We are relatively-seasoned cruisers, having cruised eight times (three with HAL). We spent five days in Alaska prior to boarding; highlights included the stunning scenic rail journey from Anchorage to Seward as well as a 5-hour Kenai Fjords wildlife tour aboard Major Marines' Star of the Northwest. Our land portion was planned independently. We recommend the Hotel Seward, which was comfortable and friendly.
Embarkation in Seward took about 45 minutes. We settled into our cabin and then celebrated on the Lido deck with our traditional sailaway bucket of beer. :-) The Zaandam felt like "home" to us, having sailed on other HAL ships. We like the Dutch maritime theme of HAL ships. It was spotless, and the staff was exceptionally friendly and pleasant. (A shout out to Komang and Marivic ~ second to none!) Also, the Internet expert in the Explorer's lounge was a big help.
Cruising the Gulf of Alaska was not notable, as it was a grey day, and there was nothing to see. However, our day scenic cruising in Glacier Bay was outstanding! We were blessed with sunny, comfortable weather, and our ship was able to spend a lot of time at the glaciers. Superlatives fail me ~ suffice it to say that it was exceptional, memorable, and very very special. We will never forget seeing and hearing the glaciers.
We did not book any shore excursions; in ports, we simply ventured out on our own.
Our stateroom was disappointing. In an effort to save money, we booked a "no-view oceanview" cabin on the lower promenade deck. While it was clean, we kept the drapes drawn most of the time due to passersby. It seemed small to us, and it was located under a noisy galley. However, the worst part was that mid-cruise we endured a disconcerting mechanical malfunction: we were awakened at midnight when a pipe burst above our room, and water began pouring into our cabin through the sprinkler. Luckily, it soaked the carpet and not our belongings or the bed. The staff moved us to a (noisy) inside cabin for the night while they fixed the problem, and they also provided a token credit on our bill to compensate for the incident. Next time we would spend more and book a more comfortable cabin.
I thought the food was good; however, my husband felt that it wasn't as good as usual. We both very much enjoyed the Mariner's lunch (braised short ribs) as well as our dinner at the Pinnacle Grill.
The Zaandam Singers and Dancers performed three entertaining musical reviews with Broadway, love, and southern themes. They did a good job. We also thoroughly enjoyed Julie Barr, a stand-up comedienne. Chris Cruz was great on guitar (he even played a little Dave Matthews for us!) Bill "the piano guy" did a good job as well.
Disembarkation in Vancouver was a snap.
We enjoyed our Alaska cruise immensely and would cruise with HAL again in a heartbeat!