3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
60++ cruises so I have been there done that to include many Holland America Cruises. I found this Zaandam experience to be perhaps the worst of all my Holland America cruises. It simply is not up to par. There are no huge differences but ... Read More
60++ cruises so I have been there done that to include many Holland America Cruises. I found this Zaandam experience to be perhaps the worst of all my Holland America cruises. It simply is not up to par. There are no huge differences but multiple small things that overall add up to a lot of disappointments. Sadly many of the small shortcomings could seemingly be fixed at little or no cost but somehow it goes on. The once very proud premium Holland America line is not what it once was. A few observations: The Lido: The ice and water dispensing machines in the Lido and by the pool were out of order for the entire 22 days. Ice was served in a walmart looking plastic container that means everyone was picking up the lid and then replacing it which no doubt transferred a lot of germs into the ice. The water was in metal pitchers sitting there open to the elements and even more contamination. The coffee machines also seemed too often not quite right. The hot tea water dispensers worked about half the time if you were lucky meaning more backups and waiting as passengers tried to figure them out. The salad selection in Lido was poor at best with pretty much the exact same selections for lunch and dinner most every day. It appeared to be an attempt to serve the least expensive possible ingredients over and over compared for example to the Oosterdam that had a wonderful selection. The cooked to order omelet had only one cook and no helper so of course the lines got long and were just more trouble than it was worth. The Lido staff was very pleasant and helpful in spite of the lack of working equipment and overall poor food selection. Shame on management for not providing better support by keeping the equipment up to date and working. The stateroom: I had an outside ocean view room on Dolphin deck. Overall the room is fine though dated. Some new flat screen larger TVs would be a cheap but good improvement. Also a refrigerator should be standard these days. One plug is not enough to charge all the cameras and gadgets that most passengers now carry. As usual on Holland the room stewards were excellent and their good service and constant smiles makes up for other shortcomings. For the fourth cruise in a row on Holland even though requested well in advance that as two men travelling together we wanted two beds only to arrive and find one bed meaning it had to be redone. Sounds like a small thing except after flying all night it would be nice to walk into the room and be able to take a nap without hassles/waiting hours for beds to be redone...and of course more work for the steward rather than get it right to begin with. Once upon a time apparently the stewards were given a print out showing bedding preferences of newly arriving passengers but apparently that no longer happens or if it does no one pays any attention to it. Self service laundry: In spite of showing several on the deck plans there is only ONE for 1400 passengers. No explanation as to what happened to the other ones which no longer exist. Even the deck plans in the elevators still list non- existent self service laundries so good luck if you came on board expecting three or four only to find ONE (deck 3). Entertainment: Some good ones like Neal the magician and a few others but overall second rate at best. HAL singers and dancers/props in my opinion were pretty awful....something from a high school presentation and just generally not professional in the least. Appears to be another CCL attempt to minimize expense by providing sub par entertainment. The Wiang Movie theatre has good but unrealized potential to be a big plus....but for some reason the screen is mounted so low on the wall that the projection barely clears the front passengers heads so you literally have to sit up very straight to see over the heads. Movie selection is really poor. Even on sea days same crappy movie shown maybe at 3, 7 and 10 pm....and on port days when many passengers do stay onboard no movies at all. WHY in the world can't Holland buy a high definition DVD player, mount the screen properly , and play a variety of movies with multiple showings all day every day? Holland has a big library of dvds that passengers can borrow for stateroom viewing so why not show some of them in the theatre on a big screen? I suspect most of the passengers may well have a better video system in their home than the Wiang theatre. The popcorn is good though. One wonders if any of the ships officers or CCL execs have ever even been to a movie there and if so why in the world don't they fix some of the obvious problems? Several days sitting in the crows nest in the morning with a few other passengers trying to read books in quiet the music being played (can we ever just have quiet?) was a mix of soft rock and some ghetto RAP....give me a break Holland do you really think your older passenger demographics want to listen to RAP music? Get a clue. Casino: If you like the smell of stale cigarette smoke then this is your place. I avoided it like the plaque as it flat out STINKS. On the plus side it seems most of the smokers are finally getting the idea and other than a few die hards there were no smokers on the decks other than the back pool area starboard where it is smokers heaven. The Library: One of the best things about the Zaandam is a large well stocked library with excellent seating etc. Better than the Oosterdam Library which though serving more passengers is smaller and not well laid out at all. Walking deck: The Zaandam has the usual good Holland fake teak full circle walking deck with four laps to the mile. Unlike other Holland ships no water fountain on the deck. For some strange reason the maintenance guys seem to almost go out of their way to schedule some minor maintenance tasks and block off parts of deck access just at sailing time when lots of people are on deck and trying to walk the decks. Several times the deck chairs were piled up and left in a big mess for hours at a time. Unlike other Holland ships I noticed that the deck chair cushions were often left out overnight to get wet. One badly broken chair sat for two days before it was removed. Also unlike other Holland ships they actually TIE the chairs to a rail with some cheap string/twine to keep them from sliding in rough weather. Other Holland ships long ago built a small wooden teak railing to hold them in place.....but i guess at age 15 the Zaandam hasn't quite figured that out yet? The doors to the bow of the ship housing all kinds of equipment were left standing open day after day which seemed to me to be a security breach at best. Elevators: Several of the elevator doors open or close at glacier speeds and remained that way for 22 days. I suspect a can of WD 40 would have fixed them but again nobody much seemed to care. Shore excursions: Nothing new here. As with all Holland ships (and most other cruise lines as well) the object is to sell as many overpriced tours as possible....and naturally this means going out of their way to NOT give you any information about taxis, internet, atms, exchange rates or any information that an independent traveler would find helpful. This is not going to change so best advice is do your homework before the cruise on the ports if you prefer to go out on your own. The "scare tactics" used to push the tours that you may well miss the ship if you don't go on a Holland Tour are dishonest at best....shame on cruise lines for trying to scare a bunch of older people with these BS tactics. Newsletter: I write the same thing after every cruise but of course nothing changes. The newsletter is AWFUL. Zero imagination, typos and errors, and if anyone proof reads it they sure aren't very good at it. The newsletter being the number one way to communicate with all the passengers is a marketing lesson in missed opportunities. How about featuring ONE of your HARD WORKING service staff in each days' newsletter with their picture and a brief bio of where they are from, their hobbies, their family etc? The passengers I am sure would enjoy it and comment to the staff member and it would be a big source of PRIDE for the staff and the cost to Holland would be pretty much ZERO. Holland/CCL certainly doesn't mind working them long hard hours and even expecting them to do a late night crew show so how about a little RECOGNITION for the very people that are your best asset? . The staff: Carlos the cruise director was excellent in my opinion. Very nice and personable guy who seemed to be everywhere all the time and genuinely interested in personally getting to know as many passengers as possible. In 22 days I saw the captain ONE TIME walking quickly through the LIDO. Never saw him anywhere else except for official functions. A good hotel general manger makes it a point to walk through every restaurant and public area EVERY day to see for himself what is going on. This does not seem to be the case on the Zaandam. As usual the lowest paid Indonesian/Fillipino staff seem to carry the ball and without their good service and constant smiles I suspect a lot of long time Holland customers would be long gone as CCL continues to cut staff and cheapen the Holland brand. The itinerary: Overall about what I expected. For me the two Peru stops were terrrible at best. Lima is a big traffic jam city with hardly a tree left standing. My favorite ports were by far the three Chile stops. Ship Log: The final day all passengers receive a "ships log" to recap the journey. For many no doubt this goes into a scrap book. But once again no proof reading and obviously nobody gives a hoot about accuracy. Our cruise log lists the distance from Vancouver to Victoria at 2443 kms (actually 80 km) . From Puerto Chipas Mexico to Corinto Nicaragua is shown at 2363 km (actually approx 800 km)....the last two ports are left off completely. The distances shown are obviously WAY OFF but again nobody seems to proof read anything. The number of passengers is shown as 1989 rather than the 1400 that is the real number. SLOPPY. Sorry if this all comes off as a whine session but it is frustrating to a long time cruiser such as I am to see the overall decline of what was once a proud well run cruise line like Holland America. There is still much that is good with Holland. I do like the classic design of the ships without all the silly bells and whistles of rock climbing walls and the like. The itineraries are overall good. The wait staff is still among the best at sea in spite of having to service more rooms and people with smaller numbers of employees. Holland is no different than other lines in turning the once mostly inclusive cruise into way too much nickle and diming but that seems to be unavoidable these days. There is a fine line between too much cost cutting, lack of maintenance, and too much nickle and diming before you start to lose customers. Holland/CCL might do well to make sure not to cross that line excessively as it is becoming very apparent to many long term customers what's up since the CCL takeover. If any of the execs at CCL in Miami ever read any of these reviews it would seem that they might actually FIX some of the sloppy work and issues that are raised by real passengers over and over. I understand full well that CCL is out to squeeze every penny out of every passenger but even that is no excuse for just stupid and sloppy management.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
