Shelli Posted November 9, 2006 #1 Share Posted November 9, 2006 Review: ms Zuiderdam, Oct. 28 - Nov. 4, 2006 My husband and I, both in our 50s, had an altogether lovely time on our cruise on the beautiful ms Zuiderdam! We spent the night before at the Sleep Inn in Dania Beach, FL, right outside of Ft. Lauderdale and near the airport. I'd had a tough time finding an available room in advance, since there was a boat show planned for the weekend we arrived. However, I finally had success on hotels.com, paying just under $100 total for the room. The hotel was clean and nice, with included shuttles from the airport and to the cruiseport and a nice breakfast buffet. I was somewhat put off by the odor in the room-- it seemed a combination of mustiness and pine oil (the smell of which I abhor!), and I actually had some trouble sleeping because of it. Since by then it was the middle of the night, I didn't bother complaining or asking for another room. It certainly wasn't the end of the world. The hotel was conveniently located near shopping, and there was a terrific Mexican restaurant in the little center right across the street. We chatted with the owner, who informed us that we were entitled to a 15% discount because we were staying at our hotel. What a nice perk! We enjoyed our dinner immensely. The next morning, we had breakfast and picked up a few last-minute items at the drugstore next door. We arrived at the port about 12:15 and got in line. It was rather slow-moving, but we enjoyed people-watching and conversing with others in line as well. We were onboard just after 1:00. Since the announcement that the cabins were ready didn't come until 1:30, we went to the Lido buffet with our carry-ons and just took turns getting food. We really liked the Lido's layout: lots of different stations, so no one line was ridiculously long. Matter of fact, other than embarkation, we had no lines anywhere the entire week! There was one episode where I thought I'd like an omelet for breakfast but found the line a little too long for my liking... so I had something else from another station, and had an omelet later in the week. I would rate the Lido food as being good to very good. The ship's layout was pretty easy to navigate, although I always had trouble figuring out which was forward and which was aft. I'm rather spatially impaired... but there were plenty of signs, so I never stayed lost for long. Our cabin, 8028, was just off the forward elevators. We could hear the "ding" of the elevators if we were in there during the day, but there was never a problem with any other noise-- not from the elevators and not from the spa, which was directly above us. We splurged on our first balcony cabin, and really enjoyed it. We had coffee (great coffee on this ship!) out there every morning (although we waited to have breakfast in the Lido) and occasionally a glass of wine as we watched the sunset before dinner in the evening. Actually, though, I don't think we used it enough to justify the higher price, since we usually go "on the cheap" and get an inside. While many people say they can't go back to an inside after a balcony, I'm not one of them-- I'll have no problem having an inside again next time. Speaking of our cabin, the new bedding is incredible! I'm still surprised to report that I think it was the most comfortable bed I've ever slept on! The same, however, cannot be said for the down pillows. I just couldn't get comfortable. I always laughed at people who brought their own pillows... but I wish I'd brought mine! One problem was that our cabin absolutely reeked of stale smoke when we arrived. I was surprised, since I've never experienced this on any of my other cruises. Every fabric also absorbed the smoke-- including the towels, the bathrobes (which never lost their smoky quality), the shower curtain, the drapes, and worst of all, the pillows. I did request from the cabin steward that he spray something (I don't know if he did-- but I sprayed my own Oust that I'd brought, to no avail) and give me fresh pillows, which he did. Perhaps as an ex-smoker I'm more susceptible to smoky smells, but it really was bad. It dissipated with time (except in the robes), though, and the smell was gone by halfway through the cruise. One other cabin difficulty was our toilet. It just wouldn't flush properly, and totally clogged a total of 3 times. One of those times was particularly inconvenient, for lack of a better term. Each time I reported it to the front desk and they were apologetic, but it usually took hours for the problem to be resolved. After the 3rd time (when I mentioned it was, indeed, the 3rd time and that I felt that was unacceptable), the problem seemed to be fixed for good (although we weren't around when that happened). I think the ship is absolutely beautiful! All of the public rooms were just lovely, and everything is maintained magnificently. Not a speck of dirt or a smear anywhere! The staff are all very friendly-- everyone says hello and smiles. We enjoyed our tablemates in the dining room. We had main seating (8 pm), upper level, and we were seated with an older gay male couple and a straight couple who were a few years younger than we are. We all hit it off quite well and looked forward to dinner every night to spend time together. Our waiter, on the other hand, seemed very overworked and unable to spend enough time with us. I always enjoyed the cameraderie with the wait staff in the dining room, and I felt bad for them that they can't get to know the passengers... and vice versa, of course. Sadly, our assistant waiter's father passed away during our cruise, so his lack of effusive friendliness was totally understood. I felt so bad for him that he couldn't leave right away to go be with his family! But he was leaving at the end of our cruise, so at least he did get to go home. I believe the overworked waiters, combined with the automatic tipping, has greatly impacted service. Fortunately, we had a wonderful time with our tablemates and didn't much care how long dinner took! We celebrated our anniversary