CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Holland America Line Zuiderdam by Phil Eddy Eastern Caribbean February 15, 2003

I recently returned from 3 weeks on the new Zuiderdam and found the ship to be great! Yes, it's a departure from the HAL norm - bigger, brighter colors, but it's designed for Carib/Alaska 7 day cruises and is trying to attract more younger clientele. My first week, they had over 250 kids on board (spring break) but they were rarely intrusive (except for the last day). I talked with a HAL rep who told me that the Oosterdam will have more subdued décor.

First I'll address the "odors problem:" THERE WERE ODORS EVERYWHERE!! The Windjammer café always smelled like bread/cookies/coffee! The Lido restaurant smelled like Italian or Chinese or American food!! The grill area smelled like tacos and burgers!! The mid-ship pool smelled like a swimming area!! Some of the bathrooms smelled like they'd been used and cleaned!! And the promenade deck smelled like the ocean!! TERRIBLE!! Can't they remove these odors?? And a lot of the women smelled like perfume at night!! Puhleeze!!

Itinerary - I won't go into it - there are plenty of reviews about locales elsewhere.

The Pros: Many familiar friendly faces from Maasdam in the bars/crew/staff. The first week I was in a cat. A cabin and it had plenty of space. Well kept by Herudiante. Some of the storage areas are hidden (under the bed and under the loveseat). Bathroom had plenty of space and never had toilet problems. The second week I was in a Penthouse suite (also with Herudiante doing the housekeeping), and it has some glitches. My main complaint was that the lighting was either "on" and very bright, or "off" - no smaller lamps for the beds. The TV system in the bedroom doesn't work very well - it's IR sensor is below the cabinet molding so didn't work well. The tv/stereo system in the living room sounded very good, once I figured out how to use it - quite complex. TV was pretty poor - CNN-financial/ESPN/TNT and the local movie/info channels. The bathroom in the PH suite was magnificent - big as the whole Cat A cabin! The shower (with Plexiglas door) had sprayers/spigots everywhere with strange devices I was afraid to try. Strong water pressure. The tub - wow - could seat 3 easily - 6 whirlpool jets and lighted under water! With a REMOTE CONTROL!?! It took me 2 days to figure out how all the controls worked. But it is a little tall to get in to & out of.

Gold plated twin sinks and faucets in the main part, another in the toilet/bidet ROOM, another in the guest bathroom. Closet space - tremendous. Bed - King-size, but solid to the floor - no storage space for luggage underneath. Oh, yeah - almost forgot the ELECTRIC Curtains in all rooms. Two writing desks, makeup table (well lit - like I needed it). Beautiful artwork including 19th century bronze statue (perfect for holding Mardi gras beads) and 19th century oil painting. The verandah - again huge - 4 chaise lounge chairs, 2 easy chairs, dining table, and whirlpool. THIS whirlpool is quite tiny - good for one - too shallow. Nice wooden ceiling and dividers on the verandah. The entertainment - Paul Pappas (main stage pianist) is a good technician, but not very big on feeling. The Las Vegas-style shows are great. Didn't see others. In the Piano lounge, Matt Newbold is a refreshingly different act for HAL - young, fun, great Billy Joel/Elton John stylist and sing-along stuff, no matter what the Captain's wife thinks (a long ugly story for a later date). Bar service was good and they usually remembered what I wanted after the first order, and knew me by name. One SUPER staff guy - Mark Dirk Zeller - the Bar Manager - super! The first day I asked him if they had Bacardi "O" orange flavored - he said no, no one had asked for it before. The next day, he went in to town and bought 10 bottles of it, of his own money, and at noon, proudly told me that the bars NOW had Bacardi O!! - Now THAT'S SERVICE!! Food at the Odyssey was superb. Believe it or not, I never ate in the main restaurant - it was either Odyssey or Lido - the first night I went to the main restaurant and saw my tablemates and decided against it - sorry, I know that's judgmental of me, but I'll just leave it at that - nothing racial, nothing ageist, they just looked unfriendly. Lido food was great, minimal lines, no trouble getting a table. Leaving the ship on the last day, since I had a suite - I was off the ship and out the door with my luggage by 8:05 a.m.!!! Lots of little innovative things everywhere.

The cons: just a few. PH suite problems mentioned above. Staff was undermanned (Hotel manager told me that they were having huge problems getting people from S.E. Asia their work visas so were almost 150 undermanned). The Queen's lounge really needs to be re-done for sight-lines - it just doesn't work. A little crowded in the Ocean Bar and Piano Lounge at certain times. The crow's nest was highly underused and almost seems too large, with weird separate rooms. One person told me he'd gotten the Norwalk virus and the Doctor was rather surly with him, telling him it couldn't possibly be virus and he couldn't possibly have gotten it on the ship. I got a little bug a couple days later, but don't think it was Norwalk. I saw the doctor (a new one) and had no trouble, but it cost $150 including 5 pills. Public bathrooms - WAY TOO FEW! But the same HAL rep said they're already adding more to the Oosterdam (possible reason for it's delay?)

All in all, IMHO, it's a fabulous ship and I'd gladly sail on her again.

Long time HAL folks - realize it's not your grandma's HAL ship, but their old ships aren't all disappearing immediately so you still have the options.

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