Just returned from this cruise,I do really like sea days but there just was not any thing to do during the day Cooking class MEH who ever goes home and makes this stuff,because of this there were no movie during the day.And when they did ... Read More
Just returned from this cruise,I do really like sea days but there just was not any thing to do during the day Cooking class MEH who ever goes home and makes this stuff,because of this there were no movie during the day.And when they did have an evening movie it was so very old "Hawaii" come on, that movie must have been 30 years old! Trivia on the ships has become very old All the fun stuff they would do during the late seating dinner hour(The Marriage)game and the word definition game...these are usually fun to watch The HAL Cats band was very good but, The Hal cat singers sang so load you could not understand them,now I know why they have been know as The Screaming Hal cats on other reviews. Then they had two repeat shows,come on spend a little more on the entertainment and I am not talking about the eight and ten o clock show I mean two of the same shows the following nights.Back by popular demand they called it... right Makes wonder if we will sail again for a while The food was always great, no issue there Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2014
We embarked in Vancouver in a timely fashion. No problems, no surprises other than our bags had already arrived at our cabin and we were only slightly delayed in the boarding process. Very pleasant. After everything we had been told on ... Read More
We embarked in Vancouver in a timely fashion. No problems, no surprises other than our bags had already arrived at our cabin and we were only slightly delayed in the boarding process. Very pleasant. After everything we had been told on this site, we expected, as 1 star Mariners we would be able to eat in the main dining room for lunch, but alas, we were turned away and ate our first meal in the Lido, first of many I might add. I was awakened by my wife at 5am the first morning in a panic because the water to the head (toilet) would not stop flowing. After trying unsuccessfully to call the front desk, I ran up the stairs and after hitting the bell, finally got someone's attention to try and stem the tide. Getting back to the room, and waiting far too long, I finally tracked down a steward that was able to turn the water off. A couple of hours later, a crew member had the broken shutoff valve replaced. Rest assured, it was not anything foreign and forbidden that was flushed to cause the drama. The stewards worked hard the next couple of days to dry the cabin out from our adventure. And did an admirable job. That was the only true problem with the trip, but I will say to be sure you like sea days very much before choosing an itinerary that has 5 sea days at each end of the trip. On such a small ship, with very little entertainment, other than a very active team trivia each day, it became very monotonous. Needless to say, I took the opportunity to catch up on visiting with my wife, and a great deal of reading. In our 50's, we were very much on the young side of the demographics of this ship. We heard from a few different people the average age on board was in excess of 80 years. I can not prove that number, but also from the number of walkers, canes, wheelchairs and scooters, I totally believe it. Everything on this ship is designed to work around the fixed dining, so be warned, if, like us, like options, choose this line carefully. I can not understand how the main dining room starts the second seating at 8pm, but closes up the Lido at that same time. Trying to eat at any time but the fixed times met with frustration. We had no real complaints about the Lido, other than it was no more than cafeteria food. Better than most cafeterias, but still just a cafeteria. We usually like to have a bigger lunch a bit later than most, around 2:30, but if you do not get there well before they close, then you are left with the same deli selections, each and every day. We then try to have a decent snack at around 8:30, a bit before bed, but unless you want to dress for the dining room, forget about that. There is practically no place, but the dining room to eat after that point. We tried the Pinnacle Grill twice, and found that it was once too many times. Very nice food, but for the price, not worth it in my opinion. Entertainment revolved around the fixed dining, with shows starting at 8pm and 10pm. Forget trying to get a seat at the 8pm show unless you show up at least 45 minutes before hand. The few shows we watched, were hardly worth the bother. Some of the guest entertainers were great, but very standard shows otherwise. The musicians onboard were very nice, but forget listening to anything other than classical or very old standards. The only reason we chose this cruise was the multiple visits to the Islands of Hawaii. They did not disappoint. One piece of advise, rent a car and explore on your own, well worth the time and investment. I can see why some would fight to the end to keep Holland America traditional, but it is only a matter of time before the present catches up with this line. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
We were a group of three adults in two cabins: my parents (aged 70 and 64) and myself. My parents had cruised once before on the Norwegian Dawn and loved it. They were the ones who picked this cruise. My flight into Vancouver was the night ... Read More
We were a group of three adults in two cabins: my parents (aged 70 and 64) and myself. My parents had cruised once before on the Norwegian Dawn and loved it. They were the ones who picked this cruise. My flight into Vancouver was the night before, due to the distance and lack of direct flights. I booked a hotel near the waterfront, took the Canada Line, and simply walked six or eight blocks to the dock in the morning, with my luggage. Coming back, I stayed closer to the airport, so I took my own luggage off the ship, hopped onto the Canada Line again, got off on Marine Drive, and trundled my salmon-stuffed suitcases a mile or so over to the hotel, which provided a free shuttle to the airport the next morning. As long as you're physically capable of lifting, carrying, and moving multiple suitcases quickly, this is a piece of cake especially with wheeled luggage. But I do not recommend it for anyone who uses a wheelchair. The curbs in Vancouver are extremely high, the sidewalks are often narrow, and it's hilly. Yet I spent perhaps CAD$13.75 on ground transportation, total, including generous tips to anyone who had to handle my luggage. There was about 100 pounds of it, including carry-on, after I'd committed the last smoked salmon run. The windows on the Zaandam never seem to be cleaned on the outside. They wash the outside of the ship while they're in port, but not the windows or the lido cover. It rains most days in Alaska, but on clear port days there's no reason to not at least wipe down the outer windows in the public areas so that people can get a clear view of the fantastic scenery at least for a while. The hallways and public areas tended to be very noisy, especially in the restaurants, which were always crowded and extremely noisy. There's always some canned music playing in the lido area, and the noise and acoustics were bad enough to make both my parents turn off their hearing aids. Conversation became almost impossible. I'm not a huge fan of standing in line, which was always necessary at the Rotterdam, but having to stand in line several times for just one meal at the lido buffet is tiresome. There was almost always a crush of people, and although the Club HAL program seemed to be attractive to people with kids, there was no game plan for dealing with children at mealtimes. So they tended to get lost in the lido buffet and panic. They would also fidget, shout, cry, and act out during the two-hour meals at the Rotterdam main dining room. I can't say I blame them: two hours at a table is far too much for a toddler. Also, at times I felt like shrieking myself. The Rotterdam food was very well presented but generally cold by the time it arrived, and although steak cooking instructions were generally followed, language barriers prevented the use of special instructions such as "dressing on the side". The lido food that was prepared on the spot, such as the eggs Benedict, was great. Things that had to sit under heat lamps were generally tepid. There was a lot of starch: plenty of noodles, rice, potatoes, and a neverending supply of bread. There were a lot of sugary things to eat. Most of the available food is what I call "fat people food": heavy on the starch, sugar, grease, and especially salt, and low on actual nutritional value. I solved the problem by either eating salad at the lido (which is quite healthy, if you skip the dressing and cheese), generally skipping the hit-and-miss desserts, and choosing food that is supposed to be greasy, salty, and cold. I pigged out on fruit, rolls that are more cake-like than bread-like (very American but not in a nice way), and smoked salmon. So despite seven days of enforced sedentary activity while surrounded by an obesogenic system designed to make people pack on the pounds, I didn't actually gain an ounce. I need at least a couple hours of hard exercise every day, but there's no running track or lap pool, and for some reason we're not allowed to run or jog on the outdoor promenade. There's a miniature toy basketball court, shuffleboard floor, and toy tennis court for the kids, but they're on the top deck. They're not usable in bad weather, nor is there-- for example-- a tennis pro on board so I could book and pay for a lesson. There is a gym of sorts, with extra-fee yoga classes and a few free group exercise sessions, and the gym has some ancient Nautilus-type equipment and a few treadmills where you can look out through the filthy windows at all the fresh air you're not getting. We stuck our noses into the gym facility right away, but the sales pitch started immediately and just didn't let up. Sometimes you just want to work out and not have a bunch of papers pushed on you. No, I don't want a body fat analysis, personal training regimen, or one-on-one "consultation" about extra supplements or therapies. Supplements and therapies are pseudoscience bunk, and I already have a trainer I pay for the rest. Can't we just work out in peace without being huckstered to buy-buy-buy a bunch of products we don't need, don't want, and can't use? No? Fine, I'll get out of your hair. We never went back. Since I had to leave my guitar at home and couldn't practice, I needed something to do with my hands, but very little was available. I ended up getting a lot of knitting done. Between the three of us, we tried out just about every activity on the ship, and eventually concluded that there was nothing to do, except sit around and watch other people do something. Dance classes don't exist-- you