Superb trip to the Panama Canal

Zuiderdam Cruise Review to Caribbean

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 39

Overall rating:

4.5 out of 5
Verified Review

11 Night Panama Canal Sunfarer (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip)

Sail date: March 21, 2018

Ship: Zuiderdam

Cabin type: Oceanview

Cabin number: 1105

Traveled as: Family (young children)

Reviewed: 3 years ago

Review summary

This is a great cruise to enjoy the best of the Caribbean and a taste of the Panama Canal. Make sure you get a cruise that stops in Cartagena, as it is really a hidden gem!


5 out of 5
We arrived just after 12:00 and were on the ship by 12:30. Everything went smooth.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

5 out of 5
You really can't go wrong on a Holland America cruise when it comes to the food. Whether you are in the Lido buffet, the main dining room or one of the specialty restaurants, you can be assured that you will have outstanding service and some of the best food you can get.

Onboard Activities

4 out of 5
This is not a ship with a bunch of frills. We found sufficient activities to keep us interested. There is a limited entertainment staff, but they do a good job in providing a selection of things to do.


5 out of 5
The main showroom had both their own productions as well as special guests including a magician, ventriloquist and a great comic. The music venues were excellent, but as with all Holland America ships, it is all geared to a older crowd.

Children's Programs

5 out of 5
Club Hal does a great job in keeping the kids busy, and will also allow you to have your kids in the program on port days. Our 9 year old looks forward to going every day!

Service and Staff

5 out of 5
You would be hard pressed to find any member of the crew who wasn't customer focused. Everyone we met was friendly and appeared to be happy.

Ship Quality

4 out of 5
The Zuiderdam is 16 years old, and it is likely due for some renovations. Some areas were never used, and others seemed like they could have more activities. There was never an issue with cleanliness. They did a good job in keeping up with things.

Cabin / Stateroom

4 out of 5
We had 2 adults and 2 children (14, 9) in the cabin. It was tight, but manageable. It would have been nice to have a bit more space in the closet, and the bathroom could have been just a bit bigger. We have had similar cabins on other HA ships which were a little larger. The room stewards did a great job in keeping it clean.

Ship tip

Make sure you take it all in. If you have a trip where there is a scenic sailing and the bow is open, try deck 5 or 6 instead to get outside on the bow. You will have a much better view and will not be tripping over everyone on deck 4.

Ports of call

Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida

4 out of 5
This is a commercial port. Nothing to do there. We came to FLL a day early and enjoyed the city. We stayed an extra day and rented a car to visit the everglades.

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (Private Island)

4 out of 5
Lovely private island. Day was hot, water was cold. They did a good job with the BBQ, and if you want to spend a few extra $$ you can go to the Lobster Shack.

Oranjestad, Aruba

4 out of 5
Went scuba diving through the ship's excursions. Able to dive 2 wrecks and see quite a bit of wildlife. Did not get a chance to see the city, but will go back again.

Willemstad, Curacao

4 out of 5
Cute city. We arrived on Sunday so many businesses were closed, and the floating markets were empty. With a long port day, there wasn't much to do.

Cartagena, Colombia

5 out of 5
This is a hidden gem. I had low expectations before arriving, and was really surprised at how wonderful this city is. We hired a driver at the port and got a nice walk through the old walled city. Very reasonably priced!

Enter Panama Canal At Cristobal

5 out of 5
Early morning arrival at the locks. The process was very interesting and we had an excellent narrator. Upon arrival at Gatun lake we took an excursion to Panama City. Overall it was a very good day!

Colon, Panama

4 out of 5
At the conclusion of our tour to Panama City, we joined the ship in Colon. This is a small, quiet city. They are working to expand the tariff-free zone, so expect some deals on shopping in the future.

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

4 out of 5
We took an excursion to the canal boat ride which included time at a fruit stand, a tour of the city, a banana plantation and some beach time. Off the ship we paid about 1/2 the price or less to take this tour. In general, it was a good experience, but we were glad we didn't pay the ship's pricing.


3 out of 5
Likely no fault of HA, but we didn't get off the ship until more than 1 hour past our scheduled time and the immigration lines were extremely long. There were 4 other ships in port that day, so it was likely due to that.
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