We had 3 choices for this itinerary from Canada to Ft. Lauderdale (inc. Zaandam from Montreal & either Zuiderdam or RCL AOS from QC), but we chose the Zuiderdam because of its sail date that would allow us to spend my wife's birthday with our friends in Quebec City. We are 3 star Mariners on HAL and will probably stop there and not choose HAL again when compared to the significantly better amenities for loyal cruisers we get on RCL and Celebrity for even fewer cruises.
Positives: The age of the Zuiderdam did not detract from the significant improvements made by the last upgrades in the Lido and public areas which really impressed us since we typically include older ships in our many cruise itineraries. In the many reviews of this ship, there are definite differences in ratings for the same items with major differences in reviews of food and entertainment most evident. Crew in Lido, DR and cabins have ALWAYS rated a 10 for us in service on all of the HAL ships we have been on and this cruise was no exception. The service by the server crew in the LIDO that irritates some cruisers has apparently been very successful in decreasing food illnesses caused by careless cruisers and no incidents happened on our ship that we heard about. Food in the LIDO and main DR was good to very good on some nights but nothing to rave about on a typical evening where escargot and shrimp cocktails are no longer standard appetizers except on the 2 "gala" nights on our 11 day cruise. This time we did not participate in the computer classes although those have been very good in past cruises where we did sit in; these typically rate very high and deserve it along with the string musical group that add elegance to the evenings on the ship.
Dowsides/Negatives: Walking into our Verandah cabin on Deck 6 gave us an initial shock on how small it looked because of the very low amount of free floor space compared to what we expected from our cruises on Eurodam/Nieuw Amsterdam class ships or even on older HAL ships. Worse: there are ONLY 2 small drawers in each of the tiny night stands in the entire cabin, NONE in the desk and a hidden one you need to discover under the foot of the bed but that requires you to bend down to the floor so might be best for things you might need only once or twice during a long cruise. The ONLY shelves in the cabin are located in one of the 3 closet spaces right by the cabin door and on the side of the desk already filled with glasses and a hair dryer......a small shelf under the vanity is the only other shelf in the entire cabin. So, when you read comments about "lack of storage", this ship was the first in our experience on other HAL ship classes or 3 other cruise lines that had the lowest possible amount of storage.
Quiet cabin located on opposite wall of aft elevators: very convenient to Lido and DR but a hike to theater in evenings, All verandahs on Deck 6 are not obstructed and have great visibility