This was our 8th cruise, but first on Holland America and we are ready to go again! The Zaandam was in excellent condition and definitely a cut above the ships we had sailed on NCL, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. Service was outstanding and my husband and I found the crew to be friendly and helpful. We had a category E large outside cabin on the Dolphin deck and it was very comfortable with the new high beds, wonderful new linens, a sofa, easy chair, desk/makeup table, and bathroom with a bathtub. Our steward did a fine job, but not timely in that our cabin usually wasn't cleaned until early afternoon; this was different from our previous cruises where our cabins were always cleaned during breakfast.
Embarkation was painless and we arrived at Port Canaveral at 11:30 a.m., parked our car in the attached lot, and were on board by noon. Lunch was served at the Lido Buffet and we found the food there to be the best cruise buffet we've ever experienced, with many choices and not the same food day after day. Our cabin was ready by 1:30 and our luggage had already arrived before that. So, we were unpacked and ready to rock and roll by mid-afternoon.
We had terrific tablemates for dinner and they made the cruise very special for us. We only ate in the dining room for dinner, preferring to have breakfast and lunch in the Lido. Dinners were, for the most part, pretty good, although there were some items that weren't exactly as described in the menu. The lobster tails were good a size and I had two while hubby had three. We spent my birthday dinner in the Pinnacle Grill and that restaurant is not to be missed. Definitely a five star experience! Our waiter and assistant waiter were pleasant, but did not engage in friendly banter with us at all during the week. The wine steward was very friendly every evening. We had ordered the wine package (6 bottles for $125 plus 15% tip) and he took care of it for us every evening.
The weather was perfect all week except for a little rain the morning of Half Moon Cay which later cleared up. Everyone I talked to wished that HMC was a longer visit! Jamaica was a new stop for us and we enjoyed our mini-tour of Dunns River Falls, etc. with a taxi driver and a shopping trip to the Island mall near the dock. Beware of Margaritaville.....expensive drinks and very poor service. Grand Cayman and Cozumel are old hat to us now and we usually just shop and eat lunch at a favorite restaurant. We didn't swim with the stingrays this year, but have several times and it's an exciting excursion and highly recommended. GC has a lot of construction going on due to Hurricane Ivan's devastation, but the stores were open downtown and busy.
I didn't go to any of the evening entertainment, but played in the casino instead. Very small casino which disappointed me, but the staff was very friendly and helpful. Hubby said some of the entertainment was ok, but nothing special. The only negative of the whole cruise was the awful behavior of children at the Lido Deck pool by the bar. There were 250 kids on board this cruise and they ruined the pool experience for me (an avid swimmer) every day with their horseplay, jumping in the pool, doing cannonballs, etc....everything posted right there they weren't supposed to do. I don't know how parents can be there and not witness the distress of adults trying to swim and/or converse. The most disgusting thing was seeing kids in diapers in the pool.....come on folks, surely you saw that prohibition on the signs posted by the pool or at least use some common sense. HAL needs to enforce the pool rules and I would prefer they have one pool for adults and one for children, as we have experienced on other cruise ships.
Disembarkation was a little slow, but we drove and so we were in the last group called. A person kept being paged by Immigration for almost an hour and I believe that is what slowed down the process since passengers can't leave the ship until Immigration says so. We had a porter take our luggage right to our car and we were on our way home about 11 a.m. People for the next cruise were already arriving and did we ever want to turn around and join them for another week on the Zaandam!
Overall, I would rate this cruise very highly and certainly do recommend it to future cruisers! It was a very relaxing week and we will definitely cruise on Holland America again.