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Cruise Ship Information

MS Zuiderdam /ˈzaɪdərdæm/ is a Vista class cruise ship owned and operated by Holland America Line. It is the first of the Vista class ships, so named for the extensive use of glass in their superstructure. It is sister to Oosterdam, Zuiderdam, and Noordam. The names of the four ships translate to the four directions of the compass in Dutch.

The ship shares similar exterior dimensions with Carnival Cruise Lines' and Costa Cruises' Spirit Class. Cunard Line's Queen Victoria is an enlarged version of the same design, as is HAL's Signature Class.

As with all Vista-class ships, Zuiderdam is equipped with a diesel-electric power plant and an Azipod propulsion system, and eighty-five percent of her staterooms have ocean views and sixty-seven percent have verandahs. Her art collection carries a Venetian theme throughout the ship; the most dazzling features figures in the time of Carnival in Venice, created by Daniel Ogier.

Atmosphere on board

There's nothing wrong with a classic. And in an era where cruise lines keep adding a dizzying array of features (Skydiving! Bumper cars! Zip lines!), Holland America's Zuiderdam maintains the line's reputation for offering a satisfying and enjoyable, although not particularly surprising, experience at sea.

When Zuiderdam came out in 2002 as the first ship in the Vista class, HAL loyalists cringed at the bright colors and "gaudy" decor; 12 years later, it's hard to see what the fuss was about. The ship does feel a tad dated -- while the three-story atrium is anchored by a gorgeous Waterford seahorse chandelier, the space feels cramped and closed compared to newer vessels. We also noticed some places where the ship seemed worn (although this will be addressed when Zuiderdam goes into dry dock in April 2015).

And we'd never say that Zuiderdam is stuck in time. When HAL does add new features to the ship, such as its successful Dancing with the Stars at Sea program or its fabulous Dive In at the Terrace Grill burger shack, the result is excellent. We're sorry that we missed the B.B. King Blues Club, which returns to the ship in December 2014.

HAL passengers are slow to embrace change, we're told, and thus Zuiderdam contains the line's popular touchstones. The HALCats, Holland America's house band, draw a crowd wherever they play, the signature Pinnacle Grill is usually booked full for dinner and an Indonesian tea is held at least once a cruise. Normally, as we traverse a cruise ship, we hear our share of muttered complaints; on our Alaskan voyage, these grumblings seemed entirely absent.

That's probably because HAL excels on familiar itineraries, particularly when it comes to logistics. For example, our time on the ship was part of an Alaskan cruisetour, and passengers both embarked and disembarked in Skagway. Zuiderdam staff had the process down to a science; our room was ready when we boarded the ship and luggage arrived promptly. While we noticed that wait and bar staff weren't always as friendly, the cruise ship staff clearly have their act together for such an operation to run so smoothly. And it's that consistency that makes a cruise on Zuiderdam a fail-safe proposition.

Family with Kids/Teens

Although Holland America is not known as a line that specializes in children, the ship's Alaska itineraries attract quite a few kids. On a late August sailing, for example, there were 174 passengers under 17 onboard. This figure radically diminishes when the ship does its longer voyages in the Panama Canal and Caribbean.

Club HAL, the ship's facility for younger children, is located on Deck 10. Children are divided into two groups: ages 3 to 7 and tweens ages 8 to 12. The club is open from 9 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m., from 1 p.m.

to 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Late-night babysitting is available from 10 p.m. to midnight, at a cost of $5 per child, per hour.

Activities for the younger kids include coloring contests, story time and junior ranger programs. There's a sign-in and sign-out policy. The tweens take part in a "kids in the kitchen" event, part of HAL's Culinary Arts program. They are allowed a little more freedom and can sign themselves in and out during the day.

Also on Deck 10, the Loft is a clubhouse for teens ages 13 to 17, open 10 a.m. to late. Activities include scavenger hunts around the ship, video game contests, movie screenings, ice cream parties and dance competitions. Teens are not required to sign in or out, and can come and go when they please.

Past Passenger Programs

Explorations Cafe, which was added to this ship after it was built, occupies the starboard half of the top-of-ship Crow's Nest area and is truly the heartbeat of Zuiderdam. At any given time, from morning until late evening, passengers are clustered there, playing board games, putting puzzles together, reading, sipping specialty coffees (extra charge) while reclining in comfortable chairs, hovering over Internet terminals and, in Alaska, scanning the horizon for whales. This area is also the ship's library, and while there is a librarian, books may be checked out on the honor system.

