Holland America Line
August 27, 2005
After last cruising HAL to Bermuda 23 years ago and seeing a bargain price this past April, I decided to give this vaunted company another go. What I found was a colision of two worlds, old and new. These 85 ton Vista class ships launch HAL into the 21st century to my great pleasure and less pleasure
to others. The Zuiderdam(pronounce-Ziderdam)goes right after the Carnival/RCL mass market and tries to be everything to everyone. The 1800 plus passenger ship, to it's credit never felt crowded and the the Main deck cabin was comfortable for me and my gal. Pay an upgrade price and get a veranda cabin to further enhance your ambiance of space, they are plentiful on this Vista class vessel. Vista to HAL is forward thinking, like the massive Crows Nest lounge with it's captain's bridge like views. The port and starbard sides feature multi-deck glass view elevators, a nice visual touch.
Decor lovers of red will find this ship a paradise as it flows throuhout the abundant public rooms and bars. Each room nicely appointed and with cozy romantic spots to share the cocktail special of the day($4.25). Entertainment very typical, showgirls and guys, juggler, hasbeen singer, comedian( to her credit gives a mid night R performance ala Carnival). All this performed in a red decorated Vista Show lounge with balcony. Get as much or as little sun as you want as deck and pool space(3 pools!)is plentiful, even a few loungers are available on the shaded boat deck that I favor for taking in the sea air. Food as one would expect is plentiful and something is available 24 hrs. The 2 level(4 dinner sittings)Vista level dining room offers meat, chicken, pasta, and fish every night. Venison was even served one night and yes, surf and turf on Captain's welcome aboard. Casual dining as an alternative featured at least 4 made to order entrees every night along with salad and desert bars. Breakfast the same, dining room or casual omelet station, continental, express line, and the varied bistro lines all move swiftly. Free juices, milk and coffee. Lunch in the dining room or the Lido, including burger/taco grill, Italian/pizza station, sushi/wok stirfry, sandwich deli, Bistro line for hot entrees, salad and sweet/ice cream bars
Snacks all day, themed snack every night in the Lido, tea time if you have room for it! All tastely prepared! The ports of call were varied.
Get off the boat for Half Moon Cay, the nicest cruiseline private island I have visited. Grand Cayman the city/Stingray city tour is a must, includes turtle farm, the Tortuga Rum factory, and a visit to the township of HELL for the damn funniest T shirts anywhere. Not for the squeemish is Stingray City, located on a sandbar. Feed squid to these fascinating creatures as they swarm around you(some with a span of over 3 ft.). Take in the funky sites and booze it up in this city of bars, Key West. This itinerary has two full activity filled days(Bingo, casino, pool games, duty free shopping arcade etc.)at sea. Embarkation and disembarkation are the smoothest I've encountered on any line. Before you board friendy attendants check your documents before you get to the desk.
When it's time to leave you can even wait in your cabin until your number is called to the last minute. The overall service is cordial and efficient and there are those who rise above and anticipate your needs. The Zuiderdam bridges the HAL of the past with that of the future. While our cruise was marred with a few unruly kids running amok through a few of the public rooms and up and down the corridors in the wee hours. I still realized the tremendous value of this cruise and recognized HAL's commitment to please all, with their version of a dream vacation. For you old school HAL cruisers stick to your smaller intimate Staderdam class vessels. Those of you who want to add a little pizzaz, and want to expose first time cruisers or your family to a cruise give this Dam Ship a try!