What has happened to the once-venerable Holland America cruiseline?

Zuiderdam Cruise Review to Caribbean
Experience: 7+ cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 12

Overall Rating:

3 out of 5
Verified Review

10 Night Panama Canal Sunfarer (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip)

Sail Date: November 05, 2017

Ship: Zuiderdam

Cabin Type: Balcony

Cabin Number: 5111

Traveled As: Couple

Reviewed: 1 year ago

Review Summary

We have never been more disappointed in a cruise experience. We have cruised less expensive lines with less venerable reputations than Holland America and have always been delighted and pleasantly surprised by the value of the experiences we have had with food, entertainment, and service. In contrast, our experience on the Zuiderdam was a rip-off. Different passengers we spoke to with experience on Holland America ships told us this cruise was unrecognizable as an HAL experience. One even refered to her experience as feeling like she was in the Twilight Zone. There are plenty of cruise lines out there. No need to take a chance on Holland America and risk a similar experience to ours.


1 out of 5
The Zuiderdam had just come out of drydock. From the beginning, it was clear, to almost everyone, that the ship simply was not ready. Our check-in process was complicated by the fact that the cabin we had booked 15 months prior had flooded and, with no notice, we were being downgraded to another, less desirable cabin. We were told to take our concerns to the Guest Relations people onboard; when we did so, we were met with blank stares. It became clear very quickly to anyone with any issues that the only way to get anyone's attention was to cause a scene. And problems there were, for almost everyone to some degree or another.

Ship Experiences

Food and Dining

4 out of 5
Our restaurant experiences were mostly positive, except that service tended to be slow, particularly when we dined in the main dining room with the two other couples we were traveling with. It seemed to be a kitchen issue, and not a problem with the waitstaff. The Lido buffet area had a diverse selection of food, but there simply was not enough staff to efficiently serve everyone. The biggest disappointment food-wise were the breakfast pastries that tended to be dry and unappetizing. The specialty Pinnacle Restaurant was excellent and a true fine-dining experience, despite the pompous maitre d'.

Onboard Activities

2 out of 5
Our main on-board activities involved the pools. The Sea View Pool was shut down for the first two days of our cruise because it's renovation had not been completed in drydock. While passengers were given a $75 storeroom credit for this inconvenience, work on this pool area continued throughout the week, including welding, painting and varnishing railings with heavy-duty, strong smelling varnish and paint by workers with overalls and face masks, no more than 10 feet from the nearest passengers. There were several days where railings were cordoned off from passengers altogether. Drink service was very slow arounf the pools as well she to what appeared to be either understaffing or poorly trained servers.


3 out of 5
When the entertainment was good, it was great, but overall it was a disappointment. There was no "welcome aboard" show; no ship band; no entertainment anywhere on the pool decks, ever. The first singing/dancing stage show - a tribute to music through the decades - was boring and unremarkable. We didn't bother going to the second one of the week. The third singing/dancing stage show - 1000 Steps - however was excellent. Also excellent were the comedian who performed on the Main Stage; Island Steel Drum band, who performed twice on the Main Stage; and the piano duo of Alex and Emily in Billboard Onboard. The Main Stage magic show early in the cruise was same-old, same-old, despite his use of two adorable Pomeranian dogs in the act. Finally, although not confirmed, there was a rumor going around the ship that the reason there was no welcome aboard show was because the stage was not fully repaired and ready for prime time the first day out.

Service and Staff

2 out of 5
Our cabin steward and main dining room waitstaff were excellent. For the most part, service at the bars was fine, but deck drink staff and Lido restaurant service was sorely lacking. There simply did not seem to be enough competent help available there. The Guest Services staff was deplorable. We ended up with a better cabin after freaking out about having been downgraded originally. However, the a.c. system was leaking all over the ship, and ended up soaking the bed in our upgraded room. We had to sleep for two nights in an inside cabin while the staff dried out our room for two days. We were able to finish the cruise in our upgraded cabin, but only after creating a scene every time we were forced to go to Guest Services to inquire about updates on our room situation. We were not alone; guest after guest dealt with leaks in their cabins and bathrooms; we learned if two cabins near ours that had no air conditioning FOR THE ENTIRE 10 DAYS, with no offer of compensation. The Guest Services staff appeared to be a combination of incompetent, untrained and possibly dishonest. At the cruise's end, I learned my credit card had been hacked to the tune of $1800 at some point onboard. Not a positive finish for any expetience.

Ship Quality

2 out of 5
The ship design was fine. The maintenance staff tried hard to keep a ship still under renovation as clean as possible, but the smell of varnish, paint and the roar of shop vacs followed passengers everywhere. Equally disturbing, however, was the fact that there were railings throughout the ship, including the pool areas, were loose or falling off of walls. Some didn't get fixed at all. Two railings had fallen off of either side of a pole holding them on the sides of an outside elevator. The last day of the cruise, the railings were still down and the top of the pole was covered by a face cloth, kept secure by an elastic to keep passengers from the uncapped pole's sharp top. To have defective railings anywhere are nothing less than a safety hazard. There were entire public restrooms out of order, some for the entire cruise. One restroom was available for use, but had no running water and no hand sanitizer for at least the first 48 hours of the cruise.

Cabin / Stateroom

3 out of 5
The cabin stewards were hard working and kept the cabins spotless. But the waterfall out of the air conditioning vent definitely took its toll on our general enjoyment of our space.

Ship Tip


Ports Of Call

Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida

3 out of 5
An okay port, although we had to wait at least a half hour for a taxi at the airport to get to our ship, and there were no Ubers available when we arrived. Our taxi driver took us a roundabout route to the Port and charged us $26 for a trip that only cost us $16 when we came back. We did not do an excursion here.

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (Private Island)

3 out of 5
Pretty beach, but otherwise unremarkable. We did not do an excursion.

Oranjestad, Aruba

3 out of 5
Pretty island. Enjoyed the butterfly farm.

Willemstad, Curacao

3 out of 5
Very pretty island. We did a tour of the island and a semi-submersible tour of coral reefs. It was gun but nothing we need to do again.

Enter Panama Canal At Cristobal

4 out of 5
Great to experience the Panama Canal and learn of its history. Everyone should do this at least once.

Exit Panama Canal At Cristobal Did not visit port

We were on a tour of Panama City when the ship exited the canal. We picked the ship up in Colon.

Colon, Panama

3 out of 5
We reboarded the ship in Colon after an interesting and informative tour to Panama City. Colon was fine as a place to get back on your ship. Otherwise. I would not care to visit Colon again.

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

4 out of 5
Beautiful beaches. We toured the Jaguar Rehabilitation Center. Interesting, informative experience and we were treated to a delicious lunch by locals as part of the tour. Fun to get a closeup look at monkeys, sloths and crocodiles as well as to learn about efforts to rehabilitate animals and release them back to their natural habitats.


5 out of 5
Very smooth, efficient and well executed.
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