8 Boston Holland America Zaandam Cruise Reviews

My wife and I chose this last minute cruise since she had never seen Canada. We are frequent cruisers of the Caribbean and thought this might be a nice change. The ship is fairly small and the clientele for this cruise is definitely ... Read More
My wife and I chose this last minute cruise since she had never seen Canada. We are frequent cruisers of the Caribbean and thought this might be a nice change. The ship is fairly small and the clientele for this cruise is definitely older. The food was good on the cruise. The best part for us was all the food is actually served even on the buffet. Was nice to not have other guests touching serving spoons and kept things very fresh and appetizing. Had not seen this on most lines and was a nice feature. This cruise had ports every day so that kept daytime activities onboard minimal which was ok since we took cruise to see the sights. However in evening there was still little to do but eat, casino or drink. They did have ESPN on at one of bars to watch sports which was nice. Bars are actually minimal too so had to go out of way usually to find drinks. Very friendly staff but amenities from most ships are lacking here. So if onboard activities are your preference pick a different cruise. We chose to do our own activities in port so didn’t do the planned excursions. They also seemed very pricey for what they offered. There was a nice theater onboard with a couple nice movies that were shown. Also, the shows were decent though nothing special. The cabin was good size and had a tub. We had a window cabin and it was comfortable with lots of storage. Only one outlet on desk but will bring you a power strip. This is difficult though if you have lots of devices and also the desk is far from bed. The tv is also small and far from bed. They will give you dvds to watch but again hard to see in 13 inch screen that is the long way across the room. Overall happy with room though. The bad now. This is an older boat and it actually broke down in Quebec City so we couldn’t continue to our last port in Montreal. In talking to staff this wasn’t the first time it broke down either in the last year as they all knew the drill. This kept casino closed the last night and took away one of the few entertainment things on the ship. This also meant the decided to bus us to Quebec starting at 4 am for a 3 hour bus ride to the port. This was the only information given. When we got to bus it was an old yellow school bus! So no facilities in bus and no information prior to leaving the ship this would be the case. People had just eaten and now had to ride in a tight bus, no facilities and no air conditioning. They did stop about 2 hours into trip at rest area but by then people had resorted to using bottles etc. when we got to the port they had our luggage on a truck that was at port but not unloading. Instead they chose to spend an hour loading the next group on those buses to take them to Quebec City to board the boat. So we sat at the port an hour waiting for luggage with no Holland America rep present to explain where to go for luggage, timing, etc. For the inconvience e were given $50 ship credit on our account. Also, offered 15% off future cruise where details of discount were supposed to be on other side of letter but was blank. So really no offer at all there. I would have rated the cruise about a 3 had the end not happened or been handled better. However the lack of communication and really poor accommodation at the end made this a terrible cruise. Given age of boat and past problems I would tell anyone to avoid this ship at all costs. So sort of buyer beware situation. Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
I chose this cruise because my family decided a last minute trip and this trip was the only itinerary would fit our schedule and we wanted to explore the East coast of Canada. I would rated the experience better if it was our trip ended so ... Read More
I chose this cruise because my family decided a last minute trip and this trip was the only itinerary would fit our schedule and we wanted to explore the East coast of Canada. I would rated the experience better if it was our trip ended so terribly on the last day of our cruise trip. The crew members were hardworking and friendly. The food was good overall. I think they ship needs a major update in many areas as it looks really outdated. On the first night of our trip, there was a fire alarm triggered at 2 a.m due to some leak of a smoke. We were super terrified. On the last day of our trip, the ship broke down at Quebec City and was not able to make it to Montreal. We were told that we would be transported from Quebec City to Montreal by bus. They started to transport passengers starting at 4 a.m.! As we didn't pre-arrange any transportation with the cruise line, they would only be willing to transport us to the cruise port. When we were in line to wait for the bus, we found out that we had to travel by old small Yellow school bus!!!! Our luggage were loaded in other trucks as no space in these tiny smelly Yellow bus! We waited for at least 45 minutes at the Montreal port to get our luggage! There was no one from Holland American to assist passengers. They were just shipping these passengers from Montreal to Quebec City so they can board on the broken ship! No one cares about the passengers. There were a huge line up at the taxi and I barely made it to the Montreal airport to board my 3 o'clock flight. There were other passengers have missed their flights/train due to this delay! No one from HAL would offer any help! The compensation was a joke. We were given a piece of paper that we can get discount for the future HAL cruise and referred the terms and conditions in the back but it was blank!!! This was a super terrible experience and HAL handled it poorly! Who wants to travel again with them!? Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
