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petermccue

Zuiderdam review 9/11-9/27... the more than you bargain for cruise

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Just back this evening from our back to backs on the Z. Overall, I liked the cruise. (of course, it was a cruise!) but I'm not sure that a big ship is going to be for me ... at least most of the time.

 

Of course, that may just be because we went from the Prinsendam to the Zuiderdam, which basically tripled the passenger size!

 

There was a lot to like about the Z. Our dining room service was excellent, as was our room steward. I thought the over all friendliness of the ship was quite good, but there were some rough spots for me.

 

Background -

 

We booked this trip on semi-short notice soon after my father died in July. We took my mother and her housekeeper in a Deluxe Verandah Suite and myself and my foster brother in an H guarantee the first week and an E guarantee the second week. This trip was a treat for the housekeeper and as a relax and unwind from two years of caring for an invalid for mother, brother and I. So we went into it planning on a rather low key approach to things. We booked during hurricane season and chose to go with the cruise air because we were booking during hurricane season. Turned out to be the wisest decision we ever made.

 

We drove down to St. Louis Friday the 10th, and spent the night at the Hilton there before flying out to Miami Sat morning at 7am. Mother uses a power scooter and we took her wheelchair, so we have interesting times getting on planes, to put it mildly. HAL was GREAT about helping make sure the scooter would work, notifing the airlines, etc. etc. Their department that handles special needs is quite good and very professional.

 

Parked the car at the Hilton, and got a good rate there because we spent the night ... first week of parking was free. WHoohoo!

 

Flight was a flight. I usually fly Southwest myself, and am not that impressed with other airlines, honestly. Yeah, Southwest is somewhat like a Greyhound of the skies, but it's friendly and it gets me where I want with a minimum of fuss. And quickly!

 

Embarkation was good. Pretty quick and other than the pesky photographers (more about them later) went well. Probably an hour after landing we were boarding the ship, which ain't bad with all the stuff we were lugging.

 

Mother and Tina were in 7084 for the two weeks. Brother and I were in 4084 the first week... and moved to 1102 the second week.

 

Continued in the next post as I'm getting wordy....

 

V

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I liked the ship and the layout. The color scheme was mostly good. However, the disco was a constant source of amusement to me... that color scheme is just too much. I didn't think the carpet was garish or over the top. Cabin decor was nice for both our outsides, and the suite was very nicely decorated. Not quite up to the Prinsendam Deluxe Verandah Suite from last year, but still nice. Defintely more airy .. a lighter feel.

 

Mother thought the cabin wasn't as roomy as it could have been. She thought the Prinsendam's cabin was larger (which in terms of square feet it wasn't) but I think that was the layout of the cabin more than anything else. We're booked with her to Hawaii on the Statendam this holiday, so we'll see if those are the right size. (Mom and dad sailed the Statendam, Ryndam and the Veendam soon after they joined the fleet. (sniffles) they left me behind then!) She liked the P's cabin on the same deck with the Crow's Nest, found that REALLY nice. However, the separate shower on the Z was good.

 

Pools were both nice. Although why is there a polar bear in the middle of the Lido pool for a ship that sails the Caribbean year round? I'm still trying to figure out how to take home the carved panels from the lobby area outside the Crow's Nest. Most of the rest of the decor was nice. I don't think the ship's decor would work well if the ship wasn't sailing the Caribbean year round, but when the ship is docking in places with pink and turquoise houses... it doesn't seem so out of place.

 

As usual, love the Promenade deck. Nice selection of bars and nooks and cranies on the ship. Library is pretty with an okay selection of titles. Did find it weird that there was a huge selection of titles about Cuba in the travel section but no books on Mexico or other more traditional Caribbean ports. However, that may have been some sort of omen for the end of the trip....

 

Crow's Nest is lovely, and love those chairs by the windows! Took us a while to find the way to the forward observation deck on Deck 9, but once we did, that was a wonderful place to see the sights.

