HAL ZAANDAM review
We took the 22 days cruise from Kobe to Vancouver on the Zaandam as part of a trip around the world that had started mid - March in Brazil with a Trans -Atlantic cruise on the Oceania Insignia . Overall , it proved to be a good decision and we did enjoy that section of our journey.
The Zaandam is a small ship by the new standards and is perfect to reach small ports of call and navigate along the coast line of Alaska. Built in 2000 , it is also older than the average cruise ship, but it has been kept in a very good condition and it is hard to find signs of aging.
We had an ocean - view cabin and we regretted our choice. Not only was the view partially blocked and the curtains did not close properly , it was also noisy being located on the Lower Promenade Deck where all kinds of pipes run alongside the windows. Having the galleys located on top of us did not help either and there was also a permanent hum coming from the heating system. The cabin was very big and spacious compared to modern standards at 185 sq.ft. but the inside cabin was the same size for less and would have proven more comfortable . We did not take a veranda cabin as we expected to spend a big part of the cruise at low temperatures and that decision was a good one.
The food on the Zaandam is very good. It is better than the Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships that we have sailed on recently but it is not at the level of the Oceania ship that we had taken 3 weeks before. We were surprised though that the Lido buffet closed at 8 p.m. and that tea time was at 3 p.m. !!!
Service is generally excellent but there were times when we felt being rushed at dinner time. It happened a few times that waiters would interrupt abruptly a conversation between passengers to take the selections. Room cleaning was very good , both efficient and non -obtrusive . Guest Services is better than average and decision - making does not seem to require high -level involvement.
Entertainment was better than expected. This was our sixth cruise with HAL and we did not expect so wide a selection of activities for a high number of days at sea and limited access to the pool. HAL should be a model to follow for lengthy cruises and the Zaandam proved to be amongst the best !
Ports of call, specially in Japan, were very interesting and cruising is definitely the cheapest way to visit expensive countries like Japan, Korea, Russia and the USA. We had to skip one port of call in Kamchatka because, after leaving Vladivostok, we found ourselves in the middle of a sea of ice and the captain decided to turn back for safety reasons. We lost more than 18 hours of navigation, had to cancel one port of call and were late for arrival in Kodiak by more than 4 hours. We got a free glass of champagne as compensation !!! All the passengers agreed with the decision but a lot of us wondered if this huge area of ice was not foreseeable and corrective action could have been taken sooner. The information provided on the ports of call was either limited or wrong ,which is quite surprising for a ship from HAL.
The majority of the 1364 passengers was over 70 years of age, coming mostly from the USA , Australia and Canada , and surely the most well - traveled group we have seen so far . It made for very interesting conversations at lunch and dinner times.
Overall, it was an interesting cruise with many ports of call that we had never been to and this is our first motivation to cruising !