Scott A. Shaw
Number of Cruises: 14+
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: June 12th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Upon arrival at Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, you are met with the sheer beauty of this ship, the M.S. Zuiderdam. The luggage dropoff is certainly smooth, but check-in can be quite troublesome if you arrive later than 230pm. The lines to check-in are significant, unless you happen to book a specific "upgraded" room-type, which then allows you to check-in in another area that is less crowded.
Upon arriving onto the ship, you are met with very modern colors that are not necessarily representative of any other cruiseship. Leather furniture galor, utilizing colors of the palat that I've never seen on furniture, inclusive of the cow hide theme in the disco. The lobby atrium area is much smaller than you would anticipate, but this does allow for the incorrect image that you are on a smaller, more quaint ship. However, the modernistic look of the furniture and the plethora of art that is abound on the ship, is a pleasant change of the normal "nautical" feel of most other liners.
First, the cruise director of the ship, Ms. Dottie Kulasa, was absolutely fantastic. She is the epitome of a cruise director and is a true professional with every aspect of her job that is within the public eye. From morning to night, she is always pleasant, groomed to a T, and is always willing to assist, even saying good-bye on the gang-ways at the Ports of Call. The entertainment varied, from an excellent Comedian, Tom Drake, who could easily be one of the most successful comedians around, to the good magic of James Cielan (spelling?), who virtually has no stage personna. On this cruise, there was a juggler by the name of "Edge" who was obviously a former Ringling Brothers Clown, but who certainly can work the "Diablo", chinese yo-yo, like I've never seen before. The singer on the sailing, which I understand was a fill-in for the normal act, was Mr. George Solomon. He is very active on stage and allows for great audience participation, but his voice is that which you can hear in any karaoke bar.
The food on board was primarily good, however the portions were ridiculously small. Even in the $20 upcharge restaurant known at the Odyssey Grill, the Surf and Turf was only a 5oz, piece of meat and a half of Lobster tail, cut in half by length.
The bar service was very slow and soemtimes, frustrating. The language barrier was seemingly greater on this cruise, especially when you call down for room service, which is a painful experience.
In all, this Vista Class ship of Holland America, is leaps and bounds above other ships that we've been on. However, the "premium cruising" experience was not what we were expecting, although thanks to the cruise director and some of the entertainment, they were the best that we've experienced. By the way, the cast of the Zuiderdam Dance troop was superb, from a dancing point of view.
If you do go on the Zuiderdam, book a room with a verandah and also arrive early at check-in. The $10 per day per person, I'm not keen on. I believe that they are still experimenting with that, but it is not our favorite way to entice better service, with the staff knowing that they are getting a set tip anyway.
Checking off of the Zuiderdam is very easy and is done by your stateroom location and number that will be assigned to you on the last evening of the cruise, delivered to your stateroom. Very efficient and much better than that of the other ships that just allow everyone off at the same time.
By the way, Half Moon Cay is the best. We could have stayed there for much more time, if not days. Departure time from Cozumel is early, which is unfortunate. The other ports, Key West and Grand Cayman are good. Grand Cayman however is too crowded, as there were three other ships just as large as our in port, all which have to tender to the island. Key West was great, as the Zuiderdam was the only ship in on that day.
Enjoy your cruise. If Dottie is your cruise director and Tom Drake is your comedian, you'll have a great time.