Holland America Line (HAL) took over the MS Zuiderdam from the Fincantieri shipyards in late autumn 2002. She was the first of eleven “Vista Class ships” that Carnival Corporation had built for several of its cruise brands. When she entered service, she was the largest cruise ship that HAL owned up to that time. Over the next few years, however, the company put significantly larger ships into service.
With her 285 meter long, navy blue hull, the white deck painting and the two striking white funnels with the shipping company logo, the MS Zuiderdam looks very elegant. The public spaces are equipped to a high standard and lack cheap effects.
MS Zuiderdam in the Port de Québec
In principle, MS Koningsdam is aimed at guests who value the premium segment. In addition to the first-class facilities, passengers enjoy very good gastronomic services in various restaurants, bars and lounges, exemplary service and a variety of entertainment options.
We test the ship on an eleven-day cruise between the Canadian city of Quebec and Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
Cabins & Suites
The ship has 958 cabins and suites. With double occupancy, this corresponds to 1964 guest beds. The cabins and suites are divided into four main categories and several subcategories. The range of options ranges from interior cabins with 14 square meters of space to the Pinnacle Suite with almost 107 square meters of space.
There are sea view cabins with completely blocked views, those with limited sea views and “normal” sea view cabins. The cabin size varies between 16 to 17 square meters. The veranda cabins are - depending on the location - 20 to 33 square meters in size (including the veranda). Suites are differentiated between Signature Suites (35 to 36 square meters including veranda), Neptune Suites (46 to 66 square meters including veranda) and Pinnacle Suites (46 to 66 square meters including veranda).
The cabins, spread over eleven guest decks, meet high standards. Light-colored wall coverings, mirrored walls that partly extend over the width of the beds, and light brown carpets create a homely atmosphere.
The cabins are sufficiently large. The beds are high and comfortable. The modern technical equipment with flat screen TV and film selection (movies on demand) stands up to comparisons with competitors. Furthermore, the sockets fit American and European plug systems.
The bathrooms are small and, despite a major renovation in 2017, the furnishings are the best indication of the MS Zuiderdam's true age.
In addition to the standard cabins, there are special spa cabins, family sea view cabins for several people with two heads, outside cabins for solo travelers and disabled cabins.
As befits a premium brand, cabin service takes place twice daily. The cabin stewards work in pairs. They are friendly, polite, well trained and fulfill the wishes of their guests with a lot of commitment.
Eating and Drinking
The five restaurants are divided into those that are included in the travel price and those that are subject to an additional charge.
The included restaurants include the two-story main restaurant The Dining Room aft on decks 2 and 3, the buffet restaurant Lido Market (deck 9) and the Burger Station Dive In, also on the ninth deck.
MS Zuiderdam - Dive In
Restaurants subject to surcharge
Restaurants that require additional payment include the Italian restaurant Canaletto adjacent to the Lido Market and the steakhouse Pinnacle Grill.
Variety and quality of the dishes
Whatever we choose, breakfast in the dining room, lunch in the Lido Market or dinner in one of the specialty restaurants, the on-board kitchen pampers us with a wide selection of dishes of the best quality. Even at Burger Station Dive In, the delicacies, including the French fries, are prepared individually.
In all full-service restaurants, guests can expect service that is dedicated and focused on their well-being. However, during our trip there are often waiting times when taking orders, delays in the menu or in the drinks service. These weaknesses diminish the culinary experiences. – We also think that the clearing service in the buffet area could be improved.
Open dining option
There are fixed dining times with fixed seating arrangements in the Main Dining Room. Regardless, HAL offers guests a flexible service in the main restaurant, the “open dining option”.
Bars & Lounges
We are completely satisfied with the range of bars and lounges on offer. No bar or lounge is the same as any other. We particularly like the Crow's Nest Bar, the Ocean Bar located at the atrium, the Gallery Bar next to the Casino and the Pinnacle Bar. Suite guests can keep to themselves in the comfortable Neptune Lounge on Deck 7.
Sport & Wellness
The sports studio, located in the front of the Lido Deck (Deck 9) and equipped with contemporary technology, appears to be sufficiently dimensioned.
MS Zuiderdam - Gym
Bathers use the Lido Pool in the middle of the ship and the Sea View Pool in the stern area. Both swimming pools are on the 9th deck. There are also several whirlpools. The glass roof over the Lido Pool is opened when temperatures are warm and the weather is good.
