November 2018 - 11 Night Panama Canal Sunfarer (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Zuiderdam
Zuiderdam has a soul
November 2018 - 11 Night Panama Canal Sunfarer (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Zuiderdam
Zuiderdam has a soul
November 2017 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (Miami Roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Getaway
March 2017 - 9 Night Southern Caribbean (Miami Roundtrip) Cruise on Navigator of the Seas
One of the best cruises we have taken
We chose this cruise because of itinerary, departure and return to Miami, and what we considered a very good price. Our Superior Balcony cabin was very comfortable, although the balcony itself seemed smaller than those on other ships.
Food and service were very good. I was very pleased with the selection of dishes available in Windjammer, including special theme dinners on some nights that might tempt one away from the dining room (which was also quite good). Our dining room staff really worked hard to satisfy even unusual requests, including off-menu items.
We bought a 2-night dining package that gave us dinner in two of the specialty restaurants on the first two nights. This was a great bargain since the per-person cost was less than dinner for one night in Chops Grille, which was one of our choices. The other was Giovanni's Table, which we tried for the first time and were very pleased with.
The Navigator is now one of RCI's medium sized ships, but still has most of the amenities offered on the other ships: Flowrider, rock climbing, ice skating rink, Royal Promenade. Some areas of the ship seem a bit crowded compared to the larger Freedom class ships and I noticed a few minor details missing that we had enjoyed on Freedom and Liberty. On the plus side, the Navigator (and its class mates) has a "peekaboo bridge" on Deck 11, just above and behind the navigation bridge, where passengers can watch the officers running the ship through large windows, with panels showing course, speed, wind, azipod and thruster power etc.
I was not as excited about the shows on Navigator as I had been on other cruises. We went to the first stage show in the theater with the singers and dancers, and the thrilling ice show, but never went to the other shows.
There was one incident that most people aboard never encountered, but that caused me about 45 very uncomfortable minutes when the ship's plumbing system was shut down for maintenance one night. The bathrooms throughout the ship were inoperative for a while, but were back on line by 5:30 am. I'm sure most of the passengers were unaware of any problem. There were frequent announcements about the fragile plumbing system and warnings about what not to flush. This is true of any cruise ship but I'd never experienced a problem before.
We were glad that RCI now has a pier at Labadee, Haiti so we didn't have to tender ashore for the beach day. The other port calls at Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire were really fun and interesting. We took an excursion on Aruba that included a ride below the water to see the fish and a shipwreck off shore.
We also had a casual chat with the captain one day while we sat at the Cafe Promenade. He did not identify himself by rank but I recognized him by his name tag. He was just walking around, interacting with the passengers in a pleasant and low key way.
We found the Navigator to be overall a comfortable ship, more so than our previous cruise on a smaller ship of another company. Pitch, roll and vibration were not as noticeable, even when the seas were a bit rough.
We'll definitely be going back to Royal Caribbean for more cruises in the future.
November 2016 - 14 Night Western / Eastern Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Nieuw Amsterdam
Smaller ships, plus and minus
This was our second Holland America cruise, after being on Norwegian and Royal Caribbean ships for a few years. I had wanted to come back to HAL because I remembered the excellent food, great service and beautiful decor of the Zuiderdam. In most ways this cruise lived up to my expectations. Except for one night I was very pleased with the food. We dined in the Pinnacle Restaurant for a celebration dinner and it was exceptional, from s'amuse bouche to decadent dessert. The busy Lido buffet was great for breakfast with made to order omelets and a different version of Eggs Benedict every day, also made to your order.
The pizza at the Lido pool area and the burgers, hotdogs and fries amidships were really good, far exceeding what I had experienced on other ships.
We made dining room table reservations immediately upon boarding the ship and enjoyed delightful table companions, which definitely enriched our experience.
I enjoyed the shows, performed by talented singers and dancers with live backup band, very high energy and always professional.
I did not miss things like wave pool, rock climbing or ice rink found on the big ships. I liked the cooking demonstrations especially.
We purchased two shore excursions through which we enjoyed very much. However, the ship personnel were not helpful when we asked simple questions on how to find the starting point for the tour. We had to walk a short distance or take a taxi to get to the location, rather than being met by a guide at the pier.
After having sailed on larger ships, I found the smaller Nieuw Amsterdam rocked and pitched noticeably more. There was annoying vibration in the dining room which is all the way aft, even on the upper level, when the ship traveled at close to top speed. Our cabin was also at the very back of the ship on deck 8. We were given this cabin as a "guaranteed" selection; we did not choose it. I had heard that these were prized because of their privacy, which was true. However it suffered from noice and motion. Our table companions told us this was true in other parts of the ship, on lower decks, as well. We were directly below the Lido pool area, so early every morning and evening we heard the crew moving deck chairs, scraping and bumping around.
One of my favorite things about Holland America ships is the many quiet places one can sit with a book. The library has a good selection of materials.
I also liked the Silk Den for a before dinner drink with new friends, and the Crow's Nest day or night.
So, another Holland America cruise? Probably, but next time I want to choose my own cabin.
