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Joedog

REVIEW OF THE ZUIDERDAM July 24, 2004

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Well, sadly, our cruise is over and we are back home ~ now it is time to share some of our observations for the benefit and maybe amusement of all or at least some. This will not be a one-post review. I will add as time allows. So, first...

 

EMBARKATION

 

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and chose to go by taxi to the pier. There were HAL reps at the airport near baggage check and we could have taken the HAL shuttle but that was $12 per person and as stated here before, a taxi is only $12 for up to 4 people (of course, how you would fit 4 people with cruise luggage in a single cab is beyond me). It actually ended up costing the 2 of us just under $13 ($15 total with tip) for the cab as there was a slight delay getting through port security. One advantage to taking the HAL shuttle is you do not have to handle your luggage once you get to the pier.

 

Note: have your photo ID ready when you get to the port as they will be checking it at the port entrance.

 

Once at the pier our luggage was taken by a porter (who we also tipped although a sign said that they are salaried and need not be tipped) and we were directed into the check-in area. We entered there at around 12 noon.

 

Once inside you are asked to get your immigration papers out for review. If you do not have the ones from the computer (although most here will) you can fill out blanks forms there. After you have your papers ready you are separated into two different lines, one for people with "internet" papers and one for people with "hand-filled" papers. This is for "regular" passengers; Suite level passengers have a separate line. Now, we figured that the "internet" passengers' line would move faster but it didn't. For whatever reason, it took 20 minutes longer for us to get to the check-in person. That was slightly annoying as we could not really see the reason for splitting the line.

 

All that said, we were through with check in at 1:30 PM and headed for the security station and the ship. Getting through security was a breeze as we didn't have any alcohol with us. If you did have a bottle of alcohol that showed up on the X-ray scan, your bag was opened to see what it was but as far as we could tell that didn't noticeably delay the line.

 

The biggest delay in the whole check in process seemed to be people not having all their papers out and ready when they got up to the check-in window and having to dig through their purses and bags to find them. Now THAT was a problem that affected everyone in line.

 

So anyway, once through security it was on to the gangway but first you had to pass the Ship's Photographer for your embarkation photo. Now you don't "have to" have your picture taken but most people do so this also caused a delay in getting on the ship as the boarding line bottlenecked here too.

 

Once past the photographer, it was only a short walk until you are onboard.

 

First impressions ... the ship is beautiful, clean and colorful like you would expect in an upscale hotel and there were plenty of people around to give you a hand finding your cabin.

 

So, tips for embarkation...

 

1) Take a cab from the airport unless you are traveling alone.

2) Have your ID out and ready before you get to the port.

3) Watch the line to see if the "internet" paper line or "hand-filled" paper line is longer, and get in the line that is moving faster or is shorter.

4) Have ALL your papers out and ready BEFORE you get to the check-in person. This includes your credit card AND associated credit card charging agreement that came with your cruise docs.

 

Next post... Cabins

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thank you for the info. please tell us more. glad you had a great time.

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Welcome Home Ruth and Joe!!

 

We too are looking forward to your upcoming reviews. As we sail next Sat. on the Zuiderdam!

 

Thanks!

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Okay, about cabins...

 

We stayed in a Cat AA Balcony Cabin (6012) which was pretty far forward on the port side. We have no complaints about the cabin and found it to be more than adequate for our needs.

 

In the cabin there is/are:

 

A small refrigerator under the desk which was stocked with various wines, beer, soda and water that you could drink (for a fee). We requested our room steward to empty it so we could put our own beverages in, which he did, sort of. He left the wine in the fridge and put everything else in the drawer under the couchbed that we didn't know was there and therefore had not put anything else in.

 

For storage there were 2 closets for hanging clothes and 1 closet with shelves and the safe. There were also a couple of larger drawers under the bed that we didn't use and the drawer under the couchbed that I mentioned already. There were also 2 smallish 2 drawer night stands on either side of the bed and a large open area under the bed to store the empty suitcases. All in all, storage space was more than adequate.

 

In one corner of the cabin, opposite the couch there was a small dressing table/desk with one small cabinet underneath that held the hair dryer which was a little hard to use as the cord is only so long and you could only lift it so far. I do believe that the DW would recommend bringing your own so you are not restricted to where you can use it in the cabin, bathroom.

 

The TV is in the corner above the dressing table/desk and has about 10 channels with a few being ships information like shore excursions and other money making opportunities for HAL. There is also a news channel or 2, a cartoon channel, a Spanish language channel and 2 HAL movie channels showing newly DVD released movies and movies about to be released on DVD. These channels show 2 alternating movies each that change daily so you have the opportunity to watch 4 semi-new movies if you wish.

