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Michael Ryckman

Age: 24

Occupation:Federal Employee

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Zuiderdam

Sailing Date: March 20th, 2004

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

Hi, this is Michael and Susanne, to give a little background about ourselves, we are in our mid-20's, I work for the government, and Susanne is an elementary school teacher. We decided to take a cruise for her spring break, we did plenty of research for this, and taking into account two previous 3-day cruises we took last year aboard the Carnival Fantasy (Port Canaveral departure), and a 3-day Disney Wonder (Port Canaveral departure). We really enjoyed the Disney Wonder, great food, great accommodations, and excellent shows. We did not enjoy the Fantasy at all, it was old, the crew was very rude, and the shows were sub par. We can say we originally booked on the Disney Magic for 7 days on the Easter Caribbean for March 20, but we received an email about the 15th of January from Holland America offering a SS Class Suite aboard the MS Zuiderdam for the same day. We contemplated it, and decided we would have a more relaxing cruise aboard the Zuiderdam, and it was also a better deal, we had a general verandah aboard the Magic, and got a Suite class room for less price, it was a very economical decision.

All in all it was a great cruise with only a few minor problems.

Getting There:
Port Everglades is a very large and busy port, with many cruise ships, and freighters, it is laid out very difficult with one parking garage feeding 3 ports for Carnival, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean. It took about a half hour to get thru the gates to the port, we arrived around 10:30 and were in the ship terminal by 11:15.

Embarkation Day: Pt Everglades
The check in process went very fast, Holland America does a great job of having personnel at every spot to check and make sure all things are filled out, and in order. We waded thru a line for about 2 mins, we then proceeded up to the check in desk, they asked for all ID’s, took our picture, gave us our keys, opened our shipboard account, sign and sail is great! We then proceeded thru security, and up the escalator, we were #4 group to board, we waited all of 10 minutes to board the ship, and we were on by 11:30, much earlier then expected. When you walk on the ship, they had bell man with very traditional black, red and yellow uniforms on to assist you with your carry on luggage and showed us where our room was, and to much luck, it was already ready, we were on the 6th deck (Upper Verandah) room 6054, it was so nice to have the extra space, it had a television with DVD player, the balcony had a table with two chairs, and to lounge chairs with footrests and a small table. The deck was a bit dirty but it was from all the salt (I will explain later). The room had 3 large cabinets for all our clothes, along with plenty of drawers and ever more space under the bed, our bags arrived around 2pm. After checking out the room, we headed down to see our table, we were seated on the second seating at 8:00pm, in the Upper Vista dining room. Our table was #34, it was great, it was a table for two, more about that later. We then went to the greenhouse spa to sign up for a couples massage on Monday at 2:00 pm, the spa was much nicer then that of Carnival and Disney. We then made reservations for Sunday night in the Odyssey Restaraunt, after trying the supper club on board Disney, we really wanted to compare the two. That was then taken care we then went to the Lido and had lunch, it was incredible, they had a station for Italian, Japanese, American, Sandwich counter, and Dessert Counter, I am a sushi lover and everyday there was fresh made to order Sushi for me, I thought that was an outstanding feature. I had Sushi, and Susanne had made to order pasta from the Italian counter. We then proceeded to our room to unpack, and went for our life boat drill, we pushed off right at 5pm. We watched from the observation deck, we were the first of all the ships to leave and set sail for Half Moon Cay. We relaxed on our deck till it was time to eat, dinner was always something we looked forward to, we had two great stewards in De Arya, and Tagel, Tagel was our favorite by far, very friendly and talkative, both are from Indonesia and anxiously looking forward to going home in two months for vacation. The menus were always top notch, appetizers, salads, soups, entrée’s and desserts. Tagel always made sure our glasses were full, and bread was always being served. After dinner we proceeded to the casino, it was ample size, fair odds, and nice dealers. Here is where we ran into our first of the few problems, now I understand Holland America is geared towards an older clientele, but I could not believe how rude some of the 55+ guests were, they were pushy, rude, never apologized, and I even overheard one lady say to a younger man at the roulette wheel who wouldn’t give up a seat, he told her to go back to Carnival. I thought it was somewhat funny, but it was very small incident, but as the week progressed, there were very rude older people on the cruise, I think they resented the younger people on the cruise for one reason or another. I would say I saw maybe 30 or less people under 25 on the cruise. After winning about $20 dollars at the tables, we went back to the room, ordered room service to be delivered at 9am, and went to bed. We were awaken at around 1am by a very bright light in the window, it was the Oosterdam, the Zuiderdam’s sister ship, they were using there spotlight to say “Hello” in morse code, our ship responded by using their light as well, this went on for about 2 minutes, we got it on tape, and it looks so incredible, something out of a movie, after the Oosterdam passed by, we then went back to bed……again!

