Ship: HAL's ms Zuiderdam
Saturday, May 14-21, 2005
Ft. Lauderdale, Half Moon Cay, St.
There wasn't any shopping involved with this cruise. We knew we wanted to sail the Zuiderdam again. Itinerary was not important. We chose a sail date that fit into our friends' schedule and booked it. Our excellent travel agent, Lori Cunningham at SkyscraperTours always gives us the best price of all, so we selected cabins and booked it.
We chose to book our own air
transportation because we like to have control. We flew the
morning of the cruise, as the weather in May is more predictable and we
knew if we had to, we could always drive to the port. Connections
came off without a hitch, landing in Ft. Lauderdale at about
For a change, our bags
were the first off the carousel, so we
had the porter take them outside and got into a van. We arrived
pier 10 minutes later, handed our bags to the pier staff (together with
a buck-a-bag tip) and entered the check-in area. We had completed
immigration forms online, but our friends had not, so we stood in 2
different lines. Ours took 30 minutes, theirs 35. We had
taken and were on board before 1:00. The first thing we did was hunt
for Hunky Dory at the Lido. He had taken the day off, so we
looked for Burt Reynolds (number 22 football, Jupiter Florida, famous
movie star, Loni Anderson...). We told him our names but he
couldn't remember them during the whole cruise. Hunky Dory
Rules! By the time we had our lunch by the pool, the cabins were
ready and we went to take the first of many naps.
Generally at this time I
the ship facilities, but the real estate hasn't changed since my last 3 reviews,
so I'll refer you to those.
"Because of Winn Dixie", "Coach Carter", "Hide and Seek", "In Good
Company", "Meet the Fockers", "The Aviator" and "Hotel Rwanda" were
shown in the Queen's Lounge.
|Drinks (24 hours)
The Express (breakfast)
The Bistro (full breakfast)
The Continental (cold meats, fruits, juices)
The Eggs (omelets)
|The Wok (oriental and asian dishes)
The Italian (pasta and pizza)
The Bistro (rotisserie and grill)
The Salads (salad bar)
The Deli (sandwiches made to order
The Sweets (ice cream and pastries)
|The Italian (pizza and pasta)
The Bistro (roasted & grilled meats and seafood)
The Sweets (ice cream and pastries)
Jim prefers the
slots and blackjack, but I haunt the craps table. The
dealers and pit bosses on this sailing were particularly good. I
found them all helpful and personable, and the payoffs were
accurate. Special thanks go to Inga, Richard, Maribel and
AnnaMarie for making my whole playing experience a pleasure, win or
lose! I do wish HAL would rate players
as other casinos do... maybe one day I'll earn a Pinnacle dinner or
free photos or excursions or something for all my hard work.
a 3% service charge, you can get cash at the Front Office, provided you
have registered your credit card.
Diana airbrushes these henna tattoos at a booth near the Lido
pool. I never saw her the whole trip.
Internet Café: This place is open 24 hours and offers these packages:
for 75¢ (+ $3.75 service charge)
40 Minutes for $24.00
100 Minutes for $50.00
250 Minutes for $100.00
Dialup acces in your cabin is 50¢ per minute.
WiFi access was in the Internet Center, the Library, Lobby and some other public rooms (cards for your own laptop are available).
I visited at
various times during the day and evening and there were always
terminals available. Instead of visiting the cafe or
renting a wireless adapter, I used the dialup in our cabin, which was
more convenient for me.
One good thing
about not caring much for excursions or ports you've visited many times
before, is it gives you LOTS of free time for the spa. I normally
have 3 or 4 "treatments", usually on port days at a reduced fee.
I have always been able to use the facilities of the hydrotherapy pool
or thermal suite at no charge on treatment days. Apparantly this
has changed since my last cruise on this ship in November. I
nearly had an arguement with a girl at the desk when she said HAL has
"never" offered free access, but she would sell me a pass for $10
instead of $15. Even when I told her of my past experiences, she
still used the "never" word, and there was no manager around to
consult. I tried to use the free sauna, but it was nearly room
temperature and what good is that? Emma did my Ionithermie and I
lost 6 inches.
Click here for the Menu of Spa
Services, and Port Days Discount Services.
New services include:
Gentle Touch Tooth Whitening; 1-8 shades whiter teeth in one 40-minute cosmetic process, including a 2-week maintenance program, all for $199. I had mine done at home for $450, so I know this is a good price.
UdefineU Video Program, a series that teaches women to dramatically alter their physical appearance by learning to use what they already have, i.e., Posture & Poise, Voice & Speech, Etiquette and Style... $99.
now non-smoking hours in the casino.
Unless you're a
total cruise virgin, everyone knows about the lifeboat drill. In
addition, there was a full-blown Coast Guard inspection one day.
We were, um, napping (yeah, napping), and heard over the PA system that
there would be a drill for crew only. There
are usually one or two on every cruise, so we figured we could tough it
out a few minutes (the speaker is right behind the headboard and the
volume cannot be adjusted). This was no routine drill, however,
and when Jim was ready to... I mean, um, when we were almost... anyway,
the Captain called "Abandon Ship" several times. Then they
lowered the life boats for what seemed like an hour, and, well, we gave
up trying to, uh, nap. Forever after, "Abandon Ship" will have a
special meaning for us.
