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September 6-13, 2003
Western Caribbean Itinerary
by Mary &
This was our second Holland
America Lines (HAL) cruise. The first one was on the Maasdam,
5/26/02. We looked forward to the
Zuiderdam, since it is the first of the five "Premium Vista Class
Ships" to be completed at Fincantieri Shipyards, Marghera, Italy. When HAL took possession of the Zuiderdam,
the next Vista Class ship the ms Oosterdam
was within months of completion.
The Zuiderdam was launched December 2002:
her length is 935 ft., width is a Panamax 106 ft., draft is 26 ft., gross
tonnage is 82,000 and she has a maximum speed of 24 knots. Guest capacity
is 1,824 (this cruise had 1,800 passengers) and a crew of 800.
Although this class is the newest for HAL, the Zuiderdam's
long black hull and pointed prow are characteristic of the HAL fleet and
reminiscent of those transatlantic liners of the first half of last century,
such as those "BLUE RIBAND" winners of the transatlantic races of old:
the Mauretania, the Europa,
the Rex, the Normandie
and of course, the United States, which
holds the record to this day (3 days, 12 hours, 12 minutes, at the speed of 34.5
knots). The major difference in the silhouette of this ship is a much
taller super structure, rather than the long
and sleek line
of the older ships and, of course,
the superior speed of those winners which averaged about 30 knots or more
against the Zuiderdam's 24 knots. However, the Zuiderdam was built for
cruising, and that she does very well under the most capable Captain Johannes
In Ft. Lauderdale, boarding was scheduled for 3:00 pm, but processing started at
12 noon and passengers were allowed on shortly thereafter; however, staterooms
were ready at 1 pm. Stewards were there to assist passengers in
wheelchairs. We were accompanied to the Lido Restaurant, Deck 9 for the
excellent "Welcome Aboard Buffet." It was a bit difficult to
negotiate the buffet lines with carry on luggage, since we could not take it to
our cabin until 1:00 pm.
It is worthy of notice that HAL has adopted the new "one card ID
system" which makes the on board credit card function as a stateroom key,
as well as the boarding identification document. This innovation improves
security by efficiently tracking passengers on and off the ship and it makes the
boarding process more expeditious.
HAL has standardized the looks of their ships with the dark hulls and the logo
on the stack; however, the Vista Class ships have two stacks, one located behind
the other, indicating two independent Engine Rooms, containing gas turbine
engines, not the former diesel engines. This new design reduces stack
emission pollutants and minimizes the risk of stranding if engine problems
occur. Azipods make the ship more maneuverable and fuel efficient. The name of "Vista Class" appropriately implies that most of the
staterooms of these ships (85%) have ocean view and 2/3 of all staterooms have
Main Deck 1 has mainly staterooms and the
bottom deck of the Atrium mid ship with the Front Office and Shore Excursion
Lower Promenade Deck 2 has the Vista
Lounge Theatre with phalanxes of huge urns and two very large sculptures by
Lebigre & Roger, Italy (one depicting a seated woman doing needle work, the
other a reclining work man). Toward midship, are three separate bars: First, there is the Northern Lights with its black and white "Mad Cow"
decorations, bringing to mind Gateway computer boxes, but the semicircular
leather couches and barrel chairs are functional and arranged nicely around the
dance floor. Next, there is the Piano Bar sporting an imbedded piano and
comical art work by Leijerzapf (Holland) which are huge scenes of sailors in
"Humorous Activities." Finally, there is the Queen's Lounge
which is decorated in the most vivid hues of Holland tulips (red, yellow, purple
Mid ship is the 2nd deck of the Atrium with gorgeous blown glass by Bremer
("Shell, Polyps and Anemone"). Also, here is the Odyssey
Restaurant, the Art Gallery and the Explorer's Lounge, all simply and
tastefully decorated (more later). Finally, aft is the lower level of the
Vista Dining Room, a study in black, red, blue and lavender. The most eye
catching features are the black lacquered chairs with silk floral backs and the
lovely silver table ware and crystal torches.
Promenade Deck 3 has a true wrap around
promenade with many deck chairs often in use. Forward has the balcony of
the Vista Lounge Theatre where the acoustics are wonderful, but, the many poles
result in some seats with obstructed view of the stage. Midship are the
meeting rooms, Internet Cafè, Library, and the on board shops (with the
standard fare) and the upper deck of the Atrium. Toward aft is the huge
Galley and then the Upper Vista Dining Room.
