Once you get through the check in at the Port of Vancouver, and have had your photo snapped by the ship photographers (or snuck past them!) it’s time to walk up the gangplank. Welcome aboard Holland America Zuiderdam! Several crew members are standing there to welcome us aboard. We were told that our cabins wouldn’t be ready for awhile and that we could proceed to the Lido Deck for lunch. On subsequent Holland America cruises, we’ve been told immediately upon boarding that our cabins are ready and we can go directly there to drop off our carry on baggage. Suitcases that were left with the porters won’t show up until later in the afternoon.
We were directed to a glass elevator operated by a crew member and up we went to Deck 9, the Lido Deck. This was the only time on the Zuiderdam that crew members operated an elevator. The rest of the cruise it was self serve. This is part of their welcome aboard process to ensure all guests are going directly to the Lido for lunch.
And who remembers the old TV show, The Love Boat? Crew members and passengers were always talking about the Lido Deck. It doesn’t matter if you sail Princess or Holland America or any other line, they will always have a Lido Deck. This is the deck where you will find at least one swimming pool (some cruise ships have both an indoor and outdoor pool on the Lido Deck) and the buffet style restaurant. There might be other passenger facilities on the Lido Deck such as the spa or exercise room.
On the Zuiderdam, the restaurant area is towards the back of the ship, Aft, on the Lido Deck. There are several food stations on both the starboard and port side of the boat such as the deli where the crew will make a sandwich of your liking, a station serving several types of hot entrees, an Italian section serving pizzas and pastas, an Oriental section serving sushi and Chinese food, and of course the dessert station with cookies, cakes, pastries, and ice cream.
There is also a salad bar that is typical of most restaurant salad bars. Greens and then tomotoes or other vegatables to put on top. Choose your own dressing. And cottage cheese and fruit.
In the same area as the salad bar is the coffee area. Here you find coffee and tea that you prepare yourself. Just about every kind of flavored tea bag you need and a hot water dispenser. There is also water, iced tea, and lemonade or some other fruit punch. The iced tea is of the unsweetened, brewed variety. Sugar or sugar substitutes are available. Likewise cream for coffee. The coffee station is self serve and is available twenty-four hours.
What to choose to eat now becomes the question. Once around the room and I decided to start with a sandwich at the deli, but there are many hot entrées available.
When we finished eating it was time to explore. First stop was out the back door of the Lido restaurant where the outdoor swimming pool, hot tubs, and deck chairs are set up. Then we climbed up one flight of steps to the Observation Deck, deck 10. This deck is mostly a walking deck that extends the full length of the ship. The children’s area and the video arcade are midship. Heading more forward are deck chairs and at the front of the ship is the Crow’s Nest Lounge. The Crow’s Nest has a library with books or videos that can be checked out. There is also a Starbuck’s type gourmet coffee place. And here you pay for the coffee. Show your room card for all onboard expenses. About three bucks seemed to be the average price, so probably cheaper than Starbuck’s. There are comfortable chairs up here and its a good place to sit and enjoy the view. Hint: for free coffee, go back to the coffee station on the Lido Deck restaurant.
Up one more deck is the Sports Deck. The only areas available are at the bow (front) and aft. At the front are deck chairs and aft has a basketball court.
We returned to the Lido Deck to take a look at the spa and exercise room. There was a contest for health club services and we entered and returned later for the draw, but no luck. We didn’t win a thing.
In the midship area is an indoor swimming pool with a retractable roof. It was a beautiful sunny day in Vancouver and the roof was wide open, the only time it would be on the cruise. Alaska cruising doesn’t usually mean hot, sunny weather! This pool was colder than the outside pool. Brrr. What’s up with that? This area has deck chairs, and tables and chairs set up near the windows. This was my favorite place to eat breakfast and often stayed here during the day reading a book and enjoying the view.
Also in this indoor pool area is another eating spot, the Terrace Grill serving gourmet burgers and hot dogs. (Holland America now calls this the Dive-In.) You have to give your order to the cook who is behind the window. We’d only finished lunch an hour or so earlier but this is a cruise after all, just keep on eating. My now-ex ordered a burger and I ordered a veggie burger. They come with fries. Really good, if you’ll excuse the expression coming from a vegetarian, meaty fries. In this area is a self serve section with Mexican style food: tacos, beans, cheese, etc.
We sat at one of the tables and took some time to read over the cruise literature given to us at check in. Around 2pm there was an announcement over the speakers that the cabins were ready and we could go to our rooms so we headed downstairs. And here it was easier to walk down 3 flights than wait for an elevator. Most of the elevators were closed off by the crew so that they could transport suitcases to each floor. We walked past the elevator area where all the luggage was piled and I saw my red suitcase waiting for a room steward to bring it. We arrived at our cabin and checked things out. We had an inside cabin and Holland America does a marvelous job of storage space. To the left are 3 closets and one closet has the room safe for valuables. You choose your own code when putting items inside and locking it. The bathroom has a sink, toilet, and shower. The shower area also has a clothesline that can be stretched across if anyone is washing any dainties or hanging up a swimsuit to dry. Beneath the bed is enough space to store suitcases and two drawers to store stuff. Each side of the bed has a night stand with a couple of drawers.
Seeing as how I’d spotted my suitcase on the way in, I went back to get it so I could start unpacking. Luckily, our other suitcase and backpack was right next to it. One small suitcase was not there. We grabbed the three and returned to the room to unpack. Self serve. Normally the cabin stewards would bring your luggage to your cabin.
We knew there was going to be a lifeboat drill at 4pm because the captain had announced it on the speaker, and when we turned on the TV set in our room, there were instructions.
That’s the other thing. TV set in the rooms with several channels. Some of them catching the local TV channels of whatever port we were close to. I believe CNN was a station that was on. There were channels that were specific to the Zuiderdam, finding your way around the ship and the amenities. There was a channel that showed a camera from the bow of the ship and another channel showing the camera view from the aft. There was a channel that played movies. But we didn’t think we’d be spending all that much time in the cabin watching TV.
We went back to the deck for another walk around the ship and returned to the cabin in advance of the firedrill and got into our lifejackets. (Note that present day, Holland America does not require passengers to bring lifejackets to the drill.) When the sirens sounded we went down to Deck 3 where the lifeboats were, and our station was lifeboat 16.
The poor lifeboat manager taking roll call had competition from a very noisy piece of machinery right beside us from the port. Finally, someone brought him over a bullhorn. This lasted about 15 minutes and people up on Canada Place were watching this process.
Afterwards we headed up to the Lido Deck aft pool deck where a sail away party was to begin at 5pm. Ella and the Hal Cats were set up for musical pleasure as we sailed away under the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Five o’clock came and the band started but the Zuiderdam was still tied to the port. We watched the Sapphire Princess sail away. Our captain came over the speakers and announced we were waiting for an ambulance to transport off a passenger. Not a very good start to someone’s vacation.
The Serenade of the Seas, another cruise ship from Vancouver’s other terminal also headed out. The ambulance finally arrived at 5:30, and the Zuiderdam untied at 5:45. The Hal Cats finished their set at 6pm and we’d barely pulled away from the port.
Beautiful weather for cruising and we enjoyed the view of the underside of the Lion’s Gate Bridge.