 

I do not like the Lido on this ship. I'm not sure exactly why, other than it's warm, and crowded and I didn't much like the food offerings there. I found the food there merely adequate. I DID like the taco bar and the grill by the pool, but the buffet inside was so-so. And while I'm sure Hunky-Dory has his fans ... it seemed like I was forever getting caught in a traffic jam right by his station there, which kinda made me less than impressed with him.

 

More next post...

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Thanks, Peter. I'm enjoying your report and I'm looking forward to reading more.

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Well, we were scheduled to do HMC, Tortula, St. Thomas and Nassau on the first week, and Key West, Cozumel, Grand Caymen and HMC the second week. That was what we were going to do when we booked.

 

Francis put paid to HMC before we ever embarked, so the revised first week itinerary was: Nassau, Tortula, St. Thomas and San Juan. Of course, as we went from Nassau to Tortula, TS Jeanne developed, so we cut short our call in Tortula, and went to St. Martin instead of St. Thomas and San Juan.

 

Second week, because of Grand Caymen's problems with Ivan, we recieved a revised itinerary before leaving that ran: Key West, Cozumel, Costa Maya and HMC. I actually liked this better as the Cozumel times were MUCH better. Instead of 6:30am to 3pm, we did 11am to 11pm, which was nice. However, we ran into a few issues with THIS itinerary (laughs) and ended up with a midweek itinerary of Nassau for HMC. This got changed Thursday when Nassau closed due to Jeanne. So we sailed around .. when word came in that Port Everglades was closing... so we were delayed until Monday ... with two extra sea days.

 

A side note about the cabanas and HMC. We had booked a cabana for both of the calls we were supposed to make at HMC. Wed of the second week, we were informed that even though we were going to HMC, the cabana's weren't available, nor were the clamshells. Of course, we didn't make any call there so I have no idea what the status of the whole island is, but my guess is that the cabana's aren't going to be up and running any time soon.

 

Ports -

 

I liked Nassau. It was pretty nice and we just wandered around and saw the Queen's staircase and shopped some. Took it easy.

 

Tortula - Hard for me to judge, as we were there in rain and the port call was cut short. We just wandered around the town and bought some t-shirts.

 

St. Martin - NICE town. I would like it more when they finish the work on Front Street. Shopping was good. Didn't do anything else because of the rain. LOVED the water taxi. I like to feel the ship/boats rock under me, so I enjoyed the water taxi a lot.

 

Key West was really cool. Want to go back when there isn't a Biker Week going on! Did the Mel Fisher museum and shopped (I was running out of books so had to restock)

 

Cozumel - I liked the Playa Maya pier and our excursion. We did the horseback riding one offered by the ship. Cozumel itself was okay. Compared to St. Martin, it didn't offer as much things I'm interested in. Of course, I live in Houston, so Mexican tourist trinkets don't much interest me, I can get those anytime.

 

Costa Maya - We did the Chochoban ruins tour from the ship, and that was very very good. Hot though! We shared the port with Carnival Triumph so ... let's just say I didn't use the pools on shore or spend much time there .. it was a bit too boisterous for me ashore.

 

Can't complain about the ports. We knew what could happen when you sail in Hurricane season, and St. Martin made up for a LOT of disappointments!

 

V

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I found the service on the ship to be really good almost everywhere. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner most of the time in the dining room. The service was almost always good for breakfast and lunch. I'm a tea drinker, not coffee, and that's usually a good test of service ... how easy it is to get hot tea in the morning. Only two mornings did I even have any sort of issue, and even then it wasn't a big big deal. Lunch service was also good. We almost always met very nice folks at lunch and had a good time talking with folks. Just one time in the first week did we run into a table companion that wasn't nice and that'll happen any time.

 

Dinner .. our service was quite quite good. Friendly without being overbearing. Nice wine stewards... excellent service from our waiter. They quickly learned that mother wanted hot water with her after dinner coffee because she finds the coffee to be too strong... and never failed after the second day to automatically bring it to her. Service was probably not quite up to the highest five star service, but was easily up to most of the finer resturants we eat at in Houston. Food was good. Some of the appetisers didn't appeal to me, but I always enjoyed the entrees. Venison was very very good. The coleslaw the last night was to drool over.