There is plenty of space for deck loungers not only in the pool area but also on the two higher decks. Loungers with shaded areas are rare. However, the ship's guests can find it on the 500 meter long promenade on the third deck.
MS Zuiderdam - promenade deck
Other sports options: The jogging track is short. There are also two ping pong tables, a shuffleboard court and a cage for ball sports on the 11th deck.
The Greenhouse SPA & Salon is connected to the fitness center on the Lido Deck. The wellness area has treatment rooms for a variety of treatments. Saunas and the hydro (indoor) pool complete the wellness offerings.
MS Zuiderdam - The Greenhouse SPA
The SPA offers also include the retreat cabanas on deck 11. These are available to ship guests as private retreats for a fee.
Sophisticated entertainment is a given on Holland America Line ships. On the MS Zuiderdam, an ambitious program ensures the entertainment of almost 2.000 ship guests throughout the day. We introduce some venues:
The best place for entertainment is the two-deck World Stage. Evening entertainment includes dance and comedy shows and more. In the afternoons, the World Stage transforms into a film theater or lecture hall.
MS Zuiderdam - World Stage
Step One Dance Company
During the course of our trip we see several stage shows by the six-member dance troupe of the Step One Dance Company. The ensemble previously impressed us at the Nieuw Statendam. The dancers act perfectly, go at a high tempo in certain passages and obviously have a lot of fun doing what they do. It's not just the skill of the dance group that makes the performances so appealing, but rather the format supported by video technology. Especially on the larger ships of the Pinnacle class, such as the Nieuw Statendam or the Koningsdam, the dance troupe's performances in front of their 270° video screens are a very special experience thanks to the video presentation.
The younger ones and members of the HAL fleet, such as the Koningsdam or the Nieuw Statendam, shine with the Music Walk. On the smaller MS Zuiderdam, the musical offering is somewhat limited. And yet music also plays a significant role on this ship. A wide variety of musical offerings are offered to guests in the evenings. Venues are:
Two pianists and singers (in our case Emma and Zac) sitting opposite each other and interacting brilliantly present the chart breakers and popular hits of the last 50 or 60 years to the guests with a lot of charm.
MS Zuiderdam - Billboard Onboard
Rolling Stone Lounge
In the Rolling Stone Lounge, a multi-headed band warms up guests in the evenings with blues, jazz and rock music. The lounge is also used for quiz shows or theme parties. Especially on days at sea, the cruise director meets with senior officers for a breakfast chat. Coffee and pastries are served to visitors to these special events.
MS Zuiderdam - Orange Party at the Rolling Stone Lounge
Third Avenue West
The three performers from Third Avenue West produce quieter and more sophisticated music. A pianist as well as cello and bass play mainly classical pieces of music.
Other program items include bridge events, descriptions of the destination ports, bingo afternoons, meetings of solo travelers, painting courses and much more.
An American cruise ship is unimaginable without a casino. The casino with table and slot games is located at the front of the ship on the second deck and is very busy.
Some of the art objects on board are also noteworthy. Ship guests who enjoy old paintings and new paintings or sculptures will get their money's worth on board the MS Zuiderdam.
General information about MS Zuiderdam
Length 285 meters, width 32 meters
1.964 with double occupancy
Fincantieri, Marghera / Venice
English; German-speaking contacts are available.
Currency on board
Current position MS Zuiderdam
Conclusion and evaluation of the ship
Although the MS Zuiderdam has been in use for more than 20 years, she is in almost perfect condition. We rarely see signs of aging. In all departments of the ship, passengers find out what premium quality is all about. The facilities, the gastronomic offerings, the service and the entertainment meet high standards. The ship is a good fit for a shipping company that is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
What is striking, however, is the age structure of the passengers. Most of the fellow travelers are of advanced age and many of the fellow travelers have limited mobility. However, the company offers these guests a variety of support.
The MS Zuiderdam is not a “funship”: water slides, climbing walls and similar facilities are completely missing. Although there is a children's area, in our opinion it is not a family ship. MS Zuiderdam is a ship for people of advanced age who want to see something of the world.
We recommend the ship to open-minded German cruise guests who would like to get to know and enjoy international, high-quality cruise offers instead of their usual cult brands AIDA Cruises and TUI Cruises, and who are not afraid of contact with fellow travelers, especially English-speaking ones.