Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam :: still hitting a few good notes.

Holland America Line are renowned for sophistication, casual elegance, artistic emphasis, and quality service. We had high expectations when we visited Zuiderdam one of their older ships but recently refurbished. We felt though that there was a bit of a split personality. The older ship was saying rather strongly “I’m still here” while the newer features were also calling for attention.

If you’d like to see more about forthcoming voyages for Holland America Line ships, you can see lots of details on our main website www.gocruise.co.uk/sarah-and-bjarne

We found Zuiderdam quite dark overall, partly the panellings and general brownish/beige colour palate that seemed to predominate, partly (as this is an older ship) the fact that venues need to compete for window light more as it is more restricted than on some modern ships. We presumed that the colours and materials were supposed to enhance the sense of quality and style, but now and again we just wanted a bit more colour and light to push through.

The cabins seemed on the smaller side, but you couldn’t fault them for missing anything out. They were generally smart and well presented, though any recent refurbishment has clearly not concentrated on the cabins as one or two slightly worn edges do present themselves.

The refurbishment of Zuiderdam has clearly concentrated on the public areas to good effect. Our previous visit to a Holland America ship was to the recent launch Konningsdam which was stunning. We could clearly see some of the standout features on Konningsdam were present on Zuiderdam in a slightly smaller scale. The music theme comes through with the Music Walk incorporating the Lincoln Centre Stage, the Billboard Onboard area, and the BB King’s Blues Club. These will bring the ship alive in the evening, with quality performances in Lincoln Centre Stage, duelling piano karaoke style entertainment in Billboard Onboard, and lively free flowing jazz and blues with plenty of dancing in BB King’s Blues Club.

During the day the BB King’s Blues Club area becomes America’s Test Kitchen – apparently one of the best known US TV food programmes which uses experts from around the world to bring their recipe ideas together for a particular dish. They then deconstruct their recipes, before coming together and devising a new recipe to be the best from all the possible elements for said dish. They also apparently use fun ideas to highlight the best of cooking techniques, ingredients, and cooking accessories. So we’re not fully sure what goes on in this America’s Test Kitchen on board, but it does seem like there’s potential for fun, entertainment, and some good cooking demonstration and recipe instruction.

We also really liked the pool area with the retractable roof – classy, spacious, light, and with some enchanting touches like the parent and child polar bear statue, and the fish bar stools. The spa and gym seemed well equipped and pleasant spaces.

The Gallery Bar tucked away in the middle of the ship looked like an inviting, comfortable, spacious, and attractive place to have an early or late evening drink surrounded by a range of artwork (on which Holland America Line prides itself).

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Not the most obvious cruise line for travelling with children, nevertheless Holland America has a kids club (Club HAL) which will keep children entertained in a more educational way (overall, as we think there is some sheer fun too) than some of the more front-of-mind child friendly lines.

Cuisine and destinations are some of Holland America’s real plus points. The food we experienced was well presented, expertly cooked and very satisfying. A modern take on Prawn Cocktail let the flavours come to the fore whilst being accompanied by a generous fresh salad with subtle sauce. The beef was so easy to eat, and delivered exactly as ordered, that it was consumed very easily with every mouthful enjoyed supremely. A strong chocolate tart was somehow so we’ll made that it didn’t become challenging to finish with pastry that was so easy to cut through and drops of cream and meringue pieces that complemented the chocolate perfectly.

 

The ‘exc’ programme for excursions has led to a refreshingly imaginative library and destination exploration lounge on Zuiderdam – with pleasant seating areas looking out to sea and some large interactive tabletop screens where you can explore port maps and local features of interest and places to visit. You can even highlight what specifically interests you, placing them as bespoke landmark points on a base map which you can the print and carry with you as you explore the destinations (so that your map is not cluttered with the things that you don’t want to see, but only the things you do) .

Zuiderdam is one of 4 vista series ships, named after the 4 points of the compass. So Nordam, Westerdam, and Oesterdam will have a similar feel.

 

There’s plenty on board to experience, and some lovely places to spend time. Holland America Line have both classic and adventurous itineraries, and if you’d like to see more about forthcoming voyages, you can see lots of details on our main website www.gocruise.co.uk/sarah-and-bjarne

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