 

Both of my room stewards were very very good. Mother's room steward Rick-Rick was very very very good. Mother was muttering about not having enough room in her suitcase for him...

 

Front office service was good. Bar service was good. Shore excursions (what little I had to do with them) was good.

 

HOwever...

 

Lido resturant service was not so hot. Mother who is in a scooter had trouble finding someone to help her with a tray sometimes. While cleanup was good, very few of the staff in the Lido seemed to be friendly. And the few that were, usually ended up talking in the middle of the passageways.. resulting in problems navigating.

 

Store service was... ugh. It always seemed like such a bother to the staff to actually help someone. I never DID get anyone in the 16 days I spent on the ship have someone ask me if they could help me with something or was I looking for something. Even when I was lingering over a jewelry case, I could NOT get someone to meet my eyes much less offer to help. I figured that if they felt that way, I didn't need to spend my money!

 

Photo staff. UGH! From the first day, I felt annoyed with them. Constantly trying to force me into having my photo taken .. when I didn't WANT it taken and had no intention of buying the photo. Not only that, but during both boat drills, the photographers insisted on disrupting the drill by trying to get folks to have their picture taken, talking over the boat captain's instructions. I did buy some photos, but I'm not the type that buys a lot, and I'm certainly NOT going to buy a picture of me hugging some poor soul dressed up some silly costume .. from every single port! Most of the photographer's were okay about it, but one female was pushy and rude and would always push until I got testy. One time she tried to block me moving past her into town so I could hug the dolphin. I found that rude.

 

Internet.... the girl working there was friendly, and knew enough for most folks, but the first week we had some sort of virus problem and she was not exactly inspiring when she seemed unable to figure out what a firewall was.

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Disembarkation was mostly good. The airport was beyond bad, but that's not HAL's fault. We had seven ships in port today (just in FLL) and I'm pretty sure that most of the folks on them had to reschedule their flights. It was just bad.

 

I generally felt pretty good about how HAL and the staff handled Jeanne. When we got diverted and held over, they did a very good job about announcing things, as well as posting airline statements in front of the front desk along with forecast tracks and radar shots.

 

We were given 15 minutes of free calls when we were diverted, but I never used it as we never could get a line out. And of course, since we had booked through HAL, I didn't NEED those minutes. I just sent a few emails to friends letting them know we'd be late and let others who needed the phone have more of a chance.

 

Last night when two RCL ships and some others were floating around us, all with our lights on... was magical. That's NOT something you'll see every day, and is a memory I'll cherish.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my cruise. I met some nice folks (waves to them all) and while I didn't go out of my way to socialize, it's not the other folks' fault. I just needed to recharge my batteries ... and this cruise did it.

 

We did a LOT of shopping. Mother ran up a rather large jewelry bill... so large that this morning when we went to the library to voluntarily pay our customs duty... the customs agent told her that her bill was the largest he'd ever had to do ... and mine wasn't exactly cheap either! I enjoyed the riding I did and the ruins. I'm not really a beach person, so I can't comment on that. Neither are we show folks, so brother and I are up to 33 days and counting on board ship without having gone to a show!

 

I found HAL to be up to my standards from the last cruise. I think I'll probably prefer a smaller ship most of the time. However, when there is something I want to see, I won't have a problem with a bigger ship either.

 

I liked the Prinsendam just slightly better, but I did like the Z ... and look forward to sailing on the Westerdam in Dec.

 

V

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We had 4084 the first week and 1102 the second.

 

I liked both well enough, but I think I'll stick with verandah's from now on.

 

4084 was nice .. had a lovely view of our lifeboat! Nice big floor to ceiling window which was good for letting in light but bad for getting me to think I could walk though the door to the (non-existant) verandah. Also it was impossible to order room service in there.

 

1102 was laid out better, and I liked the window with the well (which I could sit in to look out which was fun!) but ...

 

We were right under the galley. It was loud above us from about a half an hour before breakfast was starting. And then loud again after dinner for about an hour. Just a word of advice to NEVER select this spot!

 

Hm.. few more things...

