I enjoyed a recent Alaskan cruise on the ms. Zaandam southbound from Seward to Vancouver following a land-tour package from Fairbanks. The number of arriving passengers at the Seward terminal was minimal at 11:30 and our bus group was able to board the ship immediately. The cabins were prepared and I dropped off my carry-on bag and met my cabin steward, Dio. Lunch for incoming passengers was available in the Lido and, as the ship was departing later that evening, the buffet and tables weren't inundated with people as many passengers had taken the train excursion from Anchorage or were on early shore excursions.
The Zaandam is a well-maintained vessel and cleaning was continuous as well as painting/varnishing on exterior parts of the ship. Yes, there are a few stained carpets here and there but this does not detract from the overall attractive appearance. Some windows needed cleaning but these concerns are addressed according to the ship's maintenance program. My inside stateroom was cleaned twice-daily and there was ample closet space with two additional pull-out drawers under the bed. Some reviewers mention a "lack of closet space" -- my feeling on this is that if you run out of room in the closets, you've probably brought too much clothing! The bathroom will need some attention during a future dry-dock period as there are a few loose tiles near the baseboard and a small bit of rust at the base of the door--small things!
I ordered room service breakfasts each day. Every day of the cruise, they were delivered just slightly before the requested time. A staff member from the room service department called twice during the cruise to ensure that everything was fine--nice touch! Lunches were taken in the Lido and I found no problems there--there didn't seem to be any confusion on the part of other diners as to which station provided which particular food. For the first 48 hours, meals in the Lido are served by the kitchen staff to minimize gastro-intestinal illness. I ate most dinners in the Rotterdam Dining Room which was well-appointed and meals were served by an excellent waiter, Ekky, who also did a few magic tricks at the conclusion of each meal. I had one meal in the Canaletto restaurant which was very good. The subject of "food" comes up frequently in other reviews. I can truly say that EACH meal in the Rotterdam was served at the correct temperature and perfectly prepared. There appeared to be some confusion on the part of a few passengers who felt they didn't need to bother with the prescribed dress code. On THIS cruise, some ill-dressed diners were turned away. Face it, folks, if you don't like dressing up, enjoy your meals in the Lido!
The entertainment in the Show Lounge was varied though I did not attend the opening night production as this involves "game show" type entertainment of which I'm not fond. I enjoyed a Q & A session with the cast of the production show plus a backstage tour. It's interesting to see how much stagecraft can be done with limited space. I was very grateful to the stage crew member who took the time to answer my questions and provide me with many technical details of the stage area. Most of the shows use a sound track for instrumental back-up.
I am continually impressed by the way Holland America is able to accommodate passengers with mobility problems. Those in wheelchairs are able to move around the ship easily as are those who use other mobility aids such as canes, walkers and motorized scooters. Staff members are available to assist handicapped passengers on and off the ship.
As the Zaandam is considered a mid-sized ship, we cruised
into Glacier Bay and stopped in front of the largest glacier. Passengers gathered on deck to watch and listen as "white thunder" echoed through the glacial canyon and the glacier did some active "calving." Good photo opportunities! There was ample time for everyone to experience this natural activity!
I normally don't do too many shore excursions but I did a "Wildlife Encounter" in Haines. I was dubious when I first saw the place as it was extremely rustic looking with hand-painted signs and flimsy-looking enclosures but it was a great chance to get close to some native animals and to take some excellent close-up photos. Steve and Mario are wildlife experts/film makers and took our group on an extensive tour of the rural facility. Bear in mind there is some uphill walking involved!
Absent during this cruise was the "art auctions" and rotating displays in the gallery off the atrium. Maybe this activity has been phased out? There were good food demonstrations in Wajang Theatre featuring the chef from the Pinnacle Grill as well as the fruit and vegetable carver. Movies were also available in the Wajang Theatre though the "free popcorn" which is usually offered didn't appear on this cruise.
This was my second Alaskan cruise and I felt Holland America did an exemplary job of organizing everything from baggage handling, housekeeping, tours and meals. The land tour portion of the trip was handled well--our luggage traveled separately by truck and was delivered to our rooms. Special commendations to the front desk staff who patiently handled the many questions they receive each day and to the friendly staff of the Zaandam.