Upper Promenade Deck 4, Verandah Deck 5, Upper
Verandah Deck 6, Rotterdam Deck 7 and Navigation Deck 8 are all
Lido Deck 9 forward has the Greenhouse
Spa & Salon and Lido Pool, covered by a Sliding Dome, with a bemusing Polar
Bear sculpture. Mid ship is the Lido Restaurant and aft is another pool.
Observation Deck 10 forward has the
Crow's Nest Lounge, a lovely room with an expansive view of the ocean. Mid
ship is the Kid Zone, Wave Runner, Game Room and Golf Simulator.
Sports Deck 11 has the Observation Deck
forward and the Volleyball/Basketball Court aft.
There are three sets of elevators which make this ship easily circulated. The central elevators have two sets of elevators overlooking the ocean (Not only
are these beautiful to ride in, but they are also the ones that respond more
quickly to the call button!). All elevator doors are cast aluminum with
beautiful floral designs by Lebigre.
Rather than discuss the multimillion dollar collection of art work on board by
decks individually, we prefer an overview on this ship. This ship is quite
beautiful in its simplicity. It is not gaudy, busy or overcrowded. Each piece in its collection has been selected for relevance and showcased in an
à propos manner. The Waterford
Crystal Seahorse (logo), which is suspended in the Atrium, sets the mood for the
exquisite pieces to be seen around this elegant ship. In its foyers and
staircases there is a recurring Venetian theme with bronze busts of the Doge and
well known figures from the Commedia dell'Arte, such as Pulcinella, Harlequin
& Columbine, and other characters like Pagliacci. In all of these
areas are chairs and sofas with comfortable cushions modeled after Roman marble
ones. In the Odyssey Restaurant there are more chairs by Lebigre, sculpted
then cast in aluminum and gilded with silver.
There are also nautical items which must be seen: the 19th century German silver
gilded ship model "Nef" and the beautiful French Baccarat table
ornament which is a semicircular frosted panel of glass etched with a galleon
and mermaids in a storm at sea. By far the largest piece of art is the
Fleurs de Mer by Barbara Nanning (Holland); these huge wild roses with open
centers forming focal points are suspended from the ceiling of the Vista Dining
Room, gilded red/gold and with modern fiber optic illumination; however, this
piece did not impress us as much as the many original paintings and sculptures
throughout the ship.
Not only does the art work merit close scrutiny, but, also the many gorgeous
displays of real flowers (lilies, antherium, birds-of-paradise, ginger,
carnations, etc.) command one's attention by their sheer beauty. A great spectacle throughout the ship!
Holland is famous as the flower
garden of the world and her ships reflect it.
SERVICE AND FOOD
Service on board under Hotel Manager Nick Burger is crisp and friendly. HAL is noted for its Indonesian crew which on this ship puts on a stunning show
featuring songs and dances of Bali and Java and playing the
"angklung," a bamboo musical instrument from West Java.
We dined at Table #169 for two with Randy and Endro as our capable stewards
under Head Steward Alex, who went above the call of duty (providing special
services like lactose free milk etc.). Yvette, our Wine Steward, was
friendly and knowledgeable. All of these fine people made dining an
Food on board was excellent and portion sizes were perfect and there was no
"pushing of seconds." Passengers in suites received High Tea at
3:30 pm and hot/cold hors d'oeuvres at 5:00 pm; thus, since we had dinner at
6:00 pm (main seating), we rarely arrived at dinner hungry.
The Lido Restaurant has so many stations:
Oriental, TexMex, Italian, deli, salad bar, etc. that it takes a bit of time
to orient oneself, yet there is no reason anyone should go unsatisfied.,In
addition there is 24 hr room service for a variety of food and beverages.,There is also the specialty restaurant, the Odyssey, for a remarkable meal ($20
- Appetizers are fresh fruits, crab legs,
prosciutto ham, etc.
- Soups are both hot/cold, such as Cream of
Asparagus, Santa Fe Tomato, or iced Vichyssoise, etc.
- Salads are just the right size and dressing
is served on the side.
- Entrees include Lobster Tails, Beef
Wellington, Filet Mignon, Prime Rib of Beef, Salmon and Snapper, etc.
- Desserts are a huge array (12 or more
choices) of Rum cakes, fruited tarts, ice cream (many flavors), Sorbets
(Lemon, Mango etc.)
- No sugar desserts include a Black Forest
cake that must be tried.
