After reading several negative comments about this ship recently, and a rather forgetful 1-night cruise on this ship last October, I was understandably a little nervous about this adventure. I can report after calling this ship home for the last 2 weeks that while everything wasn't perfect, by and large the ship is in great shape, the crew was outstanding and our expectations were mostly met or exceeded.
Our pre-cruise hotel was the newish Hilton Bayfront in San Diego and while there are closer hotels to the cruise pier, this hotel was a perfect start to our vacation due to the beautiful rooms and ample facilities. It's only a 5-minute cab ride to the pier anyway.
Staff at the new Broadway Pier facility were very friendly and accomodating and we were allowed to board shortly after 11 am, so have no complaints.
We really enjoy HAL's new policy of allowing passengers to proceed directly to their staterooms upon boarding. It is nice to be able to drop off your carry-on luggage so that you may expolore the ship or grab a bite to eat without the hassle of lugging bags around. Our checked luggage arrived a short while later and we met our amiable cabin steward, Arwan.
Our first two cruises were on Holland America Line's MS Amsterdam and we were very happy with that ship. Considering the Zaandam is about the same age and size, we decided to take a chance based on the fact we really wanted to try this itinerary to escape our dreary Northwest spring. I am happy to report that the Zaandam measures up completely although it was missing some extra polish apparent on the Amsterdam. Really, though, a few fancier fittings don't impact our enjoyment of a vacation. Other than some worn/stained carpeting, mostly in the elevator lobbies or by the stairs, this ship is in fine shape.
Our cabin, an outside on Lower Promenade deck, met our needs perfectly. Always plenty of space for storage and moving about. Everything worked as intended and the condition of linens, carpets, furniture, etc. was good. We are always impressed with how comfortable the beds are - really a treat at the end of a long day. Keep in mind the only staterooms on this ship that have fridges included are verandah cabins or suites, but if you are in a cabin without a verandah you can reserve one for $2 a day and I highly recommend it.
There was an issue with one of the ship's generators that forced a cancellation of one of our port stops. Also, weather played a role in cancelling Topolobampo, much to the disgust of some of the passengers who had booked the train trip to Copper Canyon. I can understand this excursion was a big reason why many may have booked this itinerary, but all cruising, indeed all travel, is subject to weather delays and mechanical issues. It's a vacation - go with the flow and enjoy the adventure. The captain was very apologetic about the changes and they compensated with free drinks one afternoon where many passengers proceeded to take advantage of the situation by drinking as much as they possibly could. Also, I thought it was a nice idea to give us two whole days in Puerto Vallarta, arguably one of the better ports to have some extended time to explore. I only wish we would have gone with our initial idea to try the parasailing - it looked like a lot of fun and we have vowed to return to try it for sure next time!
As we booked this cruise mainly to relax and enjoy the weather, I won't discuss the ports.
What really impressed us was the crew. These folks are Holland America Line's biggest asset and those on this ship that we encountered really went above and beyond to ensure a memorable vacation, particularly the beverage and dining room staff and the cabin stewards. Also notable were party planner Paula and cellarmaster Ron. The events they coordinated were well-run and thoroughly enjoyable. The DJ seemed to be almost absent until the end of the Mexico portion of the cruise, when suddenly there was a noticeable influx of younger passengers that became regulars in the Crows Nest. From then on, he seemed to be much more engaging.
We mostly ate in the Main Dining Room for dinner and the Lido or Terrace Grill for breakfast and lunch. Also one enjoyable evening in Canaletto. The food quality and selection was very good, and occasionally outstanding. Only a few minor off notes the entire two weeks. From what I heard from passengers who ate in the Pinnacle Grill, they were very satisfied with their experience.
I am a regular gym user, so I was happy to see mostly newer equipment and a nice selection of machines in the gym. Yes, there were a few treadmills out of order, but any gym I have been to has to repair some of the equipment occasionally. At any rate, there was plenty to go around, even on the busier days/times.
Would we sail with Holland America again? Absolutely. On this ship? Absolutely.