Zuiderdam 2/1/03 - Eastern Caribbean This was the ship's 7th
sailing. Full ship - 1823 passengers onboard.
We are Jim and Sue, in our lower 50's, all kids grown and gone.
Our cruising choices tend toward the ships that offer a more
elegant experience rather than a casual style. For Caribbean
cruises, we book for the ship and number of sea days, not for the
ports. Our routine onboard any ship is similar (others probably
would find it boring) - a lazy relaxed morning with coffee and
sometimes breakfast delivered by room service. We spend a lot of
time in the cabin and on the verandah so for us a suite makes a lot
of sense. Since we only eat two meals a day, we usually skip lunch
and have appetizers late afternoon prior to dinner. We rarely
attend the shows because we enjoy having a nightcap on the balcony
before going to bed.
Our vacation didn't start very well when our flight from Denver
was delayed by over 6 hours but we finally made it to our hotel in
Fort Lauderdale about midnight. On the bright side, since the delay
mechanical not weather, we were given free round trip tickets to be
used within the next year. Saturday morning we joined my Aunt
Sherry and Uncle Tom for breakfast and then we all taxied to the
We arrived at the terminal about 20 minutes before the doors
were opened and stood in a line of about 100 people. Once the doors
opened the line progressed through security quite quickly and then
a Holland America staff person checked to make sure you had all
your documents - we were missing one form and stopped to fill it
out before going to the check-in lines. We also had our pictures
taken, which are used for identification each time you reboard the
ship - when your keycard is read, your picture comes up on their
computer. There were two counters for suites and all four of us
were checked in within ten minutes. I'm glad HAL is now imprinting
your credit card at check-in rather than having to make a trip to
the purser's office later in the day. We went upstairs to the
waiting room and killed about an hour "people-watching."
At about 2:15 the wheelchairs and other disabled people were
being assisted and "S" boarding was called. Since my Uncle uses
oxygen, we were shown to the front of the line, just following the
wheelchairs. We were escorted to our S suites 7047 and 7049;
located just aft of the Penthouse on starboard. We were escorted,
but when we arrived at the suites he just pointed at the doors and
Chilled champagne, flowers and fruit bowl awaited us in the
cabin. The suite itself is noticeably smaller than on previous
ships, but is well- decorated using bright colors. All the soft
furniture was upholstered in leather and was very comfortable. The
dressing room which leads into the bathroom is about half the size
of previous ones, but still functional. I really like having a
dressing table that is not in the cabin itself. As we explored the
suite Evan, our steward came and introduced himself and asked if we
had any special requests. Then he opened the door in the divider so
that our verandahs were joined - I really like this feature when
you are traveling with others. The kingsize bed was wonderful (of
course, it was new!) and there were feather pillows. The bathroom
included a whirlpool tub with shower and a separate shower. (The
separate shower was broken but was fixed on day 4.) There was also
a long vanity area with two sinks and plenty of storage space. The
two fluffy robes were hanging in the closet.
We then checked in with Sherry and Tom to see how they were
getting along in their cabin and found that we had different dinner
times/tables. A quick trip to the Concierge in the Neptune lounge
and this was fixed. Tom's oxygen was delivered about 30 minutes
after we boarded; so that worry was taken care of and we could all
We located our lifejackets and laid them out in preparation for
the drill and then popped one bottle of champagne. I made a quick
trip to the Neptune for some finger sandwiches and we all sat on
the verandah and watched the preparations dockside. Our luggage
arrived in good time and we began unpacking . soon it was time for
the safety- at-sea drill. Following the drill we went to the
sail-away party at the aft pool on the Lido deck. The band played
Caribbean music and we had a "rum punch in a plastic souvenir
glass." It was rather cold and windy so we went back to the cabin
to get ready for dinner.
We explored the ship a little on our way to the Vista dining
room. The decor is quite art deco and very bright - not like HAL's
older ships. Its WOW- factor is high; individual pictures of the
different areas can't give you the feeling of how it works
together. I really liked the style and although some of the
furniture is funny shaped, it is all very comfortable. Each area is
unique in its style, which makes finding your way around even
easier. For example, the mid-ship elevators and lobby area are done
in blues and the forward elevators and lobby in red. I enjoyed the
art throughout the ship; it ranged from whimsical to very elegant.
There was always something to look at, a new piece of art or the
style of a room; except for the hallways by the staterooms the
whole ship is visually stimulating.
Our table in the Vista was on the upper level at the aft windows
so we had a great view of the wake. It was a rectangular table for
six, but only the four of us were seated there. The chairs are
upholstered in a flowered fabric and have arms. I dislike dining
room chairs without armrests! Our waiter and assistant waiter were
pretty good, but we often sat with dirty plates in front of us for
quite some time before they were removed and each meal at least one
item was forgotten; one person's appetizer or another's soup. We
only ate in the Vista three times and the food was well prepared
each time. We had room service on the verandah twice, Lido once and
the Odyssey once.
The Lido is very well designed with different islands for the
specialty foods like pizza/pasta and oriental (good sushi) and of
course, the ice cream bar. We had one lunch and one dinner here.
The number of items to choose from should keep anyone happy.
Although no one ever offered to carry my tray, someone always
assisted my Aunt and Uncle.
