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SJSULIBRARIAN

Chasing Fall Colors on the Zuiderdam 9/27 to 10/9

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Leaving New York at night is a delight. Departure time was 8PM so city lights were fantastic to view first from my port side Neptune Suite and then from my friends’ Starboard veranda, we passed in awe the Statue of Liberty. I was again cruising solo as my husband is no longer able to travel and I was with our friends from Corona del Mar celebrating her 80th birthday.

 

This was a port intensive cruise with three known tender ports, Newport, Gloucester, and Bar Harbor and two additional tender ports  added, Sydney, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, PEI. So many cruise lines are now doing this New England/ Canada Itinerary that there is not enough docking space at the smaller ports. Also, at ports of Halifax (4 ships in port) and Quebec (3 ships in port), the Zuiderdam did not get prime dock space so shuttles were provided to get us from the outlying docks.

 

I had my favorite cabin on deck 7, near the center elevators. It seemed like I had my own private elevator since these outside elevators do not seem to be used much. I seldom shared a ride with anyone. My friends had been upgraded at no cost from an inside to a VB veranda on deck 4, possibly because it was her 80th birthday or random. I never know how the upgrade system works. We were all happy campers with our respective cabins.

 

Having booked far ahead, we had early fixed dining at 5:30PM with outstanding servers. Our table was around the circle part of the dining room close to the serving and wine stations which was no problem at all. When traveling solo without anyone else, I normally eat in the Pinnacle Grill or in the Lido. The MDR experience on the Zuiderdam was excellent. The food was very good, portions just fine, and service impeccable.  3 course meals (4 courses on Gala nights) and we were finished within 75 minutes every night.

 

As I mentioned on another post, there were 6 Club Orange travelers who had priority seating in the dining room on deck 2 to the right of the check in stand. Club Orange also has a special menu, which I was told, has one additional entrée. Neptune and Pinnacle Suite people have this menu also. I turned it down. This seems very much like Club Class on Princess Cruises.

 

On sea days we had lunch in the dining room on Deck 2 and this was always speedy. We had our breakfasts in the Lido. I continue to say that HAL has the best Lido breakfast choices of any cruise line I have sailed. However, the ship did run out of berries, granola, and pecans by the 8th day. They did save some berries for garnish on desserts etc.

 

I have come to like the Music Walk Concept. The Lincoln Center Stage Quintet was excellent; it was a full house plus for every performance. They piped in the music to the Explorers Lounge as it was full also. We went to at least one performance every night. All five musicians were American and they did provide extensive introductions to the pieces being played. The Billboard on Board duo was very popular as well as was BB Kings (although too loud for me and I’m partially deaf).

 

On the Main Stage, there were three performances by the Step One Dance Group, not my favorite, as I have mentioned before. William Caulfield, Comedian, Emily Yates, Singer(Las Vegas), and Mark Donoghue , Musician, (Las Vegas) were terrific as was the BBC Planet Earth in Concert, which I had seen before. They need a new visual for that.

 

I am not a big fan of the new position of Cruise and Travel Director. I miss the EXC talks by those who are experts in the areas. Also, the EXC Guide had office hours if one wanted to ask more questions or for individual advice on the ports. Jonathan, the C and T Director,  5 months with HAL, in his first talk, said the combining of the positions was in response to HAL cruisers wanting more in-depth information on the various ports. I give him credit for trying but I think, although I could be wrong, his talks were written by someone in Seattle. He said they are rolling this out by area with the Caribbean being next.

 

There were 1292 Mariners aboard so there were two luncheons. I went to the Mariners’ Reception where many bronze medals were given as well as one silver. Those of us with silver, gold, and platinum medals were asked to stand. One Presidents’ Club couple had 1499 days. I did not attend the luncheon afterwards at 11AM. The second luncheon was at 1PM.

 

I had been to all the ports of call except for Gloucester, MA and Saguenay, Quebec. My new most favorite place is Saguenay. What a delightful and friendly little town. We got to dock here while the second ship did not. Some of the cast of La Fabuleuse,  (more later) in period costumes, were on the dock to greet the ship with singing and dancing. As I left the ship, I was handed a Saguenay flag, took a spin of a dance with a local, handled one end of a saw as we cut a piece of a branch, was given a piece of blueberry pie and maple syrup on a snow stick. Such a warm and friendly welcome. Most of the tours go elsewhere in the area, but I walked along the harbor and visited the Catholic Church where I was warmly welcomed.

 

In the afternoon in Saguenay, I and passengers filling six school buses were taken to a local theater where we saw the “La Fabuleuse Histoire D’un Royaume” which tells the story of the area from the time of settlement to the present. It’s in its the 32nd season. I have never seen anything like it – lights, fireworks, sound effects, cascading waterfalls, a cast of 150, six horses, a pig, geese, antique cars, and my favorite -paratroopers dropping from the ceiling over the audience during the WW2 segment. Truly fabulous as its name implies.

We didn’t stop in Charlottestown, PEI. The Zuiderdam drew the anchorage and it was so windy the Captain made the decision, after much effort on his part,  to abort. There were some unhappy people but they did not riot as recently happened on NCL. Later in his Captain’s talk he said although it is considered an anchorage port, he does not agree as there is no room to maneuver.

