June 2016 - Zuiderdam to Europe - Northern Europe
We really enjoyed the cruise. We were first-timers, so were not sure exactly what to expect. We were very pleased with the ship itself and the wonderful service provided by our room attendants and the dining room staff. All the other staff were also very helpful. Of course, the food was delightful, as we expected. We also enjoyed the nightly shows in the main Vista Lounge and some others that we got to. One of the main pluses of a cruise is that one only has to unpack once and then you can stay in the same bed for the whole trip. We really liked that.
We had a couple of complaints. One is that the shows provided by the Zuiderdam Singers and Dancers, while excellent and generally enjoyable, were too loud, and in some places too sexy for our comfort. Talent and professionalism were there, but there was just too much skin showing on a lot of the costumes, and it really wasn't necessary. We noticed some other passengers around us in the auditorium who seemed to be experiencing the same feelings we were.
Second, the activities on the ship seemed too much centered around alcohol. As teetotalers, we simply felt left out of some activities. It just seemed a little odd to us that every "prize" in competitions seemed to be free or reduced prices on drinks. And the "pub crawl" activity was very noisy at its starting point on Deck 10, annoying not just us but a number of other passengers who were sitting in the observation chairs or enjoying quiet activities in the library.
Third, we were a bit surprised at how many extra cost things there were. We knew that the basic meals were included in the base fare and were pleasantly surprised to find that room service dining was free. We also knew that there would be an automatic gratuity charge. However, we were taken aback by the extent to which the ship staff seemed to be encouraging the purchase of drinks of all kinds, and were surprised that even soft drinks cost extra. The shore excursions were also pricey. As frugal people who ordinarily travel on our own arranging our own transportation and lodging we were unaccustomed to the extra costs associated with the cruise.
Another complaint was probably specific to this particular voyage. The satellite internet connection became essentially non-functioning after the first few days. I had purchased an internet package of 100 minutes but was only able to use about 20 minutes of it because the whole system was just not working. The ship staff put notices on all the computers in the library that the internet connection was not working, and it was very frustrating. I had been planning on maintaining contact with family members through email but was only able to send one email before the system stopped working.
As to the destinations, we thoroughly enjoyed all of them that we got to. Because of issues with high winds we were unable to make the scheduled port calls in Helsinki, Finland, and Helsingborg, Sweden. We were sad about that, but pleased in knowing that the captain had made the best decisions for the safety and comfort of the ship, its passengers, and crew. We stopped in Warnemunde and Kiel, Germany; Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden; Tallin, Estonia; and St. Petersburg, Russia. Each was enjoyable and seemed to capture the special characteristic of that country's culture. We also unexpectedly were able to spend a few unplanned hours in Copenhagen because of the cancellation of the Helsingborg stop, and we thoroughly enjoyed that opportunity.
We may take another cruise, but not in the immediate future. It's a little pricey for us, and we tend to take trips to areas not reachable by ships. We loved living on the ship, having a comfortable cabin, lots of delectable food, and staff of all types ready to help us with questions or problems.