CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Holland America Line Zuiderdam by rd sweeney Panama Canal April 20, 2010

This was my 13th cruise, 4th on HAL. While I've not superstitious, perhaps I should have been. Embarkation was very smooth and things were fine, until we got to our stateroom. The refrigerator did not work and although checked twice by maintenance, was never fixed. Also, the light on the cosmetic mirror was out, the shower curtain was about a foot short and some of the drapery hooks were broken. The toilet stopped working the 2nd day, but was quickly fixed. However, it seemed the vacuum system had several hiccups during the two weeks. Taken separately, these are small concerns. Taken together, it adds up to lack of maintenance oversight.

We also had issues with the liquor bottle service. There was complete inconsistency in ordering. I wanted to upgrade the scotch from Cutty Sark to a single malt (the answer was no) and they finally agreed to JW Red at no upcharge. Our traveling companions next door wanted to upgrade from Bacardi Light to Bacardi Gold (sold at the same price in the bars) and were told no, period. If HAL is going to offer a bottle service, why make it difficult and not customer friendly?

As to the cruise itself, it was fine, except for the dreaded Novovirus (see end of review). The ship is still in good shape, the staff was very friendly and the entertainment (HalCats & Daryl @ the piano bar) were great. Cruise Director Gene was very friendly and always visible.

Ports: I'm not going to review any ports, except Puerto Chiapas, Mex.: I ask, WHY? this place is a complete waste of time. The town is about a half-hour bus ride from the port and there is nothing there. The ship offered two tours.

Food: typically good HAL fare. Salad choices were strange, but soups and appetizers were inspried. Except for one night when they couldn't seem to cook a steak correctly, entrees were usually well prepared. I don't do dessert, but they looked pretty good.

Disembarkation in San Diego (the ship continued on to Vancouver) was a mess. A few hundred passengers had chosen the expidited program to take their own luggage and HAL completely botched it, leaving most of us queued in the passageway for about a hour after the announcement. I'm 59 and well below the median age on the ship. Imagine a bunch of seniors jammed together and trying to negotiate a couple of narrow ramps with 50 lb. suitcases!

Now the dreaded Novovirus: more than 200 people came down with it. While HAL continues to blame the passengers, I think the cruiseline is more to blame. According to several blogs, HAL has had more breakouts than any other cruiseline. It's either the crew or a sanitation problem and it wasn't the first time on the Zuiderdam.

In summary, while HAL continues to run a class operation and I like the basic ship design and itineraries, the Novovirus problem (and the way they handle it) has me looking at other lines in the near future.

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