 

The behind the scenes tour on the first extra day was very very very cool. Fun and lighthearted and definitely worth the time. I got pictures of everything but the coffin store (yes, the morgue) and will post them when I have a chance. The liquor store was quite amusing. The guy doing our tour said that while they usually order for a week's supply of most things (with a bit of extra laid in) they always try to carry three week's worth of liquor. And he told us we weren't drinking enough!

 

Shopping Ambassador. Ugh. That has to be the most annoying thing HAL does. Why can't they see that by taking money to promote certain shops, they are undermining their own credibility? It became the running joke about Diamond's International being the only game in town, and while we did get some things there... I think HAL would do something truly innovative if they changed the whole port advisory thing somehow. I'm not sure how they could do it, but the whole thing is a joke and just stinks to high heaven.

 

Hm... can't think of anything else for the moment. NOw to try to figure out where my pillow chocolate is... it's gone missing!

 

V

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Wonderful review. Thank you for posting it. I enjoyed reading it and it makes me eager to return to Zuiderdam this weekend for our fifth cruise on her.

 

 

Welcome Back. (P.S. I'd love to hear about the beautiful jewelry you and your mother came home with. Did you purchase it in St. Maartin? I recall you commented you could not get anyone to help you in the on-board store.)

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We bought jewelry in Nassau (Solomon's Mine's) which was three little Caribbean themed charm bracelets for mother's great-granddaughters.

 

We also bought in St. Martin - quite a lot. I got two Lalique jewelry pieces in Little Switzerland, and a lovely gold flower piece that'd fit over an omega necklace at Ballerina Jewelers. Mother then bought a VERY large pile at Diamonds International... a very unique peridot pendant, a diamond bracelet, some Asher pieces ... the inlaid ones, and two things for me ... a white and black diamond ring and a silver designer choker. We also bought a bunch of t-shirts and some wonderful linens

 

Mother bought a ring in Key West (Little Switzerland) and I got a stunning piece for my omega in an Angel fish design at a little jeweler off Duval St.

 

Then mother got some tanzanite in Costa Maya, but I'm not sure where she got it as I was at the ruins then. I picked up some silver necklaces in Cozumel, but between most places there not taking Discover and generally most of it being silver, we stuck to t-shirts in Mexico.

 

Brother got a nice watch and some sandals. I think he's feeling neglected... (laughs)

 

I go back to Cozumel over Halloween with the hubby for our anniversary, so we'll probably pick up something silverish for me then. We're trying Carnival, so wish us luck.

 

V

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The behind the scenes tour on the first extra day was very very very cool. Fun and lighthearted and definitely worth the time. I got pictures of everything but the coffin store (yes, the morgue) and will post them when I have a chance.

Thanks for a wonderful review! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

 

What? No photo of the morgue? Oh, boy ... was there someone in it? :(

 

We had that same tour on the 8-28 sailing and I, too, found it thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening. HAL should consider making that tour a regular offering on the Z.

 

Blue skies ...

 

--rita

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Thank you for the very helpful and interesting review.

 

You mentioned trouble ordering room service from the "lifeboat view" cabin. Can you elaborate just a little?

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Thanks so much for your review - sounds like a couple gals made out in the shops.... ;) What fun!

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I guess you weren't kidding when you said you got 'alot' of jewelry. :) Good for you. Enjoy every piece of it....wear it all in good health. Sounds like some very beautiful pieces.

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Thank you so much for your review. It was really nice of you to take the time to do it. You mention the water taxi at St. Maarten. The ship doesn't dock there? You tender in?

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Thank you for your wonderful review! I can't wait for my cruise on the Z on Thanksgiving Week! Reading about your shopping in St Marteen brought me wonderful memories! I LOVE BALLERINA JEWELERS! I always go "shopping crazy" there, I keep saying if I ever hit the Florida Lotto, that will be my first stop!!! And then of course, Lalique pieces are so wonderful! Well, my shopping brain has begun to make big plans for my November Christmas Shopping . . .

AlinaMaria

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I enjoyed reading your review. It's interesting that the cabanas and clamshells at HMC were cancelled prior to the itinerary change. It does not bode well for our stop there in a couple of weeks.

