Embarkation: We boarded the Zaandam in San Diego. Boarding was fast and efficient. We arrived at the pier around noon and were in our cabin by 12:30. The staff both on shore and on board were very helpful.
We were in cabin 2603 (center, starboard side). As with previous HAL ships, the stateroom was roomy and comfortable. Our cabin was not particularly clean.. This was brought to the attention of Guest Services. Within an hour the situation was rectified. The staff was most apologetic and included supervisory follow-up as well.
The Zaandam is one of the older ships in HAL fleet. For the most part it was well-maintained. The interior was excellent butr the exterior could use some attention. For example, our stateroom window was filthy and had paint spills in evidence. The robber window gaskets needed replacing. Smoking on board was severely restricted, a plus for non-smokers and former smokers.
Since this was a round trip cruise to Hawaii, several native Hawaiians made the trip with us. Guests were provided many opportunities for cultural presentations. The travel guide, Kainoa DeleCruz was a wonderful presenter as were the two hula dancers and Hawaiian band leader. The Digital Workshop offered complimentary workshops covering many PC applications. Theyu were well presented and easy to understand for novices.
The ship's singers and dancers were above average for cruise ships. The choreography needed some work however, Guest entertainers ranged from very good (Paul Pappas) to average and below-average.
Food on the Zaandam was well above average for cruise ships. In the Lido buffet, the staff did the serving for the first two days to minimize the incidence of nuerovirus. Breakfast was excellent with made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, and assorted pastries. Lunch selections were varied and tasty. The short order grill was excellent. Even the pizza was pretty good. DFinners in the main dining room were above average with numerous choices. The salads needed some improvement, however.
Ship and Guests:
All HAL ships are configured to promote quiet conversation with numerous little sitting areas within the public areas. Having twelve elevators (forward amidships, and aft) was wonderful for passengers having difficulty with the stairs. It has been said that the HAL ships have mostly senior citizens aboard. While a number of canes and wheel chairs were evident, the number of guests using the ship's fitness center was amazing. For example, the fitness center was full at 7AM on mostly at sea days.
On Board Activities:
Much the same as on most cruise ships (bingo, casino, shops, etc.) The musical entertainment in the lounges and piano bar was quite good. A major complaint was the lack of organized bridge lectures and games. With ten sea days, this was inexcusable. The card room was full every sea day with informal games. Other cruise lines offer this option with even fewer sea days. On the positive side, we appreciated having a Catholic priest and Protestant minister on board offering daily and Sunday services.
The Zaandam was a comfortable ship with a most attentive crew. The trip was worth the cost and worth doing again in the future.