We live in San Diego so embarkation was a breeze for us. We arrived at the terminal around 2:30 and experienced a short wait to check in.
We like inside staterooms and chose this one because there were not other staterooms behind or next to it. The one thing that we didn't count on was the vibration and constant engine noise! It was so bad the first night my husband couldn't sleep at all. We found the beds extremely uncomfortable. I had a terrific backache that lasted for days. The ship needs renovation. We had black along the wall next to the bathroom that looked like mold. There was mold in the shower and some of the tile grout was molded and crumbling. The room stewards were excellent and seemed upset if they couldn't turn our bed down at night.
The food was a disappointment. We last sailed with Holland America two years ago on the Amsterdam and found the food while portion controlled, very good. The food on the Zaandam ranged from excellent to truly awful. It was apparent that we were fed leftovers. The tenderloin of beef was excellent at dinner. The next day it showed up at the past passenger brunch (well done this time.) Then it showed up again that night in the Lido. The same was true for the beef short ribs. The first time they showed up was at the Lido Pool Hawaiian grill night. Then the next day as braised short ribs, then again with a sauce over them. The same was true for the pork tenderloin. It showed up several days with a different sauce. Mashed potatoes tasted warmed over. Vegetables were bagged frozen perhaps from Costco? All pasta dishes had the same sauce and it tasted like it came from a jar. Fish dishes were all over cooked. One day I had Mahi Mahi and crab legs. What I got was two mushy fish medallions (silver dollar size) and a quarter of a dried out crab leg split in half. With the exception of the Indonesian buffet one day at the Lido pool, all the Asian food was truly awful. My husband and I both tried several of the Asian dishes during the cruise and could not eat any of them. One day at lunch I decided to go for a tuna sandwich. The chef tossed a pre-made Wonder Bread sandwich with a half slice of American cheese and a slice of tomato on a plate and handed it to me. I should have handed it back. The bread was stale and the amount of tuna in the sandwich would not have covered a saltine cracker. Breakfast on the Lido was OK if you had fresh cooked eggs and ham or boxed cereal. The blueberry muffins had one blueberry per muffin. (I tried several over the cruise and did find two blueberries one time.) Hot cereal was made with no salt. I put the oatmeal in the truly awful category. The sausage patties looked and tasted exactly like those found at McDonald's in the Sausage McMuffins. The Taco bar looked and tasted a lot like Taco Bell. The grilled hamburgers were good. The potato salad looked and tasted exactly the same as you would buy at a supermarket deli. Rolls and butter were good and most desserts were good. We liked the ice cream that was available daily. With the portion control so tight on the entree's we found ourselves eating more rolls and butter and dessert than normal just to get enough to eat. The buffet was not open 24 hours per day as on a Princess ship. If you didn't get dinner by 8:15 pm you didn't eat until 11 pm.
The entertainment on the ship was OK. All the entertainment was geared to the Geritol generation so if Lawrence Welk is your idea of fun you would have been happy. Most of the ship's activities were geared to 70 and 80 year olds (which included 80 percent of the passengers). If you like to learn to make towel animals, this was your cruise!
We were not impressed with Lizabeth the cruise director. Her attitude seemed toxic both on and off the stage.
On the night the Hula Dancers performed at the Lido pool, several passengers rudely came in late and stood directly in front of seated passengers totally blocking their view. Many people asked these rude people to move and they refused. There was nearly a riot with some pushing and shoving and name calling. The ship could have prevented this with a little crowd control. There were no crew members in sight. This spoiled everyone's time.
Ports - If you didn't take a HAL tour, the ship provided no useful port information. We took the shopping bus at Hilo and was dropped off at Hilo Hattie's in a mall with Wal-mart across the street.
We rented a car in Honolulu. Thrifty picked us up at the dock and took us back near the airport to rent the car. There was a $15 early return penalty. What we didn't know was parking around the pier was $50 for over night. We found a parking garage about six blocks away for $12 but had to have the car out before 7 am. We would have been better off to book the car one day at a time and saved parking.
Maui has a nice beach a short walk from the pier. This was the only day it didn't rain so it became our beach day.
There wasn't much to see at Kona. After awhile all the shops began to look the same.
The day before disembarkation everyone was told to report to the Mondrian Lounge at 10 am for instructions. The first problem was not everyone fit. Then Lizabeth the cruise director told us that her instructions would be on the ship's TV (so lots of people left including us). We were told that we would have a "silent" disembarkation and to report at out assigned time. The next day, they proceeded to call tags as usual.
Overall, comparing Princess to HAL we would have to go with Princess. Last year's cruise on the Grand Princess was superior to this one.