We had reserved Cabin #8036 wheelchair accessible, but when we saw it, we
immediately went to Passenger Services and spoke with Marianne, from whom we
purchased an upgrade to a suite, since the first cabin was more of a hallway
than a room, and with very little storage space. Suite #7078 is 516 sq.
ft. with a verandah on which there are a table with four chairs and two rattan
chairs with separate ottomans. Entering the suite, on the left are three
armoires, one with a personal safe, a curved maroon leather sofa, and two
butterscotch leather chairs, and a glass door leading to the verandah.
Entering on the right is the lady's anteroom with a lighted vanity and three
more armoires. Through that there is the bath with double sinks, medicine
cabinets, glassed shower, jacuzzi tub & shower, all with an
assortment of safety rails and a tiled floor. It is both nice and
functional; however, it is somewhat austere when compared to some luxurious
baths found in suites of other cruise ships. Next, there is a king
sized bed with double night stands and on the far wall a grand picture window
with plants over the desk, then a refrigerator and an entertainment center with
TV, VCR, & DVD. The walls of the suite are butterscotch ribbed silk
and a huge picture of a golden carp fish is directly across from the bed.
There are two other pictures of fishing villages with Delft blue borders. The carpet and draperies are butterscotch and maroon; very nice and restful.
This suite is a great home away from home.
There were the usual shows where the dancing was quite good and there were even
costumes by Bob Mackie. By far the best presentation was by
singer/impressionist Paul Tanner, who gave great renditions of Neil Diamond,
Sinatra, Engelbert Humperdink, Tony Bennett and finished with an Elvis Presley
which brought on a standing ovation. Bravo!
There is also a fine pianist every evening in the Crow's Nest, Daniel Thivierge,
who has a great repertoire of classic melodies and beautiful songs: wonderful
music for relaxation. There are the usual Bingo games, Trivia games and
Library Trivia (which needs someone more effective in making corrections to the
participants' quiz sheets). All in all there are many activities to occupy
a cruiser's time.
PORTS OF CALL
We are not going to describe these port nor the relative shore
excursions, since we have reported on them many times before in other cruise
reviews. For those readers who are interested in reading those reviews,
search the archives of this web
- Sunday, 9/7/30 Key West, FL
- Tuesday, 9/9/03 Cozumel, Mexico
- Wednesday, 9/10/03 Grand Cayman
- Friday, 9/12/03 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
- Saturday, 9/13/03 Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Departure from Half Moon Cay was delayed due to a mechanical problem with the
winch lifting tenders onto the ship. This delay caused a late arrival in Ft.
Lauderdale and delay in debarkation. Wheelchair assistance was
excellent--the crew made a list of the physically challenged passengers
entering the Ocean Bar and called them in order! Very efficient. The
whole process was delayed, but then HAL does not like to rush passengers off. Debarkation began after 9:00 am.
However, the process was expeditious to
the satisfaction of most passengers.
HAL is keeping pace with the growing cruise industry. With the new
Vista Class ships HAL offers staterooms with balconies at competitive prices. No longer is it necessary to book a suite in order to have a balcony, since the
majority of the ocean view cabins on the Zuiderdam
and other Vista Class ships have balconies. We thought this cruise was a
great value for us when we initially booked a category A cabin (Deluxe Verandah
Outside), but once on board we preferred an upgrade to a category S suite, a
really spacious and beautiful stateroom, for eight hundred dollars more. This made our cruise even better by getting the extras that the occupants of
suites are pampered with, such as special invitations to the Captain's and Hotel
Director's parties, as well as afternoon tea with petit
fours and pre dinner hot and cold canapés
and hors d'oeuvres
served in our suite.
We enjoyed a very relaxing cruise. In general the atmosphere on this ship
was more tranquil, thus much less vivacious and festive than that of many other
ships which sail the Caribbean Seas. On this ship, it was like dejà
vu to observe the many passengers on the wrap around promenade laying on
the deck chairs, reading their books or enjoying the scenery, just like on the
liners of yesteryear.
One tradition that we did not appreciate was the covering of the dining room
chairs with wrinkled white covers for a special effect on the second Gala Night.
If the covers were intended to make the atmosphere more formal, the effect was
the opposite: It was spooky and messy. Please note that some traditions
are not worth keeping. Those beautiful chairs should never be covered!
We are looking forward to the next cruises we have already booked: The Explorer
of the Seas on October 11th, the Coral
Princess on October 30th, the Serenade of
the Seas on December 6th and the Costa
Mediterranea on January 11th. We also plan to write reviews of
Photo Courtesy of Holland
America Line - Cruise Reviews
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