Another of Holland America's Signature of Excellence enhancements was the installation of a demonstration kitchen in the Wajang Theater. The program is offered in conjunction with Food & Wine magazine and often, though not always, guest chefs from restaurants around the U.S. are onboard to give demonstrations and workshops. If no "celebrity" chef is onboard, the ship's own chefs host classes. Some are free and open to all, but the more intimate and hands-on classes must be reserved (and are not free of charge). The Wajang Theatre also screens a movie three times each day.
The Mondriaan Lounge is the venue for production shows, specialty acts and enrichment lectures. I found the one production show presented on my cruise to be startlingly amateurish. The taped sound track was enhanced by live musicians.
New to Zaandam in early 2009 is the Microsoft Digital Workshops program, comprised of complimentary classes led by Microsoft-trained "techsperts." Passengers can learn to use computers to enhance photos (Windows Live Photo Gallery), produce and publish videos onto a DVD (Windows Movie Maker) and create personal webpages or blogs (Windows Live Services and Windows Live Writer). In addition, one-on-one coaching, called "Techspert Time," is available for more than 20 hours each week.
Surprisingly, there were no bridge experts, and bridge players organized their own play.
There is music throughout the ship. A dance trio plays in the Ocean Bar. A pianist plays standards in the Piano Bar. A combo plays easy listening rock in the Crow's Nest. A string quartet plays light pre-dinner classical music in the Atrium, and after dinner in the Explorers' Lounge. There is a DJ for late night disco in the Crow's Nest. (Ballroom dancers, please make note: The dance floors are very small.) Bar drinks are fairly priced at about $5.50 for a standard drink. (Polish vodka, for some reason, is priced at $9.50, while Russian is $5.50.) There's a drink of the day, which is discounted. Wine by the glass starts at $5.
Affinity group meeting times (e.g., Friends of Bill W., Friends of Dorothy) are posted in the daily program. A crafts instructor helps passengers make a project each day at sea.
The cruise staff hosts bingo, trivia quizzes and line dancing. Zaandam offers self-guided tours of the artwork decorating the ship by iPod. There are art auctions conducted by Parke West Galleries. The casino has the usual table games (Texas Hold 'Em, Caribbean stud, blackjack), roulette and slot machines from 1 cent to $1.