Day 1: Half Moon Cay Bahamas
Room service arrived right on time, I had 2 egg sunny side up, ham, wheat toast, a bagel and 2 glasses of OJ. Susanne had cereal, special K, and a bagel, it was all served piping hot, and we ate on our balcony facing the beautiful Half Moon Cay. We had purchased a private cabana with air conditioning, fan, snorkel gear, mats to float on, bottled water, soda, chips, vegetables, fruit, and with a private server to bring you lunch, and attend to your needs, it was only $150 dollars, and since this was our only vacation this year, we splurged. Now at Half Moon Cay you have to tender to shore, you go to the vista lounge and get a ticket to tender and then wait to be called, since we had the cabana we were able to go straight to the boat. We got right on the tender and landed at Half Moon Cay, we were escorted to our cabana, we soon found the AC didn’t work, some of the food was old, now this upset us, and we found the shore excursion attendant who found someone to fix the AC. We told them about the food, and our server Amadeo arrived and took care of it all, he was great, very helpful and turned a bad moment into a great day. We swam, tanned, and relaxed, it was really worth the money, all the amenities, the server, I really it was worth it. They never were able to fix the AC, the unit had burned out and was unrepairable. It wasn’t all that hot, so it didn’t really bother us. We took the last tender back at 3:30 and showered up, and relaxed till dinner at 8:00 in the Odyssey. We arrived and were given a small booth near the window, Tomas was our waiter, he was from France, after a few drinks, I had the best crab cakes, Caesar salad, and the best Salmon I had yet, Susanne had the tendered filet ever, and we thought we had some good steaks before, for dessert I had baked Alaska, and Susanne had chocolate soufflé. It was great, the restraint uses real fine china, along with white linen, and white glove treatment. After dinner we retired to our room, and looked forward to our day at sea.

Day 2: At Sea
We spent the entire day at sea, I slept in, at more sushi in the Lido, Susanne laid out on top deck, and at room service for lunch, we had our massage at 2pm, it was quite good, we had a room that overlooked the ocean, and the massage therapists were quite good at what they do, the massage was right up there with the massage we had on the Disney Cruise, it was 50 minutes, and very relaxing, only difference was we paid $220 for this massage, while only paying $89 for a massage on the Disney Cruise, we felt it was about the same quality, but the point was it was relaxing, we both showered right in the changing facility next to the spa, they had soft cotton robes, and slippers to wear, after showering we went back to the room and took naps, we actually slept past dinner time and missed the first formal dinner, we ate room service and went to the queens lounge and saw a movie (Haunted Mansion), it was good, all in all a relaxing day at sea.

Day 3: St. Thomas USVI

We were awoken at 7am and summoned by floor of the ship to see a U.S. Immigration officer in the Queens lounge on deck 2, apparently when you come from a foreign port, before you can get off, U.S. Immigration must see you in person, it took about 2 mins to go down, and be seen, very harmless and not time consuming at all. We ate buffet breakfast in the Lido, it had every imaginable selection for breakfast, and can serve a hearty appetite, we disembarked at 10:00, and saw that Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princesses, and Celebrity were all there as well, all the ships were huge, it was quite a sight. We rented a jeep for a modest price of $25 for the whole day at Budget, it rained on and off and safe to say, we got soaked, we rode around the entire island, and saw some of the best views we have ever seen. We went down to the shopping district and couldn’t find a place to park, we ended up parking about a half mile away at a post office. We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Café, Susanne bought some Tiffany jewelry, and a new Coach purse all duty free, I almost bought a Tag watch from AH Riese, but decided to wait till we got home. All the shopping in St. Thomas is legitimate, and the people are all very aggressive. On board is Chris, your “Port Shopping Ambassador” he will be very helpful in helping you find the best place to shop, he will be off the gangway when you disembark to tell you where to find all your looking for. Anyways, after a day of shopping, we got in the car and went to the top of the island, that can be tricky, if you rent a car, be careful the roads are very steep, and can be very slippery, driving on the wrong side of the road is a real trick as well, other then getting soaked, and driving off a cliff, we dropped the car off, went back to the boat, and cleaned up, we decided to eat the pool side BBQ for dinner. St. Thomas is pretty much dead at night, so this was a safe way to go, the BBQ was awesome, traditional style, chicken, ribs, steak, salads, baked potatoes, beans, and desserts, after din
ner we went in the hot tub which was always full of people, and sat on our deck till midnight when we left St. Thomas for Tortola, it was beautiful to sit and watch the island pass by, I highly recommend this, it was great scenery, and something we will never forget.

