My husband and I have cruised many times, some with family and some on our own. Living in Miami, we covered the Caribbean pretty well. Now that we live in Hawaii, we looked to the East (well, to the west from here!) and decided to give Holland America a try with their Asia cruise on the MS Zaandam.
We started our voyage in Singapore. It was simple enough to reach the port on the MRT from our hotel, but signage neglected to point us to the baggage check-in on the lower floor so we dragged our bags all the way to our cabin. At least that meant we didn't have to wait to unpack! Our cabin steward Komang was right there to provide extra hangers and very helpful the entire cruise. The stateroom was a good size and we had a small bathtub which was unexpected. We were upgraded to an outside cabin with a partial view and really enjoyed having the window. The location of our cabin on Deck 3 was also great - not too much motion and close to everything.
The ship is smaller than some we've sailed on and the atrium area is much less glitzy. Overall I would say the ship is nicely decorated and understated, something I appreciate. The tile in the bathroom and some of the carpet in the common areas needs replacing, but I understand that will happen later this year. Otherwise, I can't find much to fault about the decor.
It was nice to find the cooking theatre and attend the demonstrations, even if they didn't provide samples to the audience on most occasions (take note Holland America - don't tantalize your guests with fabulous food and then not feed them!) Craft classes with Elizabeth were fun and I also enjoyed the trivia contests. Presentations on ports needed a lot of work - travel guide Wallis did her best, but it was obvious she didn't know a lot about the ports (new to the job?) and we could have used more detailed info. As travelers who do a lot of research before leaving home and steer clear of ship shore excursions, we were okay but maps of the port area and location of transportation would have been nice. We unexpectedly had a shuttle in Sanya that dropped us off at a shopping mall completely off the map provided by the ship. Thanks to a helpful passenger, we found out how to get to the beach. Otherwise we might have spent 15 minutes in the area and returned to the ship!
I would give the ship a good rating when it came to dining. Except for a delay in seating the first night or two, we had no problem eating when we wanted to in the Rotterdam dining room. I don't know how they matched people up who were willing to share tables, but we always had interesting people at our table. The food was well above average and portions were just right. We also ate at the Lido buffet and found they had many of the same entrees as the dining room. Breakfast was always good, especially the omelet station. The Terrace Grill by the pool was nice for a quick snack and they made a great guacamole. We also dined in the Canaletto restaurant twice and really enjoyed the special attention. We didn't spend the extra money on the Pinnacle Grill, but others raved about the food.
We attended most of the evening shows. For the most part I think the musical shows were well done, although the choreography was a little frenetic. We enjoyed the magician and the singer, but passed on the comedian. Only made it to one movie, but the selection was good and movies were almost all recent releases.
Finally, service was uniformly excellent. The entire crew was always helpful, smiling and eager to please. This was our first time on Holland America and this cruise exceeded our expectations. It was an older crowd than previous cruises and that showed in the shore excursions offered (and was why we chose to book our own) but the few children we did see were well behaved. Another aspect we enjoyed was the international diversity in passengers. Instead of a mostly American crowd, we were pleased to meet people from all over the world.