We choose this cruise for the itinerary. It was leaving from Boston and we don't live to far away. Also we had heard great things about Holland America. We loved the first 5 days of the cruise but the last two were where Holland ... Read More
We choose this cruise for the itinerary. It was leaving from Boston and we don't live to far away. Also we had heard great things about Holland America. We loved the first 5 days of the cruise but the last two were where Holland America totally lost us. We loved the service, food and ship until the last two days. Two nights from the end of the cruise a pipe burst on our deck and 6 or 7 rooms not far from us were flooded. We heard others on another deck were also affected. They had to move the people on our deck at 4 am. They woke us up with all of the noises but at least we were dry. We had a fire alarm go off on one of the first nights of the cruise at 2 am and it ended up being a steam leak in the galley but alarms and speakers going off so wrecked up that night's sleep. The worst thing was that the ship started having propulsion problems before Quebec City which slowed us down so we were several hours late getting into that port. They worked on the problem while we were ashore and acted as if it was fixed but by dinner that night it was clear we were not going anywhere. They finally told us at 10pm we were not going to Montreal on the ship and were to be bused in the morning. When we showed up to disembark we were put into a yellow school bus for an estimated 3 hour ride which ended up being over 4 hours. No room for luggage or carryons. No room for knees. No room for senior citizens. When we got to the Montreal Port Terminal we had to wait for 40 minutes to unload because they were first loading up the next cruise guests for the next week and they had to get them to Quebec City. I was livid that they had the gall to make us wait in the parking lot (as we had already paid) so they could load up the new guests. We also found out that other guests got to be on nice air conditioned custom buses as they were waiting in the parking lot with us. We were supposed to disembark in Montreal at 8am. We didn't get to leave with our bags (had to wait on them as they came by u-haul truck as no room on a school bus) until 2pm. So pretty much whole day lost in touring Montreal due to riding on a bus and waiting at terminal and waiting on bags. Then we had to drag our bags several blocks aways from the terminal to get a ride as the taxi line was very long and not moving. But Holland America did give us a $50 pp credit for all of this situation so I guess in their minds they took care of us. Terrible communications on the issues. If they would have advised we were going to be stuck on a school bus I would have looked for a train, plane or automobile instead. Due t the issues on the boat, I also wonder whether this boat should be active right now. I'm no expert but it sounds like dry dock is where it should be. Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
We booked quite late, so missed out on a verandah cabin, we had a cabin on the lower promenade deck with a window view. The room was fine, but you do need to fully unpack suitcases because there is not room to have them out. The room was ... Read More
We booked quite late, so missed out on a verandah cabin, we had a cabin on the lower promenade deck with a window view. The room was fine, but you do need to fully unpack suitcases because there is not room to have them out. The room was super clean. The room attendants so helpful. Go to the talks on the first day, they are very helpful about shore excursions and the ship layout. We didnt book any shore excursions and so glad we didn’t. Most of the passengers are in their twilight years, elderly with walkers, sticks, wheelchairs.. and mobility is an issue. At times it seemed like a floating nursing home. Here’s my dos and donts. All the port stops are walkable into the town - dont pay $40-80 for a guided walk. Don’t pay $140 for internet per device, it didn’t work most of the time and you could only access a few sites. Don’t dress up for Gala night - its a have to get professional photos you pay for, and book the pay for restaurants. Do - be kind and polite to the staff, go to the evening entertainment, research what you want to see and do but bear in mind there will be elderly folks slowing down tours with their mobility. Dining - there are queues in the lido market no matter what time. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
I was a little nervous after reading reviews here, but was very happy with the Zaandam. The ship is a little old, but is well kept and our group of 15 had very few problems. We had balcony rooms on the 6th and 7th deck which were nice, but ... Read More
