Lisa A. Singh
Number of Cruises: 7
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This is the first time I’ve ever submitted a review to Cruise Reviews, but I’ve so enjoyed others sharing that I thought, “It’s my turn!”
My mother and I went on Holland America’s Zuiderdam (pronounced “ZI-der-dam”, like “cider”…this was clarified on the FIRST day of the cruise by the activities staff) out of Ft. Lauderdale on August 27, 2005. It went to Half Moon Cay; Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Key West, Florida (7 days).
This was my first cruise with Holland America. Previously, I’ve cruised with Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity, and Princess.
Embarkation was smooth. One stop checks you in, takes your picture, and gives you your stateroom key all at the same time. At other cruise lines, this process requires multiple stops at different stations. We boarded immediately (at 1pm) and were led by a friendly Philippino crew member to the Lido deck (9) for a buffet lunch, since cabins would not be ready until 2:30pm.
Compared with other ships, the Zuiderdam’s interior is small and dark. Hallways are narrow. Public rooms are small. The carpet is dark, the walls and draperies are dark, and the furniture is in shocking shades of pink, blue, yellow and purple. There are a lot of Asian inspired decorations used. There is only one large pool, midship (deck 9). A tiny pool, “for adults only” is on deck 9, aft, but the adult only policy is not enforced and children are everywhere. Out of the 2 adult hot tubs, one was broken for the entire cruise. Everything takes place on either deck 9, 2, or 3. And I didn’t see any of the teak lounge chairs that Holland America displays in their advertisements…just plastic tan wicker and some dirty white plastic chairs.
Our cabin on deck 7 had a balcony and a full size tub! It was the largest bathroom I’ve ever had on a ship. Beautifully decorated, well-stocked, and with a silver ice bucket, the cabin was very clean and had adequate storage space for 2. Achmad, our cabin steward was fast, friendly, efficient, and left our room beautiful day after day, and night after night. There was a minibar in the room filled with expensive sodas, water, and alcohol, but it wasn’t cold. When I informed the front desk it wasn’t working, they told me it wasn’t a refrigerator, but a “cooler”. Either way, the beverages were warm. Princess does this better by providing you an empty cold refrigerator to keep what you want in it (I tend to travel with my own diet sodas).
The food is good. A lot of variety. The Lido deck has a grill (burger, hot dog, and fries), a “Bistro” section, Italian station, Salad Bar, Deli station, and “Wok” station. Not to mention a dessert section with ice cream available most of the day (at no additional charge, unlike Princess). My only complaint is with dinner. While the pasta, pizza, and ice cream stations stay open until 1am, the Bistro, Wok, and Deli close down too early during lunch and dinner. Our daily schedule said the Lido would serve casual dining until 9pm, but the chefs closed up everything, except pasta and pizza, by 8pm. When I questioned this, I was told the schedule was in error and the chefs operate on “their own schedule”. Other passengers were not pleased with this either.
Breakfast on the Lido has the usual standard of fruit, cereal, eggs/omelets made to order, and other hot breakfast items. The best thing was the FRESH SQUEEZED ORANGE JUICE! They even bring you the fresh squeezed stuff for breakfast with room service.
One thing I noticed was that the chefs SERVED you in the Lido. Only the fruit/cereal/pastry bar (during breakfast) and salad bar (during lunch/dinner) are self-serve. I liked this because passengers didn’t overfill their plates and waste food, and it decreased infection (multiple passengers touching tongs, spoons, and food). However, this made for some slow, long lines.
The Vista Dining room provides excellent food and service for lunch and dinner. However, lunch is not offered here during port days, which is a disappointment for those who remain on the ship. Dinner provides fine dining at its best.
The specialty restaurant, The Pinnacle Grill at the Odyssey, only charges $10 per person on the first night, instead of $20 (this is not advertised). When I tried to make a reservation, I was told, “We don’t have a table for 2”. However, there were many empty tables that night as we stood outside the restaurant and observed. They refused to accommodate us. Other passengers raved about the service and steaks, but reported some seafood was “dry”.
We went to tea a few times. They hold it in different places each time. It was all desserts and self-served. They never came around to refill our tea cups after the first fill. Princess does “tea time” much, much better!
It was impossible to contact room service. The one time I got through (in 7 days of trying), they forgot the silverware and the crackers to go with my crackers and cheese. When trying to call, either no one answers the phone or you are put on hold indefinitely. However, the pre-ordered in-room breakfast (ordered the night before, and the paper placed on your door handle) came on time and hot.
It was also difficult to reach the front desk. No one answered the phone. They reported that they only have one line, and it’s in a back room. While standing at the front desk, I overheard other passengers voicing complaints about not being able to reach room service, the front desk, and being unable to find the infirmary (which even I, a RN, had trouble locating).
The shows were wonderful! The dancers, singers, costumes, music, stage sets/props were some of the best I’ve ever seen! Other activities included: first-run movies in the Queens Lounge, dancing/karaoke, trivia, craft class, sports events, and special game shows. They don’t post the movie times anywhere except in the daily schedule, so keep it with you. The midnight movie was overrun with loud, unsupervised teenagers with no Zuiderdam staff present for control.
The Zuiderdam's gym is spacious, with a large number of treadmills, bikes, and weight machines. They had trouble keeping the clean towels stocked though. The Spa is nice...a bit expensive. However, things go "on sale" by the 4th day of the cruise, so just wait a little and that $100 massage will go down in cost.
We went on an excursion in Costa Maya, called “The Blue Lagoon/Speedboat for 2 adventure”. It was very long. The brochure said 6 hours, but we were gone 7 ½ hours. The lunch provided was small and the staff seemed unprepared for our group. For 40 people they only had 8 boats. We had to wait 2 hours to drive our speedboats for 50 minutes.
The Captains Gala was impressive…lots of hors d’oeuvres and champagne flowing. After announcing the Officers, the Captain also brought up the “employee of the month”, a small Philippino boy who worked in the laundry department. I admired the way the Captain treated this young man with the same respect as if he was an Officer. The Captain and Bridge Officers are Dutch, the Casino and Shops staff British, and everyone else is from the Philippines, Bali, or Indonesia. The Asian crew provides the most astounding service I’ve ever received on a cruise! Always smiling, polite, hardworking, and aiming to please.
While I like the fact that Holland America allows you to remain in your cabin until your luggage tag is called for disembarkation, the process is long. Our cabin steward actually asked to make our beds for the next cruise while we were still in the room. I think it's better just to wait in a public area of the ship until your tag is called.
Comparing Holland America to the other lines I’ve traveled with, I find them inferior to Celebrity and Princess. While I enjoyed the entertainment and friendly Asian crew, the errors in service times, problems with the phone system, and the décor and set up of the ship discourage me from traveling with Holland America again.