can't pay someone to teach you to samba-- but there's some kind of TV based "Dancing With The Stars" contest with some classes attached. We checked it out, but it was just a bunch of people sitting and watching a video of a dance class. Apparently people who can already dance have a competition of some sort while everyone else sits and watches them. We did the 5k charity walk for cancer, and were able to get the laps done with minimal disruption from the ship photographer who does not understand the words "No, no more, please don't. Please stop snapping that flash in my face." By the end of the ship I was so sick of having black spots on my retina from her flash bulb that I seriously considered grabbing that camera and tossing it overboard. The salesmanship and pitchmanship just never seems to end. There's paper, paper, paper left on your bed or next to your door, hawking this future cruise or that spa special. Every day, in addition to the program, there are so many bits and scraps of coupons and whatnot that it's hard to locate what you really do need to read and understand. It's safe to say that I got more junk mail on the ship than I did at home, and I sincerely doubt that they recycle any of it. Every day, especially at sea, there are intercom announcements hawking some activity or other. The "informative" lectures and presentations are generally thinly disguised sales pitches for overpriced geegaws. My mother bought a pair of earrings, but I've always hated shopping. Even at the spa, where we each paid about $250 (after the mandatory gratuity) for extremely mediocre massages, we still had to sit through a sales pitch at the end where we were pressured to buy the greasy, pore-clogging oil used on us instead of light oil or lotion. You'd think that, after $250, a person would have earned a bit of freedom from the high pressure sales. But... no. Everywhere you went on board, there was a neverending drumbeat of Buy-buy-buy-buy. Stage entertainments exist, but are extremely amateurish. We went to the Northern Lights show and sat through a song-and-dance presentation that featured some good voices, some mediocre choreography, and content that was downright offensive. My Canadian mother did not care for the slapstick presentation of the Mounties as buffoons, and as a bi person I see no point in calling public attention to my orientation. Nearly half of the songs were thinly disguised gay anthems. I like "True Colors" well enough, and it's a lovely song in its own right, but Monty Python's lumberjack song and Queen's "Don't Stop Me" both have lyrics that the performers elected to not sing, because of the second verse. If you're going to do a gay anthem, then do it and own it. Don't sneak it in and try to be cute about it, like we're all part of some inside joke. That got old with the Village People's "Don't Stop The Music" movie. The musicians were very skilled, especially the classical duo that performed in the Explorer Lounge every night. That became our favorite hangout in the evening, because we were able to have a drink and a conversation without being interrupted, bumped into, or having to stand in line. The classical performers understood the basic reality of playing background music: the idea is to not drown out everything else. In all the other lounges, the volume of the music was set far too high to allow conversation. Result: people who wanted to socialize mostly left. One stage show that can't be missed is a late-night presentation by the Filipino crew. They do some traditional dances and songs from their home, and some of the people you see serving your drinks or working at the front desk are extremely talented. To be honest, they out-performed the professionals. I'd have liked to have seen them earlier in the evening, when more people could attend, instead of at 11 PM. These folks, who rehearse entirely on their own time, received a well earned standing ovation. I think I'd have enjoyed the sedentary, mostly passive activities if I'd been 80 years old, or confined to a wheelchair, or perhaps a newlywed who'd brought my entertainment with me. The ocean view cabin was immaculate (like the rest of the ship interior), with a spacious bathroom. Our two stewards were very attentive, and we made friends with one of them in particular. It turns out that stewards, wait staff, and many of the service workers put in 15-hour days, seven days a week, 10 months out of the year. That's why so many of them move slowly and seem to struggle with basic tasks: they're physically exhausted and burned out. There are economic reasons why these employees consider their jobs worthwhile, and they're too complex for me to get into here, but it turns out there's a sizable humanitarian cost to all this luxury. So we made sure to not impose on our stewards, or anyone else, with special requests. I found it hard to be happy and upbeat in the midst of so much human suffering. If this is what cruising is like, I don't think I care for it. I can stand in line and be part of a crowd pretty much anywhere, and spend substantially less. Next time, I'm going to fly into Ketchikan and book some kind of deep sea fishing expedition, with lots of pointy hooks, waves, and physical exertion. Perhaps if there's some kayaking or other adventure I'll feel like I'm actually having fun. I want to be so worn out the end of the day that I'm not sure where I am. That's my idea of a vacation. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
I was with my parents the first time I went to Alaska and my husband and I wanted to tour again just on our own. We took the Zaandam. The entertainment in Zaandam was almost the same as that one in Amsterdam, HAL cats and Dancing with ... Read More
I was with my parents the first time I went to Alaska and my husband and I wanted to tour again just on our own. We took the Zaandam. The entertainment in Zaandam was almost the same as that one in Amsterdam, HAL cats and Dancing with Stars; both ships have the Neptunes and almost similar entertainment. I noticed the Zaandam have specific groups of crew members doing the same job; mostly, Filipinos were assigned in the kitchen and wine service; while Indonesian crew members served food, cleaned tables, cabins and they were also at the Rotterdam restaurant, Zaandam's formal dining. Dancing with Stars, I noticed was more entertaining in Amsterdam. The judges made that difference. The judges in Zaandam were pretty laid back as opposed to Amsterdam when the judges were quite funny. They were entertaining the audience themselves. Zaandam I find is an older ship. Our cabin's bath tub have chips on them. The tiles were chipping too but. Our cabin was very clean in both ships and the crew were just excellent. The one thing that disappointed me in Zaandam was the parade of Indonesian Culinary crew. The ship presented the crew inside Rotterdam restaurant. They played a recorded music as all Indonesian staff walked up and down the two-story seating of Rotterdam restaurant. That was the extent of recognition given to the crew. I think all crew members deserve center stage where all the guests can give them an applause and standing ovation for the kind of work they do to make people like us happy with our vacations. In Amsterdam, the theatre was filled with crew members as the cruise director introduced each group of crew and briefly described what those men and women do. We saw the crew behind the lines, those we never knew existed and we gave them all standing ovation. There was no recognition night in Zaandam, just a walk around the restaurant and only those people who are at the Rotterdam saw them and only during certain time of seating. The shore excursion staff in Zaandam could hardly be depended on. It was better to go to the Front Office and have your excursion explained and booked for you. The shore excursion staff hardly answer their phones and their hours were so limited. The Filipino show in Zaandam was better. The ship gave the crew special lighting and decorations, enhancing the show and was more lively. The Filipino show in Amsterdam was kind of drab. There was no special lighting and the stage was bare. The Indonesian tea party in Zaandam was great. I thought that was a cool gesture to introduce the culture of the Indonesians. Zaandam also offered Heritage dinner where food was mostly of Filipino and Indonesian origin that night at the Lido. The crew in both ships were superb. Amsterdam though was more alive. I've seen the captain in that ship several times in Lido and along the hallways. I heard the captain everyday, telling us which side of the ship we can find a dolphin or whale or even just a few tiny fishes jumping out of the ocean. He was a jolly guy. The cruise director was everywhere in Amsterdam. I heard him call guests by their first names. Zaandam's dining officer appeared to be a French-speaking fellow was everywhere. He even cleaned tables and served drinks to some people. The public washrooms in Zaandam for ladies were not in the upkeep. I found three clogged.   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
When a cruise company offers rock-bottom prices, you have to wonder why it was necessary to do so. Has the brand lost popularity among its clientele, or did the line use the lure of a bargain to attract first-timers who will become repeat ... Read More
When a cruise company offers rock-bottom prices, you have to wonder why it was necessary to do so. Has the brand lost popularity among its clientele, or did the line use the lure of a bargain to attract first-timers who will become repeat customers? For the first Alaska cruise of the season, our 11th with HAL, we paid less than what the competition was charging and less than we paid on the Alaska run in 2007. Canadians like us made up two-thirds of the passenger complement. However, it’s pretty much a law of economics: you pay less, you get less. In this case, ‘less’ meant, first of all, slicing the food budget, reducing variety and quality in The Lido restaurant and cutting portion sizes in the dining room. One night I ordered scallops and got two – two! – with a teaspoonful of sauce. Staff size also appeared to have been reduced in the food and beverage areas, which slowed down the service. The entertainment was just not good enough. Some of the lounge singers, while enthusiastic, suffered from off-key delivery. We felt embarrassed for the talented song-and-dance troupe having to perform such poorly conceived material. There was one shining exception: the classical duo Adagio which was outstanding. Day-time activities seemed largely geared to raising more revenue for Holland America. The Cruise Director – no doubt otherwise competent – was one of those people who needed us to remind her constantly that we were having fun. Any Alaska cruise with great weather is, though, a success, and this one had great weather. The ports are always interesting, though excursion bargains are rare. Any cruise with HAL’s Indonesian and Filipino service crew will give you a smile: there may be fewer of them but their attitude is undiminished. First-timer cruisers have no way to notice the cutbacks. Cabins are still well designed, and, salty windows aside, the ship was spotless; the line’s traditional positives have not been lost. But it was easy to get the impression that HAL is struggling to stay afloat. Two of its ships are being re-branded in Australia; how many more will vanish? Or is this cruise line, which works hard to appeal to multi-generation families, on the verge of a new era of success?   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2014
