Embarking Holland America’s Zuiderdam in Vancouver

Read on as we board Holland America’s Zuiderdam and chart a course for Alaska! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to the start of another Live Voyage Report here on From the Deck Chair, as we sail aboard Holland America Line’s 2002-built Zuiderdam, bound for Alaska!

Normally, this is where I’d write a bit about my journey to the ship, except that getting to Zuiderdam at Vancouver’s Canada Place cruise ship terminal this afternoon was made super-easy due to the fact that I reside in the Metro Vancouver area.  With no flights to take, luggage to pick up, or transfers to catch, it looked like it could be the smoothest embarkation ever.

Not quite.

I love Canada Place, but it took well over an hour from the time I arrived at the terminal until the time I stepped onboard the ship due to a crush of passengers for two ships trying to squeeze through one little security and customs area. That’s nothing to do with Holland America, but it is worth noting for passengers intending to embark on a cruise departing from here aboard any line: we have a world-class cruise terminal, but you’ll need to pack your patience.

My well-appointed home away from home for the next week. Plenty of storage, and plenty of space! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

But it’s amazing how the stress from embarkation can melt away when you step aboard a dam-ship, as they’re affectionately known. Holland America’s Indonesian and Filipino crews are legendary for their kind and efficient service, and the crew aboard Zuiderdam is no exception. Every single one I passed on my hike up to my Category VA veranda stateroom stopped to ask if I needed help, had any questions, or to just simply say hello.

Pushing away from Canada Place just a few minutes before our scheduled 5pm departure time. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

My Veranda Stateroom is very well-appointed, with plenty of closet space and living space.  In fact, I kept discovering new drawers and hidden compartments to store my things in; you could take a World Cruise in this stateroom and likely still have room to spare.

Passing under the Lions Gate Bridge is a rite of passage for any Alaskan-bound departure from Vancouver.

After unpacking and the mandatory lifeboat drill, I made my way up to Deck 10 to take in the beautiful departure from Vancouver and indulge in my traditional sail-away drink.

Wide Open Spaces: Zuiderdam boasts plenty of open deck space, perfect on a day like today. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I realized I had forgotten how much I like this ship. Zuiderdam was the first of Holland America’s Vista-class ships, and as such is much bolder than her later sisters. But I love the bright, bold color palette, from the deep ocean blues used on the carpeting and walls of the midship elevator bank to the bright oranges and vibrant greens found in the Ocean Bar. Though I did notice my favorite “cowhide” seats in the Northern Lights nightclub have been re-upholstered at some point during the intervening years. Perhaps that design choice was a bit much…

The ms Zuiderdam – bold, bright and beautiful. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

While the Vista Dining room, Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto were all available for dinner this evening, it was the smoky aroma of grilling meats that lured me down to the Lido Pool for a sail away barbecue. With ribs, chicken, steak and a plethora of salads to go along with it, no one went away from this poolside party hungry, including yours truly!

Sail Away! A delicious barbecue near the Lido Pool was a great way to kick off our first evening onboard the Zuiderdam! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Of course, sweets weren’t neglected either… Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

There’s a good number of families and multi-generational families onboard my sailing, with the vast majority of passengers hailing from the United States and Canada.  And although this may only be the first day onboard, there’s definitely no shortage of things to do.  A few highlights from today’s Explorer, the daily program delivered to every stateroom:

  • 5:00pm – Back Deck Beats with DJ Reggie – Seaview Pool, Deck 9 aft
  • 5:00pm – Greenhouse Spa Raffle – Greenhouse Spa, Deck 9 forward
  • 5:00pm – Pinnacle Wine Sampling – Pinnacle Bar, Deck 2
  • 5:00pm – 7:30pm – Sail-a-way BBQ – Lido Pool, Deck 9
  • 7:00pm – Name That Film with DJ Reggie – Queen’s Lounge, Deck 2
  • 7:30pm – Creative Photo Editing with Techspert Trisha – Digital Workshop, Deck 2
  • 8:30pm – Face Up Blackjack – Casino, Deck 2
  • 9:00pm – Teen Welcome Aboard Meeting – Ages 13 to 17 – The Loft, Deck 10
  • 9:30pm – Showtime – Let Us Entertain You – Vista Lounge, Deck 2 forward
  • 10:30pm – Welcome Aboard Party with DJ Reggie – Northern Lights, Deck 2
  • 10:30pm- 50’s and 60’s Hits with Ashley & the HALcats – Queen’s Lounge, 2
  • 11:30pm – Club Hits with DJ Reggie – Northern Lights, Deck 2