on the cruise by dining in the Pinnacle Grill. The service, the ambience, and the food were all wonderful, and we were very glad we went. However, we'd been comped as part of our deal-- had we had to pay the $30 per person charge, I don't think we would have been quite so pleased. Our anniversary is on Halloween, and we learned fairly early after booking that a large gay and lesbian group was also booked on our cruise. There turned out to be approximately 350 people in that group, and they were very unobtrusive in every way. Actually, I thought they were TOO unobtrusive-- we'd been looking forward to seeing some fabulous Halloween costumes, but because they had their own activities outside of the main rooms where most ship activities took place, we only got to see a few of them dressed up. I was disappointed, I must admit! There was a mainstream Halloween celebration, though, that was lots of fun, with a parade of costumes in a very decorated theater. After the first day at sea, we hit three ports in rapid succession. Grand Turk was rather disappointing, since there's not much there. The new cruise port area has only a few open stores so far, but it is lovely. We spent most of the afternoon around the pool at the Margaritaville right there-- what a beautiful pool and area! Very nice and very enjoyable. The next day we spent in Tortola. My first impression of the island was that it appeared to be a smaller version of St. Thomas-- lots of green hills dotted with pretty white houses with tiled roofs. We took an open-air bus tour for $20 per person, and I felt that up close, Tortola isn't as nice as St. Thomas (but then, it isn't nearly as built up, either). A great deal of poverty (as on most of the islands, unfortunately) was apparent, and the roads were in disrepair, making them even scarier, since they're all twisty-turny, right next to steep cliffs, and driving is on the left, throwing off (just figuratively!) all the Americans. The following day we were in St. Thomas. Since we've been there before, we really had no desire to go to the main downtown streets, especially since there were so many ships (5) in port. Instead, we took the Paradise Point Tramway... and loved it! The views were incredible, and at the top, there was a highly entertaining parrot show, lots of cute stores, and a bar with great drinks that overlooked the whole view. I highly recommend it! Finally we had our 2nd day at sea, which was very relaxing. Perhaps it was TOO relaxing-- I found myself wishing more than once that HAL offered more shipboard activities. The only one we enjoyed was trivia... but we won once (umbrellas), which was fun! Other than that, we found shipboard life a tad too laid back for our liking. We just may wait another 5 to 10 years before taking another HAL cruise. The last day, Friday, was spent at Half Moon Cay, HAL's private island. We'd been there before and loved it then... but I think we loved it even more this time. Paradise! I wasn't so crazy about the barbecue, but oh well. Actually, truth be told, I wasn't so crazy about ANY of the food on this cruise. It was all good. Some was very good. Nothing blew my socks off... except maybe for the Pinnacle. On the other hand, I enjoyed most of the entertainment very much. There were two terrific production shows-- very well done, with a very talented, high-energy cast; an excellent magician; a male singer; and a female comedian, Julie Barr, who we found absolutely hysterical. I laughed till I cried! Disembarkment was... well, it was disembarkment, after all! How could it be? Our flight wasn't till 1 pm, so we were among the last called off the ship. That did, however, make finding our luggage really easy, and we were out of there and off to the airport in no time. A couple of caveats: make sure you check your onboard statement (you should receive the preliminary copy a few days before the end of the cruise) thoroughly! We were charged over $67 for a bottle of wine at the Pinnacle Grill... we never ordered or got it, and when we checked at the information desk, they showed us the receipt, which had some stranger's name and signature on it. Still, it took a couple of days before the charge was removed. Also, on Friday the mini-bar checker came by. He went through the refrigerator and said it was missing 2 Cokes and 2 Sprites. Hey, it wasn't us! I thought he believed me, especially when he removed 2 beers and a milk carton that he thought must be ours-- not ours! It must have belonged to the people before us. He then locked the refrigerator, but later that day, I went to check our bill... and sure enough, we were charged $8 for the sodas! I told the person at the desk that not only wasn't it ours, but we'd told the mini-bar guy so, and she said it would be taken care of. By the very last morning, the charge was still there, so we went back to the desk, where she signed our bill saying it would be removed. I guess I'll find out when I get my credit card bill. Also, we'd been promised a photo as part of our package, but there was no gift card in the cabin. I figured "oh, well" and didn't bother doing anything about it... but on Friday, I decided that was silly, so I asked at the desk. Sure enough, we were supposed to have gotten one, so they printed me out one on the spot and we got our "free" picture! Always check, check, check! All in all, we had a wonderful, relaxing trip, which was exactly what we were looking for. Although we think we'll postpone any future trips on HAL till we're a bit older, we loved our cruise just the way it was! Addendum: Just read a thread on here about cutbacks-- and we noted some, as well. No lemonade in the Lido (and what do you call those ridiculous tiny glasses they offer? I call them "buy yourself a *real* drink!"). Didn't ask for a different drink during the Captain's or Mariners' parties, so I couldn't say about that, but holding the Mariners' party at noon instead of the evening wasn't very cool, in my eyes. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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