This was our fifth cruise with HAL (and ninth overall) and also the longest we’ve ever taken with any cruise line. Our first time however on the ‘Zaandam’ which is a little smaller with fewer decks than some ships we’ve been on. Because of the time of the year and the length of the cruise, we in our fifties were among the youngest passengers there! First time that’s happened in a while.
We stayed in a ‘vista suite’ on the port side verandah deck which had both lots of storage room and a nice balcony.
We were concerned a little about the large number of ‘sea days’ (nine in all), made necessary by the long distance travelled between Vancouver, bc and Fort Lauderdale, FL. We needn’t have been, for HAL had all kinds of activities arranged. Not just veiled efforts to sell you things such as art or jewellery either (though they had those!), but lectures and presentations on history, art, computers, and culinary activities. That’s in addition to the usual poolside stuff.
Some interesting destinations on this trip too, including a number places we’d never been. I have to single out the stop in costa rica (Puerto calderon). Though the port itself was uninspiring, our excursion to the rain forest and aerial tramway was among the best we’ve done.
Goes without saying I guess that the panama canal is an engineering marvel and a sight to see. It's coming up on its centennial just as they are nearing completion of new locks able to handle larger ships. I do recommend to all travellers that they do the panama canal from a west coast port to an east coast one; that way the canal is toward the end and serves as a fitting climax to the cruise.
You do take a small chance this time of year for storms and it is the rainy season but neither of these affected our cruise in the least. Just lucky I guess.
Service and food was up to the usual HAL standard, but in particular the dining room staff were noteworthy for their friendly and professional attitudes.
Entertainment also was very good, with comics, magicians, jugglers and singers rather than the usual tired revues you often see with lip synching and pre recorded music. I have to say that the ship’s band (the “HALcats”) were among the busiest group on board; we saw them everywhere.
Worth noting that the Zaandam went into drydock immediately following the cruise for some upgrades to both cabins and public areas. From what was described to us, these changes will only improve what this ship has to offer.
Nothing about this cruise changed our view that HAL is a superior cruise company and we will certainly use them again.