I was a little nervous after reading reviews here, but was very happy with the Zaandam. The ship is a little old, but is well kept and our group of 15 had very few problems. We had balcony rooms on the 6th and 7th deck which were nice, but the TV's are tiny and nearly useless (some rooms had newer TVs). We had ports of call every day but one and enjoyed all of the stops. We were 40 minutes late to Halifax which put a wrench in my plans. And we were several hours late to Quebec which made us cancel a walking tour, but the weather, which was supposed to be half rainy turned out great just about every day. Even saw a whale on the day at sea. Service was always excellent and cheerful from the dining and room staff. HAL isn't overly pushy on shopping and excursions (unlike Carnival). The food in the dining room was good (not always great, but never bad) with good variety, but sort of random portions, sometimes huge, sometimes not much more than an appetizer for the main course. The Lido cafeteria had a lot of variety and the food was also good. Some in our party really enjoyed the shows, but that isn't really my thing. I did enjoy the live music by a piano and violin duo. Lots of room on board to hang out. Happy hour drink specials (buy 1 at full price get another for $2) made the drinks more reasonable and the hours weren't bad. I didn't do any HAL excursion due to the price, but had a great time at Bar Harbor using Acadia NP's free shuttles, rented cars in Halifax and Sydney for side trips (to Peggy's Cove and for a boat tour to see puffins), and enjoyed walking around Charlottetown, Quebec, and Montreal. Great trip and very thankful for the excellent weather. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We booked this cruise at the last minute (just a few weeks before sailing) since I realized our three college-age daughters would be available for the week before starting summer jobs. We had two ocean-view cabins, which were midship and ... Read More
We booked this cruise at the last minute (just a few weeks before sailing) since I realized our three college-age daughters would be available for the week before starting summer jobs. We had two ocean-view cabins, which were midship and had a connecting door between the rooms. This was our first cruise on Holland America. It definitely was an older age group than we had sailed with on prior cruises, but that was OK for all of us. We are not party people or big drinkers, nor do we do a lot of group activities (such as bingo or trivia). So having the chance to see some new cities in New England and Canada was our main goal, while at the same time having some nice meals. The food in the main dining room was above average for a cruise line (our last cruise had been on Celebrity.) Two of our daughters are vegetarians, and they enjoyed having a separate menu of interesting items (in addition to the vegetarian items on the daily menu.) Our one item of contention in the main dining room was the inconsistency of service, both at breakfast and at dinner. Frankly, out of six nights, we only thought that our service was good once. The wait times seemed to be unexplainable for the most part (we did not have set dining times, but made reservations once we got on board). The specialty Italian restaurant was very good. We dined there one evening and both the food and service were very good. We also all thought that the buffet was a little nicer with a better selection than on Celebrity. The cabin itself was a little outdated, but it had a wonderful bathroom with the largest shower we have ever had on a cruise. My main complaint was the TV...it was tiny! It was difficult for us to see what was on TV. Also, along those lines, we were happy that movies were offered in a "theater", but actually it turned out that there was not even a big screen -- just two slightly larger TVs on each side of the room. While it may not be easy to replace all TVs in the cabins, certainly HM can buy a larger screen TV for the "theater"! The evening entertainment was nothing special--but it was something to do for the evening and gave us all something to talk about and critique (I do not mean this as a put down to HM because we have said the same thing about the entertainment on even higher end ships.) The real gem of an entertainer for my husband and me was Stryker the "piano man" in the piano bar. He was WONDERFUL. HM needs more seating in the piano bar. It was standing room only each night. Our daughters enjoyed the Test Kitchen presentations, and wished they would do one daily. It would have been nice if there had been some additional "game shows" or something at night in addition to the main theater shows for some of the "younger" people. And for Catholics who are considering HM, I need to tell you why we will be sailing with Holland America again: there was a priest on board who celebrated daily Mass. This was a wonderful benefit for us so that we did not need to figure out how to find a Catholic Church in one of the ports on Sunday. Keep up this practice, Holland America, and we will be back on board with you! Bar Harbor and Quebec were definitely our favorite ports. We scheduled a tour of Acadia National Park directly with the Park in advance via the internet (the bus was an easy walk from the port.) We also purchased a Hop on Hop Off bus tour of Quebec once we were in Quebec (there is a tour desk in the Fairmont Hotel lobby, which you will want to