 

The bathroom is okay with a nice size tub/shower combo. Not really large enough to take a relaxing bath in but you could soak your butt if you wanted to. Besides the standard toilet, sink and mirror there is a fair size medicine cabinet next to the sink that will hold pretty much what you would expect to want to keep in the bathroom on a 7 day cruise. Shower water pressure is adequate and the temperature is adjustable and stable. All in all, quite adequate for the cabin.

 

As this was a "balcony" cabin there was a balcony with 2 chairs, 1 ottoman and a small table. The chairs were comfortable to sit in but not really comfortable enough to recline and fall asleep in. Some people were asking about leaving the balcony door open. We found that for our cabin, if we opened the door all the way we could get it to "stick" in the fully open position. Other than that, the door had a closing device that auto-close it UNLESS the front cabin door was also open, in which case a strange wind tunnel effect occurred keeping the balcony door open and air rushing through the cabin. Not a real pleasant effect but easily prevented by keeping the front door closed.

 

Although some parts of the ship, notably by the Lido and outside the restaurants were sometimes a little warm, our cabin was always quite cool and in fact DW found it to be a little too cool for her liking and turned the a/c down after the first night.

 

I can't think of any real recommendations concerning the cabin as we were very comfortable without any special "equipment". You might want to bring extra hangers for the closets as there were only about 10 provided.

 

Next...dinner

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Ruth & Joe -

 

Did you have a good time? Joedog, you posted on the boards before you left - I know you had some specific concerns...

 

What about the dining? Did you enjoy it? Upper or lower?

 

thanks!

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JoeDog,

 

Thanks for your review so far. I'm looking forward to the later installments.

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It seems that my fellow cruisers are all doing a great job in reviewing the July 24th sailing.

 

The weather was absolutely perfect. I had heard that the week before it was really HOT. It was in the low 90's and not as humid as you would think. The seas were absolutely perfect and calm. There were no delays - we arrived on time and left on time. I don't think anyone got left either!

 

Sharon

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Let me first say that I am just sitting down after having gone to the store to buy food, prepare the food, set the table, eat the food, clean the table and do the dishes so......it is hard to say anything negative about dining on the Zuiderdam. That said....

 

We had originally signed up for the lower early seating (6:15PM) but after the first night, after checking the schedule in the daily we realized that we would be happier with the latest seating (8:30PM) and asked to be switched. This proved to be no problem as, according to the Maitre D,over 300 passengers changed their seating after the first night.

 

The reason we decided to change was three-fold. One, the 6:15 seating just seemed too early, especially on port call days where we wanted time to unwind and clean-up after we returned to the ship. Two, there were "mini" shows every night at 7:45PM that we would miss if we had the early seating. These shows were things like "The Newlywed Game", "Celebrity Heads", etc. They are only done once and, while both seatings get their own "big" variety show, the "mini" shows were only done during the early seating. And, third, we usually ate lunch later in the afternoon and eating again at 6:15 would be too soon.

 

Food in the dining room was good/great with enough variety that you usually had to make a choice between a couple of things that you would like. Although some have commented about this, we did not find the service slow. We usually had our order taken by 8:45 and were completely done with dessert by 10ish. All in all, evening dinner was a pleasant experience that we really missed tonight.

 

Now, about dressing for dinner.... While I have my own opinion about dinner dress I will try to just speak factual and not let my personal views get in the way. For casual evenings the only thing I didn't see was shorts, all other manner of dress seemed to be okay with even the occasional T-shirt making an appearance. Most men were wearing nice shirts and slacks or docker style pants. For Formal Nights, I rented a Tuxedo but most men were wearing suits with not that many Tuxedos in evidence. On the first Formal night every man I saw was either in a Suit or Tuxedo, on the second Formal night there were also a number of Sport Coats around. On Informal Night most men were wearing some kind of jacket but quite a few men were just wearing nice shirts without a jacket. You can draw your own conclusion from this but I will tell you that if you are wearing any jacket on Formal Night most will not notice you and on Informal Night, any nice shirt would not raise an eyebrow.

 

Oh, and as far as maintaining "recommended evening dress" after dinner, forget about it, almost no one was still dressed "up" after the late show following the 2nd seating. Maybe a lot of people that would normally maintain "proper" dress were in their cabins by 11PM, I don't know. I do know that the people that were up in the casino and lounges were mostly dressed casually.

 

For other food/lunch/breakfast, The Lido was fantastic. You can get something good to eat there until 1AM.