Embarkation Day: Wow, do we love this ship! We knew
how to find Hunky Dory (although he took today off), how to get to our
cabin, everything... like going home after a long vacation, only
backwards! After our usual embarkation nap (so sorry we missed the
CruiseCritic party) we eased into our typically casual shipboard
routine. Highlights of the day were the Spa Tour, Liquor Tasting,
Port & History Talk, Great Zuiderdam Giveaway, SailAway
Festivities, Club HAL Welcome Meeting, $500 Intro Bingo and Welcome
Aboard Showtime, featuring "Under the Sun" by the Zuiderdam singers and
dancers, and the comedy of Julie Barr. Casual Dinner tonight...
we were seated at our favorite table for six with our two friends, but
the other seats either weren't assigned, or they ate somewhere
else. I initially ordered the Black Pepper Crusted New York
Sirloin Steak, but it was way too spicy for me, so our waiter brought
me the Farfalle with Smoky-Grilled Portabella Mushrooms, which was
outstanding. We saw the Welcome Show and headed to one of our
favorite parts of the ship, the Casino. Jim planted me at the
Craps table and left to play Blackjack.
Sea: Sea days are my favorite of
all. I don't exactly recall, but I know we didn't go to Snowball
Jackpot Bingo, the Wine Tasting, Water Volleyball, and certainly not
the Sock Hop. We slept through the Captain's Reception, but
didn't miss this first formal dinner. We also skipped the "Under
the Boardwalk" show, mainly because we've seen it before, but also
because we walked by the casino and couldn't resist the musical
ka-ching of the slots... it's hypnotizing!
Thomas, USVI: Immigration at the crack of dawn?
Bummer! It actually was very well organized and we got in a line
that was constantly moving... about 10 minutes, tops. The
downside to this procedure is that everybody is up and the Lido
is packed! We were in no hurry, though, 'cause I was the only one
to go ashore, and only for a quick lookaround for chachkies at
Havensight Mall. All I bought was Pepto Bismol for the
patient. Jeez... I can't even spend money anymore! It's the
same stuff everywhere! There were 20 Shore Excursions
ranging from $24
to $99, and I missed all of them.
Informal dinner tonight offered one
of my all-time faves... Hazelnut Crusted Perch with Pureed Scallion
Sweet Potato... MMMmmmmmm..... but we went to the Pinnacle instead.
We never miss the magician, and
although we have seen James Cielen's act before, we went again (my that
little puppy has grown a whole 6 ounces!) It's an amazing show
and I'd recommend it highly.
Sea: Aaaahhh... another day at sea. Captain John
Scott showed off his Bingo calling expertise at his Captain's
Win-a-Cruise Bingo game (I think this was in lieu of the Captain's
Farewell Party). There was a tie, and only one cruise
to give away, so Captain Scott had to cut the ship in half... No! That
was King Solomon! Sorry. There was a sudden-death
Bingo-off, and although there was a lengthy protest from a lady in the
audience, one lucky woman won a 7-day cruise for two in an
Formal dinner was less formal due to
the lack of fancy chair covers used in the past. The traditional
Surf-and-Turf was offered, which I enjoyed with Trio of Salmon, Jumbo
Shrimp and Pearls of the Ocean, Escargots and Chilled Strawberry
Bisque. I love cruises.
Friday, Nassau: There were 10
Shore Excursions ranging from $39
to 119, but this trip to Nassau we did what we have said we
would do but never did... we took the water taxi to Atlantis and
wandered around. It's a bit of a walk, uphill both ways, but it's
worth it if you can win $750 on the $5 slot machines! I would
have played a little Craps, but at the two tables open in the
daytime, there were a few men who looked either bored or half
asleep, who had chips on the Pass Line and no place bets. No
excitement. No shouting. No energy. I'm kind of a
formal-slinky-dress kinda dice-throwin' gal, and it just wasn't fun
enough for me. We were hungry, though. I checked a
menu before we went into the little restaurant, and the $17 pricetag on
a roast beef sandwich ala carte was enough to send us back to
the ship. The boys went ahead and we window-shopped a little, but
nothing was really exciting, so we went home - you know - our other
We slept through the Farewell
Variety Showtime, which is a shame because I wanted to see Alfreda
Gerald. After the casual dinner (I originally
ordered the Osso Buco, but it was fatty, so they brought me some
Fettuccini Frutti Di Mare, which was quite good) we stopped by the
Casino until Final Snowball Jackpot Bingo. I was throwing dice
while Jim was accumulating black chips at the Blackjack table. He
looked over at me and gestured it was time for Bingo. Looking at
the piles of chips, I mouthed, "Are you crazy?" and we kept on
playing. No way am I gonna leave all that fun to NOT win
at Bingo again! Eventually we colored out, tipped the boys,
thanked the dealers and pit bosses, left my CruiseReport business
cards, and promised to return in August. We will... we certainly
Now, the mad dash to pack.
Tossing clothing across the room helter-skelter, not caring
particularly what went where, we managed to get it out there by 2:00
We went through customs and found a
van by 9:45. Unfortunately, the four of us decided to take a
van instead of a cab, and mistakenly thought we would be the only
passengers. The driver loaded our bags and continued to look for
more fares to the airport, loading their bags on top of ours. At
the airport, we were first off, and during the loading and unloading,
my carryon bag (with all the jewelry, camera, cash, etc. and NO ID TAG)
was left on the van while I checked in at the curb. My husband
spotted the van at the next terminal and made a run for it (I haven't
ever seen him run that fast). He caught the driver before he
pulled away and asked for the bag. He had a hard time describing
the contents, but they found the plane tickets in one pocket, and they
matched his name. Whew! My luggage was a little more than
one pound overweight, but they let it pass. My girlfriend's case
was more than five pounds over, so she had to move a few things to
another case (no charge for either). It's a good thing that after
your suitcase is bumped around for a few hours, things kinda settle,
and there's more room than you think.