see anyway.) You can skip the Funicular up the hill in Quebec -- it truly was a waste of money. Halifax was a nice stop, and an easily walkable city. I must give a shoutout to Avis in Montreal We rented a car for our family to return to Boston in (an easy drive of about 7 hours with stops for lunch and ice cream). Avis was the only car rental agency that we found which would permit us to take a car across the border and leave it in Boston. And Avis sent a van to pick us up at the cruise port! The weather during the week was colder than we had hoped, but overall it was an enjoyable week on Holland America, even for our 20-something daughters who love to explore the world and have interesting food along the way. I would recommend Holland America and look forward to sailing again with them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Like the maritime provinces and wanted to see more. Embarkation was somewhat disorganized; we arrived in Boston on a redeye at 7:30 am but couldn't board until 11:00 am. Spent most of this time on folding chairs. Enjoyed room ... Read More
Like the maritime provinces and wanted to see more. Embarkation was somewhat disorganized; we arrived in Boston on a redeye at 7:30 am but couldn't board until 11:00 am. Spent most of this time on folding chairs. Enjoyed room service breakfast EVERY MORNING! My husband went early to Lido Deck each morning for his favorite SMOKED SALMON! Puff pastry sweet rolls every morning, also! Lido Deck pool area was great, 2 hot tubs and pool 81 degrees F. Never too crowded. I sat at a table for lunch occasionally; taco bar/hamburger/french fries stand open until 5pm. Service was exemplary. Sometimes a bit too obsequious, but staff were very well trained. Magician show and ventriloquist shows were very, very funny. Disappointed that the organ recital was recorded; thought there would be an actual organist (was not made clear). Met some interesting Canadians on the cruise who were familiar with the area, but still enjoyed the cruise!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
OVERVIEW I usually cruise on luxury lines like Seabourn (SB), either solo or with DH, but a cruise I had booked got cancelled short notice. I was in cruise withdrawal and determined to use the time off I had arranged to cruise. Four ... Read More
OVERVIEW I usually cruise on luxury lines like Seabourn (SB), either solo or with DH, but a cruise I had booked got cancelled short notice. I was in cruise withdrawal and determined to use the time off I had arranged to cruise. Four years ago I had surprisingly enjoyed a HAL cruise to Alaska in a Neptune suite on a large group themed cruise, so thought I would try HAL again, this time as a solo in a vista ( basic balcony) cabin, and with no group to bias my experience. The HAL website price for a vista cabin ( private balcony and bathroom with a jacuzzi bathtub, which I greatly value) seemed fine per diem, especially for a solo, $2200 for one week, ( though non- nclusive), compared with 2-3x that for a luxury line solo offering ( “inclusive” of beverages, i.e., fancy coffees, basic wines and cocktails). I embarked in Boston after enjoying two cold and wet days there seeing sites and eating great food (had brought two umbrellas, in case one broke :). This was a cold weather cruise, 40’s with icy wind, ( some unmelted snow was piled up in parts of Quebec City) . In hindsight, it was a bit too early in the season to best enjoy this area but fortunately most days were clear. It was a lot like northern CA, though colder, and also like Alaska, but without as much dramatic scenery. The beauty here is more subtle. Ports visited included Bar Harbor ( lovely for walks and fresh seafood ) , Halifax ,Sydney,Charlottetown ( Anne of Green Gables fame) Quebec City, and Montreal. Quebec City and Montreal are a bit like going to France, but closer, cheaper, and people don’t mind if you speak English or broken French. The old and new contrasts, history, and great food make this area must-see, at least once, be it on a cruise or land tour. The cruise was supposed to end in Montreal but the river had high water, so we had to disembark in Quebec City and got bused to Montreal, ( three hours on a crowded old bus with torn and non-reclining cramped seats, but we got there). Overall despite some service problems I enjoyed myself and am glad I went, but have to rate the cruise around 3.4, so round down to a 3, even after adjusting for the costs. I had expected MDR and Lido food and service quality differences compared with SB, and there were plenty, though they had not been obvious to me on my 2015 HAL cruise where I was happy. I was impressed with the efficient cabin layout and comfort ( it reminded me of the small balcony suites on Crystal but here there was a bigger balcony, better closet space, and a more comfortable sofa).The main issue of concern was the indifferent or annoying service attitude by too many crew, on top of obvious understaffing ( see below). GENERAL AMBIENCE The ship holds 1400 pax and about 500 crew, ( higher ratio than on SB, and it showed). It seemed pretty full but other than on the main deck and Lido, was quiet at night with few rowdy partiers. Public sitting areas are a bit old-fashioned in style but I loved them, they were wonderfully comfortable for my muscles and bones, nicer for me than on SB, with soft couches and padded, high backed