As this is our third Zuidy cruise in 12 months, many of my comments will be the same. Differences in cabin, staff and ports will be noted, but amenities are much the same. If you think you have already read this review, you might be mistaken. To further complicate matters, our 4th Zuidy is scheduled for May, 2005, so there will be at least 4 reviews to confuse you.
This is one of the best cruise we have ever taken. The accommodations (although a lesser category) and ship amenities are first class and the food superb! Hunky Dory from the Lido wins the award for best staff member! He always remembered our names whenever he saw us on the ship. The casino staff was fabulous, and made it SO easy to win enough to pay for the next two cruises.
Shopping & Booking & Stuff: We didn't have to shop for this cruise. The last two Zuidys were near-perfect, and we knew we'd sail her again. It took us 4 minutes to book this one. We booked 2 Cat A wake cabins and knew it would take no less than free upgrades to Cat S to get us to switch. The large veranda and gorgeous wake view made this choice a no-brainer.
Embarkation: After a quick taxi ride from the airport, we left our luggage with the attendant at the pier and stood in line outside for the doors to open for check-in. Once inside, the lines went quickly. Even though we had registered with immigration online, we were led to the non-online line which was shorter. After that we walked through the scanner and onto the ship. No more waiting in a stuffy room for three hours. We were allowed to dine in the Lido and roam the ship before rooms were open at 1:00. While you're waiting you may: Make reservations in the Greenhouse Spa Make reservations in the Pinnacle Grill at the Odyssey Restaurant Visit the Lido Pool Bar, Atrium Bar, Seaview Bar, Ocean Bar Have coffee in the Windstar Café Lunch in the Lido Buffet (until 3:45) or Pool Grill Check your E-mail in the Internet Café Check your dining reservations (staff will be in the Smoking Room) Browse the Art Gallery
Cabin: We were in 5181, a Cat A Verandah Suite on the wake. It was roomy compared to our usual ocean view cabins and had a veranda that was easily 3 times larger than the side cat A cabins. The sitting area was generous and the bathroom average. Our major complaint about this suite were the closets. The entranceway is so narrow that if one of us was looking in the safe, the other couldn't get into the bathroom. Rearranging clothing from one closet to another was at best frustrating. The 4 small nightstand drawers were not suitable for clothes, and the drawers under the bed were clumsy to use. Mounting the TV up on the wall saved counter space, but was uncomfortable to watch from the couch for long periods.
Spa: The Greenhouse Spa & Salon (a premier, luxury day spa brand) offers the widest variety of beauty treatments, water floats and facials, in addition to the sauna and steam rooms (all in the Thermal Suite, $15/day or $120/week) and the fabulous seawater hydrotherapy pool (same prices). Hair appointments should be made early for formal nights.
Vista Dining Room: We requested Main Lower seating at table 136 and were delighted to be seated there with two young men who were fun to dine with (our friends even took an excursion in Tortola with them). We found the service to be excellent (Zane wasn't ours this trip, but was most cordial everywhere we saw him on the ship). We had wonderful wake view and experienced no vibrations during dinner. This was the first cruise where the Dining Room wasn't overly air-conditioned. The food was still varied and beautifully prepared and presented.
Lido Restaurant: Imam (Hunky Dory) is back! You must introduce yourself to this amiable steward at his post at the head of the Bistro Line. He will remember you by name (and the friends you're traveling with) anywhere he meets you the whole week!
There is a wonderful selection of hot, cold and ethnic foods and salads, and the ever-popular and highly demanded Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce. We loved the great layout of this buffet! It has the cafeteria-style order, but to eliminate standing in one long, long line (we never stood in a line behind more than 2 people).
Odyssey Restaurant (Pinnacle Grill): This alternative dining venue offers elegant service in beautifully furnished rooms and serves the finest cuisine on the ship (you must try the Chocolate Volcano). This romantic dining experienced is enhanced by choice wines of the Northwest. Some tables near the windows provide a beautiful view as well. The menu does not change daily, so if you visit more than once, you'll have the opportunity to try something different. (See Menu) The $20 per person charge (only $10 on Embarkation night) for this dinner may or may not include a tip (consult the new tipping guidelines).
Photo-Flash: In addition to selling the beautiful candid and formal shots taken by the ship's photographer, you can drop off your film at drop boxes located around the ship. Sorry, I don't know about the price or if it can be burned on a CD. They also offer a Cruise Chronicle Video of the activities on your cruise together with some stock footage. This customized 40-minute video features your fellow guests and highlights, ports of call, tour of the ship, a glimpse behind the scenes and a Farewell from officers, staff and crew for only $34.95.
Internet Café: You can find this place on Deck 3, aft, (open 24 hours) and offers these packages for use on their equipment or yours: 1 Minute for 75¢ (+ $3.75 service charge) 40 Minutes for $24.00 100 Minutes for $50.00 250 Minutes for $100.00 Dialup acces in your cabin is 50¢ per minute. WiFi access was in the Internet Center, the Library, Lobby and some other public rooms. You may use your own wireless-enabled laptop or rent a wireless card ($10 per day; optional insurance $3/day). You can also rent a laptop/wireless card combination if required (IBM ThinkPad $20 per day; optional insurance $10/day).
Enter the Raffle anytime the first day and maybe win 100 free minutes. I didn't go online this time, but when I visited at various times during the day and evening and there were always terminals available.
Future Cruise Shipboard Credits: To qualify for these credits you must dial a special number that connects you with Seattle (no charge) and book your next cruise while onboard. Credits range from $50 pp for a 7-9 day cruise to $150 pp for 15 days and longer.
Excursions: This is my stock advice. I print it with every review. When you arrive at your cabin you will find a Shore Excursions brochure listing the various activities available shoreside. You may fill out the order form at your leisure and deposit it in the Express Drop Box at the Shore Excursions Desk. Please keep in mind that the most popular trips sell out very fast. If you are traveling with friends and want to go together, put all the tickets on one room card. One time we ordered separately and one couple got the tickets and one couple didn't.
Ship Activities: Casino, ship and Spa tours, Spot the Fake Ring, Liquor Tasting, Long Drive Golf Competition, Hollywood Trivia, Pizza & Dance Party, Walk-a-Mile, Adult Lap Swimming, New Body Step or Pilates, Taboo, Hole-in-One Golf, Catch Phrase, shuffleboard, Trivia in many forms, Ping Pong, Yoga, Volleyball, Scattergories, Closest to the Pin Competition, Bad Hair Day Seminar, Perfume Seminar, Slot Clinic, Port Shopping Talk, Cooking Demo, Digital Camera Seminar, Slot Tournament, Facial Demo, Gem Stone Seminar, Pictionary Madness, Wet & Wacky Pool Games, Slot Tournament, Jewelry Seminar, Bar Tending Class, Name that Tune, Outburst, Blackjack Tournament, Tennis, Dice Lessons, Cigars Under the Stars, Hole-in-One Golf, Ice Carving, Line Dancing, Not-so-Newlywed Game, Open Mic Night, and finally... what would a cruise be without SNOWBALL JACKPOT BINGO and ART AUCTIONS!
The Zuiderdam is by far our favorite ship... HAL is our favorite cruise line and we always consider HAL first when planning the next cruise. Our fourth Zuidy will be in May, 2005, and know we will have an outstanding cruise!