ABOARD THE ZUIDERDAM A Caribbean voyage to the Panama Canal aboard the MS
Zuiderdam is an opportunity to take a look at one of Holland America Line’s freshest
refurbishings and renovations of one of their popular mid-size ships.
While the Zuiderdam is a Vista class ship carrying up to 1,900 passengers and a crew of 900,
it is similar in many respects to the 2,137 passenger Signature class MS Eurodam which I
wrote about previously ( www.AllThingsCruise.com/ hal-in-the-baltic-an-inland-sea-ofraiders-and-traders/). The most notable difference is one fewer specialty restaurant on
the Zuiderdam, the Asian-style Tamarind. Of special note, in my opinion, is that the
ship’s Dive In grill by the Lido Pool also has the same world’s greatest crispy French
Fries as on the Eurodam. Love those fries, HAL.
Originally launched in 2002, the Zuiderdam has been undergoing substantial interior
updating and additions since October of this year. Additional improvements, including
refurbished stairways, will continue through March. Exterior refurbishing by ten sailors
working discretely onboard is also expected to continue through March. The ship will then
transition to the Baltics for five cruises during the coming summer.
Passengers are greeted on the initial day of the cruise by a select crew wearing spiffy new
uniforms and caps. Except for the two doormen in the main dining room, these are worn
only the first day.
The theme of the renovations on the Zuiderdam is open spaces. This is best exemplified by
The Crow’s Nest on the forward Observation Deck 10. The ship’s library is no longer in a
separate room, but consists of a large kiosk (above, right) and two smaller book shelves in
opposite corners of the space. A panoramic vista from the top of the ship can be viewed from
various positions throughout the room while enjoying a drink from the onsite Explorations
An EXC Tours desk at the Explorations Center in The Crow’s Nest arranges shore excursions
and is equipped with tabletop terminal screens that passengers can use to research
prospective tours in all ports visited by HAL ships (above, left) or have directions pointed out
by a member of the tours staff on a screen that can range from world wide down to street
level (above, right).
The list of renovations and refurbished areas of the ship is extensive. Graphically colorful
carpeting, such as the sample above from the Mainstage theater, and seating, like the new
chairs in the Lido Market above, are prominent. Less obvious are the 102 fully upgraded
suites and new chairs and sofas in all staterooms. New signage and elevator boards, as well
as 42” flat-screen television monitors in staterooms and 50” TV monitors in suites, have been
added throughout the ship.
A most elegant and sophisticated addition to the ship is certainly the Gallery Bar with an
eclectic art collection of approximately 121 pieces in the bar’s comfy lounge.
Technical innovations have been made to the stage at the Mainstage. Sliding panels
containing one million LED lights are capable of making ongoing changes of the background
throughout performances to improve the visual experience. The Mainstage now anchors a
new concept called Music Row with attractions extending on Deck 2 from the Mainstage to
the well-established B.B. King Blues Club and the newly added Billboard Onboard and
Lincoln Center Stage, venues that will soon be extended to larger ships in the HAL fleet.
The Take Five piano quintet, outstanding classical musicians hailing from five different
European countries, perform chamber music in the new Lincoln Center Stage, an exclusive
partnership with the vaunted New York institution.
Billboard Onboard is also a new partnership venue. Fifty years of hits are performed by the
talented singing pianists Andy Burns and Emily Pirtle. Some sessions include tunes specially
requested by passengers and singing along is often encouraged.
A control room screen monitors the demonstrations of creative cooking with innovative
ingredients by certified chefs brought on board from the popular TV program America’s Test
Kitchen. The demonstrations are specifically created for Holland America Line and the
recipes are designed to be foolproof for the home cook.
The Pinnacle Grill on the Zuiderdam lacks some of the sophistication of its namesake on the
Eurodam. There are no Dutch masters paintings on the walls. The room is bright with an
understated elegance, however, and retains some of its original antique statuary while being
modernly upscale. The star of the Pinnacle is the cuisine of celebrity Master Chef Rudi
Sodamin. On a single evening during each cruise on all HAL ships Rudi’s Sel de Mer
(literally “salt of the sea”) braisserie of seafood is featured. Limoges porcelain plates with
Rudi’s own whimsical artistic designs inspired by the Cote D’Azur – the seafood painted on
mine looked real enough to eat – and his unique appetizer, Rudi’s Seafood Tower – three
stacked containers with octopus, shrimp cocktail, and crabmeat – were the stars of the show.
Yes, Oprah is everywhere. The presence of the biggest O on HAL cruise ships is most
noticeable in the O Shop carrying her books and products in The Shops area of Deck 3. It is
curated by the editors of O Magazine. Less obvious are the stretching classes, titled Let’s
Breathe, held by the mid-ship Lido Pool and led by Rob or another instructor from the
Fitness Center (look for the colorful O yoga mats at 7 AM). The O program also includes a
one-time session per cruise of the O Book Club in the Gallery Lounge. Apparel for sale in
the O Shop citing the phrase “Discover Life Exploring the World” is a philosophy with
which many ardent cruisers would likely agree.
Photos by Dennis Cox