Day 4: Tortola BVI
We arose to beautiful mountainous views much like St. Thomas, we had room service delivered again this morning, and had danish’s and bagels on the balcony. We were going to book a shore excursion to the Baths of Virgin Gorda, but didn’t, and we regretted it, there wasn’t much to do in Tortola, shopping was at a sparse, and we went to one bar called “Pussers” and it wasn’t all that great, not to mention they had a Visa logo on the door, but informed us that you could only pay by credit card if over $50 dollars, so always take cash while in port. We did some walking around town, as the ship drops you right near Main St, but there just wasn’t much to do, so we went back to the ship about noon, had lunch in the lido, tanned, swam, and napped until we pulled out of port around 6pm. We highly recommend a shore excursion in Tortola as there wasn’t anything to do. I also want to mention that Holland America has photographers at ever location, in the dining rooms, in the public area’s in the ship, when you embark, and disembark each port, you feel like a celebrity with as much as you get your photo taken, we didn’t purchase any as we didn’t like how they looked, but always take a look, if anything else they are high quality photos. Back to the day, we sat on our balcony and watched as Tortola passed by, it was much larger then we first thought, and there was only one other ship docked there, it was the Costa Romantica, it was neat to see at the end of the night as we both left, Our ship and the Romantica blasted horns for almost 2 mins, and the echo was very neat. We had steak, and chicken in the dining room, and Tagel and De Arya made it another memorable night. After dinner we went to the lounge and saw Master Illusionist James Cielen perform, the show was excellent, by far the best magic I have seen yet, he made birds disappear, change color, he made a dog disappear, and his assistant Isabelle was cut in half. He did many great stunts with the crowd involved, and my fiancé and I both agreed this was the highlight of the cruise, it was a show well worth of $100 a ticket, he did a meet and greet afterwards and was very nice to speak with, but as a rule, he would not reveal anything. After the show, Susanne and I went to the crow’s nest, enjoyed the live band, which was there everynight, and had a night cap, great music, great atmosphere, overall a great ending to a sub par day.

Day 5: At Sea
We were awoken at around 4am by very heavy seas, we were swaying back and forth, and this would continue till Friday morning at about 8am. The Navigator came on the P.A. around 10am and we awoke to his announcement that we were now sailing the North Atlantic ocean, and that would explain the very high seas, he reminded us that complimentary sea sick medicine was available at the front desk, and to use extreme caution while walking around the vessel, and wished us great day, we were then greeted by Asst. Senior Cruise Director Rebecca, and she reminded us about “Snowball jackpot bingo”, I honestly heard these announcements everyday, I have never seen more excitement about bingo, but I later learned that the older crowd really was into it, and it led to a fight over a winning card, I wanted to see that! We had lunch in the Lido and I caught up on sleep, and Susanne tanned all day, she got the tan she wanted, but get there early, deck chairs go quick. Thursday afternoon at 3pm was the “Holland America Dutch Chocolate Extravaganza” there were more varieties of chocolate then I have ever seen in my life, it was held in the Vista dining room, there were cakes, pies, pudding, chocolates, fruit, ice cream, everything chocolate was there, we sat in the back of the dining room, and the room shook so bad from the high seas we had to leave as we started to feel ill. Susanne and I went out for some fresh air and were warned it was not safe out on deck 3, the winds were so fierce and water was coming over the top of the deck, it was unreal how rough the seas were, of course we were going our top speed to cut the waves. We went back to the room and relaxed and got ready for the final formal evening. Each night around 7pm you have a daily program for the next day delivered to your room, along with our daily program came a letter from shore excursion, Jacob the shore excursion manager wrote us a letter stating that he had talked to the staff on Half Moon Cay and was deeply sorry for all the problems we had with our cabana, and he wanted us to know that he only charged us half the amount for the day, and that he would stop and see us at dinner to express his apology in person. I was totally shocked at this, but at the same time, realized I was not just a number on the ship, but a passenger and their guest, and it was their duty to see we had the best time ever. The dining room transforms into a very elegant room with white cloth over the seats, fine china, white glove treatment, I had the Surf & Turf, while Susanne had a very moist filet. It was very good, and the presentation for the dessert of the night “Baked Alaska” was very neat to see, and of course it was an excellent dessert. Jacob the shore excursion manager stopped by after dessert and stayed for less then a minute, he said he didn’t want to intrude, he said he was deeply sorry and said that if there was anything he could do, please let him know, I told him that he had done enough, and I was more then grateful for everything. After dinner we went to see a Vegas style show, but were informed that due to very high seas that it was cancelled, and instead the comedian Milt Abel will be performing, he had to perform with about 10 minutes notice, his act was good, not the best we heard, but there were quite a few kids there with their parents, so he had to tone it down a little, still it was a good show none the less. We then went for a drink in the crows nest and to bed, it took a while to get to sleep with the waves so high, but we were starting to get used to it.

