One Last Day aboard the elegant Zuiderdam

One final day aboard the beautiful Zuiderdam, accentuate by the continuing gorgeous weather. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Although Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam is spending her Friday sailing the scenic Inside Passage under spectacularly sunny skies after a morning punctuated by heavy fog, it sadly marks my last full day onboard this beautiful ship.  And I say beautiful because she is exactly that.

Foggy wake. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Zuiderdam is bright, vibrant and decidedly unique. Shown here is the always-popular Piano Bar on Deck 2 forward. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

In many ways, Zuiderdam is my favorite ship of Holland America’s initial, four-ship Vista Class vessels that also include Oosterdam (2003), Westerdam (2004) and Noordam (2006). She doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the fleet. She’s bright and bold where Westerdam is stark and vaguely Scandinavian. She’s daring and different where Oosterdam seemed to get that perfect mix of décor and color right. But she’s my favorite Vista-class ship because of how stunningly her interior design works at night; during the day, she can sometimes be the ugly duckling.

At night, she is a true princess.

Numerous works of art – both modern and classic – can be found onboard, like the Waterford Crystal seahorse that adorns the Atrium aboard the Zuiderdam. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Like every Holland America Line ship, Zuiderdam boasts a multi-million dollar onboard art collection, not to mention a veritable shipload of art-like features and fabrications that are the brainchild of Frans Dingemans and his team at VFD Architects, the Netherlands-based design firm that has had a significant hand in the general arrangement and layout of nearly every Holland America Line vessel.

Dutch firm VFD has been intimately involved with the interior design of every modern Holland America cruise ship. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Some pieces, like the massive sculpture of a coin face on the Deck 10 landing of the forward staircase, are bizarre yet stunning at the same time. Other pieces are more subtle yet no less effective, including the spectacular seahorse that anchors Zuiderdam’s atrium, crafted by Waterford Crystal in Ireland.

Carved firgureheads on the armrests of chairs in Zuiderdam’s Aft Elevator Lobby, Deck 7. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Each elevator lobby and landing also features its own distinctive seats, all of which display vaguely Mayan themes. But seafaring and European history plays heavily onboard the Zuiderdam; appropriate, perhaps, given her global heritage: she was built at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyards, designed by craftsmen from around the world, and constructed for a cruise line based in Seattle but originally founded in the Netherlands.

What are these intricate artworks in the aft stairwells aboard Zuiderdam? I can’t tell you – you’ll have to download the artwork podcast produced by Holland America to find out! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Best of all, you can download an iPod art tour of Holland America’s ships from their website, or rent a pre-loaded iPod while onboard the ship. I downloaded my own podcast of the Zuiderdam before leaving home and spent the morning wandering the ship, listening to the tour. Like I discovered, you may be surprised just how many diverse works of art are onboard!

Passengers attend the disembarkation talk and crew farewell this morning in the Vista Lounge. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Although this may be our last full day onboard the Zuiderdam, there’s still no shortage of things to do.  Hot Chocolate is being served on the outer decks from 10:00am to 3:00pm; there’s an Alaskan Salmon & Clam Bake poolside on Lido Deck 9 from 11:30am to 1:30pm; and even an Indonesian Tea Ceremony in the Vista Dining Room on Deck 3 from 3:00pm to 4:00pm, featuring the teas of Indonesia accompanied by cakes, sandwiches, and traditional Indonesian garments and sounds.

Taking in “Zuiderdam Celebrity Cook-off” in the Queen’s Lounge / Culinary Arts Centre on Deck 2. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Of course, the last day always represents one last chance to do all the other little things you’ve enjoyed throughout the voyage; things that may not be on the daily program. For me, that consisted of taking six laps – or two miles – around the promenade deck this morning, followed by some reading in one of the teak deckchairs.

The Greenhouse Spa’s Hydrotherapy Pool on Deck 9 has been a popular location this week; the closest I was able to get was this shot taken through the door! Should have bought a package… Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Greenhouse Spa was also a popular destination, with its soothing hydrotherapy pool and heated thermal loungers. I’ve been attempting to get in here all week to snap some photos, but it’s just been too busy!

Also noteworthy: I asked Emily, the onboard Librarian in the Exploration’s Cafe, how many books they had: well over 3,000 individual titles and growing.  I should have left my books at home!

