa (chocolate) and peppermint schnapps.  It's not as sweet as you might think and it leaves you with minty fresh breath.





Candy Cane Martini


  • 1.5 oz Absolut Vanilla
  • 1 oz White Creme de Cacao
  • 0.5 oz Peppermint Schnapps


Combine all ingredients in a shaker.  Shake well. Strain into martini glass that has been rimmed with crushed candy cane. Optional: Garnish with a small candy cane.



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The second drink on our assignment list was the Christmas Cookie Cocktail. This one wasn't originally served as a martini, but rather on the rocks. Everything in the classes was a martini, so adjustments had to be made.


Here's what the drink looked like "in the wild."  When I first posted about this, I called it a dangerous drink. It really is. It's one of those cocktails that can catch you unawares because it tastes so good.




The version we had in "school."





Christmas Cookie Cocktail Recipe:


  • 1 oz Peppermint Schnapps
  • 1 oz Kahlua
  • 1 oz Bailey's Irish Cream

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake well. Pour into a cookie rimmed rocks glass. Do not strain. The ice should go into the glass. You can use any pulverized chocolate cookie for the rim.


When making it as a cordial, reduce the spirits to 0.75 oz each.

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Our third and final assignment for the semester was the Jingle Bell Julep. The base spirit is Maker's Mark bourbon, so you kinda know it's going to be a personal favorite. I should point out that the lovely Miss Michelle likes this one too, although she normally thinks my drink of choice "tastes like wax." (I used to drink Maker's and ginger ale, which she described a "ginger ale and wax.")


Your flavors here are whiskey, raspberry, orange and mint. It works quite well. Even if you aren't a bourbon drinker (you know, like communists*) you'll probably like this one. It's the drink on the right. The little "floaty bits" are crushed mint leaves from the muddling.





Cool! Pouring! Action!





Jingle Bell Julep Recipe


Fresh mint leaves, muddled

1.5 oz Maker's Mark

0.5 oz Chambord

0.5 ox Triple Sec


After muddling mint leaves, combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.  Add ice. Shake well. Pour unstrained into a rocks glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.




The drink on the right, in the foreground is what the Jingle Bell Julep looks like in the wild. The one in the background / left is straight up Maker's Mark, in the "we've reached a point of understanding as to what constitutes a single pour" size.

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Tuesday, December 25th - Christmas Dinner


Christmas Day brought with it another special menu, which was more like a formal* night than a regular final night of the cruise. As you may recall, instead of the normal silver and gold gala menus, we had silver, green and red.


Somehow, we missed our elevator establishing shot. I've got one here that I took while roaming around during the day. (While we could use camera digital timestamps, to tell when our photos were taken, these elevator day-of-the-week carpet pix make it easy to see where you're at when you are scrolling through photos on several cameras and a couple of phones.)


You'll note that there's a small stain on the little Tuesday rug. It did not ruin our vacation, but I bet someone started a thread about maintenance issues somewhere. :classic_rolleyes:





Michelle and I had the Coconut Crusted Scallops with a Pumpkin Puree, and Lemongrass Sauce for our first course. They were quite good.





My father-in-law selected the Watermelon With Feta And Basil, with a Balsamic And Maple Glaze. (This is the plate as it would have been seen from his vantage point. He rotated it so it was facing Michelle, who took the photo.)





For her second course, the love of my life went for the Crab And Corn Bisque with Brandy, Chives, Cream and Hot! Soup! Action!








Her father and I had the Shrimp And Crab Martini with a Citrus Aïoli, Asparagus, and Olives





The normal second night gala entree of Lobster Surf N’ Turf with Garlic Shallot Butter - Beef Tenderloin, Grilled Portobello Mushrooms, Swiss Chard With Golden Raisins, Asparagus, and Rice Pilaf found its way to the Christmas menu.  Michelle ordered "Surf & Surf," with a second cold water lobster tail in place of the beef tenderloin. She came away unimpressed. (I think that's because her dad and I had traditional Christmas dinners, but she said that the lobster wasn't as good as usual for HAL.)





Her father opted for the Slow-Roasted Christmas Turkey with Apple & Chestnut Stuffing, Giblet Gravy, Cranberry Relish, Brussels Sprouts, Glazed Yams, and Creamed Potatoes. He was thrilled with his choice.





I ordered the Honey Mustard Glazed Ham with Buttermilk Biscuits, Baked Apple filled with Cranberry Sauce, Scalloped Potatoes, and Broccoli Florets. I, too, was delighted. I grew up in the part of Pennsylvania where ham was the Christmas dinner choice. (If my sister is reading this - The ham was almost as good as yours, but since Holland America doesn't have out mother's "magical ham baking pan," I doubt it could be.)





Moving on to dessert: Michelle and her father both went with the American traditional dessert, Pumpkin Pie. (Technically, it was "Pumpkin Tart with Pecan Topping, and Whipped Cream." But for all practical purposes, it was pumpkin pie.)  I assume it was good, because no one offered up a taste.  The drink in the background is the Have Yourself a Berry Little Cocktail. The recipe is below the photo.





Have Yourself a Berry Little Cocktail Recipe


  • 5 Raspberries, muddled
  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Creme de Cassis
  • 1 oz Cranberry Juice
  • 0.25 oz Simple Syrup
  • 2 oz Sparkling Wine


In a cocktail shaker: Combine all ingredients except for the sparking wine. Add ice. Shake. Pour into pint glass. Do not strain. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with 2 raspberries on a pick.


For my dessert, I had the Traditional English Plum Pudding with Hot Brandy Sauce, and Vanilla Cream. If you've ever wondered about the taste of your English Christmas puddings, they're basically the ugly cousins** of fruitcake. Same flavor profile, but without the colorful, glossy, glycerin-soaked fruit bits. I paired it with Remy Martin VSOP.





After the meal, they did the traditional parade of the chefs. Some people were enthusiastic.





Some people were me. (That's our wine steward Mario, smiling for the camera. I'm on the left, not smiling. - My theory is that I only have a limited number of smiles. Once I use them up, I will die.)





Meanwhile, back at the house...







* - I know it's gala and not formal, but old habits die hard.


** - Don't be angry, my British brethren.  I love a good Christmas pudding. Deep down inside you know "a good Christmas pudding" is like a "good fruitcake" - a rare, mythical dessert.

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