Arrived at Cruise Ship Centre at Canada Place May 27, 2012 at 10:40 A/M. Handed over two large suit cases to a longshoreman, next to be seen in my cabin 2579 around 1:30 P.M. Proceeded into the embarkation room and joined an already long line for U.S. Customs & Immigration. Once done there was directed to a Holland America lounged and check-in. Received my room key and reminded about Lunch being served in MDR on Deck 4 for Mariners.
Embarkation started at 11:30 A.M. and I was in my cabin at 11:40. Was delighted with the convenient location of this cabin and its spaciousness. Much prefer the Zaandam [R Class} to Vistas Class and S Class ships. The centre bank of elevators is a real bonus. Checked out the Crows Nest and Ocean Bar, then headed to the MDR for a very nice lunch. Was seated with other passengers at my request. After lunch went to cabin to check on status of luggage. Still not there but cabin steward, Mario came and introduced himself. Told him I had requested twin beds so window would not be blocked. He said no problem. Went up to Crows Nest to kill some time waiting for luggage. Met bar tender, Lauro -- very attentive. Went back to cabin after one drink & found bed had been made into twins and luggage was there. Proceeded to unpack. I had 2 large suit cases packed to the extreme and still had one cupboard unused. Also didn't need the cupboard in the table at one end of the sofa. There was no round stool to use at the desk. They have been discarded over the years. I like to sit at the desk to do my hair and make-up. Only fault I found with cabin 2579 was the lighting at the desk. Really would have appreciated a brighter higher wattage light bulb in the light fixture mounted on the mirror.
Passenger safety drill was at 4:15 and was conducted without a hitch. After muster I headed up to Crows Nest for Sail-away. Can't stand the Sail-away party on Lido deck with the Hal Cats. Music is much too loud for me. We pushed away from the dock promptly at 5:00 P.M. The ship's horn did not sound at Canada Place. However she gave 4 good toots as we sailed under the Lions Gate Bridge. After hearing those toots, I really felt like I was on my way. Once on our way I went down to Ocean Bar and met a very attentive Nestor -- great guy & had my middle name down pat after first order. That ended up being my favourite bar on this cruise. Jerry also worked this bar and was a hoot. When I left the ship on June 10 he had 4 weeks to go to the end of his current contract. Then he was heading home to Manila.
Had fixed Main Dining at 8:00 P.M. at MDR on Deck 5 at Table 42 in the right hand corner near the entrance of the dining room. There were 2 other couples at the table who were pleasant enough. However we did not have a lot in common. Three of the 4 of them were friends of Bill W and I'm not. Ate with them 4 nights until they stood me up the 5th night. The Assistant M.D. checked their whereabouts -- not in Pinnacle nor Canaletto. One couple was in their cabin but did not state why they were not in dining room. Meanwhile, I'm as embarrassed at hell and turning all shades of red. The table next to me had room and invited me to dine with them -- problem solved. After dinner I explained to Assist. M.D. I did not want to go back to table 42 and he arranged to send me elsewhere in the back half of the dining room. There was room for me at a table for 8 and my first night there was the second formal night and the Chief Engineer and his wife were seated with us. That meant complimentary wine with the meal for which I was very thankful. They were an engaging and interesting couple.
Since I was doing a back to back cruise I told the A.M.D. I didn't like the location of table 42 so he placed me at table 68 in the back half of the dining room. Ended up with 2 ladies from Australia and a grandmother and granddaughter. The first formal night of my second week, the Ship's Doctor was seated with us. Complimentary Wine again and Irish Coffee after dinner (YUM) -- now that is my kind of dessert.
Had breakfast & lunch often in MDR. Met some interesting and very nice people. People don't tend to chat it up in the Lido. That's why I prefer the MDR. The new breakfast menu is interesting. I loved the build your own omelette. It is made to order and always came piping hot. A couple of days I ate Mexican from the taco bar -- just had to get my fattening Mexican fix. Never had dessert from menu for lunch -- instead I'd go to ice cream bar for a cone and cookie.
Noticed lack of Fresh Plums and Nectarines. They were very skimpy with raspberries and strawberries. At Pinnacle (a pleasant gift from Pinnacle Manager, Alex because I was doing a B2B) I ordered a selection of berries with crÃ¨me fraische for dessert. Was shocked with what I actually received -- one sliced strawberry, 3 slices of kiwi a couple of wedges of cantaloupe, pineapple, and watermelon. When I asked where are the berries, the server had no answer. There is no longer an entre consisting of King Crab Legs, fleet-wide. They only serve it in a small crab cake or a tiny 2 inch piece in a seafood cocktail one formal night. An executive chef I talked to said it is because the king crab fishery was very poor last year. That is a lot of bull in my imagination. It was selling for $16.99 a pound at Canada Safeway for Father's Day weekend. I think it's just another HAL cutback. Just like no grapes with the fresh fruit in the lido.
Didn't care for the design of the Piano Bar on the Zaandam. There are no bar stools around the piano. Everyone is seated in front on the piano at least 6 feet from the piano. Was not as intimate as on S and Vista class ship. The Piano player (went simply by the name Bill) didn't like the set up either and said he would not entertain again on this ship. I gave up going there since it was impossible to get a drink without going up to the bar and ordering one from there. The bar is behind the piano and has stools. A young man called Chris Cruz sang and played his guitar there every evening between 7:00 & 9:00 P.M. He was OK but not really my cup of tea.
Was very surprised to see the infamous Park West and their obnoxious art auctions back on HAL. I thought they were run-off the HAL ships with their tail between their legs a couple of years ago. For once the photographers were not in your face pushy.
I'm a news hound and really missed a Canadian edition of the Daily News. No news from home kind of sucks when you are away for 2 weeks. The Daily News is no longer delivered to the cabins. You must now go to Lido, Front Office or Library to get a copy.
Each week I attended a Cocktail Party hosted by Captain Andre van Schoonhoven and Hotel Manager Edwin Brunink. Loved Captain Andre. He is a no nonsense man. At the Passenger Safety Drill in Seward He gave everyone hell for talking so much. He said this drill is very important and in all the years he has been master of a ship, he never hears so much yapping during a safety drill and that this drill is serious and The Zaandam isn't an RCCL Ship. Bravo Captain van Schoonhoven.
It was surprising how different Glacier Bay looked in just one week. The second week there was much more ice floating around. Dutch Green Pea Soup was served both weeks while viewing the glaciers. Week one it was a beautiful sunny day. Week two it was windy, cool and overcast but no rain. The complimentary hot chocolate with a shot or rum was yummy.
One final observation from the Cruise Log -- the Northbound cruise is longer than Southbound (1597 vs 1547).
I have saved all the Daily Explorers & will continue to do so until the Alaska season is over if any of you out there have any questions. All in all, it was a wonderful cruise and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. All I need is a money tree or win the lotto. I paid for an HH guarantee and received a wonderful upgrade to category D. A Big fat Thank you HAL!