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Zaandam Review

Zaandam - Atrium Sculpture Zaandam - Spa Zaandam - Crow's Nest Lounge Zaandam - Verandah Suite
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  • Explorations Cafe offers Internet, library and more
  • Great Pacific Northwest fare at Pinnacle Grill
  • Concierge service caters to guests in high-end suites
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Zaandam Overview

By Greg Straub, Cruise Critic contributor
Editor Rating
A recent trip on Zaandam, my first with Holland America since the line rolled out its "Signature of Excellence" program fleet-wide, gave me an opportunity to see if HAL was maintaining its reputation of providing the high level of comfort and service that has evolved gracefully over the years.

For passengers who have traveled on any of Holland America's Statendam-class or Rotterdam-class ships, the Zaandam (launched in 2000 and named after a town in Holland) will seem familiar. The atrium is filled with a signature sculpture. The restaurant is on two levels aft. The Lower Promenade Deck is wraparound. Most public rooms are located on three decks. And there are three banks of elevators (two on Statendam-class vessels). The deck plan is similar to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, but Zaandam and Volendam, its sister ship, lack the horsepower (and the twin funnels) of the co-flagships of the line.

And that's why, from the moment I stepped aboard Zaandam, I felt at home. Having traveled on other Holland America Line ships, I expected to see Dutch antiques from the line's extensive collection, a sculpted centerpiece in the atrium (in Zaandam's case, a working organ with mechanical figures), paintings of Holland America ships in the stairwells by Stephen Card, and some public rooms decorated in a gracious Dutch colonial motif. And so I did. I also expected floral displays and familiarly named public rooms like the Crow's Nest, the Rotterdam Dining Room, the Wajang Theatre, the Ocean Bar and the Explorers' Lounge. As such, it took me no time at all to find my bearings.

Uniquely, Zaandam was originally intended to serve as Holland America's bid to attract younger passengers. The ship's godmothers are the Olsen twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley, known to television viewers of the late 80's and early 90's from "Full House" and to moviegoers in the years since. Zaandam sports a collection of rock 'n' roll memorabilia that would do credit to a Hard Rock Cafe: e.g., a guitar signed by the Rolling Stones. But the memorabilia is displayed so discreetly in display cases (this is, after all, a Holland America ship), that they might as well be Japanese fans or Flemish etchings, so little does this decorative conceit influence the on board ambience.

Not all was smooth, however. Zaandam has been retrofitted with the enhancements Holland America calls its Signature of Excellence -- such as new pillow-top mattresses and high thread count sheets, duvets and pillow cases, flat-screen televisions with DVD players and high-volume shower heads. These are indeed lovely additions. But while Holland America has always prided itself on consistency in areas such as service, quality and cuisine, my experience of Zaandam was highly inconsistent.

My towels were thick and fluffy, another passenger's were thin and threadbare. I had two hair dryers: the old pre-Signature of Excellence built-in one (not removed in the renovation) and the new one, hidden in a vanity drawer. Another passenger had only the old one. I had terrycloth robes in my cabin and fresh fruit replenished every day, while another passenger had to ask for both. One waiter in the dining room had no trouble providing decaf cappuccino, while another seemed put out to be asked.

As pleasant and familiar as the ship was, what ultimately disappointed me was that the line seems to be coasting on its reputation. I found constant reminders that Holland America relies on income from profit centers onboard its ships like jarring loudspeaker announcements of activities: art auctions, bingo, casino contests, spa services, sales in shops and shore excursions. Gone are the days of free sail-away drinks and announcements for navigational purposes only. The quiet, up-market ambience has been shattered. Holland America used to provide a refined product that appealed primarily to older, experienced cruisers. To keep its increasingly larger ships full (and profitable) it has diluted its reputation.

Zaandam Fellow Passengers

Holland America traditionally attracts one of cruising's more senior demographics, but interestingly, on my trip -- a short repositioning cruise on the West Coast during a school holiday period, there were many more younger families with children than I have seen on other Holland America ships. Most passengers hail from North America, but there was a significant representation of passengers from Europe and Asia.

Zaandam Dress Code

On Holland America first and last nights are casual, as are nights in port. Casual means long trousers for men, collared shirts and no sneakers; and for women, neat trousers or skirt with a top, no bare midriff or exercise clothing. There are usually two formal nights per week (suit or tuxedo, gown or cocktail dress). Other nights are informal: jacket with or without tie for men and dress or dressy pants and top for women.

Zaandam Gratuity

Editor's Note: Beginning December 2015, the automatic tip for passengers staying in interior, oceanview and verandah cabins will be $12.50 (up from $11.50) per person per day. Passengers in suites will be charged $13.50 (up from $12) per person per day.

Holland America, which many years ago maintained a "no tipping necessary" policy, is now more in-line with other mainstream cruise lines. The line automatically adds $11 per person, per day to onboard accounts, which is then shared among waiters, stewards and other service personnel. That amount can be adjusted in either direction by visiting the front desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills; note that gratuities are not automatically tacked on to spa treatments.

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Zaandam Member Reviews

Land and Sea Triple Denali
We went on a land and sea journey with Holland America during the first 2 weeks in September. We were hoping to see the Northern Lights as it was a new moon and fall. We had one opportunity but because we moved rooms they failed to call so all we ... Read more
After booking the 14-day round-trip cruise (first cruise, first time in Alaska) I became a little nervous after reading reviews on Cruise Critic and wondered if we'd made a mistake. Happily, we did not and will take HAL again for another cruise. ... Read more
Good cruise philipcheng
We took the Alaska north bound cruise leaving on August 9. The ship traveled from Vancouver to Seward. My first impression was the ship was not very large and a bit old. It carries about 1500 passenger which actually was faster when going to ... Read more
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Zaandam Ratings

Editor Rating 4.0 Member Rating
Public Rooms
Spa & Fitness
Family & Children
Shore Excursions

Sailing From

Buenos Aires San Diego Santiago (Valparaiso) Seward Valparaiso Vancouver

Cruises To

Alaska Hawaii South America

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