Of course, that’s in addition to all the great, live music happening around the ship tonight. In fact, for a while, I couldn’t even sit down; not because there wasn’t a seat in one of the lounges, but because I found myself hovering between venues, eager to hear classic strings in the Explorer’s Lounge, the solo guitarist up in the Crow’s Nest, or the fantastic pianist playing in the Piano Bar.  And all of this occurs before the traditional “Late Night Snack” served up in the Lido from 10:30pm to 11:30pm.

Sailing away from Vancouver on a gorgeous summer day. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Relax in The Crow’s Nest, located all the way forward on Deck 10. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Another popular hit with families is the Screening Room, Zuiderdam’s dedicated cinema on Deck 3.  They’re showing The Hunger Games at 7:30 and 10:00pm tonight; let’s just say both were quite popular!

Before this trip, as on every trip, I did my customary research on the Zuiderdam, despite having sailed on her six years ago. But six years is a lot of time, and the ship has had a whole host of improvements since my last voyage, including a completely redesigned shopping arcade; the installation of a dedicated cinema; the new Pinnacle Grill Bar; and the removal of that old, creaky library to its new, more inviting location up in the Crow’s Nest as the Exploration’s Café.

Night falls aboard the Zuiderdam as we head north and make our way to the scenic Inside Passage. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

But I also came across some comments on message boards from passengers that stated Zuiderdam is in rough shape.  Most of these “threads”, as they’re called, disintegrate rapidly into petty name calling, bickering, and posturing to prove who’s the more savvy cruiser.  And it’s true, there are a few areas of the Zuiderdam that are belie her nearly 10-year old age. If you look really, really hard. But for every piece of carpet that might be a little frayed, there are a dozen areas that are pristine and spotless.

The Lido Pool Bar sparkles at sunset. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

My initial impressions this evening: Zuiderdam is every bit as comfortable as she was six years ago.

So to close this first installment of our Live Voyage Report form here onboard Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam as she sails toward Alaska, it only seems fitting to have a look at some of the public areas onboard the stunning and still beautiful Zuiderdam, exactly as they appear today.

After all, a picture is truly worth a thousand words!

Zuiderdam’s two-story Vista Show Lounge is home to nightly entertainment. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Zuiderdam’s beautiful, wraparound promenade deck and classic wooden deck chairs. Fantastic! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Zuiderdam’s aft elevator lobby. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Northern Lights Disco, located on Deck 2. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

A good-night greeting from Holland America Line; until tomorrow! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam returns tomorrow as we spend a day sailing the spectacular Inside Passage en-route to Juneau, Alaska!


14 Responses to Zuiderdam Live Voyage Report – Day 1

  1. alan bennett says:

    Thanks for taking us for the cruise. Someday I’ll make it to Alaska but for now I’ll tag along with you.

  2. Nicholas Sabalos, Jr., CDR, U.S. Navy (Ret.) says:

    What a glorious report! I feel like I’m right there aboard another fabulous “dam” ship!

    Have a wonderful cruise, Aaron!

  3. Kim says:

    Wonderful first day report! Beautiful pictures as always!

  4. Kara says:

    As always a wonderful first days report can’t wait to see the next six! Enjoy.

  5. Darlene says:

    Just got back from a 2 week on the Statendam to Alaska and back. We had no problem with embarkation timing. Love tnose “dam” ships! We were on the Zuiderdam in 2010. Great trip! Enjoy!

  6. Robert Newton says:

    Looking forward to your trip blog. I will be sailing on the Z Aug 25th! Love you passion for cruising. Tips please!!!! Not looking forward to bottleneck at customs. Menu recs would be much appreciated – fish any good?

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      So far, all the seafood has been excellent. Not a huge fish person myself – I prefer scallops, shrimp, etc – but the salmon is consistently well-prepared.

  7. Albert Wong says:

    Does anyone know if their is tennis on the ship?

  8. […] North And Southbound voyages between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska for Anchorage. Her sister, Zuiderdam, returns to Vancouver once again to reprise her popular roundtrip Inside Passage cruises calling on […]

  9. […] Click here to read our Live Voyage Report to Alaska from onboard Holland America’s Zuiderdam! […]

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