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Ship             HAL ms Zuiderdam

Date             August 13-20, 2005

Itinerary      Eastern Caribbean; Ft. Lauderdale, Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Key West

Jim and I love this ship!  This is our 5th Zuidy cruise (10th on HAL) out of 16 total cruises.

Clearly, after 5 cruises on this wonderful ship, we are smitten.  There is nothing about her we don't love.  Her decor is energizing without being noisy, and quiet without being sleepy.  She's among the largest ships in her fleet, and holds the most passengers (until the Noordam is ready).  As the public space:passenger ratio is so high, there is so much public space, that we never felt crowded, never stood in a long line for anything.  This fully-booked voyage held 2,056 passengers, including 334 youngsters aged 0-17.

Cabin:  Our Cat SS (mini) suite 6011, was located aft of midships, starboard.  This lovely cabin is half-again as large as the standard veranda cabin, and also offered double sinks, double cabinets, a storage shelf, separate shower stall and jacuzzi tub with shower.  The sitting area is generous, with a sofa, two arm chairs, coffee table, end tables and plenty of lighting.  I plugged the laptop into the outlets on the desk, and enjoyed gazing out the window as I checked my email and made some notes for my review.  The desk area is along the outside wall, and has a window overlooking the veranda and your beautiful view.  A separate dressing table offers a lighted makeup mirror and additional outlet for your various gadgets.  The SS cabins had not yet received the Signature of Excellence upgrades, but we found the bed very comfortable, linens attractive and in good shape, and the television just fine for the amount of TV we watched.  There has been some talk of special mini-perks for the mini-suite (Cat SS), but when I asked at the Front Desk, they had no information other than that Management had been discussing it, and maybe we would see something by October.

The Zuiderdam offers lots of cozy, quiet places.  Beautiful art and flowers.  Nice, easily-navigated layout.  Rather than straight, boring corridors, passengers can lazily meander past the various lounges, shops and galleries, having the impression of a smaller ship.

Movies are shown in the Queen's Lounge, a kind of multi-purpose room with a bar, that is also used for late-night comedy shows, games, shopping and port talks, and immigration checks.  It's not tiered like a traditional movie theater, but it's a good try.  I don't personally go to the movies onboard... I can do that at home. 

Hunky Dory is on vacation until September.  On our May Zuidy Burt was on the other Bistro line and there was a little competition there.  Apparently Burt was a little too aggressive and was taken off the line.  When we boarded the ship in August, there was a line of escorts waiting to take us to the Lido, and Burt was #2.  There were 2 groups ahead of us, but I called out, "Burt Reynolds, number 22, famous football player, Jupiter Florida, Loni Anderson" and he was amazed I remembered him! All the other escorts made such a big deal that a newly boarding passenger would recognize him!  He was escorting the group ahead of us, but talked to us the whole time (I don't think the other people appreciated that), and every time I ran into him on the ship he had the biggest smile and called me by name!  He's gone now, too.  Hunky is due back in mid-September (we hope he'll be on the Zuidy).  Their 'replacement' is Donnie Walker, who did not understand how I could know both Hunky and Burt, and couldn't remember my name all week, even with hints.

Excursions: This is my stock advice.  I print it with every review.  When you arrive at your cabin you will find a Shore Excursions brochure listing the various activities available shoreside.  You may fill out the order form at your leisure and deposit it in the Express Drop Box at the Shore Excursions Desk.  Please keep in mind that the most popular trips sell out very fast.  If you are traveling with friends and want to go together, put all the tickets on one room card.  One time we ordered separately and one couple got the tickets and one couple didn't.

Staff: there were SO MANY people who made this cruise special!  Our Dining Room Supervisor took our Dutch Caps and hand painted a beautiful greeting on it.  A young teenager from another table saw ours and asked who did it, and to ask her DR Supervisor if he could make her one.  When he could not, she came back and told us how disappointed she was, so I gave her mine.  I have never seen a teen so happy about such a little thing.  Apparently it was a very big thing to her, as I saw her wearing it several times that evening.

The Casino Staff was absolutely outstanding!   Allen Brown (one of my special favorites), Damian, Maribell, and Richard were unusually personable, and I wish I had photos of all of them.

We are returning to this 'home away from home' in November and are planning 1 or 2 more Zuidy cruises for 2006.  Hope to see y'all on some *dam ship some day!

© 2005  Candy Brock