I booked the Zuiderdam Eastern Caribbean itinerary. I had never cruised on a Holland America ship prior to our cruise this past September. I had always shied away from Holland America due to the reputation that it had catering only to older guests and not families. As background information, I have taken 70 plus cruises in the last 40 years. I was accompanied on this cruise by my wife and my six year old daughter.
My wife and I decided to book a category S suite on the upper verandah deck. This was a special treat for us since we had never booked a suite before. Unfortunately, our September 28th sailing was interrupted by Hurricane Jeanne and instead of a 7 day cruise we wound up with a 5 day cruise.
Embarkation was a breeze, due in part to only 1,180 passengers being on board for the sailing vs. regular capacity of 1,800. As suite passengers we enjoyed our own private dedicated check in area. Check in was very quick and before we realized it we were on board the ship. As soon as we boarded the ship we proceeded to the Neptune Lounge to meet the concierge staff and catch up with my cousin and her husband who were also traveling with us. We found the Neptune Lounge to be a quiet and elegant retreat from the ship's activities. It ended up being a place that we spent considerable time in. A great spot for a cappuccino and a snack.
Due to the cancellations my cousin was able to move the location of her S suite to one adjoining our cabin. Once the cabins were ready for passengers we immediately went to the cabin to check it out. The cabin steward was coincidentally there and he was nice enough to open the balconies between both cabins. My wife and I were impressed with the spaciousness of the cabin and the amenities. The closet space was great!
We also were surprised to find a great stereo system (JVC) with a CD and a DVD player. My wife brought CD's for her own entertainment and DVD's for my daughter to watch. The interior space of the cabin, as well as the balcony space made spending time in the cabin a "treat". The amenities made the stay even more enjoyable. I would give the accommodations an A rating. It is for this reason that we spent the majority of the time in the cabin.
The cabin steward that we had assigned was great! He anticipated our every need and was as unobtrusive as possible. I think the cabin service on the Zuiderdam also deserves an A rating.
The first evening we had dinner in the main dinning room. We found the service to be sub-par. It was not what it should be for a premium cruise line. We found the cuisine in the main dinning room to be about average. The food tasted bland, was unimaginative in presentation and was not up to the quality I would expect from Holland America.
Due to our experience the first night in the main dinning room we dined in the Pinnacle Grill (A la carte) dinning room the remainder of the cruise. The food and service in the Pinnacle was excellent, except for the last evening when it was just "good".
Since we had our adjoining suites and we were traveling with children we only attended one evening show. On the second from last evening we went to the Vista Lounge for the Broadway show. The show was a disappointment based on my experiences on other cruise lines such as Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean. In retrospect I am glad that we did not attend any of the other shows.
The children's program was also a disappointment. The program was only available for selected short hours on a daily basis. Even though Holland America has made an effort to cater to families, they still have a long way to go to provide a quality children's program. The children's program does not compare to other cruise lines that cater to families.
The Lido food and service were excellent. The variety of food offered was beyond what anyone would expect. The hours of operation were also very accommodating. My daughter especially liked the pizza available each day.
We did enjoy the cruise, but unfortunately it was too short. The ship is elegant, without being glitzy with a friendly and attentive crew that always tries to please. I would again travel with Holland America if the price and accommodations were right.