I got an email for a great price with some pretty nice perks for a last minute sailing round trip Vancouver. It was hard to miss since for us we only had to take a ferry to the Vancouver, catch the ship, enjoy a wonderful itinerary and ... Read More
I got an email for a great price with some pretty nice perks for a last minute sailing round trip Vancouver. It was hard to miss since for us we only had to take a ferry to the Vancouver, catch the ship, enjoy a wonderful itinerary and then ferry home again. I jumped at it. We enjoyed the room (6198) although the bathroom was a bit "old" with some cracking in the tiles. Our attendant and his helper were nice fellows and kept our room in nice condition. As for staff, we specially enjoyed Gus in the Ocean Bar and the folks at the Explorations coffee bar as well as the Casino staff. We had a good conversation on the last day with Christine the cruise director. As for the Lido staff, nothing positive to say here except the table cleaners were always friendly. I can't say there was a server in the Lido or a waiter or assistant in the Radisson who would raise a positive memory. Beverage service was poor (except by Gus), but I did have a good conversation with Calin (?) the Beverage Manager who accepted my criticisms and made a generous offer to try to make up for it. Staff in the front end of the Radisson were not particularly friendly, seemed not to care much about the dining procedures, which I think were quite poor and unlike any other ship we have been on, and it was on the last day that a dining manager happened to overhear a conversation I was having with a staff member about not being able to get a reservation who stepped in and assisted. The Lido buffet was terrible both from a food and service perspective. In fact, the grill at the pool was the best option. I did not mind the need to have food served for the first two days, in fact I agree with that as an option to avoid potential illness. However the way the buffet is set in a single line requiring you to pass by stations that you are not interested in while waiting for a long time in a line is very poor planning. And, to finally get to a station you wish only to find the food options unacceptable is unfortunate. I like to have a fresh omelet in the morning, however it is a lot of time to wait for a single cook with no assistant, and then once getting the omelet, the choices for bacon or sausage or toast are less than what would be expected and sometimes it meant having to stand in the long cattle line up to get to the meat. As well, my wife had experiences with inedible pasta and dry deli sandwiches. As far as indoor dining is considered your process for waiting, waiting, waiting is unacceptable and then table service was quite poor once in the dining room. We payed extra for two nights in the pay restaraunts and the service was wonderful. However, I have never been on a cruise where "all-inclusive" was anything but. After embarkation we happened to go to the Ocean Bar and met Gus who we found to be very nice and we talked about buying a drink pass for the week. From our discussion with him we determined it would be a good idea since my wife likes a couple of glasses of wine with lunch and dinner and we both love special coffees and were sure that pre and after dinner drinks would make the pass a good convenience if not a good value. From that moment on, unless we were in the Ocean Bar we received poor service. For example, on NO days in the restaurant did anyone approach us for a refill. Yes, we did get initial service as the waiter came to the table and we made a drink order. Never did anyone come back other than to clean the table. It was only at dessert that we placed an order for an after dinner drink, and that was with the waiter again, not from a steward. On deck I had to go to a bar myself to get drinks almost every time. Our place to enjoy a cocktail or get a drink to enjoy in one of the public places was the Ocean bar chatting with Gus or one of the other fellows behind the counter. Service in the Explorations coffee bar was very good. I would say excellent, however on three occasions, ships officers were served before us which would be fine, except that it was only on one occasion that the officer was in front of us! And, for that time, she was ordering eight drinks for her peers! Imagine the time that took to complete the order. The casino staff was very friendly and I enjoyed contributing to the ships profits. This is our second Holland America experience and we found the ship to be quite well laid out and the public areas were very good. I do believe the ship was under staffed for dining and beverage service. Our first experience with this cruise line was much more pleasant. Perhaps part of that was we had a totally opposite experience with dining, an excellent Wine Steward, and careful, timely service in the eating areas and around the pool on our last cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
We are in our mid-50's and have cruised before. We booked two cruises, first Anchorage-Vancouver on the Princess Diamond, then one night in Vancouver, then back to Anchorage on the Holland Zaandam. We chose the Zaandam last because we ... Read More
We are in our mid-50's and have cruised before. We booked two cruises, first Anchorage-Vancouver on the Princess Diamond, then one night in Vancouver, then back to Anchorage on the Holland Zaandam. We chose the Zaandam last because we wanted to end in Seward. Before leaving, we purchased a Northern Lights coupon book. Toursavers is very similar. I highly recommend checking them out. We saved hundreds. In our short time in Anchorage we enjoyed watching the sea planes from the patio of the "Fancy Moose" (at the Millennium hotel). We really liked the Alaskan Native Heritage Center (coupon). We stayed at the Alaskan Frontier Gardens B&B which was good. Renting a car at the airport was a snap. On the first leg of our trip, we used Anchorage Tours and Transfers to transfer to Whittier. They also do transfers to Seward. With the NL coupon it was a great deal, and our driver was a teacher at the University of Alaska. We enjoyed her as much as any tour guide we've had! We stopped at the Wildlife Conservation Center on the way down. I'd use this transfer service again. In Vancouver, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency. It's walkable from Canada Place. The Vancouver Trolley Hop-On-Hop-Off was an easy way to see the city. We enjoyed walking in Stanley park, the seawall near Canada Place, and Granville Island. The best thing we did was take the shuttle out to the Suspension Bridge Park in the morning before embarking on the Zaandam. We walked down to Canada place to catch the first shuttle bus because the early buses often fill before getting to the hotel pick up points. We were back by noon. Once we got through a very long, very slow customs line, embarkation went smoothly. We were lucky to be able to visit each port twice, first on the Princess Diamond then on the Zaandam. Skagway: 1) Rented a car through Avis rather than take the train. We enjoyed the drive, but being from Colorado, it wasn't as spectacular as we'd hoped. People who took the train told us it was pretty but got a little long. We had a beer at the famed Red Onion afterward. 2) Took the ferry to Haines, rented a car, and went to Kroschel's wildlife center. It was a unique and wonderful experience! (Google Kroschels) Another couple had set this up, and we were lucky that we were able to tag along. I'd highly recommend this excursion, but the ferry, car, and Kroschel's need to be reserved in advance if you don't book through a ship. Juneau: 1) Went fishing with another family on Wolverine Charters. The captain, Jim Lewis, was wonderful. A retired teacher, he was personable and able to relate to adults as well as the child onboard. His boat and equipment were well kept and clean. 2) Rented a car with another couple and drove to Mendenhall and other sites. Great day, and we were easily to do the sites in a day. Be sure to walk to Nugget Falls if you can handle a couple of miles. Ketchikan: 1) Morning, Great Lumberjack show. It's cheesy but great fun for all ages. It's best to get tickets in advance from the ship. They're $35 either way, you avoid the line, and are assured a seat. In the afternoon we did the Bering Sea Crab Fishing tour. Incredible!!! We booked independently and saved a few dollars compared to the identical tour with the ship. It boards right at the pier, so no transportation is required. You'll see a better eagle show on this excursion than anywhere else. Out of all the excursions we've done, anywhere, this is one of the most memorable! Dress warmly. 2) Misty Fjords Flight seeing with Island Wings, booked independently. Absolutely spectacular. Also highly recommend! Glacier Bay was a highlight on both ships. Even though the Zaandam is much smaller than the Princess Diamond, the Princess ship went much closer to the glaciers. It may have had something to do with the tides. We were disappointed at the distance, but really enjoyed how the Zaandam opened the bow of the ship on Glacier Bay day. HAL sold plenty of hot drinks and wine that day. Self-debarkation was a snap. Just outside the terminal is a free city shuttle bus (old school bus) that we took to the Visitor's Center near Safeway. From there, we walked a few blocks to the Bear's Den B&B. Our room was actually a 2 bedroom apartment that didn't include breakfast, but it was perfect for two couples. Another couple met us there with a car, but it was only a 10 minute walk to the small boat harbor. The food at Rays in the small boat was especially good. While in Seward, we went to Exit Glacier and walked up to the glacier. We used NL coupons for the Major Marine dinner cruise, which was nice even though we didn't see much wildlife. We went on a float trip down the Kenai out of Cooper Landing with River Drifters (coupon) that was very pleasant. Our only negative experience was a beginners kayaking trip out of Miller's Landing near Seward. We got a newbie guide who obviously had no guide training at all. It did seem like groups with other guides fared better. A real highlight of our entire trip was the Northwestern Fjords 9 hour trip with Kenai Fjords Tours (coupon). It was absolutely incredible!!! We had an outstanding captain who knew when to narrate and when to be quiet and even turn the motors off. We saw a "National Geographic worthy" whale show and calving glaciers with only the sounds of nature. While in Seward, the 9 hour or even the 6 hour Kenai Fjords tour is a must! We meandered down to Homer and stayed a day in a lovely B&B called Cranes Rest. Our biggest regret of the whole trip is that we didn't have more time in Homer. Many people asked us which ship we liked better--the Princess Diamond or the Holland Zaandam. We'd say they are just different. The Zaandam is smaller, older, and more sedate. It's more of a "maritime" and less of a floating-resort experience. We joked about feeling like we were on the Titanic. Our Zaandam room was larger