Number of Cruises: 5+
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: May 1st, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Our flight, booked thru HAL, arrived at Ft Lauderdale early. We thought this would be a plus, instead we had to wait a longer period of time for the pre arranged transportation to pier. The previous week's cruise cleared port late (11 am, we were told), so we had to wait until the buses brought all the people to the airport before they could take us back to ship. This resulted in a very long check in line at the pier. It moved rather quickly for the # of people boarding. Once on board we were ushered to the Lido for lunch, the staterooms would not be available until 1:15. Around 1 PM we heard the announcement, staterooms were ready. We booked Veranda category A. Room was clean, the balcony very nice. We checked out some of the ship and returned to find our bags in room & ready to unpack. Ernas, our room steward, very friendly and eager to please. We saw him first and last day, rest of the time, he was invisible, yet the room was always made up, fresh towels & fresh ice. It was magical! Sail away & lifeboat drill were uneventful. Our dinner seating was 5:45 PM, they now have 4 seatings, not 2. Would have preferred 6:15. Food was good, nice presentation. I miss the old menus, new ones are one page and you don't get a souvenier at end of voyage. We enjoy pulling out the old ones & remembering the good times had over meals. We had nothing to take home. The meals weren't much too remember either. We sat with nice people, but had nothing in common. We were only folks at large table to order a wine or cocktail. This made it kind of boring. Also, we were only folks at our table that followed the formal dress code, informal dress code. The other folks came informal for formal night & casual remainder of cruise. We cruise HAL because we like traditional cruises that still have the elegance...this was the most casual of all the HAL ships we've sailed. Shows were excellent! The comedian was very good. Ventriloquist excellent. The Zuiderdam cast very energetic & put on great shows.
Casino is large, but very, very tight. We did see someone win $25,000 on a slot machine, but that was about it all week. We went to bingo twice. They only play 1 game. Didn't like that much, in past it was 4 games. We didn't participate in many activities, enjoyed our private verandah instead. The few times by the aft pool, it was nice but had to wait for 2 chairs together. DJ was always hosting some activity - conga around the pool for free teguila shots, belly flops for free shot, etc. Not our style. We like the western itinery, but would have preferred later day in Cozumel 6- 2:30 couldn't do much. Who gets up early on vacation?? Too early a start for the beaches and shopping. By the time we did some shopping there was only time for one round at Carlos & Charlies & it was time to be on board. Half Moon Cay was wonderful as usual. I could take a week at HMC! What a beautiful island! We've been there a few times & always look forward to returning. The Food on the Lido deck was very good. The Italian station, Deli, and Omelettes being our favorites. It was hard to get ice tea. It always seemed to out of tea. We used our soda card a lot on this cruise. Would have preferred tea. At night the tea selection was always out of Sleepytime, my favorite before bed, had to settle for something else. The 11:30 pm buffets were good. Variety nice each night. Very good pizza selection too. We didn't bother going to the Chocolate Dessert Extravaganza. It's now held at 4 in the afternoon instead of midnight. Afternoons are for pool or beach, not a dessert party - I want dessert at night. The night club was ok, Marc, the DJ tried very hard to get people involved, but the music was the same day after day. If you heard it last night you will hear it again at the pool & again tonight! Need better variety. The cruise director & entertainment crew were just ok. We've had better, and those are our most memorable cruises. Shops on board were good, nothing special, but very reasonable. Photos were always being taken, this was first cruise we bought none - the quality just wasn't there. If they took better pictures I would buy them. Disembarkation was very smooth. It was nice being able to stay in room until # is called. HAL now adds tips to your shipboard invoice. $10 pp per day. Not sure we like this policy, we usually tip a lot more and it's based on service and given directly to the people given us the service. We gave more money to our room steward besides what we were billed, he deserved it. Luggage roundup was uneventful, plenty of porters to help. When we did the 'postmortem' on this cruise...it was probably the lowest rating we ever gave HAL, 7-7.5 on scale of 10. The ship was beautiful, very large for HAL, the atrium was too small & was disappointing for this size ship. We enjoy the casino, when you spend three times your daily budget in 10-15 minutes with no money back to play with - your time is very limited in casino. We don't expect to win, but we expect to get some 'play' out of our money - when all you do is put it in & get nothing back - there is no fun to it. It also means there is nothing to do in the evening. We wound up spending a lot of time on our balcony or watching tv. Not sure that we would do the Zuiderdam again. Zaandam or Veendam were a lot more fun!