Next to the Explorations Cafe -- there's no wall separating the two -- is the Crow's Nest bar, the ship's observations space. Activity from Explorations, particularly during the daytime, tends to spill over into this venue.

Otherwise, public rooms are primarily located in one two-deck grouping on Decks 2 and 3.

You can't miss the vast shopping area, which is an open concept with a series of counters selling a range of cruise line merchandise, from duty-free alcohol and cigarettes to logo wear and evening clothing. A small section is for necessities, such as toiletries and snack food. The many jewelry counters cover all tastes, from relatively upscale to trinkets and watches. For gems and fine jewelry, the luxury boutique Merabella occupies a separate space. The Digital Workshop for computer classes is next door.

A passenger services area is located on Deck 1 at the foot of the atrium. You'll find the purser's desk, shore excursions and future cruise booking. There's also a small bar.

There is no self-service laundry.

Fitness And Spa


Located on Deck 9 forward, the Greenhouse Spa, operated by industry stalwart Steiner, is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day except the last day of the cruise, when it closes at 9 p.m. Its salon offers manicures, pedicures, acrylic nails, lash extensions, teeth whitening, blowouts, updos and highlights.

Treatment rooms are scattered around the fitness area, which means you're walking to your massage through the same hallway used by people heading to the gym. Before your treatment, you can spend some time in the Relaxation Room, where there's an array of flavored water, tea and fruit.

The spa offers the usual variety of services, including massages, facials, waxing, acupuncture and body treatments. As of summer 2014, a 50-minute massage cost $119, about average. We enjoyed our hot stone massage, although we didn't appreciate the attempt to sell products at the end.

For an extra fee, you can relax in the Greenhouse Retreat. A pass, which costs $20 per day (cruise-length passes are also available), includes access to a thermal suite with heated loungers and two saunas, as well as a full hydrotherapy pool.


Just forward of the spa, Zuiderdam's fitness center is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and is equipped with treadmills, stationary bikes and weight equipment; it's a compact space, however. Stretching and abs classes are free. Classes with an extra $12 fee include yoga and indoor cycling; you can also buy a three-class pass for $30. Personal training is available for $85/hour.

Zuiderdam has two decks with tracks that circle the ship. On Deck 3, the classic Promenade is covered by lifeboats, meaning you can get your walk in, even on rainy days; we saw it frequently used. Three laps equal a mile. Once per sailing, Zuiderdam holds a noncompetitive 5K fundraising walk to donate money for cancer (the $20 minimum includes a T-shirt).

You can also walk around the entire ship on Deck 10, although you're exposed to the elements.

Food & Dining

Overall, while cuisine on Zuiderdam is about average, we appreciated that large sections of the Lido were open all day, allowing you to grab a variety of snacks at any time. Of particular note is Dive In at the Terrace Grill, HAL's poolside window serving made-to-order hot dogs, burgers and fries; we found the food here to be superior to the rest of the buffet. Other culinary standouts during our cruise were the lobster salad and Chateaubriand served during Le Cirque night in the Pinnacle Grill.

Free Dining

Vista Dining Room (Decks 2 and 3, aft): While Zuiderdam's main dining room has large windows in both the upper and lower sections, the rooms are separated by a ceiling (rather than the upper level looking down onto the lower level). This layout makes conversation easier as voices don't carry as far -- although you don't get that grand effect that's common to other MDRs.

Breakfast is served from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. The menu is fairly standard, with eggs, waffles and hot cereal available to order. Lunch is served only on certain days; check the program for hours. A full four-course meal, with appetizer, soup/salad, entree and dessert, is available if you want it; a typical lunch menu includes Thai curry chicken salad, hot and sour shrimp soup, baked macaroni and cheese or French dip as an entree.

An afternoon tea is served on the upper level from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., and is popular with Zuiderdam's international passengers. Holland America actually has several styles of tea: Indonesian, Royal Dutch and Cupcake, where several flavors of tiny cakes are served.

HAL has two styles of dining for dinner, traditional set tables at 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. in the upper section of the dining room and As You Wish dining between 5:15 p.m. and 9 p.m. downstairs. The menus, developed by HAL's Chef Rudi Sodamin, often draw dishes from the line's "culinary council" of famous chefs such as David Burke, Elizabeth Falkner and Charlie Trotter.