than Princess, but it was dated, had only one plug in, and the window overlooked the promenade so our curtains were usually closed. I wouldn't spend the extra on an OV cabin in this situation again. Zaandam service was nothing to complain about, but the Princess service was definitely sharper, more attentive, more cheerful, and more professional. Several times there were problems with the toilet system shipwide, but they did get it taken care of within a few hours. The MDR food was generally good. Formal nights were very nice, and most people in the MDR dressed up. However, we thought the buffet was the worst we've ever had on a ship. The buffet food was mediocre at best. Rather than giving you a platter, everything is served on separate little plates. You don't get trays, so you find yourself walking back and forth to put things down. Once you've finally got your food to your table, you have to go get your own coffee, tea, and sometimes even silverware. Between 8:30-11:00 pm there is no food available at all except room service. A plus for HAL is that there are many quiet places to sit and watch the sea. There are only two small pools, one covered, but we didn't see too many adults in either of them. The Crow's nest is a very nice space. If you like an afternoon drink, they have a happy hour where drinks are buy one get the second for $1. You could bring your own wine onboard as long as it was corked and consumed in your stateroom. (Rumor has it that this HAL policy is changing.) The theater is small, and the main level isn't sloped enough to provide good viewing. But the singers and dancers were very good, and we enjoyed all their shows. Something we missed on HAL was the presence of a naturalist onboard for Alaska. On Princess, the naturalist gave lectures and announced in the public areas when wildlife had been spotted so everyone could go take a look. On the Zaandam, your chances of seeing wildlife were pretty small since you'd have to be looking in the right place at the right time. There were pluses and minuses for each ship. Overall, we personally enjoyed the newer, more upbeat Diamond more. It was just more cheerful. I wouldn't seek out the Zaandam to cruise on again, but I wouldn't exclude it if there was an itinerary we really wanted.   Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
This was our first cruise on Holland America. We've cruised three times before on other lines. Overall, this was a good experience, not the best cruise we've taken but not the worst either. One port of call was Puerto ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Holland America. We've cruised three times before on other lines. Overall, this was a good experience, not the best cruise we've taken but not the worst either. One port of call was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The ship stayed overnight and this allowed us to experience some of the nightlife. This was the first cruise we took that did this. We had the time to find places to visit that was a bit off the beaten path and eat dinner in a local's restaurant rather than the usual tourist traps. The other was Cabo San Lucas, which was fine, even though it felt like visiting a mall. We found the ms Zaandam to be a nice ship. There are plenty of areas to sit and relax as well as many activities in which to participate. We took advantage of the "Techspert" several times, attending classes on the use of Microsoft Windows to edit photographs and to use a digital camera. The things we learned is evident in the much improved quality of our photos. Other classes on towel folding, flower-making, etc. were just as informative and enjoyable. Mike, the singer-guitar player in the Piano Bar was by far the most talented person we have had the pleasure to enjoy on a cruise ship, even when signing his original songs. The shows, on the other hand, were typical cruise ship fare. There was an excellent juggler but the musical shows could be easily skipped. Our cabin, 1808 on the Dolphin deck was quite a bit smaller than the online description would led one to believe. There is no sofa, only a chair and small table. We had the room configured for one bed and due to the odd, non-rectangular shape of the cabin, make moving near the bed difficult. I would recommend a twin-bed configuration. There is a DVD player in the room and the ship offers a large library of movies to check out. Our cabin steward, Dedi, could not have been nicer. He was always present but never in the way. He filled our fruit basket daily, provided an ever-increasing number of chocolates (reached 12 pieces on the last night) and an adorable towel animal every night. Food service was very spotty. The Lido Restaurant (not a buffet, more cafeteria style service) was decent, although the food seemed to not have much variety. One could eat the same meal any day of the voyage. Food quality was better in the Rotterdam dining room, but like all cruise ships, the food is more like what one receives at a wedding rather than a fine restaurant. The service was spotty (missing bread plates, missing forks, courses served out of order, etc.) Being a Californian, these really aren't issues for me but many guest seemed to be upset. Room service, on the other hand, was absolutely terrible. The first time we tried room service, the food never arrived. By the time we gave up, all other food service had ended so we didn't have any dinner the first night. The second time we tried, we were told the wait would be 1 to 1 1/2 hours. After 2 hours we called back and were told there was no order for us. The food arrived about 1/2 hour later but the order was incomplete and very cold. We tried a third time by ordering breakfast using the card we hung on the door handle the night before. The food arrived at the requested time but was also incomplete, and there was only one set of silverware and no cream for the coffee. Overall, food is the most problematic issue on this cruise. Finding the silver lining, I actually lost 1 pound. Our voyage included Easter and this probably accounted for the large number of children on board. We were told that there were 1,590 guest on board which is about 150 more than the stated capacity of the ship. Many children running around, playing on the elevators, etc. detracted from the experience. We never had the chance to use any of the pools due to the number of children. There didn't seem to be much parenting going on and the cruise line, understandably, didn't step in unless complaints were made. Although Holland America is considered to be a premium cruise, we did not find that to be true. By far they were better than our trip with Royal Caribbean, but below that we found with Princess or Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
I try to sail on a HAL ship once every 2 years. I normally go to the Mexican Riviera in the winter to use their excellent thermal suite and work out equipment. I consider it my spa week to relax. This was my first time on the Zaandam. ... Read More
I try to sail on a HAL ship once every 2 years. I normally go to the Mexican Riviera in the winter to use their excellent thermal suite and work out equipment. I consider it my spa week to relax. This was my first time on the Zaandam. I liked the layout of the ship; smaller than most but not crowded even though it was Easter break week. We ( my son and I ) were upgraded to a partial blocked outside cabin, 3383. This was not an upgrade. The cabin was large but from the moment we entered I knew we would have a problem. The diesel fuel smell in the cabin was overwhelming and the A/C was hardly working. We immediately called downstairs; they said the smell would go away when we started sailing and sent someone up to look at the A/C. The repair man came up and said that the cabin was hot and that they would adjust it downstairs. We went off to sign up for the thermal suite package and I did not think about it again. When we came back to the cabin after dinner the smell was still bad and the A/C was still not working well. Our cabin steward apologized and got us a fan. He did what he could but he looked like this was not the first time this cabin had a problem. I tried to sleep with the fan blowing the fumes in my face. At 1 am I gave up; I had a terrible headache from the fumes and felt sick to my stomach. I went to the front office and asked if there was anywhere I could sleep. The lady said ; sorry we are completely booked. She was sorry I was sick from the cabin fumes but there was no room in the inn. I offered to sleep in the infirmary, I just needed some sleep and some clean air. No the infirmary was closed. So I told her I would sleep in the library. I went up and slept on the library couch for 2 hours, woke up without the headache and went back to my smelly cabin. The smell did get better the next day, the A/C never did and after 2 days of asking for help we gave up and kept the fan going. The toilet in the cabin worked most of the time; only had to have it fixed 2x. Avoid this cabin. The rest of the trip was fun. Went on the whale watching trip and saw a couple of whales ( the end of March is really too late in the season). We enjoyed the thermal suite and worked out everyday on the new equipment. We spent some time in the casino , contributing to the casino's retirement fund. The casino manager was great. The comedian , Dan Grueter was wonderful and we were sad that he only did one show. The singers and dancers were good and did their best with the small stage and the simple sets. We enjoyed the cooking demo, the computer classes and the DJ in the Crow's nest. We ate in the lido restaurant for all of our meals. We have done this before on 2 other cruises with HAL and normally we found the food there to be as good as the dining room . But not this time, HAL's food quality is slipping. Overall, we had a nice time. But for me the quality of service was seriously lacking. When you are paying so much for a room on a ship ; you should be able to sleep in your room and not the library couch. I was too tired and had too bad a headache to care. I wish someone on the HAL staff could have cared a little more. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
This was my second experience sailing, and my partner's first. I want to make clear that we did enjoy ourselves. So it isn't necessarily that it was a horrible experience. But it was definitely less than I expected. First, the ... Read More
