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Chris Zidak

Age: Baby Boomer

Occupation:State Worker

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Zuiderdam

Sailing Date: April 8th, 2006

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

We had a wonderful time on this cruise with the exception of some disappointments with the shore excursion personnel on-board.

The food was great. A variety of appetizers, entrees and deserts were available in both the Lido buffet and the main dining room. We were blessed with four other friendly, interesting dinner companions at our table for six. We all got along so well that we also spoke and laughed while doing shore excursions and resting around the pool. Food presentation was beautiful and portions were more than enough to satisfy. Food service staff was impeccable. Everyone needs to make a point to go to the Lido buffet and meet L. Hunky Dory. AKA “Hi, I’m Hunky Dory”. It was said that he had memorized about 1740 of the over 1860 guests names, and I don’t doubt it, as I never saw him corrected after greeting everyone by name. Phenomenal memory and a wonderful personality.

Our room steward Rante kept our room in tip-top shape, even straightening my wife’s cosmetics on Formal night while we were at dinner. We really loved the towel animal menagerie too.

Entertainment was top-notch including an Elton John tribute piano player who is also an accomplished guitarist, a marvelous illusionist and one of the funniest comedians I’ve seen in years. Especially nice, was the Indonesian crew show of native song, dance and story-telling.

The only disappointing moments came when we were told on-board that the Aqua Trax excursion at Half Moon Cay was full. When we got off the tender (without our drivers licenses, since we were told no vacancies existed) we saw that there were indeed vacancies, but the time involved in taking a tender back to the boat for licenses precluded us from taking that excursion. After a truly wonderful, shop and beach excursion on St. Thomas, we were again disappointed in the Dolphin Encounter excursion on Tortola. We checked for vacancies for the Dolphin Swim every day on board the ship. We were on the waiting list for the swim in case there were any cancellations. We found out after boarding the bus to the Encounter that the Ship had scheduled another swim for 3pm that afternoon, but they never notified the people on the waiting list. That sort of customer service oversight is clearly unacceptable in a customer service business. When we reached the Encounter, we were sat under yellow and white canopies in front of two televisions in the bright sunlight to watch the familiarization video. One tv was in English and one was in French. Between the glare from the sun and canopies and the two languages, very little of the video was seen or heard clearly. Our Encounter group, sadly, spent two hours standing in waist deep water on two different platforms, while three different trainers tried to get four different dolphins to work. While I completely understand that you can’t force the dolphins to work, I understand that they could have taken us to a different pen with working dolphins, but they didn’t bother to do that. The last trainer basically ended up in the water pushing the dolphin to the platform so that people could get their dolphin “Kiss”. We got none of the dolphin touching time that the other groups got. Both the encounter people and the Holland America staff felt we were compensated by giving us a free picture of the dolphin “kiss”, while Holland America still hasn’t addressed the issue of why people on the waiting list were never notified of the additional “swim”.

Our greatest luxury on this cruise was the week long pass to the hydrotherapy pool. Absolutely worth the price. Provides great relief for all your aches and pains. And the spa staff are as cheerful and helpful as one could want.

Overall, I’d cruise this ship again, but I’d make my own arrangements with the island folks for my shore excursions.

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