A typical dinner menu includes shrimp cocktail and duck pate on brioche for appetizers, Caribbean fish chowder, and salad of arugula and frisee for second course, and cracked pepper tenderloin with grilled shrimp, oven-roasted rack of lamb and maple-lacquered duck breast as entrees. Desserts include chocolate souffle, tiramisu, New York cheesecake or a no-sugar Black Forest cake.

For picky eaters, several dishes are available every night, including French onion soup, Caesar salad, grilled salmon, chicken breast and strip steak.

At least one vegetarian entree is offered at dinner. In addition, a complete menu with 22 vegetarian and vegan items is available on request; passengers are advised to order items the night before.

Lido Restaurant (Deck 9, midship): Zuiderdam's buffet is a typical cruise ship spread that offers plenty of choices, most hours of the day. It can be chaotic during prime hours, and lines do form at the more popular stations.

Continental breakfast is served from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Here you'll find fruit, muffins and pastries as well as some cheeses. The full breakfast is available from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and carries the usual variety of omelets, smoked salmon, breakfast meats, cereals, yogurt and fruit.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Choices include hot entrees such as baked chicken, a salad bar, Asian and Indian specialties (including sushi), pasta and a rather doughy pizza. The deli counter, with grab-and-go sandwiches, is open 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Lido serves casual dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.; usually some of the same options from the main dining room are available. Sample menus include appetizers like fruit ceviche or eggplant caponata; two types of soup; the 12-salad bar; entrees such as crab pad Thai, Caribbean jerk chicken, New York strip loin steak or curried vegetables. A range of desserts is available, including key lime pie, create-your-own sundaes, a sugar-free dessert, and cheese and crackers.

If you're looking for a late-night snack, Lido has a good variety of choices, including pizza, pasta, Asian dishes, sandwiches and sweets available from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Dive In at the Terrace Grill (Lido poolside, midship): Zuiderdam's newest addition features made-to-order burgers, hot dogs and fries. It's a delicious option that tastes fresher than the usual Lido fare. More importantly, our fries stayed perfectly crispy, even with the addition of "secret sauce" (a spicy remoulade). There's also a Mexican buffet set up in this area. Open 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Explorations Cafe (Deck 10, forward): Attached to the computer lounge and the library, Explorations Cafe has complimentary snacks and pastries; specialty coffee drinks will run you extra. Open 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Room Service: Room service is available 24 hours, with no fee. A full breakfast menu with standard choices, including eggs, omelets, cereal and meats, can be ordered the night before, up until 2 a.m. (ours came exactly within the time requested). From noon until 10 p.m., the menu includes smoked salmon, French onion soup, salads, seared salmon, penne pasta, a variety of sandwiches and desserts.

A limited menu is available any time, which includes a club sandwich, fruit salad, cheese plate and chocolate chip cookies. For passengers who feel seasick, the staff will deliver beef broth, broiled chicken breast, green apples,crackers and hot tea.

Fee Dining

Canaletto (Deck 9, midship); $10 per person: Carved out of the Lido buffet, Canaletto is the ship's Italian venue. Appetizers such as eggplant caponata pasta, and entrees such as veal piccata and roast pork saltimbocca, are served in a white tablecloth setting. We found the fare here underwhelming. Open for dinner, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Pinnacle Grill (Deck 2, midship); $10 per person for lunch, $29 per person for dinner: Zuiderdam's signature restaurant is inspired by the Pacific Northwest. The room makes a nice special occasion dinner, with beautiful Bvlgari plates and gorgeous furnishings. You can't go wrong with a steak here; we also enjoyed the lobster bisque, the cedar-planked halibut with shrimp scampi and perhaps the most delicious roasted vegetables that we've had at sea. Open for lunch, noon to 1 p.m.; and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Le Cirque at the Pinnacle Grill (Deck 2, midship); $49 per person ($89 with wine pairings): Offered once during the cruise, the Le Cirque dinner features classic menu items from Sirio Maccioni's famed New York restaurant. For the meal, the Pinnacle Grill exchanges its usual dishes for Le Cirque's signature orange monkey plates -- a nice whimsical touch. Some of the flavors here were genuinely surprising -- who knew that foie gras mousse would taste good with rhubarb or that huckleberries would add a delicious edge to butternut squash soup? The Chateaubriand is a standout, as is the lobster salad and chocolate souffle. Reservations recommended. Dinner is served 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.