 

He also said in his talk (and I think I have read this here on CC) that there is a rumor that HAL is going to build one more small ship and it will be the Prinsendam. He cautioned us twice that it is only a rumor.

 

A couple of negatives which did not impact the enjoyment. The Gerbera daisy arrangement I had ordered for my cabin died by the 4th day. Gerberas are hardy so I suspect a bad flower supplier. I should have known I might have problems with my photo when the check in woman had to get a supervisor to help her. I successfully boarded the ship and got off and on in Newport. In Gloucester I was told by security that my photo was a blank wall, and I had to identify myself and get a new photo when I returned. No one had any idea how this could happen – lots of shrugs and who knows? So, I dutifully had another photo taken. Lastly, running out of berries – gotta have them.

Although billed as a Fall Colors cruise, we really did not see any red, yellow, or orange leaved trees until Quebec, although I did see a couple of trees turning red in Portland, Maine. In Quebec, the Zuiderdam again drew the commercial dock and a shuttle was provided to town. I had decided when I booked, that I would leave the ship a day early, having been to Quebec, several times. The Neptune Lounge Concierge made the arrangements and helped me with luggage as far as she was allowed to go.

 

On the ride to the airport, the fall colors were in full bloom and lovely. The Quebec airport has massive windows with views of the trees of gold, red, and orange in the distance. Quite a sight. Lots of travelers taking photos. My plane was an hour late leaving so it was a race at O’Hare to go through Customs and to get to another terminal for my flight to Tucson, which I made running. Then in Tucson, the plane was assigned a gate at which there was another plane. So, we had to wait for the “tug” to tow us to another gate.  A funny end to a good cruise.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by SJSULIBRARIAN

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I was very interested in your review because we were on the same cruise with you.  Funny thing--I also had problems with my "sea pass" card the first time I tried to use it. My picture did not show up--only a "blank wall" they said!  It was kind of annoying to have to go stand in line at the passenger service desk when all I wanted to do was unpack and settle in.

Was there a second Mariners Reception?  We missed the first one because it was over before we boarded, which I thought was disappointing--not many "perks" for three-stars really.

Oh well, we enjoyed our cruise very much. All the ports were wonderful.  There was a lot of "tendering", but I thought it was handled very efficiently.  I plan to write my own review soon.

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Thanks for the report SJSULIBRARIAN.

 

Sounds like you had a good time despite a couple of the burps.

 

You’re right on the itinerary being popular.  Our little port has had one pile of passengers in - sometimes 12-15,000 with all the cruise ships.

 

This year was a new record for us and they are saying next year will be a bigger record.

 

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I was also on this cruise and agree with your assessment. It was a great time, even though we seemed to be about a week too early for the colors. We also had a Neptune near the elevators so probably passed you in transit more than a few times!

Love breakfast in the Pinnacle as a Neptune suite perk. Glad that is still intact. I also want to mention that I was shocked by how beautiful the Zuiderdam ship is. I'm 4 star but had never sailed this ship. It is beautiful. May replace the Eurodam as my favorite. 

 

I agree with you 100% about the EXC talks. I did point that out on my survey. The devolution of the lectures was a big disappointment to me. Johnathan is a nice guy, but he is no presenter. He sounded like he was just reading off a piece of paper. Bummer. 
 

The only downside for me is that I took $200 in cash out at an ATM at the last US stop so I could give out additional tips, but accidently left it in the pocket of some pants I sent to the laundry. They did not see fit to return the money even though I was pretty quick about letting the concierge know I had accidently left in the pocket. Oh well, my fault and lesson learned. 

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Wonderful report.  Thank you for taking the time to write it.

 

Glad you had a great cruise in spite of a couple of bumps.  O'Hare -- on our all travels , many years years ago (in the 70's) we flew through there and said never again.

 

Glad you made it home safely.

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4 hours ago, cartervan said:

I was very interested in your review because we were on the same cruise with you.  Funny thing--I also had problems with my "sea pass" card the first time I tried to use it. My picture did not show up--only a "blank wall" they said!  It was kind of annoying to have to go stand in line at the passenger service desk when all I wanted to do was unpack and settle in.

Was there a second Mariners Reception?  We missed the first one because it was over before we boarded, which I thought was disappointing--not many "perks" for three-stars really.

Oh well, we enjoyed our cruise very much. All the ports were wonderful.  There was a lot of "tendering", but I thought it was handled very efficiently.  I plan to write my own review soon.

 

OP was talking about the Mariners brunch which is held later in the cruise.  The lunch on embarkation day is for all passengers -- Noon to 1:30.

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9 hours ago, cartervan said:

I

Was there a second Mariners Reception?  We missed the first one because it was over before we boarded, which I thought was disappointing--not many "perks" for three-stars really.

 

 

I was referring to the reception before the Mariners' Brunch, at which bronze (100 days), silver,(300 days) gold, (500 days) and platinum (700 days) medals are presented to those who reach a certain number of actual sailing days (not day credits as in the Star Loyalty program). Those receiving the medals are invited as well as past recipients at the silver, gold, and platinum levels.

Edited by SJSULIBRARIAN

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I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed Saguenay!  It's my favourite port on the Canada/NE itinerary.  We were there for the third time this past September and saw La  Fabuleuse for the first time.  We enjoyed it as much as you did!

 

Thanks for your review!

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