The cruise was great. Excursions at most ports of call make the experience memorable.
5 out of 5
We arrived a day early and stayed near the port (Hilton hotel). Quick ride to the port and we arrive at 1:00 pm, the earliest time to board. No lines and it was easy to get onto the ship. A fast process to get through the sign in process. Pictures and credit card info was already available. All they did was confirm who you were and handed you your cabin key. I think the whole time at the desk took 10 minutes. Luggage arrived quickly to the cabin. Get stuff dropped off in your cabin and quickly head out for a walk around the ship and a drink!
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
We had second seating on the 3rd deck in the aft section. The view was great, long walk from the entrance if you have concerns about that. The dinner food was good. Always something good to eat, just not over the top great. Not sure if I'm too critical, but with a table of 5, we always found something, just wasn't blown away each night. Not over the top and some of the meals weren't exciting. In a group of 5, everyone could find something they liked, but on other cruises (Eurodam out of Venice) we were impressed with the food.
The ship staff was excellent on deck. They walked around handing out fresh fruit on the aft deck, never had that happen before on a cruise.
Drinks were good. Had a drink package but this crew was more restrictive about getting doubles of drinks or getting more than two drinks. Stupid if you've paid for the package and it is inconvenient when wanting to bring drinks to your cabin and sit on the balcony.
Salad bar for the buffet was hit or miss. Not always fully stocked, which was disappointing.
5 out of 5
Great staff, always friendly and great service. Never had a bad experience with them and we visited several times a day. Grabbed drinks before and after dinner and had a great time.
5 out of 5
America's test kitchen was excellent. Jessica was our presenter and is personable and fun. Interesting demonstrations and you'll learn a lot (on a cruise!!).
Music trivia was a highlight. Well run and was a great way to spend time on the aft deck. It was really the only time that there was music on the aft deck or at least music you could hear and enjoy.
4 out of 5
Pools were good, always crowded. The aft pool wasn't filled high enough with water to just put your feed in without swimming, weird! I thought the pool bar was OK, smoking area was good but the area lacked music all of the time. Other than the music trivia time, the place was too sedate. I like music playing while hanging out with a drink. Are you supposed to show up with earbuds and listen to your own music??
5 out of 5
Entertainment was great. The ventriloquist was great, the magician was very good, the steel drum group was a highlight.
We didn't bring kids.
Service and Staff
4 out of 5
Room stewards are always helpful. Since cruise lines have switched to having tips included, service seems more even and consistent. If you have additional needs, they are usually taken care of. That was certainly the case on this cruise, small additional requests were readily honored.
4 out of 5
The ship is very clean. I like this size of the vessel; you don't get overwhelmed with the size of the ship as you do with the Mega ships. This ship is smaller than the Eurodam; I feel the Eurodam is the perfect size/setup. The Zuiderdam has a smaller aft section, so the pool is too small, and the aft deck is smaller. Nothing that ruins your cruise, just realize that finding a deck chair is a little harder.
Easy to get around. Plenty of places for a drink, to sit and talk or deck chairs on the 3rd deck to view the ocean. Harder to get seating or lounge chair on the aft deck.
Cabin / Stateroom
4 out of 5
The cabin was fine. You shouldn't be surprised with what you get. If you have issues the cabin steward will take care of them.
Plan ahead, book excursions and loosely plan each day. It is great to eat breakfast and lunch in the dining room, less hectic and usually good options.
Find a lounge you like and stick to it for your daily routine of grabbing a drink before/after dinner. Visit all of the lounges to see which you like the best. Ocean lounge was my favorite because of the staff, and it was on my dining deck.
Great beach. If you have the drink package, the drinks here are NOT included. Which isn't right. Other than swim and relax on the beach chairs, there is NOTHING else to do here. Unless you grab a package. Basically, you board a tender, get dropped off at the beach, swim, relax and reboard the ship. In March, the water isn't as warm as you'd hope for but it is still great.
We grabbed a taxi and headed to Eagle beach. The beaches are always great in Aruba. Find one and just hang out. Hopefully you can grab one with chairs and umbrellas (Eagle has these) and a small bar for drinks / food nearby. Fun, low key and relaxing.
Go on an excursion. See the island, snorkle or scuba dive. It make the stop worthwhile. If your ship arrives on a Sunday, the town is DEAD. We arrived on a Sunday and there are 5 shops open on a Sunday and in general, all of the shops are small and tourist traps. Oranjestad isn't keeping up with the tourist trade. Not as clean as it shold be. Not much to see in walking distance (correct me if I'm wrong). Nothing special and really nothing different from when I was hear 10 and 15 years ago. Get out of the town and sightsee.
Exursion to the Avaiary was great. Nothign to see at the port and it is a poor country, when viewed from the port. Book an excursion and enjoy seeing the different areas but you won't be able to just get off the ship and walk around.
Get up early, watch the ship enter the canal and enjoy the morning watching this amazing process of the locks. If you don't go on an excursion, you'll just hang out on the lake, waiting to go back through the locks. Not bad, interesting to see other vessels waiting in the lake or going through. Explorers' loungue is a great place to see it during the daylight hours.
We didn't get off the ship. Looks like a small shopping areas. Relatives who took an excursion said that coming to the port by bus, showed how poor the area is. I'm not sure there is much to see outside of the port building/shops.
Excursion to the rain forest (the shorter duration trip). Rain forest was excellent. Drive to and from shows off the local area and wasn't bad. It is rural and not a lot to see but the guide did stop to show us sloath and birds and local things. The shopping at the port wasn't bad. Really nowhere else to shop.
2 out of 5
Leaving the ship is easy. I hate to say this but stay in your cabin and listen to the announcemnts. when it gets close ot your group, head out. But staying in the lounges isn't the easiest of things for leaving the ship (learned this from past cruise experiences).
Luck of the draw here for getting through customs. If you disembark on a day when several ships are in and some of them are HUGE, then the customs people get pulled from your area and are transferred to the other ships for disembarkation, so you'll only have a hand full of customs people for your ship.
Travel by bus (pre arranged by Holland American) was quick and easy. Again luck of the draw. Others waited 45 minutes when they left.
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