chairs in most venues. Pax were mostly seniors, with quite a few superseniors, only a few kids ( note there is a separate kids and teen area) , some extended families, a few solos. Unlike SB which caters to (on average) an affluent and/or special occasion splurge crowd, people on this short cruise generally appeared to be more budget conscious middle class vacationers ( nased on overheard conversations). Pax were primarily from the U.S. ( and by accents, many were from the northeastern U.S. which had convenient embarkation, Canada, some from Mexico, a few from Germany, and Australia. Some pax were Chinese-speaking. The good-sized casino was usually busy, and though I overheard frequent discussions amongst pax about pricing, discounts, sales, budgets, and deals, and the shops were large, there were thankfully very few overhead announcements, and no hard sells on merchandise. There was photography service, but it was subtle. Oddly, there also seemed to be ( compared with other cruises) a disproportionate number of couples who tended to argue with each other, (perhaps they were on a first cruise, as this was only seven days and cruising turned out not suitable for them).The average Body Mass Index was clearly higher than on SB, for whatever reason, which created a bit of a problem on the tight and packed excursion buses in that as a solo, I got to share more personal space and body parts with males next to me than I would have preferred ( especially when people were sneezing or sweating). If I cruise HAL again, I will absolutely avoid the crowded bus excursions. Luxury lines usually limit the number of people on buses, so pax can spread out more, but then pax pay more up front even (if the excursions are similar in price, as they use comparable vendors). DRESS Casual. “Elegant Casual” officially at dinner for MDR. But even on the two “gala nights,” many people preferred the same jeans and sneakers they wore during the day, even in MDR (allowed) while others dressed up in something prettier. Waiters were in waiter black, however. The most common MDR evening and show male attire was mid-way, non-jeans comfortable trousers and a simple collared shirt. A man in front of me at a show, however, had on gray sweat pants like from a gym, which fell down below his buttocks when he got up. I had an unavoidable view of them before he hitched them up and was on his way. Many people wore T shirts, caps, and sweatshirts with logos or messages on them. If you are looking for a special ambience to match a special evening on a special trip, or enjoy looking at creative special outfits as part of the evening cruise scenery, this was not the cruise to be on. Many people love an anything-goes dress style these days (I am from CA so I know), and even on luxury lines the trend is towards more and more casual and requiring less care and attention, but so far waiters are still dressed up, which I found especially odd on this cruise. FOOD AND BEVERAGES You can pick open seating or fixed seating for dinner ( early or late), share or not share . I joined communal tables twice, once for tea and once for dinner, that was enough as I really did not want to risk hearing more one-sided political monologues within five minutes of sitting down to dine, much less hear lore about cannibalism. Maybe I was just unlucky this cruise, but I was definitely not in synch with the tablemates I tried. So I mostly dined solo, which was not a problem except for the fact that food area crew young enough to be my grandkids automatically addressed me by my first name, repeatedly, without permission. I was told by a senior crew member that they are taught in Holland training to address pax by last name unless instructed otherwise, but many probably assume American women like to be first named by crew they do not know to create a (false) sense of friendliness, but I do not, many do not (overheard), and neither do most older Europeans. In contrast, SB does not first name pax without permission. I did not have the first-naming experience in 2015. Food and beverages offered were abundant and variable in quality, with some outstanding dishes in the upcharged specialty restaurants ( steak tatar and dover sole in the Pinnacle Grill on the french themed night was even better than at the Thomas Keller grill on SB). The Lido cafeteria also regularly offered fresh hearty farmers bread which I loved, and is hard to get on SB ( unfortunately there were only sad and limited meats and cheeses to put on the wonderful hearty bread on this cruise. So this was not a ship for people who like European breakfasts with interesting cold meats and cheeses. There were omelette stations, pasta stations, and grill stations, some pre-made entrees at dinner, or crew would grill a steak. There was not much in the way of interesting salads, but there was some greenery, and vegetables in MDR and specialty venues were well-prepared. Canoletti, the Italian specialty venue ($15 upcharge) had great gourmet food but irritating invasive service and ambience at a late dinner. Six crew people, within ten minutes, asked me how my food was (of course using my first name), usually right after I had filled my mouth with food, one even looked over my shoulder at my ipad messages and asked what I was reading, presumably to make conversation. But they then ignored me when I stated the only thing I did not like about my meal