Have never before complained about a cruise, but our experience, coupled with comments by veteran HAL cruisers on this same cruise, convinced us this was a disaster experience.
GENERAL APPEARANCE of Zaandam: Others commented on worn interiors (and even ship's exterior) so I won't repeat those criticisms.
CUISINE: Expected excellent cuisine but this was not the case. Menus repeated in second 14 day segment which was was not consistent with the way the "Explorer" format was explained. Very good food and wait staff in the 2 specialty restaurants but at these prices, meals should be of higher culinary and creative quality throughout ship. Desserts in MDR and Lido looked good, hyper infused with sugar, and unexciting in taste. The six people at our table often omitted desserts or took only a few bites.
COST CUTTING MEASURES: *Wait staff were so downsized, meals were sometimes served very slowly. At one to point we were rushed along to finish and leave so the next dinner seating could occur. The problem was not that we were slow eaters, but the food service was extremely slow. *Adequate planning did not occur to enable smooth customs clearances at several ports. We were held aboard while procedures were worked out. Having traveled to many of these same countries before, I don't understand the reason for such delays. *Someone made a decision to turn down the heat in dining rooms, spa, and staterooms. This cost saving strategy was reversed only when the front desk was stormed by angry, freezing passengers. A trip to the medical clinic proved interesting. Many passengers AND crew were being treated for colds and respiratory symptoms and no wonder!
* Educational lectures on history, culture, politics did not occur. For us, learning new things about countries we visit is part of the cruise experience we have enjoyed most but such learning opportunities did not exist
INACCESSIBILITY OF EXECUTIVE PERSONNEL: We asked to meet with the Hotel Manager at one point, and we made our request quietly and tactfully. Our request was deflected by other front office staff and ultimately we were refused. What kind of an organization is this? HAL if you think you are above meeting such requests, your business and PR will suffer greatly. On other cruises the Captain was highly visible. Such was not the case on either segment of this 28 day cruiseSHORE EXCURSIONS: Very worthwhile in every port although the majority of passengers we met arranged independent tours because, as they explained, the costs were "too dear".
CABIN ATTENDANTS: Were fabulous, attentive, eager to please, and over-worked although they would never have admitted this. Our pair of attendants were assigned 29 rooms to clean daily!
WILL WE GIVE HAL ANOTHER TRY? Think once was enough, too bad!