we (90 yr old husb and i, 67 yrs) selected this itinerary because the travel agent had a group going and included train transport as well as all transfers from train to ship and reverse. no flying required, which is best for my husb. MS Zaandam is the second Holland vessel we've booked. ship's company, hotel and restaurant staffs are wonderful, professional and hard working. from previous experience i suspected that food service might be rocky the first couple of days and a comment in Rotterdam dining room the first night indicated that a 'new program' for food service had been instituted and no one was happy. many fewer restaurant staff in evidence, no wine stewards, food inedible. everything improved by day three and although i still think that staffing levels are lower than our previous experience, service was excellent with truly charming people helping us. food was great, for the most part, from that day forward. [i'm a picky eater, so i'll order two or three appetizers, no dessert; husb loves everything, especially dessert!]. husb made cabin reservations and although we were able to get a cabin with handicapped accessible shower (saints be praised), the cabin was not the deluxe verandah which i expected and had experienced previously. oh well. weather was rough for a couple of days, which we have to expect in the winter and, because we like to sail, we enjoyed the four sea days and i wore a patch, just in case. i discussed previous problems at Hilo with our travel agent: port security is tight and Holland ties up right in the middle of the action, necessitating independent cruising visitors to walk a very long distance (for a 90 yr old with rheu arth) to catch a cab. we (travel agent and i) thought we had solved the problem with Holland providing golf cart for handicapped folk, but that was not the case. oh well #2. we had a great time and the old boy managed to enjoy his Bananas Foster at Cafe Pesto while i drank a reviving glass of cab sauv. got my Japanese fabric, my new dress for SIG ZANE (and yes, i know caps indicate shouting, but i love SIG ZANE clothes). we lucked upon a volunteer with a Hilo booster group who managed to talk her way past security and we got very close to the ship on our return. we visited family in maui and left the ship a week early in honolulu, flying home at our own expense. no refund requested or offered.
problems: handicapped accessible shower had a shower stool upon our arrival which disappeared while we were at our truly awful first dinner in Rotterdam dining room. no ship's employee could provide information on aforementioned stool nor was a replacement provided until 1400 hrs on day two. poor husb had to spend that time with a little washcloth refresher. sea was too rough for him to even stand and hang on to the grab bars while i hosed him down.
he fell on a trip to the toilet in the night but was not hurt. since i could not find anyone who was able to solve the mystery of the shower stool and i couldn't get anyone to answer 'at your service' button on the phone, i started asking every employee i met from 7 am on day two about our stool.
i started looking at passenger load levels for flights out of HNL to LAX that morning and discovered that our favorite flights (noon departure) were almost if not already full. i decided that lack of response from ship's staff on the shower stool and really poor food did not bode well for the remainder of the two week cruise and elected to book a return after one week on the ship, so we continued the cruise to hilo, as mentioned above; stopped in Lahaina where we rented a RED CONVERTIBLE to drive to Kahalui and Wailuku for lunch with resident step-relatives. had a great meal and a great time, returned to the ship by tender without incident.
in the days at sea i noticed and commented to fellow cruisers about public restrooms being closed intermittently, industrial carpet drying fans arrayed in hallways, stewards steaming carpets, plumbers working away in the chases and observed plumbers in the chases on deck 7 (ours). plumbers were working amidships but ominously, gradually moving closer and closer to our cabin which was the last aft on that deck. i was counting my blessings and saying my beads...no plumbing problems...and we were getting off the ship, so we wouldn't have to worry...except that at 0300 hrs (3 am) the toilet backed up enroute to Oahu necessitating a hazmat cleanup that was completed by 0400 hrs. seas were rough and altho the smell of chlorine bleach was comforting under the circumstances, i started retching about that time and slapped a scopolamine patch on. we had to clear customs (????) at 0630 hrs and i started vomiting about that time. i'm not sure whether it was seasickness, food poisoning (we had eaten a meal in Wailuku as well as aboard in the 'kill zone time-wise', or stress because of our flood and impending five hour flight. regardless, it wasn't pleasant. fortunately i am a demon packer and it was done before i was really ill and we were finally able to get off the ship, get our transport, check in at HNL and eventually get home.
I WILL BE CHECKING FOR PASSENGER COMMENTS ON PLUMBING IN THE FUTURE. Also, if i am missing required and promised equipment i will plant myself at the front desk until that equipment is replaced.
i am of the 'stuff happens' school of life. i still love cruising, under certain circumstances, because my husband really prefers it. and, because of available itineraries, i might cruise with Holland again but i'll be making some in depth investigation before any money leaves our accts.
the other ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS experience i had was the Thermal Suite in the Spa. that room is worth the price of the ticket and if i travel on Holland again it will be because of the Thermal Suite (and maybe the itinerary, of course). my ipod and i were content for the hours we spent there and husb didn't want to pay the bucks, so i was alone, except for the other occasional escapee. i wish i was there right now....but i have a little laundry to do and have to make the coffee. my dog is happy i'm home and my house/dogsitting friend is a neat freak so my house looks like five million dollars without a micron of dust observable. not expected nor requested--we have housekeeping help, but Karen is such a wonderful friend and our dog loves her, too. and i'm not vomiting any more!