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GARRY ASHBY

Age: 67

Occupation:RETIRED

Number of Cruises: 30+

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Zuiderdam

Sailing Date: 2011-12-27

Itinerary: Panama Canal

Once again Holland America provided exceptional value. After a previous cruise on a competitor (NCL) this cruise was like "Coming Home". The dining roon staff were outstanding; hot food, well presented, and every effort to meet special requests. The cruise director was entertaining and engaging. Thoughout the ship, the entire crew was cheerful and most hospitable. It would seem that "NO" is not in their lexicon as every request is promptly granted.

The ZUIDERDAM is immaculately kept and the ships condition belies its 10 year age. Simply walking around the ship is like a museum vist for all the displayed art and antiquities.

Overall, the food was very good featuring a wide variety of selections that were served HOT and well presented. The dining room staff made every effort to accomodate our vegan companion. Yes, it is obvious the cost pressures have effected the level of service, but not intolerably. Our wine steward seemed to have far to much area to adequately service and our waiter was also challenged by his area. This did not efect their attitudes for they remained cheerfull and accomodating. Portions seem to have been reduced, particulary in the size of beef dishes, but this really is not a bad thing, Getting enough to eat on a Cruise Ship is never problematic ! Dishes with shrimp were not acceptable (small and poor quality shrimp). Lobster tails were also quite small and diners had to remove shells themselves (usually the waiter removes the shell after the dish has been presented). These detracters did not materially impact our overall high level of satisfaction with the cuisine. The wine list featured no disappoinments and bar service served well made and presented cocktails.

We upgraded our stateroom to a veranda suite (SY) for this cruise (approx. 350 square feet), we loved it. Having both a tub and a separate shower, as well as two vanity sinks, was a treat. Remarkably, we actually had more storage areas than stuff ! We almost never saw our cabin steward but, miraculously, everything was taken care of to our complete satisfaction. The veranda was at least twice the size that we have with our usual cabin (VA) and it was very enjoyable in this cruise venue. Room service was exceptionaly prompt and high quality. My only regret is that we may now be spoiled !!

The available activities were many and varied. The ship pulled out all the stops for new years eve. Entertaiment ( as usual ) was quite good but NOT as exceptional as usual. The main production show was the same show ( Sets, songs, dances, etc) as we saw on our 20009/2010 HAL cruise. The two second tier singers (male and female) were noticeably better than the main performers. The other acts ( Comedian, Magician, Steel Drum Band) were enjoyable. The "Cabaret" entertainers were also very good.

As we have been to thes ports many times, we did not participate in any of the excursions. All comments we heard from fellow cruisers regarding their excurisions were positive.

Embarcation was well organised and very fast. Our luggage was in our stateroom before 4 PM. The cruise intinerary ran smoothly without incident. Disembarcation was delayed by about an hour, presumably due to shore officials. Overall this was a relaxing and enjoyable cruise in keeping with the high standards that HAL seems intent to maintain regardless of the economy.

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