The early morning rain stopped around 10 AM and although more rain was in the forecast, it never materialized which made our transfer to the Zuiderdam a little easier.
We checked out our hotel around 11:30 and asked the Hotel front desk to call us a taxi – which arrived in about 10 minutes. There were probably about 30 people waiting in the lobby to go to the ship so I was a little concerned that there may be a delay to get a taxi and was pleasantly surprised when one arrived so quickly.
Our taxi was a very nice Mercedes station wagon and the ride to Terminal 1 of the Ocean Quay took about 20 minutes and cost about $40 which we paid by credit card. Our USA credit card – chip and sign – worked fine with the driver used a small card reader to process the transaction which also printed out a receipt.
There wasn’t much of a crowd in the parking lot outside Terminal 1 when we arrived around noon, but we were surprised that we didn’t see any porters or luggage carts available to assist with bags. We didn’t investigate further to see if porters were available elsewhere because we only had to roll our luggage about 50 yards to a large conveyor belt where we dropped our luggage before heading off to security.
After we dropped our bags, we were handed one of the standard health questionnaires and walked another 50 yards to the security checkpoint – no line – and we cleared quickly and saw the rather short lines to check into the ship – I would guess 30 minutes for most guests and what turned out to be a 10 minute line for 4/5 stars and suite guests. Check-in was quick and four stars were allowed to go aboard the ship immediately. Other guests were assigned a group number and had a short wait until they actually boarded the ship.
The ships photographers were set up ready to take the embarkation photo’s right after you finished checking in but before you returned to the terminal waiting area until your group was called. Four stars didn’t have to return to the terminal waiting area and missed the opportunity to get an embarkation photo taken unless you spotted them over in the corner and sought them out like we did. We always enjoy taking these pictures and we were soon on the ship heading up to our cabin – 8109. One of the many nice things about Holland America is that the cabins are usually available by noon despite the fact that passengers leaving the ship are permitted to stay in their cabins until their scheduled debarkation time.
This is our first HAL cruise since last October and we have read a lot about the various changes that many people have reported and we were on the lookout for things that had changed. Our last HAL cruise was also on the Zuiderdam, so we will have a good opportunity to compare the service levels on the same ship after many of these changes have taken effect.
Once in our cabin we noticed the following:
- The old “On Location” guide is now called “When and Where” and has a much cleaner and less cluttered look. The document is larger and the font is bigger, with more white space, which makes for easier reading. Gone are the welcome letters from the Captain and they seem to use fewer words to describe various activities.
- There is now an Orange booklet that explains many of the available services, room service menus and other rules and safety information. There is an interesting graphic under the heading “What to Wear” (see it here) which shows a closet being filled with clothes appropriate to the activity. It starts off with “Daytime dress on board is casual” and shows a pair of shorts and a polo shirt hanging in the closet. Next up is “Most Evenings, Smart Casual Attire is appropriate…” and they add some trousers, a long sleeve collared shirt and a ladies top and skirt. The final squares show “Gala Nights” which adds a men’s suit and a long dress. No tuxedo in the closet! Seems pretty simple but alas it seems that formal nights are a distant memory. I still brought my tux and we will see how many others there are tomorrow night for our first of two gala nights.
- As many previous posters have noted, the room service menu now charges for Dive Inn Hamburgers and Pinnacle Grill steaks. I don’t mind the ala carte pricing as I figure our whole cruise cost as the sum of the various parts. Others prefer a true all-inclusive pricing model so this is a step in the wrong direction for them. I have a total cruise cost calculator on my blog which you can find here.
- A nice addition to the physical room is a USB charging port next to each bed lamp. There is now a second set of electrical outlets on the desk – to give you a total of 4 – two 115 Volt for North American plugs and two 220 volt outlets for continental European plugs. Remember to bring an adapter for the appropriate plugs and you will be able to use all the outlets. Keep in mind the voltage differences – most electronics are dual voltage capable but anything that heats up will not work with the incorrect voltage – but you aren’t supposed to bring appliances that heat up in the first place so that shouldn’t really matter. Hair dryers are provided.
The lifeboat drill was a pleasant surprise. The days of calling off names are gone as they use hand held scanners to register your attendance. They no longer even call off names for those missing. I asked what they do when some one misses the drill and an officer informed me that the front desk gets a list of no shows and the guests are tracked down and must attend a make up drill. The drill started at 3:15 PM and we were dismissed at 3:35. Very smooth.
Dinner service the first night can be a little rough as they spend time helping guests find their table and everyone is still getting used to the menu so ordering may be slower. However, tonight’s dinner was a joy – perfect service with impeccably timed courses. Prompt wine and beverage service and a wonderful presentation of delicious meals. Judy had the Flat Iron Steak and I had the Pork Chop – both delicious. We had a wonderful cheesecake for dessert and the coffee was piping hot – sometimes getting “hot” hot coffee can be a challenge – not tonight.
Afterwards we ran across Rick, the Pinnacle Grill Manager, who we got to know on the 2016 World Cruise, our last cruise on the Zuiderdam and now this Zuiderdam cruise.
One of our dining room waiters, Made, from last October is still here – 9 months into his 10 month contract. We were surprised that he remembered us so quickly – and as everyone who sails with Holland America more than once will always come across familiar faces on future cruises. As an aside, we were walking back to our cabin after the show, on Deck 8 but probably 50 yards from our room, we encountered a cabin steward in the hallway who inquired if we were from 8109. We hadn’t met our cabin steward yet, but he must have either looked up our picture or had met all the other guests in his area and figured that these new faces were the folks in 8109. The crew of every Holland America ship is really what sets this line apart from the others we have sailed.
Tonight’s show was a sampling of many of the musicians that will be playing around the ship including the Piano Bar Entertainer Jimmy, Adagio and HAL singers and dancers. Cruise Director Don was the MC and he also introduced the members of his On Location team. The show was fantastic – high energy and enthusiasm and we are looking forward to watching them perform over the next 12 days.
We turn back clocks tonight and are looking forward to a sea day tomorrow.
Copies of menus and “When and Where” are HEREThis entry was posted in Uncategorized