Number of Cruises: 14
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: December 9th, 2006
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
We sailed on the Zuiderdam from December 9 through 16, 2006, out of Fort Lauderdale, on a seven day eastern Caribbean itinerary. “We” consisted of another couple, my wife, and me. This was our 14th cruise, the other couple’s fifth or sixth, and first for all of us on Holland America. We’ve cruised multiple times on RCCL, Celebrity, and Princess, and once on Carnival. We were all a little apprehensive about going HA, given their reputation for catering to an older crowd, but this proved to be no problem. It is true the passenger base is a little older, but that didn’t negatively affect anything. And, there were passengers of all ages, from babies on, with amenities and activities planned for all ages and interests.
The ship was a little bit of a disappointment, just not quite as breathtakingly gorgeous as most of those we’ve been on before, but it was also one of the smallest ships we’ve been on, too. However, the ship was certainly beautiful, very well maintained and always immaculate, which can’t be said for some others. The food was excellent throughout, and we all really appreciated the multiple service area, specialized food court style instead of the usual buffet. This kept the food quality up and the lines down. I don’t know why they all don’t go to this concept for the casual dining. The rest of the food experience was superior as well. We ate twice in the extra cost, Pinnacle, dining room, and it was magnificent. I usually tend to avoid this sort of add-on, feeling that the regular dining room food is so good that the optional, extra cost dining is just not worth it. But this was definitely worth it. The service in the Pinnacle was as good as the best fine restaurant, and the food was to match. The quality of beef was as good as the finest steak house anywhere, and the seafood dishes were also first class. But, honestly, the food in the regular dining room was also good, there was certainly no need to go to the Pinnacle for relief. We only had dinners in the dining room, but all agreed that the food was a notch better than on any previous cruise. Most impressive!
The crew on this ship seemed to be the happiest we’ve ever encountered, except maybe on the Tahitian Princess, and the most willing to help. We were always treated to a smile and a greeting, and really felt that they were glad to be there and to be helping us. None of us could come up with any negative criticism of any crew, or the service provided.
The shows were the standard cruise ship stuff, but we were all quite impressed with the stage sets and quality of performers, particularly given the relatively small size of the ship and passenger list, which was just over 1800. We peeked in at a couple of shows we didn’t think sounded all that great, but wound up staying even for those. The cruise director’s staff was also excellent, very friendly, and warmly encouraging people to participate in the evening festivities in the night spots, and then trying to make sure everyone was having fun. We only went to a few of the bars “events”, but had a blast when we did. Everything showed a little extra thought and care.
The only criticisms we could come up with, and we actually tried to be as critical as possible, as we consciously try to compare lines as we cruise, were the poolside music, and pool games. We love the steel drum, Caribbean type music on ships, as adding to the ambiance, but they had regular band and singer music, with mostly “oldies” music most of the time. And, there were not many pool games, which we always enjoy participating in, or at least watching. We agreed that these were pretty petty complaints, particularly in view of all the things we felt were better on this ship than others.
Overall, we were very, very favorably impressed, and all agreed that we will be sailing Holland America again – without reservation. For me, HA may have just beaten out RCCL as my favorite.