 

You have to look around though as there is a lot of variety to choose from including sandwiches and wraps in the "Bistro" to hamburgers, hot dogs and tacos by the forward pool.

 

As for room service, we used it a few mornings for breakfast and found the food to be warm and tasty. The breakfast menu is pretty complete but if you want something that is not on it like oatmeal, you only have to write it on your order form and you will get it. To get full room service breakfast you have to place your order form outside your cabin by 2AM. You can also get a somewhat limited number of "general" food items "24 hours" like a hamburger or club sandwich, or my personal favorite.....cookies and milk.

 

Not much else to say about the food except, you will gain a pound or two, unless you are some kind of space alien.

 

Next installment...Ports

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Thanks for the information. Very informative. I am leaving on August 7 so this has really been helpful!

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Ruth and Joe,

 

Thank you so much for this review in-process. I'm enjoying it. Looking forward to the rest of it!

 

I found your observations on evening dress enlightening. It sounds like a guy not dressed in at least a jacket on formal night would probably stand out like a sore thumb. I'm not surprised by your observations on informal night attire ... particularly in the summer and in the Caribbean.

 

Again, looking forward for more to come! Thanks in advance!

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Thanks for the dining installment. Looking forward to hearing about the ports.

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Hi All: I was going to do a review of my own; however Joe and Ruth beat me to it. So I would like to add a few things......and if you guys don;t mind I'll follow along with your reviews :)

 

Embarkation; we had a suite so our check-in was a bit different. We had a separate area and although it moved faster people generally did not have their paperwork filled out prior to going to the check-in! That said it only took us an hour to get on the ship. We then preceeded to the Neptune Lounge and met the staff. Avon & Charman were very accomodating and did anything requested of them. The lounge was very nice had a TV and at different times during the day had beverages, snacks, desserts etc. This is also where the captain had a cocktail parties for the suite guests.

 

Off we went to meet a bunch of the Cruise Critics at the Paino Bar. It is a very nice place to meet and stays very quiet. This is where we met some wonderful people and especially Ruth and Joe :)

 

Cabins; well I have to say for us to go to any other cabin would be difficult! Our cabin was large with almost too much closet space. My DH said not to spread out too much or we would lose some things :) The large king size bed was very comfortable and had two tables (one on either side) a large desk area that had the TV on one end and a full window in front. It was nice to sit write some postcards and enjoy the view. There was a couch and small table in front of it that we used often. The balcony was very large had a table for four, two chairs and still lots of room. Our room steward (Hyauu) was wonderful. Anyone who is in a suite would be lucky to get him. He did anything that we asked of him. The best part of the suite was giving him our laundry and getting it back the next evening all pressed and ready to go.

 

On one occasion we had Ruth and Joe over to our room for cocktails and some snakcs. They came in and gave a table cloth broke everything down for us and had everything on ice! They were wonderful.

 

The funny side to the cabin is that Mark and I loved the king size bed so much (we currently have a queen) that we went out and purchased a new bed last night!

 

 

Dining; Alright, I thought that Ruth and Joe switched their seating so they could hang out with us, I guess I was wrong! :)

 

We had the late dining 8:30 in the lower level (table 133) The table was beautiful and was along the window (six people) Our table mates were terrific and will keep in touch with them. The food was good, The service was medium and the wine steward was HORRIBLE! We had pre-ordered the wine and every evening had to go and hunt the wine steward down. We had to go to the Dining Manager twice and finally on our fifth night things started to get a bit better. All in all if I had one complaint to make against HAL it would be the service staff. They seemed to be very rushed, there was no interaction; they simply wanted to know what you wanted for dinner and wanted to clean up. I am not sure of the reason for this but it is definately the weak spot for HAL.

 

We did eat in the Pinnacle Grill on two occasions. The first night was baecause we were gifted it from our TA, the second night was because the service was WONDERFUL. This service is what we were expecting in the dining room. I think if we cruised HAL again we would split our dinners between the two. The Porterhouse Steak is not to be missed. Its cooked to perfection.

 

The only other comment on the dining would be the wine list, it was very good. For being on a cruise I would have thought it would be a bit limited, but it was not. We had lots of choices and had a bottle every night.

 

So that is my review; I think I will follow Ruth and Joe and give my review as well.......if you guys don't mind me following you!

 

If anyone has any specific questions, please let me know.....

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Welcome back dst.

 

I have not sailed HAL yet. I find it amazing that the long time HAL cruisers rave about the personal service they receive. However, people new to HAL pretty uniformly say that the service in the DR is mediocre, or at the least they didn't have the time to interact with the guests.