was the loud screeching rock music in the background playing songs with lyrics like “ I want to get away, yeah, yeah, yeah”. So I did, and did not come back. The restaurant manager had come over but all he was interested in is going through the motions to have me tell him everything was great. His tone changed when I mentioned the music, and he said he would check with his “production manager” , then disappeared. The $38 surcharge ( more on French night) dining area Pinnacle Grill was easy to get into and was a true fine dining experience. I should have eaten here every night. Breakfast in the quiet MDR was available 7:30-9, but I am not a big sit down breakfast eater unless there is something special. I ate early local lunches mostly off the ship, so my food disappointments were mostly in the MDR and Lido cafeteria style area at dinner. Room service choices were limited without upcharge but met my needs, e.g., , continental breakfast was fine, including two fluffy small pastries, no food wastage. In hindsight, if not dining in the Pinnacle Grill, just getting a burger to my balcony room for dinner would have been better than dining in the Lido cafeteria buffet or MDR ( note there is upcharge for a better room service burger or hot dog , but you can get a basic one free) . Neptune Suite guests can breakfast in Pinnacle Grill, as I did three years ago on another HAL ship, and they have a separate small snacking and drinking area accessed by key cards, with a dedicated concierge. There is a decent wine list on board with a wide range of price options, so I was happy enough with that. However, wines were marked up 2-3x from retail, that is just part of HAL business strategy. The couple sommeliers I dealt with seemed a bit unhappy and did not add much to my wine pairing ideas, and did not seem to enjoy their jobs, maybe they were just tired. Note you can bring one free bottle of wine per person on board with you. Fee is $18 corkage if not drunk in your room, same for more than one per person or if purchased at ports, unless part of a wine tour ( there were lots of packages and rules to get discounts that I did not bother to learn but would if cruising HAL more). There is also a coffee bar that opens at 7 am , charges $6 or so for a cappuccino style drink in a paper cup. Room service coffee was surprisingly drinkable and arrived when requested. I actually had better room service consistency here than on SB, ( everything ordered came, as expected, at correct temperature, and on time) but they are not set up for customization, unusual requests or big selection options like SB is. You can get vegetarian and gluten free, however, and other health food accomodations reportedly can be made. “ Orange juice” was unfortunately a thin diluted substance that tasted like Tang so I stuck with cranberry. Bacon in the Lido I tried once was perfectly crispy, and they do basic American style breakfast food just fine if you like that, many pax do. Desserts were not very interesting or worth expending calorie budgets on even in specialty areas. Ice cream was bland, sorbet worse. Salad choices were minimal as was fruit variety ( every time I had the room service continental breakfast it had nice watermelon, which I fortunately love, and a few berries, which I also enjoy, yoghurt, and two mini-danish, perfect). Apples and oranges were available, berries not so much. No fruit was brought to my room, but there was a bowl, presumably you can ask for it. Bartenders varied , from excellent at the beautiful but cold water ( 81 F) aft pool and kidless Sea View lounging area, to friendly, or sullen and borderline rude at times elsewhere . I had ordered a $7.50 spanish coffee in the Crows Nest bar which is supposed to come with whipped cream. It arrived without whipped cream ( that is the key part of the drink!) and the bartender just shrugged, said he was out of whipped cream ( not even squirt top or cool whip)and did not even try to apologize. It would have been nice to be warned as I would not have ordered it without the whipped cream . He then unhappily offered me unwhipped cream, which made the coffee lukewarm. A German couple nearby immediately left when they heard there was no whipped cream ( they understood the problem!). :) Drinks in the Ocean Bar, however, were lovely, and one day during “Happy Hour” included a delicious asparagus mousse canape I engulfed, and a smoked sausage that I would have liked on the farmers bread buffet. Tipping is included, as aa 15% service charge automatically added on to beverages and other charged extra services , plus I had a $16/day hotel service charge. So there may have been little incentive to do more if crew sensed I was not a regular and not likely to fuss. The crew quality variability I experienced was striking. Fortunately no one stuck their hands out for extra tips. You can remove the charge if you complain about bad service, but most pax are apparently happy and do not. MDR was closed for lunch every day, only Lido and Dive-In burger stand were open, so there was no quiet table service option. I was off the ship anyway at lunch seeking out local cuisine, except on the sea day, but it would have been disappointing on a cruise with many sea days not to be able to have a quiet full service lunch, DH and I greatly enjoyed those on luxury lines. SERVICE I had frequent English communication issues with both the