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In St. Martin we docked at a pier that's a good bit away from town. There are some shops there at the pier, but the main shopping is in town. You can either catch a land taxi between the ship pier and downtown or catch the water taxi between the downtown's tiny pier and the ship's pier. I liked the water taxi better.

 

There wasn't anyone in the morgue, I just felt creepy taking pictures of it ...

 

We didn't tender once the whole trip. We shared Nassau with one of the RCL ships (I wanna say Navigator, but I'll have to check my photos). We were alone in Tortula, and shared St. Martin with another of the RCL ships (Mariner?) and then docked in FLL with Enchantment, Caribbean Princess, Century, Regal Empress (my, she looks like a SHIP!) St. Tropez and SeaEscape. Anyone know anything about the last two?

 

Second week, we were alone in Key West (well, except for the bikers) and shared Cozumel with Caribbean Princess, Norwegian Sea (I think), and Carnival Triumph. We shared Costa Maya again with Triumph. When we docked Monday morning... Caribbean Princess, Disney Wonder, Century, Carnival Glory, Fantasy, and Enchantment of the Seas were all there. Quite the crowd!

 

V

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St. Tropez and SeaEscape. Anyone know anything about the last two?

They're "daytripper" casino boats....

 

-dave

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Wonderful review...Isn't it great that HAL offered some free phone time to their guests. I guess they listened after the September 4-6 delay.

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THANK YOU for the great review. We are doing B2B in August of 2005 on the Z and had a couple of questions for you, if you please.

 

After the first week are you required to get off the ship or can you stay onboard?

 

Does the staff help you move your luggage from one cabin to the other (we are trying to get the same cabin, cat. ss)?

 

Can you give us any tips on B2B cruises, our first?

 

Thank You,

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We had to get off the ship in Ft Lauderdale, and pass through immigration and customs. We were off the ship probably a total of half an hour. You just mark your customs form with 'in transit' and you don't declare anything then, you wait until the end....

 

We had help moving our luggage. We just threw stuff into bags and stuff (those Holland America canvas totes are SOOO useful!) and moved the hanging stuff on the hangers, which made things very easy. A steward came up with a cart and moved everything for us....

 

A couple of other things I thought of....

 

AC - first day while we were in port (and on our turnaround day too) the AC in the cabin was a bit anemic. Otherwise, it worked very very very well. But we were always able to get it to a comfy temp, even for 'right-after-a-shower-when-I-want-the-room-really-warm-time'. I did notice a few spots that were always chilly, mainly the hallway by the front desk. If there weren't a lot of folks at dinner, the dining room could be chilly. Nothing a sweater/wrap/jacket didn't fix.

 

We had late dining and sat at the stern of the lower dining room. Yes, we could feel the engines. No, nothing that caused anything to shimmy off the table. My suggestion is that if the motion bugged you, to check with the Maitre'd and try to move forward in the dining room.

 

I never noticed any sort of smell anywhere. Well, except on the promenade when the crew was painting one afternoon.

 

Our menus did repeat, but that just let us have a chance at entrees we didn't get a chance to choose the first time. Not having gone to any shows, I'm not honestly sure if they repeated or not. Movies in the theater did, I know... Because the movies are shown in the small show lounge, get there early if you want a seat with a full on view of the screen.

 

Generally I'm a very laid back person about a lot of things, but I can and do get annoyed when I'm treated rudely. I don't mind waiting or having things canceled as long as I'm informed and treated like an adult. I can't say that the main services on the Z EVER made me upset or bothered. Photo services and shops... yeah, I was getting a bit steamed at the end, and wrote a rather scathing review on my comment card.

 

I didn't notice a single bit of difference between the service with the new tipping policy and the old system, at least as far as the dining room/room services/bar services went. It's hard to say what the problem with the Lido was, but I'm pretty sure that it's not so much related to the change in policy as too many people, not enough staff. And the photo/shop problems weren't related to the tipping issue, because I'm pretty sure they don't share in the tips.

 

V

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