Thursday, August 04, 2011

Cruising Alaska's Inside Passage on Holland America Line's Zuiderdam

Zuiderdam at the dock in sunny Ketchikan

     Our group of ten recently returned from a week-long cruise through Alaska's Inside Passage on Holland America Line's Zuiderdam. This round-trip itinerary from Vancouver, B.C., offered a chance to sail through the Inside Passage, stop in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, as well as cruise to Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Bay.

     The Zuiderdam was launched in 2002 and has a passenger capacity of 1,916, with 817 crew members. It was the first ship in HAL's Vista Class series, and has since been joined by sister ships Oosterdam, Westerdam and Noordam. The Zuiderdam has at times been criticized for it's bold and bright color scheme (a first and last for HAL), and we were not fans of the gaudy reds, purples and golds that were sprinkled liberally throughout the ship. However, the service was, for the most part, outstanding, and the crew members uniformly friendly and cheerful.

Purple and fuchsia decor of Explorer's Lounge

Orange column, fuchsia carpet, gold walls, green statue!

     Our room stewards, Rudy and Wayan, were top-notch, and seemed to have an uncanny ability to sense the minute we left our cabin so they could rush in and have it spic-and-span before we got back from breakfast or dinner. They were easily tracked down for special requests, and answered every question with a smile. The nightly towel animal left on the bed was a treat the children looked forward to each day, as well as the chocolates that accompanied it!

Towel swan

     Since we were sailing in the Penthouse Suite, we had access to the superb concierge services of Charmaine and Jaybee in the Neptune Lounge. They handled our shore excursion bookings, arranged our nightly dining reservations, and provided general information when needed. The lounge was open from 7:00am to 8:30pm each day, and always had snack food and a coffee/cappucino machine available for a quick bite or caffeine fix. Hot chocolate was available also, upon request, and a selection of Harney & Sons premium tea.

Neptune Lounge: snack bar, juices and coffee machine
Seating area of Neptune Lounge

     We ate in the main dining room, the Lido buffet, the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast (reserved for suite guests) and had in-room dining. In general, the service was good but slow in the main dining room (except for the Master Chef's Dinner night, when the service was exceptionally quick). Dinnertime sometimes dragged on for two hours, which was difficult for our small children. The Lido buffet was a good alternative to grab a quick slice of pizza or plate of pasta for the kids, and the main dishes offered here in the evenings were the same as those in the main dining room.

Table at the Pinnacle Grill

     The only real problem we encountered aboard the Zuiderdam was with in-room dining. We found that if we arranged for delivery at a certain time in advance (as with breakfast or through the Neptune Lounge), the food arrived on time. However, one night we ordered coffee and a slice of chocolate cake, and ended up waiting over one hour and a half before the order arrived. Another time, we ordered lunch and received a telephone call from the in-room dining manager to see how we liked our lunch before it had even arrived! After that we stuck to ordering in advance, and had no more problems.

     We chose this particular cruise for the itinerary, and we were not disappointed. In fact, there was so much to see outside the windows that we found we did not have time to explore the Zuiderdam fully. We did use the Lido deck pool. Since it has a retractable roof, it is ideal for Alaskan itineraries, where the weather is unpredictable and can be quite cold. During our cruise, few passengers ventured into the pool, and we often had it to ourselves. There is another pool, this one located aft outdoors, and we once saw several courageous swimmers belly-flopping in on a cool day at sea. This deck offered an excellent place to sit comfortably and enjoy the beautiful sights outside.

Lido Deck Pool, roof retracted in sunny Ketchikan
Aft pool, sunny Glacier Bay
View from aft deck, Glacier Bay

     Overall, the main attraction of this cruise was the spectacular Alaskan scenery and outstanding itinerary. The Zuiderdam is an older ship, and in some places, does show her age. However, we enjoyed the facilities that we took advantage of, and would not hesitate to recommend this cruise to others.

Wonderful crew of Zuiderdam

Related posts:  
A Balcony with a View: Zuiderdam Penthouse 7046
A Photo Tour of Zuiderdam's Penthouse Suite #7046
Gold-Panning in Juneau Shore Excursion
Supper at the Gold Creek Salmon Bake in Juneau 
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in Skagway 
A Taste of Tracy Arm Fjord 
Cruising Alaska's Glacier Bay
Tea Time on Holland America Line 
Canada Line: Cheapest way to get from Vancouver Airport to Port
Galley Tour aboard the Zuiderdam


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