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CRUISE VIEWS

New ship takes aim at more youthful market

Holland America's spacious new Zuiderdam has a deck of suites and deluxe cabins in a bright, upbeat atmosphere.

June 01, 2003|Harry Basch | Special to The Times

Holland America Line is celebrating its 130th anniversary by adding the Zuiderdam, a new Vista-class ship, to its fleet.

If the Zuiderdam is any indication, Holland America's vista seems bright, colorful and aiming for the fountain of youth. The line is known for its traditional cruise style and decor, with accents on antiques and subdued shades. But the Zuiderdam brings a more vibrant, youthful look to Holland America.

The line is using more than decor to entice younger passengers. The 85,000-ton Zuiderdam carries only 1,848 passengers, while similarly sized ships hold close to 2,200. There's more space for passengers to move about, and the line has added a deck of suites and deluxe cabins and expanded the public rooms.

Holland America regulars will recognize some familiar names -- the Crow's Nest, Half Moon Bar, Explorer's Lounge -- but they now are in bright hues of aqua, gold, red and orange. The result is an upbeat but not gaudy atmosphere.

To accommodate families, an expanded Club Hal program has KidZone for cruisers 5 to 12 with inside and outside play areas, arts and crafts, computers and movies. Waverunner, for teens, has a dance floor, a game room with video games and a big-screen TV for movies.

Grown-ups can find fun on the tennis and basketball courts, in an expanded gym with cycles, treadmills and stair machines and, for pampering, in the Greenhouse Spa, which offers facials ($89 to $119) and massages ($65 for 25 minutes; $162 for a four-hand, 50-minute massage).

If all that exercise has worked up an appetite, the Lido Cafe has expanded from two serving lines to four and has two side stations, the Wok and Deli. Holland America has always been a leader in the variety and quality of its buffet cafes.

The Vista Dining Room is on two decks, but instead of a large open area in the center, which gave the upper deck the appearance of a balcony, the center on the Zuiderdam holds a combination service area surrounded by two stairways and a stage for dinner music. The large room is divided in such a way that it doesn't feel as if you're dining in a huge hall. An alternative dining area, the Odyssey (which carries a $15 surcharge), is a vision in white with aluminum armchairs and walls decorated with photomurals of food. The menu includes Thai chicken soup, crab cakes, steaks, chops, fish, pasta and desserts. As on all Holland America ships, tipping is not required and no tips are added to your bar tab.

Come show time, everyone moves to the three-deck, red-and-black Vista showroom, where the sight lines are excellent. Holland America has created some upbeat new productions. Late-night disco dancing can be found in the Northern Lights, where glacier ice decor and black-and-white cowhide lounges give a new image to Holland America night life. A quieter evening can be had in the North Cape Lounge, the somewhat glitzy Ocean Bar or the Piano Bar.

There are a lot of restful getaways on board: the Erasmus library with big leather chairs; the exquisite Oak Room, with white, weathered wood walls and lush white sailcloth sofas and chairs; the blue leather loungers that face the sea in the North Cape; and the laid-back aft pool.

Accommodations range from 185-square-foot inside cabins (costing $253 per person per day) to two penthouse suites, which are 1,000 square feet with a 316-square-foot veranda, at $1,160 per person per day.

All cabins are attractive, decorated in rose, gold, blue, green or orange with pine-colored walls. Drawer space is limited, but closets are large and have extra shelves. All outside cabins have tubs, and the suites have tubs and shower stalls. Leather sofas and tub chairs are in the larger cabins. All cabins have twin beds that convert to a queen.

The artwork is not as extensive on the Zuiderdam as on Holland America's other ships, but a magnificent exhibit of Venetian masked ball figures is augmented by Commedia dell'Arte statues.

The Zuiderdam will sail year-round in the Caribbean, with stops at Half Moon Cay, a private island reached by ship's tenders. For more information, call (800) 426-0327 or visit www.hollandamerica.com.

Harry Basch travels as a guest of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears twice a month.

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