Day 6: Freeport Bahamas

We woke at 8am to have breakfast in the dining room, I had eggs benedict, with waffles, excellent as can be, Susanne had cereal and eggs, hers was equally as good she said. She tanned and I sat and watched an in room movie, we docked at noon, we disembarked to learn we were about 10 miles from town, it was a cab ride of $5 each way per person, we almost wrecked about 10 times on the way, the cab driver kept wanting to know what time we would be back so he could take us back, Freeport doesn’t see that many ships as Nassau, so cab rides are at a low volume, and they get aggressive. There wasn’t much to do in Freeport, we went to Port Lucaya, other then a few duty free shops, that was it, not all that great, we were back at the ship in 2 hours, we reboarded, went to the pool, laid out and got ready for dinner, out last night. We left Freeport right at 7pm, we sat on our deck and watched the sunset, it was so nice. We went to dinner and were surprised to have a bottle of wine delivered to our table from Joe Cheng, he is the food and beverage manager for the Zuiderdam, the note attached went as follows “Michael & Susanne, I am so sorry about the food and beverage accommodations in your private cabana, please accept this bottle of wine as a token of my sincerity, I hope you enjoy your finale dinner, and have a safe trip home, we look forward to having you back on the Zuiderdam, Sincerely Joe Cheng”. This really made me feel great about everything that happened, just the note would have been enough, it shows you that on a ship of 1,800, you are not just a number, and that they really do much to take care of you, now back to dinner. Susanne had steak, and I had oriental duck, it was very tasty, we said our good byes to Tagel and De Arya, went back to our room to pack, it was nice that our bags didn’t have to be out till 2am, unlike Carnival where they had to be out by 10pm, we packed up, got our get away clothes on and went to see the final show, but we goofed and didn’t look at our daily program, the shows were 6:30-8:15, we arrived at 10:30 and apparently it was the grand finale of “Snowball Jackpot Bingo”, we laughed at the amount of older people there ready to win the jackpot, we agreed we had a long drive home and did one last walk around the ship and went back to the room, watched a movie on in house TV, and feel asleep.

Day 7: Debarkation
The previous night we were given an envelope with customs forms, tags for our luggage, and embarkation number, ours was “30”. We awoke at 8am to see us docked in port, how sad. We had room service delivered one last time, we enjoyed our deck one last time, and got ready, we were about the 10th group called, we exited the ship, going thru immigration, found our luggage with ease, saw the customs officer, and were in the parking garage within 10 minutes, very easy process. I did see some older people huddled around the gangway arguing that they wanted off, but hadn’t been called yet, and one lady actually pushed a Holland America staff member, crazy, crazy, crazy. We loaded up, and paid our $84 dollars for parking in the garage for the week, keep in mind they accept cash, and credit cards. We were on our way back to Tampa, our vacation was over with.

Here is our overall review of the ship.

1. The Holland America staff, and guarantee to take care of each passenger individually
2. The food, always tasty, and a great variety
3. Half Moon Cay, private beach, very serene
4. James Cielen, great show,
5. Embarkation-Debarkation

1. Vibration in the ship, only on the last 2 days from the sea
2. Older passengers, very rude and inconsiderate, it still surprises me how they acted, on a small note, the kids were always well behaved
3. In room T.V. only CNN, ESPN (In Spanish), but they always played first rate movies on 2 channels
4. Prices for spa, a bit steep for 50 minutes
5. Tortola, and Freeport, not enough to see or do

I could go on for days, the pros outweigh the cons by 100 to 1, for the price we paid, we got a great room with extra towels, more space, luxurious cotton robes, the food was great, and entertainment was great, we didn’t see all the shows, but I didn’t hear any complaints either, all the crewmembers smile, and say hello, and you can tell they really want to help overall. This cruise is defiantly geared towards older passengers, but don’t let that fool you, they have a club for kids under 12, and we saw lots of teenagers having plenty of fun, the retractable roof on the mid deck pool is a great idea, it gave shade, but enough sun to warm the pool. The staff members really made the cruise memorable, and we felt we got more then enough bang for our buck, we would have liked to gone to Nassau instead, and maybe Martinique, the ports were a little bad, but like I said, we had so much fun on the ship, overall we would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this cruise. I am sure I have missed a lot, please email me at

if you have any questions about the ship, I did quite a bit of research on CRUISEREVIEWS.COM before we went, and found a lot to be helpful, and I hope this helps you, enjoy the M.S. Zuiderdam………we sure did

Happy Sailing!

Michael and Susanne

Please email me with any questions what so ever, not matter how big or small, I will answer them all, please don’t hesitate

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