cabin team and non-Pinnacle dining area crew (mostly Filipino or other Asian personnel) more than on the sister luxury line SB. With one exception, several guest services crew were indifferent to sullen with me, maybe because I reported problems and did not just automatically reply that everything was great. A surprisingly common theme everywhere was annoyance at polite negative feedback with constructive criticism I offered. For example, when I noticed that the Gala menu I was handed was covered with food and grease spots, after I ordered ,I quietly pointed it out to the waiter and suggested he tell his team to clean it before the next guest. He acted perturbed and just shoved it back into the pile of clean menus. There was also a tendency not to apologize for anything that was broken or an error, ( exceptions) and to either get defensive, dodge the issue, ignore me, try and bluff a way out by pretending I don’t understand technology ( a common phenomenon in my solo female travels even on luxury lines or hotels) or otherwise avoid resolving the problem, and frankly act like low level government employees, secure in their positions. As the world gets more affluent, it is getting harder to get good crew without paying more and more, so it likely takes a lot for a crew member to be let go. EX: The second time a waitress swooped in and hurriedly topped off my (separately paid for )sparkling water with regular water, I politely asked her to be careful and not mix them. She denied having mixed, and argued with me that she had not. I calmly told her she had indeed mixed them up , I just wanted to let her know, since she asked how my meal was, to improve. She did not apologize, but then decided to bring me a new bottle of sparkling, even though I was not asking for free stuff, I was just trying to help avoid the same problem. ENTERTAINMENT I repeatedly enjoyed the Adagio piano and violin duo which sometimes included classical music, though they were not world class musicians. A bar pianist ( Stryker) in MIX bar was also a crowd pleaser. In room TV service was mediocre to bad (for this day and age) ,small poorly positioned screen , fuzzy, only two music options ( Musaak and Musaak), you cannot go directly to a channel of choice, and have to scroll through all channels including blank ones . There are no on demand in room movies ( have to call for a Dvd from front desk, from a non descriptive list, but then after delays it turned out I had a broken DVD player ). There were protracted service comedies trying to get anything fixed. Other tech also did not go well. The HAL website is not user friendly, and the morning of my cruise when I logged on to see if the ship was in port, the website erroneously told me my ship had already sailed! This created some needless anxiety, as did the later failure to accurately scan my room card during the muster, resulting in a written warning I would be disembarked for alleged failure to do muster ( no call or knock on door) though I had done it, attentively, and been scanned. SB, a five-start line per Berlitz, also has a poor website, so HAL is not alone ( both run by Carnival). There were two stage performances in one week with four singers and six dancers, one called Classique ( had loud piped in music that drowned out a lone violin player) , the other was called Variations ( with a small live band). The costumes and young bodies were nice to look at but both shows lacked coherence. Everything was overly dramatized which made nothing dramatic, and always passionate which made nothing passionate. Focus was on old saccharin love songs, some Broadway tunes, but it was hard to suspend reality when the singer microphones were very big and obvious and glued with visible tape to the singers’ cheeks. If you cruise for shows, there are better options. Other ship entertainment options were the usual puzzles, yoga ( fee), board games, trivia, basketball court ( brrr), gym, spa, an Oprah book club discussion, big screen movie options including a story about Ruth Bader Ginsburg cases, a library, shuffleboard. Crows Nest, the high forward observation bar, had recliner chairs which were very, very popular for lounging, especially on the sea day. There were also performances by a ventriloquist ( lame) and an illusionist ( better but long-winded). Shows on SB Odyssey, a much smaller ship with a smaller cast, were to my taste much better just a few months ago. CABIN I was happy with the vista “suite”, ( no suite lounge privileges, however, just a room with areas) except for the archaic and broken TV and DVD system. Only 225 square feet , but with a balcony, all nicely arranged, big bed ( a bit hard, so I got a topper), soft linens, long sofa, lots of storage, fridge with a fee minibar, and a cozy solo jacuzzi tub (shower above it), one sink, lots of closet space. Only one electrical outlet. All the fluffy towels I wanted were provided as were six pillows on a bed designed for two. A Bible was in a drawer. You can get your shoes shined. Cruise information was well laid out though some of it had seen many fingers. Overall it was clean enough, except for a dirty remote, a greasy DVD information cover, and corner dust accumulations. A lot of the ship areas could have used a good scrubbing, more frequent public toilet servicing, and more touchup paint, which would take more labor, but overall at least the visible parts