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cruisefrk

Fresh off the Zuiderdam Nov 18-24

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Just returned home from our first HAL cruise. We are seasoned cruisers (this made 29 for us) sailing mostly on Celebrity/ RCCL & Princess. We were a tad nervous to try a new line. Can I just say we were thrilled!!! Since we cruise often and love the cruise experience we went in with open eyes but high expectations. I am very pleased with the experience.

 

We found the selections on the dinner menu great and food tasted excellent. There were items for sea food, meat and pasta lovers. There was always a vegetarian meal as well. I had read on the boards folks were disappointed with the food but I found the items to be great. Of course when reading the boards we have to remember everyone has different tastes. I personally like to try something different - the items on the menu were not for those that like bland same old same old. The daily buffet was pretty good and could use improvement. They had 3 hot meal selections that changed daily - and were quite good. The salad bar could use a few more items. The sandwich choices remained the same daily but were fine. The room service was great and we used that a lot! The omelets were tasty and hot! Lobster bisque in the room 2 hours before dinner was a nice "snack"...

 

We enjoyed the islands we visited. Again this is completely something very personal. Since we sail often we liked going to the small island of Grand Turk. One woman on the dune buggy excursion with us complained how there was 'nothing to do' on the island. But isn't that what a vacation is all about? When you walked off the pier there were nice lounge chairs and the most beautiful beach to swim in and relax on. Versus going to St. Thomas where all you do is fight off the taxi drivers trying to take you to town, on busy streets to spend $$$ on jewelry. The calm relaxing islands of Grand Turks, Tortola and Half Moon Cay were awesome. The private island has the most pure turquoise water I have ever swum in. The sand is confectionary sugar soft - just glorious.

 

The staff on the ship I would rate as the best we have ever experienced in all our sailings. Every person was so happy and accommodating. The crew seemed very "healthy" they appear to enjoy their jobs a lot - which reflect in a positive attitude.

 

We booked our first Suite (SY) and can I tell you - the size of the balcony was worth every single cent! We felt unsocial as all we wanted to do was stay on that amazing balcony. We were in 8091 one deck down from the buffet - and never heard a peep - nor did we smell food. The only bad thing was it was too "easy" to walk up a deck to get some munchies that we didnt need! I had to take a soak in the Jacuzzi tub just to say I did it once -and loved it.

 

Of course everything wasn't perfect but we cant really expect that can we? They like to serve you in the buffet area - and make the plates up for you ONE at a time. Thus the lines are way too long to get food. As well there is not enough seating in that area. We took our tray back to our room and enjoyed that balcony again.

Our tour in Turks was moved to 7:30am from the 10am time slot we booked 3 months ago (due to some faulty equipment) - a tad early for our liking - but in the end it was cooler that time of the morning and gave us a nice long day on the island.

We were 'confirmed' on the 8pm diner but ended up on 8:30. But, we rather dine later than earlier (and we heard the earlier seatings had a ton of children). For some reason the dinner doors opened around 8:45 most nights. Not sure why the 15 minute delay.

 

The only area we felt needing improvement is with the entertainment. I do agree with the boards about the production shows. The shows were a very good high school production. The first show especially. The second production show was much much better than the first. I feel the show does not compare to the other cruiselines. I think a lot has to due with the sets. The other lines seem to have invested a great deal more money in their stages/theatre/costumes. The comedian did a great adult show. I would have liked to see him do a full evening show. Jay is a fine cruise director (and cute to look at too) but he seems like the high school class President - not the seasoned entertainer I expected on HAL.

 

Lastly, we were not keen on the layout of the pools. There are too many chairs and people crowded together in the small pool areas. I have to give it to Princess/RCCL for having much better layouts. With the Zuiderdam being such a new ship we were surprised it was not designed better. (By the way I had been pronouncing the ship wrong it sounds like Cider-dam (with a Z) I thought it was zoo-derdam.

The ship was in great shape for the number of people. I do agree with the cc boards about the very 'loud' color scheme - not sure who picked that out... The hallways on the stateroom decks make you feel like your walking down the hallway in a basement. We think its due to the overhead lights and dull color of the walls. But we got over it.

 

We really really enjoyed the entire week. Would I sail again on HAL? You bet! (Sorry Celebrity/RCCL)

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You review was great and I'm glad your first HAL cruise was too.

 

That staff is amazing. I just got back from my 3rd HAL cruise on the volendam and I think the staff was even better than ever before. I was amazed at how friendly and helpful everyone was. Here's a funny example, I caught a cold and was taking some cold med but I am sensitive so it hit me hard and I was on the port side of the correct level but I was just staring at the sign that says what number rooms are what direction. I think I was there a little too long. A room steward said, "madam, your room is over here" and walked me across a short distance to my room. Now this was not my room steward but the steward for the next section. I think they do like their jobs and are paying attention in general. And it made a difference just about every moment we were on the ship.:)

 

so I am very happy that your 1st HAL experience was what I think is typical (what an ordinary word for such a fine experience!)

 

OOOOps I'm still taking cold med (children's sudafed) and seem to be running on. I think I will nap now. cheers.

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Thanks for the great review. We'll be sailing a week from today. Disappointed to hear about the shows. When we were on Princess they were top notch productions. Don't like crowds, so probably won't spend much time around the pool either. We only have 30 kids on our cruise, but that just means that many more adults in the pool. I'll save my water time for the beautiful beaches that you have described.

 

Welcome home.

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How did you find out the much important detail of the number of children on a sailing? Something we would love to know before hand... This sailing had several children but there were only about 5 that needed better parenting skills.

 

I forgot to mention - one major difference for HAL the 2nd formal night is the "more" formal of the 2 nights. I was rather impressed with the covered chairs when we entered the 2nd formal night -but had been in a gown the first formal and should have waited for the 2nd night. But all was good.

 

Glad to be apart of the HAL family - not so sure about all this laundry though :-)

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Thanks so much for the review! DH and I will be sailing on the Z on December 16th and can't wait:D I appreciated what you had to say because you are an experienced cruiser and have lots of cruises with which to compare the Z.

 

Vpoopsy, how did you find out you'll have only 30 kids on board?

 

 

Holland America - 2004, 2006

Carnival - 1995, 1998, 2006, 2006

NCL - 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003

Royal Caribbean - 2002

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I called ship services at 1-800-541-1576 and asked how many kids and gave her my cruise date. Great information to have and I'm thrilled with only 30 kids!!

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Thanks for the phone number and I'll give it a try. DH and I hope there won't be alot of kids sailing the week before Christmas. There were 400 kids on the Zaandam the week of Thanksgiving in 2004! That ended our holiday cruising and we try to avoid spring break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas now. Not sure what to expect the week before Christmas and the ship is full. We used to mostly sail Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks, but there were so many behavior problems and parents who didn't seem to care how badly their children acted, particularly in the pool areas, we prefer non-holiday weeks now. Our last cruise was on Carnival in April and it was so peaceful and the few kids on board were great.

 

 

Holland America - 2004, 2006

Carnival - 1995, 1998, 2006, 2006

NCL - 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003

Royal Caribbean - 2002

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