This was my second experience sailing, and my partner's first. I want to make clear that we did enjoy ourselves. So it isn't necessarily that it was a horrible experience. But it was definitely less than I expected. First, the good. Zaandam is a small ship. I had previously sailed on a large Royal Caribbean ship, and I had a hard time getting to know people. On this sailing, we made a lot of friends. Because the ship is smaller, you see people more frequently and thus there are more chances to make connections. That's a good thing if you are sociable, like we are. The cabin steward was a real gem. He had this knack for knowing exactly when we had left the cabin without seeming like he was hovering, waiting for us to leave. He always greeted us with a smile and called us by name. The front desk crew was also very professional. I felt that embarkation was a lot easier on this line than my previous experience on Royal Caribbean. The fact is that the ship pulls into port at 7 am. From 7 until roughly 8:30 they are waiting for port clearance. And the rest of their passengers are not off until around 10 am. And they start boarding new passengers at noon. That gives them only about 2 hours of time to get the ship ready. Given that, it is simply amazing what they do. The nighttime shows were particularly good, particularly the comedians. I haven't laughed that hard in years. They also have a pretty decent movie theater, and showed a selection of pretty good movies at night. Now the bad: First, from the start it seems like everything is about money with them. I would be interested in more seminars on interesting stuff, but apart from the cooking classes and fitness classes, it seems like most of their activities are really only thinly disguised attempts to sell you something. If your idea of a good vacation is not constant attempts to sell you things, then the day can be a bit boring, until nighttime, when the ship does start to come to life. There are movies, shows, and the bars come to life at night. So the nights were definitely far more entertaining than the days. During the day you can use the pool, but that gets old after awhile. They need to plan more interesting daytime activities. Before you reach the port, Holland America will offer you information on the ports. This is really a spoiled opportunity. They could have taken this chance to tell us about all the "off the beaten track" sorts of things you can do in these truly interesting ports. Instead, for the most part they use the information session to promote their own favorite shops in the ports. And how does one become one of Holland America's favorite shops? Simple. You give Holland America money. We found this out in a really interesting way. We took our little Holland America port map into town, and one of the proprietors tried to get us into his shop, telling us that he is one of "Holland America's Guaranteed Shops". We told him that he wasn't on our map! He said, "really, can I see?" Sure enough, he wasn't on our map. He was furious! "We paid them a lot of money to be on that map!" He told us, "we should be on there!" On ship, his story turned out to be true. The Holland America port director told us that his shop had accidentally been left off, but that his shop, "The Real McCoy" was one of their guaranteed shops. So there you have it. The man's credibility was confirmed: Their "guaranteed shops" is just a synonym for their advertisers. I gave the owner of "The Real McCoy" my map so he would have proof, and I truly hope he gets a refund. Service around the ship for the most part was pretty good, and people were pretty friendly. But on several occasions ships staff were rude to us. This seemed more common at the drink station in the Lido. At one point, a crew member scolded me for grabbing something myself rather than waiting for her to give it to me. (Keep in mind, the Lido restaurant is a buffet!!!!) And another crew member blatantly refused to give me an empty cup at dinner time when I requested it. I then asked for a glass of water, which I then poured into a bowl and handed the bowl to him. One shouldn't have to go to such lengths to get an empty cup. I got another lecture from a crew member respecting some sort of "tender ticket." I still have no idea what that was about. Apparently, they have some sort of odd, nonsensical procedure for getting off the boat in Cabo, which they poorly explain to passengers and then try to cover for by scolding passengers who don't know what to do. The Main Dining Room was an atrocious experience for us. We ate there only one night, the rest of the nights preferring the Lido restaurant. Our first night in the Main Dining Room They chose to seat us right next to a server station. There really is nothing more uncomfortable than sitting right next to the server station. You feel constantly like you are in the way, as waiters fly by with trays only a few inches above your head. You feel like you are in the way. Service was beyond slow. And while the food quality was decent, the food arrived in such small quantities that we were left hungry. Granted, we could have ordered more, but given how long it took them to bring everything, we opted to simply go to the Lido afterwards and eat a little more. On top of all that, the waiter treated us rudely because we didn't want to pay $10 for a carafe of water. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer and made us feel like we were bad people for refusing the offer. The ship is gay-friendly because it is small, so you get a chance to really know the other passengers. But Holland America doesn't really do much to help that. On our voyage, there was an LGBT meeting only one night. And now, for the ugly: debarkation. I have heard that debarkation is bad in San Diego. But nothing prepared me for how bad. Ok. I understand. This is not totally Holland America's fault. They are dealing with the government. When I complained to Holland, this was the answer I got. Fine. I understand. But that is not all there is to the story. Holland America may not have the power to control the government, but they certainly can put pressure on them. Holland America could go to the port of San Diego and tell them, "Hey, you guys need to get your act together and stop being so rude to our passengers. If you can't get it under control, we won't be coming here anymore." If San Diego wants the tourism dollars, (and they do!), they would make it right. I will say this: foreign ports always make you feel welcome. For some reason, our country has got to the point where we are so xenophobic that we are even suspicious of U.S. citizens who travel. U.S. ports are by far the least friendly of any in the world, and San Diego is the worst of all of them. How is this Holland's fault? Well, it isn't ALL Holland's fault. But we did have a particularly horrible experience that was all Holland's fault. My partner is a Mexican citizen who happens to be a U.S. resident who has a green card. I am a U.S. citizen. On the final day, non-U.S. citizens have to go through an additional screening. So my partner had to report to the Mondriian lounge before debarkation. I went with him, in part just for the security of it all. If they gave him any trouble, at least I would know what was going on. Well, one of Holland's officers forced me to leave the line. I was told that U.S. citizens are not allowed to accompany their non-citizen family members. However, this appears to be a very selectively enforced rule. In fact, only the gay family members were separated from their families. The people in front of us and behind us both had U.S. citizen husbands who were permitted to stay with them. When I brought this to the attention of the crew member who separated us, she said that she did not know, and that if she had known she would have forced them to leave as well. That was a blatant lie. I overheard her discussion with the man behind me, who was a U.S. citizen who made it very clear that he did not want to leave his wife. She knew full well that he was a U.S. citizen. The only explanation I can give for this is that I wasn't a "real" family member because I am gay and they were straight. If there is another explanation, I would love to know what it is. On top of all this, the officer led me to an area where I could at least observe the proceedings. After a few minutes, a member of U.S. Customs came over and was verbally abusive to me and threatened me, ordering me to leave the area. I can think of nothing I was doing to deserve this treatment. I was simply sitting silently watching the proceedings trying to make sure that my loved one had gained entry. And how did Holland react to this? The only proper thing for her to do would have been to stand up to the Customs officer, and say, "Excuse me! You do not speak to our Passengers in that manner! What is your name and badge number!" Instead, she meekly ushered me out of the area, muttering her apologies under her breath. When I was out of the lounge, I asked to speak to the Captain, since I had been verbally threatened and treated abusively on the ship. The Captain refused to see me. When I said I was never sailing with Holland again, then another officer came up to me and tried to explain that the poor treatment wasn't Holland America's fault, it was the fault of the U.S. Government. Sorry. That doesn't cut it. Holland let it happen, and it only happened because I had been forced out of line in the first place, something none of the straight spouses were forced to do. Overall, we do not recommend this cruise line. Although we had a good time overall, there were far too many glitches. 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Sail Date: June 2012
This was our first cruise and we had saved over 2 years for it. It was a late 40th anniversary cruise for us. We had been told many nice things about Holland America and were looking forward to the cruise and 2 week land tour of Alaska. ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we had saved over 2 years for it. It was a late 40th anniversary cruise for us. We had been told many nice things about Holland America and were looking forward to the cruise and 2 week land tour of Alaska. This has been one of my wife's to see places on her "bucket list". When we boarded the ship I noticed several large rust spots on the ship and primer paint around several of the portholes. The carpet was worn in several locations and the ship was just not very appealing. Where they had painted around the portholes the paint covered part of the window and there were several window on the ship that had paint droppings on them that interfered with your viewing. One wooden bench that also held life jackets had the lid broken on it so you could not set on it. This went the whole cruise without being fixed when all it needed was to have the hinge screwed back on. After checking into our stateroom we noticed that there were the chocolate strawberries and a bottle of champagne. We had request a sparkling cider as we do not drink. We mentioned this to our steward and he told us it was not his job to talk to the front desk. He had just gotten through telling us if we needed anything to contact him. A little later we were by the front desk and I mentioned it to them and they told me I would have to bring the bottle to them as they were shorthanded and they would do something about it. The next day they told me that the cider was $5 more than the champagne and I would have to pay the difference. Must be real cheap champagne. Anyway they took the champagne and on the third day at sea brought us a few cans of Sprite. The service in the dinning room and on the Lido deck was poor I had to ask several times to get my water glass filled, it took way too long to deliver the food, and where the staff spoke English most of them did not comprehend it so they did not know what you were asking for. My wife saw a meal she wanted on display and asked for it and 3 servers did not know what she wanted until one of them keyed on the word pasta and went and got the display and the sign and asked her if that was what she wanted. Their coffee bar was nice and the attendant made very good drinks, however the first morning out we go to get a mocha, at 10am, and they were out of mocha. Now I know there was some in storage down below but no one went and got any and we had to wait till the next day for the coffee bar to be restocked, oh yea they were out of whip cream that day. Then the next day the machine was broken, only one on the ship. They got it fixed by the next day but were out of carmel that day. I am sure someone could have and should have gone and got those supplies so that we who paid so much for this cruise could pay even more for a coffee. The sailing of the ship was fine and at no time did we feel that the ship was unsafe and sailed in a dangerous manner. However their service fell far short of the reputation that we were lead to believed they had and strived for. The two additional weeks we spent on the HAL land tour did live up to the expectations we had and even exceeded them. This along with the nice excursions we went on during the cruise portion made up for the disappointing and poor service we received on the ship. To sum up my feeling I will have to say that I was lead to believe and feel that I paid for a 5 star hotel and got a Motel 6 instead. I will not be cruising HAL anytime soon. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Talking to fellow cruisers as we were transferred from the airport in Hong Kong we felt that the ship was going to be sparkly and exciting, a big step up from our previous cruises (that were both excellent) with Thompsons. Embarkation was ... Read More
