We are long time HAL 4-star Mariners. We selected this cruise for the itinerary, since we had never been to any of these South Pacific ports. We sail HAL for it's consistency in product and experience, and this cruise met our expectations for HAL. We booked an "open reservation" for a future HAL cruise while onboard.
1. The staff and crew are fantastic. Endearing and always with a helpful smile. They truly make you feel at home.
2. There is no better way to cruise than in a suite on HAL. The amenities, service and access to the Neptune Lounge made this cruise very enjoyable.
3. Food and service in the Pinnacle Grille, especially for the two special themed dinners (Dining with the Chef and Cellar Master Dinner) were equal to any ship afloat and the finest restaurants ashore.
4. The guest entertainers were very professional, enjoyable, and a few were world-class and at the top of their skills.
5. Disembarkation very well organized and efficient.
6. The ship is spotless, albeit a bit worn around the edges (see below). The staff and crew are continuously cleaning, scrubbing, painting, etc. The teak decks are spotless!
7. We would return to Caneletto just for the cotton candy dessert!
8. The port lecturer was outstanding and offered many helpful tips and suggestions. He was available at his desk for several hours every afternoon and was at the gangway at every port for at least two hours to answer last minute questions and offer self-touring advice.
9. The mattresses and pillows are new and sooooooooo comfortable!
10. According to the staff, there were over 190 guests under the age of 17 onboard. The onboard coordinators (as well as their parents) did a fantastic job of keeping the younger cruisers entertained. We never even knew there were so many children and teens sailing until we asked one of the officers.
1. There are very annoying a/c issues throughout the ship, in the upper level of the main dining room especially. Sometimes many public rooms are freezing cold. Often they are uncomfortably warm. After a sweltering formal night in the MDR, we ate in the Pinnacle Grille for the other formal nights (the Pinnacle never had a/c issues). Our cabin remained comfortable enough with the a/c set to the coldest setting, but we would have preferred the temperature a bit cooler. We understand that the crew quarters had no a/c for several days as all a/c capacity was being diverted to the passenger cabins and public rooms. The issues were never really reconciled during the entire cruise and we noticed that several very large pallets of equipment were loaded on the ship when we returned to Sydney; hopefully they are a/c parts.
2. Food quantity in the Lido buffet for breakfast and lunch was plentiful, but taste and variety were lacking.
3. The "Zaandam cast of singers and dancers" need to return to acting school. They are very young (ages 22-26), so maybe their skills will improve with more practice.
4. The ship is spotless, but in need of a refurbishing update. We sailed on the Zaandam's third cruise in 2000 and many of the carpets, upholstery, color schemes, etc. are original and a bit dated aesthetically. It appears as though corridor carpets have been updated on Decks 1-3, but the upper decks still have the original finishes. The Lido appears recently refurbished, but other public areas, as well as the cabins are not as up-to-date as the more recently refurbished HAL ships (i.e. Rotterdam and Veendam).
5. Embarkation was a bit better than the usual HAL disorganized mess, but can still use improvement. We arrived at the pier in Sydney about 11:15am and were onboard and in our cabin by noon.