were adequately clean for hygienic purposes. The Do Not Disturb sign was always respected. Cabin was made up quickly every morning and evening. Towel animals came, some cute, some just looked like someone forgot a cleaning towel on the bed. Laundry service was wonderful and timely, reasonable pricing for an “unlimited” plan. Internet was — well, ship internet quality, even with the upgraded plan, unreliable and variable, like on all ships including SB, but good enough to get some work done and to prevent pax insurrections. I used my LTE in ports for major internet. ENRICHMENT An excursion rep gave short but helpful talks about ports. I wished they were longer. There was not very much about the history, so I read on my own. There is a library, plus your internet for this. PORTS PORTS Bar Harbor This was a great walking around DIY town, though we did need to tender to it. Along the shore from port is a 45 minute walk. I had “lazy lobster” ( shelled, drawn butter) at the unlikely fun Route 66 restaurant, with comfortable booths, 50’s memorabilia, and home made fries, not frozen. The ladies’ room was demarcated with a frilly pink prom dress, mens with Castrol, so feminists beware. There are fun shops, historic little buildings, and excursion options to Acadia National Park ( I suggest doing it independently as I had done in the past, so as to savor) and other scenic areas. Halifax A larger city, and though there are things to do in town, but best is to travel outside. You have to take a short shuttle ride from the ship to the terminal, people lined up. I did a packed ship’s excursion to Peggy’s Cove, Lunenberg, and Mahone. The restaurant at Peggy’s , Sou’est, had wonderful seafood and great service in a stunning setting, is a lot like northern CA. Lunenberg is a cute town with Germanic history and a sad memorial to hundreds of local men who died at sea, but most venues were closed, as it was too early in the season. It would be lovely in warmer weather and independently. Mahone did not have enough to justify a 50 minute stop. Sydney Not much to do near port in this blue collar town trying to become a chic international cruise port. There is a giant fiddle at the terminal. Irish Triangle nearby had good lobster, and an Irish coffee with cream :). I had pre-researched this town and took a cab two miles with a colorful local to a hidden nature area, Baille Ard, ( good instructions on Internet on how to get there) walked along a stream, snacked on a scenically located bench, then walked back to town. This is a great place to have a calm picnic and get some exercise, 3 km loop, or mix it up. It was junk pickup day, with some interesting Canadain junk set out in front of modest unfenced homes, like a lobster trap, a bidet, and pieces of an old canoe. Excursions out of town into nature were available through HAL, that is where most people went. Charlottetown Great for walking and quality shopping in town but a main attraction is the Anne of Green Gables museum. My excursion had been cancelled, so I did a substitute afternoon crowded Island Tour and museum excursion. The best part is the woods behind the house, there is a 40 minute scenic loop, and there are picnic tables, beautiful, but the guided did not tell people about them. So pax complained the one hour stop was too long, I thought it was too short as I wanted to walk more. Best to come here on your own. Quebec City French is the main language, easy to tour on your own or jump on a hop on type bus. Many great food options, shops, history. We spent the night here as could not sail on to Montreal. DISEMBARKATION, QUEBEC CITY, BUS TO MONTREAL Done efficiently, by group, no long lines at port. There were some pax on the bus back who complained about unloading delays when we got to the cruise terminal in Montreal, which were not HAL’s fault, e.g., yelling at the bus driver, “What’s the game plan?” People lined up in a long taxi line, I called an Ueber, which arrived within 10 minutes and was on my way to my hotel for a couple days enjoying wonderful Montreal. CONCLUSION: I enjoyed my vacation overall, the ports, and my good value vista balcony cabin, the Sea View pool area, and the Pinnacle Grill. I did not care for most of the entertainment, and did not like how service problems were handled. I despised the crowded buses. I also did not like crew familiarity, e.g., automatic first-naming me. Even though there are also issues on luxury lines, there is an expectation there that they will be dealt with, and they are, here they often were not (they simply have less staffing, because they are cheaper). The passenger mix and style here was also annoying at times, and the general ambience was less than inspiring or elegant. But it may be different on longer HAL cruises with more experienced cruisers on board. The price was definitely low, especially for a solo, a major benefit.. I would consider HAL again, especially with DH, on a port intense good itinerary (they have many), but would focus on Pinnacle dinner dining as much as possible, and private excursions. Meanwhile I will continue to to seek out higher rated lines as a first choice (HAL is rated 3 start by Berlitz). Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 3.5 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.5 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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