The Vista Lounge Theater, on decks 2 and 3, serves as the main entertainment venue for Zuiderdam. The seats are red plush, with plenty of legroom. Most evenings, the ship has musical performances with its staff of singers and dancers, or a comedian. We found the entertainment about average for a cruise ship.

Daily Fun

During the day, Zuiderdam has the usual range of cruise ship activities, including trivia, bingo, art auctions, wine tastings, mixology sessions and port presentations. Certain events carry an extra fee.

Holland America has a partnership with Food + Wine, and Culinary Arts cooking demonstrations, recipe exchanges and tasting events are held most days in the Queens Lounge/Culinary Arts Center on Deck 3.

Holland America's Dancing with the Stars at Sea program imbues the typical cruise ship dance lessons with a competitive twist. After learning the waltz, the cha cha or the jive, the top passengers have a dance-off to compete in a performance on the last night. The "champion" on that final night is eligible to be selected to win a free spot on Holland America's Dancing with the Stars Champions cruise, where judges and celebrities from the show take part. It's all good fun; on our sailing, the dance floor was packed with wannabe dancers.

On Alaska voyages, a national park ranger joins the ship for a day of commentary and several lectures, which you can listen to in the public areas or in your cabin. There's also a polar dip in the Lido outdoor swimming pool and hot Dutch pea soup served to passengers viewing glaciers on the outer decks in Glacier Bay.

A small Screening Room on Deck 3 shows second-run movies five times a day.

At Night

The Culinary Arts Center on Deck 3 also doubles as the Queens Lounge, with a stage that's used for the HALCats, the ship's house band that plays contemporary and classic rock covers, as well as comedians. In late 2014, this space will be used for the B.B. King Blues Club.

The Casino, a smoking venue, anchors the ship's busiest entertainment area on Deck 2. You'll find slot machines, poker, blackjack, craps and roulette.

Once a cruise, Zuiderdam hosts a pub crawl that becomes quite rowdy, as the beverage manager leads up to 90 chanting passengers from bar to bar. Your $19.95 fee includes four drinks, and that's not including the beer you'll down during the chugging game held at the Lido Bar. If you've been wondering where the young passengers are on your cruise, you'll find them here; that being said, the oldest participant when we went was 83 years old.

Fellow Passengers

HAL has a reputation for attracting a more mature crowd, and our cruise on Zuiderdam confirmed this. On Zuiderdam on a late August Alaska cruise, the bulk of the 2,022 passengers were ages 51 to 74; there were 174 children under the age of 17. During longer cruises through the Panama Canal and Caribbean, the number of children drops to less than a dozen. The number of passengers who are repeat HAL customers also increases on these trips.

HAL draws a fair number of international passengers. On our cruise, Canadians outnumbered Americans, and there were sizable numbers of Australian, Chinese and British passengers. From within the U.S., most people we met seemed to be from the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest and the South; there were few East Coasters, a trend that that is typical across the line.


The ms Zuiderdam is the third ship to bear the name of the Dutch capital in Holland America Line's over 135-year history. Built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, the ms Zuiderdam blends the very latest in shipbuilding technology with the artistry, personalized touches and superior service that has made Holland America Line one of the highest-rated cruise lines in the world.

Our recommendation

Our crew works very hard to make sure that every aspect of your cruise meets the highest standards. This includes those crew members who serve you directly, such as our dining room wait staff and the stewards who tend to your stateroom each day. There are also many others that tend to your care that you may never meet, such as galley and laundry staff. To ensure that the efforts of all of our crew members are recognized and rewarded, a daily Hotel Service Charge of US$11.50 per passenger for staterooms & US$ 12.00 per person for suite guests is automatically charged to each guest's shipboard account. If our service exceeds or fails to meet your expectations, you are free to adjust this amount at the end of the cruise. The Hotel Service Charge is paid to Holland America Line crew members, and represents an important part of their total compensation package. A 15% service charge is automatically added to bar charges and dining room wine purchases. In terminals, airports, ports of call and on shore excursions, we suggest that you extend gratuities consistent with customary local practices.