We flew to San Diego on Saturday morning the day before our Nov 7 round trip cruise to Hawaii on the Holland America Zaandam. We stayed at the Days Inn Harbor View because they offered shuttle service from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the ship, and breakfast. We got to the hotel at 11:00 am and were able to check in. The type of room we reserved was not ready, so they gave us a deluxe queen room. We were satisfied with the hotel. Our room was clean, and the location was good. We were 2 or 3 blocks from Little Italy, so we walked there for lunch and had our choice of about 25 restaurants. There was a lot of activity, with a singing group and some of the street blocked off for booths of all kinds. On the way back to the hotel we were able to stop at a grocery store to pick up a couple of bottles of wine and some diet cokes to take with us on the ship. Breakfast was very limited, but we enjoyed eating at the outside tables and people watching. After breakfast we enjoyed a walk along the harbor to our ship and back to the hotel.
Our shuttle got to the ship about 11:00 am and we went through security, check in and received our sign and sail card without any delay. Since we were a little early, we were given a group number and directed to sit in the waiting area. After about 20 minutes or so they started boarding the ship by groups. We probably were on board by 12:00, and had lunch. Our rooms were not ready until about 1:30.
I had read some very negative reviews of this older ship, and our room was not a luxury hotel suite type, but it was very adequate. We always book a mid-ship ocean view stateroom on a lower deck. The room and bath were clean and everything worked. We unpacked our four suitcases, put them under the bed and had unused drawer, shelf and storage space. Our room steward was very good. He had an assistant but they had 30 cabins to see about. He brought our luggage into our room, instead of just leaving it outside our door. He always said hello when he saw us in the hall and if we walked by him he would spend a few minutes making small talk with us. During the cruise, one of the lights over our bed went out and the next day (without me reporting it) an electrician came to our room and took care of it. Our room had 4 pillows, but none of them were like my pillow at home. My wife liked her pillow and the bed, but I found my side of the bed too hard (you just can’t please everyone). We had no problems with the layout or public areas of the ship.
Entertainment is subjective, but we found the entertainment in the theater, bars and lounges to be just ok. The thing that we enjoyed the most was the Travel Guide. Kainoa is a native Hawaiian and his job was to see that we enjoyed the cruise, not to sell us something. Everyone that I heard talk was impressed with Kainoa. We also enjoyed the Culinary Arts Center on sea days when a chef would give a cooking demonstration. They would give us the recipe of what he had cooked and sometime a small serving to taste.
We had early dining at a table for six. We ate dinner in the dinning room every night but one and thoroughly enjoyed dinner and our table mates. I enjoy eating almost anything as long as there is enough of it, but my wife has a more delicate taste. She was impressed with the food, both in the dining room and the Lido. We only had room service one time and it was OK. We also ate lunch in the Pinnacle one time and it was a good experience.
This is our 14th cruise and we rarely take the ship land tours, and we did not use any ship land tours this trip. We prefer to be on our own or with a small group in a van instead of a bus load of 40+ people trying to see something or hear the guide. Out first port of call was Hilo where we had made reservations by e-mail with Ricky Banasan at rickystours @ yahoo.com. There was one other couple alone with my wife & I on the tour. This turned out to be a very good tour that cost us $60 each and took about 5 ½ to 6 hours. Among other places we went to Rainbow Falls, Volcano National Park, Thurston Lava Tube, a black sand beach, Liliuokalmi Gardens and of course stops where we could tour & buy Macadamia nuts, candy & orchids. Ricky talked the whole time discussing what we were seeing as we drove around the area.
Our nest next port was Honolulu, where we had been to Pearl Harbor and Diamondhead Crater, etc on a previous cruise. This time we decided to just use the Waikiki Trolley, which is hop-on-hop-off with narration; however, depending on where you sit the speaker system is not that good. The Aloha Tower stop was just across the street from our ship terminal, so we walked across the street and bought our tickets. We accidentally picked a very good place to get off the first time at Punchbowl & King St. There was an old and interesting church & cemetery across the street from the stop and the Iolani Palace was just down the street. The back of the state capital is adjacent to the back of the Palace grounds. The tour of the Palace cost $20 and took about an hour. As we walked back to the trolley stop, we saw the trolley driving away. The trolleys come by every 35 to 40 minutes and our timing to catch them was bad all day. We only had time to ride the Red Line and did not have time to make all the stops we wanted.
Our favorite port of call and island was Kauai. We rented a car at Nawiliwili and drove up to Waimea Canyon, and to the beaches, and Spouting Horn blowhole. The weather was great, even up at the canyon. We went on narrow gravel roads where a bus could not go, and stopped at overlooks whenever we wanted. We bought red dirt shirts and had a picnic of subway sandwiches. Our last and most disappointing port was on Maui. We had to tender in, but the process was stopped because of swells. The tendering process was moved from the port side to the starboard side of the ship and then continued. We had some things we wanted to buy, so we intended to go ashore, shop, find the post office and stop at a café for a leisure drink or some local food. We were successful in buying some stuff. However, it was hot walking around town and we ran out of energy, so we went back to the ship about 2:00 or 2:30.
We had good weather most of the time and overall this was a very enjoyable cruise for both of us. The front office, the crew & staff were very friendly and gave very good service. Our Cruise Critic Roll call group and the M&G were great. We met some very enjoyable people on this cruise. The debarkation process was non stop and as good as any that I have seen. The first day and half or two days out there was a fair amount of ship movement even though the sea didn’t look that rough. The rest of the time it was fairly smooth sailing.