Talking to fellow cruisers as we were transferred from the airport in Hong Kong we felt that the ship was going to be sparkly and exciting, a big step up from our previous cruises (that were both excellent) with Thompsons. Embarkation was fast and efficient, but the initial impression of the ship was poor. We were due to sail at 11pm on the following evening, nothing happened till about 12:30 am as some Russians had not cleared customs. Then an extra port charge was added to everyone's onboard account!!! Was this because we had overstayed our time in Hong Kong because of the Russians? I wonder!! Other people have mentioned the cold - we were too hot, obviously the heating had been turned up too far by the time the ship was back in Hong Kong. Others have also mentioned the drabness and overall run down appearance of the ship, I totally agree. They have also mentioned the unexciting menus. I will add that I had always thought you were able to eat whenever you wanted 24 hours a day on a cruise. Not so on this ship. Unless you wanted burgers, cake or ice cream you had no chance as the main dining room closed at 9:30 in the evening for anytime diners, and the Lido closed its hot buffet section at 8pm. Also if you came back onto the ship mid afternoon expecting to get a late lunch the same limited choice was all that was available. The menu changed little from day to day and meat was often well undercooked even if requested as well done.We felt that entertainment could and should have been of a far higher standard. Guest entertainers were excellent, but only performed for about 3/4 of an hour at most so really should have been part of the night's show not the only act. The ship's own singer/dance troupe were very poor, often seeming to mime and when they appeared to be really singing were very out of tune. There was no glamour or glitz to these shows. The best shows were by the Vietnamese artists and the Indonesian staff. Entertainment during the day, even on days at sea was too specialised and had to be hunted down. The band playing on the Lido deck were good, but it was far too hot and humid to sit in there for long. We enjoyed the destinations though many excursions were badly organized as far as getting off the ship to the coach was concerned. The staff at the Front Office did not seem to care or want to help anyone in any way, and there was often a queue of people complaining about something. On the final day our transfer from the port in Singapore to the hotel room we had at the airport was unbelievably bad. We had pink 1 labels, our cases went in the truck labeled pink 1. We were going to The Crown Plaza Hotel at TERMINAL 3. We found the coach with the label for this hotel, sat on it for over half an hour as those in charge rushed around aimlessly. We were then told it was not our coach. The coach we were on was in fact blue 2 (no label to tell us that) so we had to get off and eventually found the right coach(that had no label at al) We were then dropped at Terminal 1 and had to pick up our own cases and get ourselves to the hotel in Terminal 3!!! Such wonderful service and organization has made us decide never to even think about Holland America Cruise Line ever again. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2012
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 ... Read More
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! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
We were in need of some R & R, after completing a strenuous house reno. A cruise fit the bill, and since Vancouver is easy driving distance for us, we chose HAL, which departs from Vancouver. We'd been on HAL for the first time in ... Read More
We were in need of some R & R, after completing a strenuous house reno. A cruise fit the bill, and since Vancouver is easy driving distance for us, we chose HAL, which departs from Vancouver. We'd been on HAL for the first time in January on the Nieuw Amsterdam, and had been impressed with the experience. We've been on four previous Alaska cruises, so for something different we decided to do two back to back cruises, northbound, and then southbound on the Zaandam. We knew it was an older, and smaller ship, but we much prefer those to the present day monsters. Embarkation was quick and efficient, and after dropping off our bags in our room (we travel only with carry-on luggage),we were having lunch in the Lido. HAL does have their embarkation/disembarkation procedures down pat! That night we had the first signs of trouble brewing. Shortly after going to bed around 10:30, the noise above us began. Thumping, banging, slamming-it would start, stop, then start up again. We got about 3 hours of sleep. The next night was a repeat of the first. It turned out we were under the tail end of the dining room kitchen. So if you've booked 3402, or anything in the immediate vicinity, you'd better be deaf if you want to get any sleep! We discovered that calls to the front desk were never answered, regardless of time of day or night, so that always meant going there in person. We asked to be moved, and were given the standard answer, "Sorry, but the ship is completely full". After 20 plus cruises, we have learned that a ship is never 100% full, and that there are always empty rooms kept for emergencies. After numerous visits to the front desk at all hours of the night, numerous visits to the dining room kitchen by several officers,we were eventually moved-to 7083. That room, while it has a lovely view out the aft end of ship, is next to a large, noisy fan running 24/7! At least the noise was consistent. If you're in that room, bring industrial strength ear-plugs! We were moved again at the beginning of the second week, to a much quieter room on Deck 3. So much for unpacking once! On to the food: it was consistently good, and we had all our meals in the Lido. We gave up on the dining room several cruises ago, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Lido, as well as being able to complete our meal in a decent amount of time. Besides, the menu was the same each night as the dining room. Unfortunately, something in the food gave me an upset stomach after the very first meal we had on board, and after 3 days, we figured out it was the water.It didn't bother DH nearly as much-he's a big guy, and has a tougher stomach! So we loaded up on bottled water in port, and that was all I drank for the entire two weeks. Even poached eggs, which are cooked in water, would set it off. Coffee and tea, too. Something tells me they need to clean out that holding tank more often. In all our cruises, we have never encountered this problem,and it was definitely not the noro-virus. I did go to the dining room one afternoon for their much touted 'cupcake tea', and received the worst service, and had the most inedible cupcakes ever. We enjoy cruising because we can do as little or as much as we each want. DH took part in most sports activities, and I gotta say that the activities personnel were always there, on time. That's not so with Celebrity or RCL. Our stateroom attendants were also great, and bent over backward to help with an unpleasant situation. The scenery was absolutely spectacular, and we had wonderful weather the first week. Glacier Bay and College Fjord were picture perfect, and we had ample opportunity to fill up our camera card. The second week was gray and drizzly, so we were happy we'd seen the glaciers looking their best the first week. Unlike the weather, the entertainment the second week was a repeat of the first.Even the movies were identical. The only show that was worth going to twice was the ventriloquist/comedian. He was funny and fabulous. Because we'd been to all the ports before, we chose to do our own thing and sightsee on foot. Ketchikan has a free shuttle which does a loop around town, and Seward also has a free bus to take you into town. Saves on the shoe leather a bit! Despite a rocky first week, we did enjoy the cruise. We will avoid the Zaandam in the future, though. Curiously, this was one cruise where the captain was practically invisible, except for the obligatory 'toast' in the theater one evening. No midday updates, although the perky cruise director was constantly on the horn, reminding us of activities. The travel guide was obviously new to his job, and we found his talks to be boring and not that interesting. I did ask him what there was to do in Seward, and his answer was, 'I don't know, I've never been there!' Despite the bumps along the way, we will cruise again-next cruise is on Celebrity! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
I took an 11 night cruise on the Zandaam with my younger brother as a graduation gift for him. We had a great time. Alaska's natural beauty is wonderful. The excursions offered were fabulous and the food was excellent. On our ... Read More
