This is my review of the new HAL Zuiderdam's New Year's Cruise. There was both good and bad to report for this trip; and since I've cruised Carnival and Celebrity before, I had something to compare this to. My wife has cruised much more than I have, so she may interject some things, or see some things differently than I did.
First, the good:
1. Zuiderdam is the best-looking ship at sea. It's truly a floating art gallery. Some of the art borders on the spectacular, and it's spread out through every nook and cranny of the ship. There are glass elevators with a view of the ocean from both sides of the ship. There are sight lines providing a view of the ocean from almost every public area - truly a wonder to look at.
2. The shows have some of the best-looking sets, costumes, and talent at sea. The sets and costumes were designed by Bob Mackey, and had a truly professional air. Although they curiously inserted the theme to "Titanic" in one of the shows (bad luck, anyone?), the talent was truly top-notch. Comedians were also entertaining, but curiously the "adult show" was scheduled for a smaller lounge, which then overflowed. The guy in the piano bar - Matt - honed his skills at a college-style "dueling piano bar," and since I'm in my mid-30s, I really enjoyed it. Some people, however, were offended. Make that VERY offended.
3. Food stand-outs: the Osso Bucco in the Vista Dining Room, the Porterhouse steak at the Odyssey dining room (extra charge of $15 per person to eat there if you are not in a suite), and anything anywhere on the ship made with flour, water, and sugar was the best I've tasted at sea. Great coffee as well. Although it was mobbed and not designed well for easy access, the "chocolate extravaganza" was, well, extravagant. The long lines did anger some people at that event.
4. The rooms had the best shower pressure I've ever experienced in a cabin. Our verandah was relaxing and romantic, and had us spending a bit more time in the cabin than on a normal cruise.
Now, the not so good:
1. Service was sometimes surprisingly inaccurate in the dining room. Not all the time, mind you, but enough to be noticed by all at the table at several seatings during the cruise. Service was slow at times, and others at the table said that room service had made mistakes with their orders.
2. The salads in the dining room usually had iceberg lettuce and were generally uninspired. You never saw that in the dining room on Celebrity. Many of the standard buffet lunches and dinners on board were good to very good in quality, but the pizza wasn't great, and the rice used for sushi made it unappetizing (even in the Odyssey dining room). Most surprising - No midnight buffet! Not that we starved, but we looked forward to it for the "food artwork." There were very few photo opportunities for the food on this cruise.
3. No self-service laundry facilities were available, even though it was advertised in brochures and on the Internet.
4. Outlets in the cabin are not located near the bed. I have a medical device I need for sleep - but luckily, we brought a couple of extension cords.
5. Because of circumstances beyond the ship's control, we arrived late at several destinations. However, the Cozumel shore excursion to the Tulum ruins was quite hurried - and not very enjoyable. I think it might have been better to cancel it, but they wanted to try and "fit it in" - big mistake.
6. There was a weather delay at Half Moon Cay, with a lot of us (400 or so) getting rainy, wet and cold for several hours, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was the lack of information given to us by HAL employees about what was going on. Some heard the announcements at certain times, some didn't. A bullhorn might have been appropriate in that situation.
I'm sure I've left out several things (they even managed to anger people with bingo), but overall, I'd suggest you wait a year before you try this ship. It still has some kinks to work out.