 

Last year we cruised with Carnival, a cruise line that is not considered "premium" as HAL is. However, the service in the DR was excellent and the waiter had, and took the time to interact with the guests.

 

HAL are you reading this? If you want to call yourself "premium" and boast about your "signature of excellence" you should be able to provide DR service at least comparable to Carnival.

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There most certainly have been cutbacks in the dining room service staffs. It seems to be the most noticeable on the larger Vista ships. We felt the Oosterdam was very understaffed and it showed in the service. Rotterdam and Maasdam were great as far as we were concerned.

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Orcrone: thanks for the welcome back.

 

Funny you should mention Carnival, I have taken 10 cruises, this was my first on HAL and of all the cruises I have done this was by far the worse customer service I have ever gotten. (I have done RCCL, Princess, Carnival). I feel that RCCL offers the best customer service of any cruise line. But funny enough my DH had his first cruise last year and it was on Carnival (Paradise) all Mark could say is that we had better dining service on the Paradise than on HAL! So yes I would agree with you that HAL has alot of work to do in this department.......

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DST,

 

We're sailing on the Maasdam in October, so I'll have to wait and see. But most posters seem to think that the service on the S class ships is better than the Vista class. Then we have the Zuiderdam in March. This way I'll be able to compare two classes of HAL to my Carnival cruise last year.

 

I just know that our daughters still occasionally talk about Ziggy, the waiter we had on our Carnival cruise last year.

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I also agree about the service on Carnival. I was recently on the Inspiration, after the first night the waiter seemed to be able to read our minds. He knew our likes and dislikes, was ready with replacement dishes if he didn't think we chose correctly the first time. He was always friendly and efficient. We have also had incredible service from the wait staff on Celebrity cruises.

 

I have just completed my third HAL cruise and while some have been better than others the service on Celebrity and Carnival has been far superior to the service on HAL.

 

Linda

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I think it si funny how Carnival gets put as the lower class ships but the service is better. I think its becasue they enjoy their jobs :) On this cruise we adjusted our tips and gave cash to those who deserved it and left a note for the wine steward with no tip :(

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It seems that JoeDog may have gone on vacation so I guess I will start the review on ports ( ; )

 

KeyWest: Arrived in Key West and got off of the ship pretty early, we walked from the ship through Duvall Street (the main street in town) and did some shopping (most of the shops open around 10-11:00) There are more t-shirt shops in Key West that anyone could ever need! We shopped as we walked up to the "Southern Most Point" which we were told would be nothing great but a good excuse to get some of the future weight gain off....After seeing the Southern Most Point and taking a few pics to say we had been there; we began to walk back into town and head for some lunch at Margaritaville. The food was pretty good and they do make a great Margarita :) We were back on the ship around 1:00 and headed straight for the aft pool.

 

Key West is nice, I could really do without going back to it. The only complain I have is that the streets in the morning were very dirty (from the partying the previous evening) and the stench of alcohol was horrible.

 

Day at Sea; the first day at sea was nice, the weather was perfect, no clouds and the water was extremely calm. I am an early riser so I went up to the Aft Pool around 7:00 with my book while the DH slept in. The pool begins to get crowded around 9:00 and yes there are those horrid people who come up to the pool, throw 6-7 towles on chairs and then go to breakfast for about 2 hours! The staff does not remove the towels if they are placed there, however I did notice a few guests taking the towels and giving them to the wait staff and taking the chairs. (good for them) There is suppose to be a quiet time at the aft pool from 3:00-5:00 and I must tell you there is NO such thing. People do not remove their children from the pool (even though it is clearly marked in the pool area and is on the daily activities sheet) HAL also does not enforce this rule (big surprise). The wait staff was very lax, we had to look for someone when we wanted to get a drink and half the time they never came back. A very nice and realxing day.....

 

up next Cozumel and Grand Cayman........

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DST (or anyone else who might know),

We also requested lower dining room aft table by the windows. Was there any vibration? We heard so much about this last year but now HAL claims this has been corrected. Could you please tell me what was your experience with vibration.

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kakcruiser - i was on the w. carib sailing of the zuiderdam on 7/10-7/17.. we had early lower dining. i will tell you that the first night i did notice a slight vibration as we were sailing out of FLL. it wasn't enough to be annoying and i probably wouldn't have noticed it if not for reading so much about it here on the boards. however, after the first night, i never noticed it again.

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We had table 133 nad did not notice a thing. Its a great table by the window for 6......also at the 8:30 seating. Go for it you won't be sorry!

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