Even as a solo cruiser paying nearly double the advertised rate I came away realizing that not only did I have a great time but I received much more than I paid for. The Zaandam is an exceptional experience and after reading the scores of negative reviews I fail to understand the reviewers' conception of reality.
EMBARKATION: I was informed ahead of time from Holland America and my travel agent of a possible delay in boarding due to extensive construction around the pier and the fact that two ships were at the pier simultaneously. Although I arrived ahead of suggested times I found things to be very well organized and the process of boarding was seamless. Pier staff were friendly, helpful and happy to answer questions about the process.
CABIN: I booked juat a guaranteed room and was very pleased to receive 2645 just slightly aft of center on deck 2. It was spacious and its sideways placement along the corridor made it seem larger than it was. It was configured as a queen and had incredibly comfortable mattresses in a spotless setting. I will book a similar room again without hesitation.
PUBLIC ROOMS: I was amazed at the spaciousness of the public areas, even with 1,400 people on board it never seemed crowed and most times it appeared nearly empty. Housekeeping on the Zaandam is immaculate, staff are constantly cleaning surfaces that are touched by passengers as well as baseboards, corners behind doors and of course the brass. As a former hotelier I was impressed at the diligence to detail of the housekeeping staff. Lets be clear here, there are differences between being clean and having stains. Stains are often impossible to remove and spills on a rocking ship are expected - a stain is not dirt! I applaud the Zaandam's housekeeping department for exceptional performance.
SHIPS CONDITION: The design of a ship has a lot to do with how it ages or appears to its clientele. The Zaandam had its 13th Birthday while we were on board and in that regard it was well cared for. The complaints about rust on the hull or pitted window trims are petty remarks from those who are not living in reality. Whild on board I noted maintenance crew on decks wirebrushing railing frames, resanding and varnishing railings and performing checks on the operation of tender/lifeboat lines etc. This ship is extremely seaworthy and has a knowledgable crew.
DINING: WOW, what incredible choices and gourmet quality - I wanted to take the baker home with me! The Pinnacle Grill is simply pampered elegance with attentive service and artistic presentations. Well worth the premium charge.
Open seating in the Rotterdam was perfect for me and being seated with others was a delightful expeience. I met many wonderful people that I would not otherwise crossed paths with. The Lido offered a wide variety of choices and I enjoyed being able to choose, point and enjoy delicacies that I would not otherwise have selected. These culinary professionals are definately trying to be #1 in the industry.s
ENTERTAINMENT: I don't go out very often but I was pleased at the offerings on the Zaandam. The house band (the HAL Cats)were very competent and versatile. They filled in on other acts as well as performing on their own with May - a unique vocalist with an amazing repertoire. I totally enjoyed the individuals and groups that performed througout the ship. A highlight to me was the Philipino Crew's performance honoring their homeland and explanations of their heritage - a further exhibition of talents outside their regular assigned posts.
Although it was not exactly entertainment, the Digital Workshop offerings by Tricia were excellent and I learned a great deal that I would never have devoted time to at home. Thanks Holland America for this superb facility.
SHIPS STAFF: From Captain PJ on the Bridge to those we never saw below the waterline - everyone was very professional, courtious, helpful and always smiling. It was obviously a happy crew that loved one another as well as those in their care. Kudos to all of them that give their all to make our voyage memorable.
DEBARKATION: Getting off was as simple as getting on, good organization just makes it work that way.
ALL IN ALL: Phenomenal!