Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: October 28th, 2006
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
We had a great time aboard Holland America
Line’s Zuiderdam! I have been on 6 cruises in the past. Three (3) on Royal
Caribbean, Two (2) on Carnival, and one (1) on Holland America and this was by
far the best!
The service was unbeatable. Every crew member we encountered smiled and asked how our day was. Even if they didn’t mean it, they acted like they did. It’s the special touches that set HAL apart from other cruise lines. For example, we received a complimentary HAL tote in our room the first night of our cruise. HAL provides after dinner mints, dates, ginger, etc as you leave the dining room. On hot days by the pool, they will serve ice cold water without being asked. At the end of your cruise each stateroom will receive a cruise log detailing the dates sailed the temperature and sea conditions and port of call. This makes a great scrap book keepsake!
The ship is ugly inside. The furniture is very gaudy and over the top, but this was not that important to me. I could overlook the ugliness for all the other pleasant aspects of this ship.
I loved the smaller size. The lido deck and other public areas never seemed too crowded. The food was the best I’ve had on any ship. One night, they served barbecue under the stars on Lido Deck and that was the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted! I was expecting the options to be limited to chicken and maybe hot dogs and hamburgers, but was pleasantly surprised to find pork chops, steak and ribs among the choices. The same type of barbecue was served on their private island Half Moon Cay the last day of our cruise.
The comedian, Julie Barr, was hilarious! And family friendly too. They also had a very talented musician James Celian. The shows with the HAL dancers and singers were not up to par with other ships, however, it was still enjoyable. It seemed as if the stage was smaller and might have limited their choreography choices.
We visited 4 great ports….Grand Turk, Tortola, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. Grand Turk is just now beginning to build up. There is a beautiful and huge swimming pool right off the pier at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. There is also a public beach located right off the pier. My family took the Dune Buggy excursion, but next time I think I will be just as happy hanging by the pool. It was very hot the day we visited.
Tortola was the most beautiful of the 4 ports we visited. The water color was gorgeous as we pulled into the dock around 1:30pm. My family took the Virgin Gorda and the Baths excursion. I would highly recommend this excursion. The location is just breathtaking and we all had a great time climbing in and over the giant boulders that populate the area. It may be harder on older individuals as there is a lot of climbing and steps and I don’t believe the beach was handicap accessible. If you’re able to do it, go for it! I think you’ll love it as much as I did.
St. Thomas was a bit commercial for me. This was the second time we visited this island. It’s well known for shopping, but everything seemed overpriced to me. My family took the Mini Boats and Hidden Beaches excursion. We drove in two person inflatable, motorized boats to a private island (Christmas Island) where we snorkeled and were able to see stingray in addition to a variety of fish. The boats were a lot of fun!
The final port was HAL’s private island Half Moon Cay (pronounced Key). This island is visually stunning. The beach extends into a large crescent shape around the warm ocean waters. There were a lot of activities to keep you occupied, but I chose to just relax and float on the mat I rented for $9 a day. I also recommend renting a “clam shell” (also $9 a day) which is a large umbrella shaped like an open clam that provides you a place to relax in the shade. The beach had the softest sand I’ve ever encountered. It was very pleasant to walk in and this great sand extended all the way into the ocean. You could easily see straight to the bottom in the clear ocean water so there was no need to be scared of what you might step on. I really enjoyed this private island, but I prefer Labadee (Royal Caribbean’s private island) over this one. I enjoyed the shopping on Labadee (a Haitian market) to the shopping on Half Moon Key (supposedly a Bahamian Straw Market, but to me everything was way over priced.)
All in all, this was a fabulous cruise! I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Hope you have as good an experience as I did. As I always say, there’s no vacation in the world like a cruise vacation!