Glacier Bay alone should be enough to convince prospective cruisers to take the plunge and sail to Alaska, and few lines offer more trips to this UNESCO World Heritage site than Holland America. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

As the sun set for the last time on Zuiderdam’s Voyage 444 to Alaska, I feel very fortunate. I suspect most other guests feel the same way; there was a steady stream of passengers visiting the Future Cruise Consultant at her desk on Deck 1, ostensibly taking advantage of the low $100 per person deposit and onboard credit offer.

Dinner at Zuiderdam’s Pinnacle Grill seemed appropriate – and once again, I left full and completely satisfied! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

And where did I go for dinner tonight? Despite having tons of choice – the Lido, the Vista Dining Room, the Terrace Grill, Canaletto – I went back to the Pinnacle Grill. It just seemed fitting for this last night onboard, and even though I dined solo, I felt comfortable and warmly welcomed by everyone there. I cannot recommend this venue highly enough.

The sun sets on my wonderful voyage aboard Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

And the weather – always a wild card in Alaska – has been phenomenal. But please don’t take this as being typical; this week’s abundance of sun and high temperatures is very out of the ordinary!

If you’ve never sailed to Alaska because it’s too far, or too cold, or too wet, I urge you to reconsider. Alaska is a land of superlatives; a land that was built largely on the hopes and dreams of people like you and I.  There’s a reason that poetry by Robert Service still resonates to this day, and it is for that same reason that Alaskan cruises have weathered recessions, head taxes, strict environmental regulations and changing times for decades to remain as popular as the Caribbean, but as important and influential as a voyage to Europe or South America.

Passengers flocked to the outer decks to take in sunset on what the crew were calling, “the best run of the season.” Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

In September 2006, I sailed aboard the Zuiderdam to Alaska. Unlike my voyage this past week, our voyage that late September was plagued with unseasonably cold temperatures and wet conditions, shuttered shops that would herald the coming of the 2008 recession, and rough seas.

But like that sailing nearly six years ago, my past week on the Zuiderdam reminded me just how much I enjoy sailing with Holland America. The world, and even aspects of HAL’s onboard program may have changed since then, but the inherent beauty of their ships and their dedicated, friendly, unwavering crews have not.  Best of all in my opinion, more families and young cruisers are discovering Holland America, a line that has traditionally struggled to diversify amid a somewhat ageing clientele.

Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I have been around the world, particularly this past year. I’ve walked the streets of Vienna and Amsterdam, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and even expedition cruised around the British Isles. Yet Alaska still retains its ability to amaze and impress me, and so too has Holland America Line and the ms Zuiderdam.

Young or old, the Zuiderdam and her crew have made a lasting impression on everyone onboard. Next year, she returns to Alaska to perform this spectacular voyage sailing roundtrip from Vancouver, along with her smaller fleetmates Volendam, Statendam, and for the first time, Amsterdam.

It’s a marked increase in ships sailing the roundtrip Vancouver itinerary over 2012, and one I couldn’t be happier to see. Because it means countless cruisers will discover Holland America Line’s Alaska.

The setting sun in the Inside Passage glows red on Zuiderdam’s distinctive twin funnels. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam has sadly drawn to a close. But be sure to tune in on Monday, August 11 for a complete recap of our time aboard this spectacular ship in Alaska!


6 Responses to Zuiderdam Live Voyage Report – Day 7

  1. Kim says:

    Holland America really does Aladka Well! I cannot wait to do it against someday! Cannot wait to see more pictures once your home and just reading today’s post has cooled me down for these warm temperatures at home.

  2. Susan Hall says:

    I’m sad to see your cruise end and feel as if I was onboard anticipating disembarkation. Luckily, I have the week ahead to enjoy Vancouver and sail off on my own Alaskan holiday aboard her. Your silhouetted sunsets are wonderful! Thanks again for sharing your wonderful blog. Going now to book our Pinnacle dinner!

  3. Karen says:

    Thank you for your live voyage report! We will be onboard a week from today. Your pictures are stunning and we can only hope to have the same gorgeous weather as you’ve experienced. Thanks for bringing us all along!

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

    Thank you, Aaron! It’s been a terrific journey!

  5. Jim says:

    Brings back fond memories of our cruise to Alaska on the Statendam in 1995.

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