November 2015 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Port Canaveral Roundtrip) Cruise on Freedom of the Seas
This was a much better experience than I had a few years ago, when cost-cutting was obvious and service suffered. This time everything was back up to the levels I was accustomed to, and above. Service was attentive, staff were cheerful and every request received quick response. Menu choices in the dining room were varied, well prepared and attractively presented. It was hard to decide whether to go to Windjammer for the many choices, or to the dining room for quiet service at breakfast and lunch. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner at Chops, with a level of food and service above that in the dining room. My mother really enjoyed her massage in the spa, and the masseuse was very caring and attentive. Our cabin steward was efficient but unobtrusive, and available whenever we needed him. The stage show was up to the professional standards we have always enjoyed, and the ice show was dazzling and amazing. I was glad to see it is now offered on two different days, twice each day, because it is so popular. We frequented the Cafe Promenade for a cup of coffee or tea, or a cold drink, and a comfortable place to sit and people watch in the Royal Promenade. I also enjoyed the R Bar whose delightfully personable bartenders bantered with the patrons and each other as they expertly mixed elaborate creations. We went ashore for the beach day at Coco Cay, finding lounge chairs in the shade, enjoyed one of the day's beverages and a lunch with many selections to choose from.
We had a chance to avail ourselves of the ship's medical facility when an elderly member of our party had a minor mishap. The staff were attentive, professional and reassuring. The center itself was well equipped and not cramped but comfortable enough to serve a number of people at one time.
I left the ship with good memories and ready to go again.
June 2009 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Miami roundtrip) Cruise on Liberty of the Seas
September 2007 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Miami roundtrip) Cruise on Liberty of the Seas
July 2005 - 7 Night Alaska & Glacier Bay (Seattle roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Star
September 2004 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale roundtrip) Cruise on Zuiderdam
September 2003 - 7 days on Carnival Destiny
July 1997 - 7 days on Star Princess
The cruise terminals are surrounded by cargo and industrial areas but the shuttle drivers know the area well and get passengers in and out without issues. Since we live in the area we did not take any excursions or shore activities. There are various parking facilities nearby.
We purchased an excursion through HAL for a bus tour and folkloric dance program. We were driven through what we were told was the poorest area in Costa Rica. Once out of the town, we saw agricultural areas where the process of growing bananas was explained. There was an obligatory stop at a souvenir shop and fruit market where samples of the local produce and coffee were provided. The driver expertly navigated us around a blockage on the highway and we arrived at the location for the dance program. Colorfully costumed local dancers performed an Afro Caribbean program which itself was very enjoyable, but marred by the overly talky guide whose attempts to generate enthusiasm from the audience I found irritating. The rest room facilities were clean and modern.
Due to other activities aboard, we were part way through the locks when we started watching this part of the passage. Due to rain, we stayed in covered areas but found much to observe.
We are not fans of beach days, and it was necessary to use the tenders to reach the island. We preferred to stay aboard and enjoy the amenities of the ship
This was one of our best excursions ever on any cruise! We purchased the horse drawn carriage ride through the Old City. We were met at the docks and conducted through a small zoo area with exotic birds and animals to our car for what turned out to be a private tour. The comfortable vehicle came with chilled water bottles in the armrest. The driver was careful but knew how to navigate through the congested streets. Our guide was knowledgeable and well spoken. We stopped at the huge old fort for a brief photo op and then on the the walled city where we transferred to a horse drawn carriage and a ride through the beautiful narrow streets with colorful and ornate buildings. It's a large area and busy with other taxis and people strolling about, site seers and local residents going about their daily business. The tour ended at the souvenir shop area, and we were driven back to the ship. This was a tour offered by Cruises Only and it was a great experience.
We had visited this island on a previous cruise but went ashore for shopping. We found what we were looking for after a short search along the main street. There are numerous shops and the ship offers suggestions on where to shop for what they say are the best deals. Jewelry stores outnumbered the other kinds of shops.
Despite the rain, many people gathered on the bow of the ship at Deck 4, an area not open to passengers on any other day. A covered seating area was set up, along with rolls, coffee and beverages. The best inside viewing area was the Crow's Nest on Deck 10 which filled early. Rain on the windows made photography difficult. Views from cabin balconies and the Promenade Deck were limited and I spent most of the transit forward on the open bow. A narrator aboard explained the history of the canal, how it worked, and what was happening throughout the passage through the locks. Traffic was heavy as we entered but traffic control kept ship moving efficiently. The actual time through the locks was about two hours. The ship moved into Gatun Lake to discharge passengers who were taking shore excursions which we opted not to do on this cruise.
Although we did not go ashore on this trip, we did so on a previous cruise and enjoyed seeing this colorful island with a number of different things to see and do to suit almost everyone.
The pool and hot tubs are best used earlier in the morning before people are up and about. There are two pools, one amidships with a retractable cover and one at the rear, each with lounges for relaxing and sunning. Each pool has adjacent hot tubs.
Navigator of the Seas
Don't miss the peekaboo bridge on Deck 11 forward, accessible from the front of the Solarium. You get to watch the officers on the bridge and see the ship's course, speed and other information. A great place to be when leaving a port.
We made table reservations as soon as we came aboard, table of six, and met some very interesting people. Dining room got noisy, sometimes hard to carry on a conversation. Pinnacle Restaurant was a wonderful experience for a special occasion. Lido breakfast made to order items served fast and good
Freedom of the Seas
We were traveling with two older ladies, and found good "resting places" in the library and computer area, the Cafe Promenade, and the outside area on deck 4 where there are both smoking and nonsmoking areas.