I thought the Olympic restaurant was beautiful, but heard
another couple say it was the ugliest room on the ship. It is
basically white and silver/chrome. As suite passengers we could eat
breakfast and lunch here (like the Kings/Queens room on the older
ships). We had one breakfast and one lunch here that were
exceptional. Sadly, our dinner experience wasn't as good. While
being seated we told the Maitre de that we would like to order
cocktails prior to dinner and that we wouldn't be ordering wine. We
sat for about 15 minutes before anyone even filled our water
glasses; he then called over a waiter to assist us. We ordered our
cocktails and dinner; two fillet mignons and two lamb. The waiter
couldn't remember who ordered what. This is certainly not what I
expect from a restaurant that is supposed to be fine dining. When
the entrees came - there were three, two steaks and one lamb.. So
we waited for about 15 minutes for another lamb entree to be
brought and then ate (ours were, of course cool by then). The steak
was delicious and so tender you could cut it with a fork and the
side of asparagus and mushrooms was good too. When we finished
eating, we sat back waiting for the dessert choices; after 15
minutes of sitting with dirty dishes in front of us- we walked
Most evenings we went to the Ocean Bar either for a before- or
after-dinner drink. This is one area that, although convenient to
the dining room, isn't well designed. The band and dance floor are
located on one side that has very little seating and on the other
side you can't hear the music. The Explorers Lounge is very nice
but was used almost every evening for private receptions; we
attended two receptions there for Suite guests. The attention from
waiters at during the dinner hours was very good, but at any other
time of the day at most of the bars the waiters seemed to cluster
talking to the bartender and it was difficult to get a drink even
when you went up to the bar. The Atrium Bar was never open when we
walked through, but I loved the sculptured look of the furniture
We missed the Mariner's Party because the time conflicted
slightly with the Suites lunch.
We attended the special Captain's lunch for suite guests in the
Crow's Nest; as usual the food served was excellent and they didn't
skimp on the caviar! The Crow's Nest is similar to those on the
other ships with the exception of some great lounge chairs that
face out the windows. I saw several people taking an afternoon
snooze in them.
This ship is the first to have a dedicated nightclub, the
Northern Lights. This room is interesting to say the least. As you
walk down the entry hallway lights in the ceiling light and dim
over your head following your path into the nightclub; there are
fiber optic lights embedded in the carpet and sparkles on the
walls. The "Iceberg" is located here, but I must say it didn't do
anything for me. But the most eye- catching feature is the black
and white cowhide upholstery on the booths. One of the Officers
told me that the crew has nicknamed it the "Cow's Nest."
The Spa area is really beautiful, I enjoyed the thermal room for
a while one afternoon - and used the Therapy pool twice (both times
were on sea days) - there was no charge for these because they are
still working out problems with the facilities. I was looking
forward to the therapy pool and was very disappointed to find that
it still had not been fixed. The water was quite cool and only a
few jets were working - the bubble loungers were not working at
all. I looked into a couple of the treatment rooms - they were the
nicest I've ever seen - the tables were draped in bright colored
fabric and had fresh flowers laying on each.
Ports: Half Moon Cay: We tendered in to the island after room
service coffee and some sweet rolls from the Neptune. Our Priority
tender passes allowed us to walk right onto the boat instead of
waiting in lines (another perk of an S suite). The day was a mix of
sun and clouds and a bit too cool to be in the water although a few
brave souls were swimming. We had the buffet lunch on the island
(hotdogs, hamburgers & ribs); it was ok. We were the only ship
at the island - think it would be awfully overcrowded if there were
more than one ship. This remains one of the best things about
sailing with HAL!
St. Thomas: We wandered around the jewelry shops.
St. Kitts: We took the new Railroad excursion. It had only begun
running two weeks prior and is a very nice trip. You have a choice
of an upper (open) seat or a seat in the lower enclosed car.
Complementary rum punch was served and there is narration that
gives much information on the island.
Nassau: We did the dolphin encounter. It was very well done with
everyone having a great deal of time to interact with the
Additional items to note: Our mini bar was broken and removed
for repair - it was returned on day 6. It didn't bother me much,
but irritated my husband who wants a cold Coke with his Jack
There was a nasty sewer odor in our cabin 2 days. The only other
place I noticed it was in a hallway near the Queens Lounge one
time. It seems to only affect small areas of the ship and at
different times. No one could answer my question about what caused
The service is still a little confused, but should improve with
a little time. With the exception of a few bar staff, everyone was
attentive, friendly and smiling in the usual HAL style.
Formal nights - we wear tuxes and gowns. I noticed fewer tuxes
at early dinner than late and although most people did dress for
dinner, there were more suits than on past sailings.
The Neptune lounge is very nice and the staff was very helpful;
it was nice to just take forms to them instead of running down to
the main desk. Our cabin was very close to the lounge so we used it
often for snacks and appetizers. If the cabin had been further away
such as the aft S suites, I don't think I would have used it as
We also enjoyed the casino and actually spent a couple hours
playing the slots. It was large and well laid out.
We thought the photos were high priced (but I'm finding that on
all the ships we've sailed lately) and not as good in quality.
There were many backdrops available on formal nights. But, as
usual, we bought a number of them for our trip album.
The fresh flowers throughout the ship remain one of my favorite
To sum up: it was a good trip, but not great. I think I prefer
the smaller HAL ships, but price and itinerary being right I would
sail Zuiderdam again.