I took an 11 night cruise on the Zandaam with my younger brother as a graduation gift for him. We had a great time. Alaska's natural beauty is wonderful. The excursions offered were fabulous and the food was excellent. On our excursions we kayaked, took a helicopter, rode ATV's, swam in hot springs, went river rafting, went whale-watching, and visited an animal refuge. We also did a 3 day pre-cruise tour of Denali National Park. The land part of the tour was perfect and I recommend it whole-heartedly. I think this is a must see/do in Alaska. The trip was great overall, but I don't think Holland America truly lives up to its reputation as providing excellent service. In general, it seems that Holland apologizes a lot for its shortcomings but does nothing to fix the issues or truly address your problem. The first night, I wanted extra blankets in the room bc it was cold. When I called the front desk, they said they would put in our request. One hour later. No blankets. Then I called again. Same response. Another hour later, I asked what the issue was. The woman hung up on me. When I called back, she accused me of hanging up on her. Totally untrue. I then asked for a supervisor, which she could not reach. Then she offered to have the person in charge of my stateroom floor come by. When he came he had no knowledge of the request. I explained that we just wanted extra blankets and had been waiting 3 hours and was hung up on by the woman at the front desk. He brought the blankets and apologized. Just a minor incident, but even a motel 8 functions better than this. A simple request from a tired and cold traveller should not be that difficult to accomodate. Plus the rudeness of the woman at the front desk was uncalled for. So lots of apologies and 3 hours later we got our blankets. ALSO, just a word of CAUTION when booking your air fare through Holland America. On my June trip on the MS Zaandaam to Alaska, they booked our flights home through Air Canada on PROP PLANES WITHOUT WARNING US. I was horrified to reach the 2nd leg of the trip and be confronted with flying in in thunderstorm on prop planes. When I called HA for help to re-book or re-route, they explained that from Toronto to the Mid-west there are no planes other than prop planes. They could have flown us anwyere in the US or Canada to get home, but they chose this terrible route and stuck us on prop planes. I refused to get on and had to rent a car and drive 5 hours (at midnight), all night to get home. When I complained that I wanted a refund for the air or for the car rental, all they did was offer us a $100 credit and blame us for not calling the airline to confirm the make of the plane.... Even on orbitz they have to disclose if you get on a prop plane. In general the trip to Alaska was great, but I think the so-called great customer service of HA is a farce. All they do is apologize a lot but do nothing to fix anything. I have other petty examples, but this flight nightmare was egregious I think. I give HA 3 stars. The ship and service etc do not measure up to that of a 4 star Marriot or Hilton, but are adequate. The trip itself to Alaska was amazing bc it's amazing and the activities are incredible. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
Personal Information Couple in our forties on our 1st cruise Live in Downtown Vancouver Both employed - Government jobs Travel to Port of Embarkation Took a cab that day because of the rain, would normally just walk to ... Read More
Personal Information Couple in our forties on our 1st cruise Live in Downtown Vancouver Both employed - Government jobs Travel to Port of Embarkation Took a cab that day because of the rain, would normally just walk to Canada Place Waterfront. It is about a 10 minute walk from our condo. Embarkation Holland America Zaandam We got there about 1:00 pm and there were huge lineups. It took about 45 minutes to get through. We didn't care as we were pretty excited. Stateroom We were in cabin 3389 - lower Promenade deck. Our cruise was almost ruined because of our lack of sleep caused by having to listen to the galley noise all night long. The galley was above on the 4th floor next to the Rotterdam Restaurant. We expected noise such the ship, people etc. This was unacceptable noise- just extreme and constant. Holland America is very aware of the hell their passengers go through when booked under the galley. And yet, they still book people there. I have seen reviews of this very problem from the year 2000. Surely they could try and soundproof the floors and have their staff wear soft soled shoes only. The carts rolled around like rolling thunder and the staff walked around all night. It sounded like bowling balls on top of your head. I begged to move, but they said the ship was full. It is apparent that the staff and the front desk are very used to dealing with the constant complaints regarding this stretch of cabins. They gave us earplugs but that did not help. Had we been on land, we would have moved hotels whether or not we received a refund. Here you are held captive on a ship. The PR person sent us a note saying they would "monitor the situation" So basically they have been "monitoring the situation" since the inception of the ship!! So disappointing for our 1st cruise. Needless to say, our last cruise with Holland America. Now that we understand the importance of cabin placement, this will not happen again. The not so funny thing is we were orignally booked on the Dolphin deck between two floors of cabins. Holland America moved us up to 3389. If we had stayed on the Dolphin all would have been well. We had dinner with people on the Dolphin deck who said it was very quiet. What an upgrade! Boy have we learned valuable lessons from this horror. Dining We opted for the anytime dining which worked well for us. We had been told that we could make reservations for this type of dining, but no one answered the phone when we called. I heard other complaining about the same thing. We didn't mind too much though. The food was very good. They had one vegetarian option on the menu each night,so that worked for me. My husband had steak and chicken. We dined at night in the Rotterdam Restaurant. We had room service in the morning in our cabin, it was excellent! Activities I had avoided going a cruise because everyone I talked had said they gained weight. I soon realized that did not have to happen. The Promenade Deck has a walkway made of teak wood. Beautiful surface to walk on. So, we walked and walked and walked! Four times around was a mile. We also did the flights of stairs as well. So needless to say, we gained nothing and got more exercise than ever. We also watched what we ate, and did not overeat at all. I know people go on cruises for the food, but we did enjoy enough of the tasty food. Staff and Service The staff is very friendly and welcoming on the ship. Our room attendant was wonderful. You don't have to tip because it is charged on your credit card at $11.00 per person per day. However we tipped because we wanted to. It did take a very long time and another call to receive a package of 6 beers to our room. After a half hour my husband called again. They did seem a little confused as to the order. But on the whole everyone was great. Entertainment We went to see the comedian - Sean O'Shea one night. Song and dance fellow - He was hilarious! We really enjoyed that. We also played slots at the casino. The only drawback is that smoking is allowed. So if you are non-smokers like us, you may be bothered by it. It was also allowed upstairs in the Crow's Nest, so we did not go up there at all. Shore Excursions The shore excursions were great. We had lots of time to explore the cities and return to the boat. Disembarkation We were told to be ready at certain time and were called to leave in order. It was so well organized and so quick to get off the ship. Really amazing. Summary We had a wonderful time with the exception of the cabin. Unfortunately being very sleep deprived does not add anything positive to a holiday. Make sure you pick your cabin and check the deck plans to make sure you don't have areas above you such as a galley. It is really unethical that these cabins are sold to anyone. Disgraceful! We have booked another cruise on Princess to LA in September. Booked directly through them and picked our room......and specified no upgrades.....live and learn! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
REVIEW OF ZAANDAM: San Diego-Hawaii-San Diego February 27-March 13, 2011 Being from the Midwest, the best place to be in February is Not in the Midwest. Therefore we booked this cruise to paradise. We chose HAL principally because ... Read More
REVIEW OF ZAANDAM: San Diego-Hawaii-San Diego February 27-March 13, 2011 Being from the Midwest, the best place to be in February is Not in the Midwest. Therefore we booked this cruise to paradise. We chose HAL principally because it left from San Diego, one of our most favorite cities.. We also decided to arrive a day early as San Diego was guaranteed to be warmer than where we were. We were lucky to escape from a seven-inch snowfall the day before we left. However, in San Diego we were greeted with rain, clouds, brisk winds, record snowfalls in the mountains above the town and unseasonably cold weather. We were glad we brought our sweaters and jackets from the North. On Sunday we boarded the ship. Now, at last, the good weather. Not so fast. Departure was sunny but still chilly. Standing on the upper decks as the ship departed the bay was not a comfortable situation with wind gusts that echoed life in the snow belt. It did not get better for days. On the second full day at sea, 35 know winds, rough seas and high waves made the ship roll back and forth so much, the outside was declared off limits. Many fell sick; others just fell due to the high amount of rocking onboard; the movement just made us tired and we went to bed earlier than usual. By Wednesday first week, the worst was over. And by Thursday, the expected warm weather finally appeared for good. The Zaandam is a relatively small ship compared to the giants out there now (70,000 tons and 1500 passengers). We enjoy the Navigator class from RCI which is double the size. One plus was the relatively small number of passengers, thus insuring you would see the same faces (new friends) often during the cruise. Some of the amenities we enjoyed on RCI were lacking (notably the promenade). Crew members were friendly and helpful but service often was absent when you most needed it (see below). It often seemed that if it were not their responsibility, they would comment they would pass the word to others and then as soon as they were out of eyesight, soon forget about you and go on their own business. The Zaandam has a beautiful three story ornate pipe organ in the atrium of the ship. We heard it only once during the entire cruise (although I heard others indicate it played several times during the day). I would think HAL would have at least one if not several formal shows (playings) of the organ during the cruise; it has a great asset that is not being effectively utilized. Pluses: The embarkation was a breeze. Even though we arrived at 11am, before debarkation was all completed (the ship was several hours late arriving due to bad storms the night before), we were checked in and boarding before noon. Our luggage arrived by mid afternoon and we were totally unpacked before departure. Can't say much for Pier B and the old warehouse used as dock facilities by San Diego. But that was not HAL's fault. For the first three days, all food was handled directly to the passengers by the staff and no self-service was available. This was a new policy to combat the ever present dangerous noroviruses. Seemed to work. Since I am an independent sort, I felt somewhat embarrassed to be waited on when I could just as easily do it myself but I understand the reasoning for the service. We enjoyed the Canaletto, the specialty non-premium restaurant offered by HAL. More of these should be the norm in every ship: enriched variety between the MDR, the Buffet, and the premium extra-pay restaurants. Food was good but servings were too generous and we left food on the plate rather than stuff ourselves. Kudos to Kainoa, the Hawaiian travel guide for the ship. A native Hawaiian, very knowledgeable, very friendly, helpful and accessible to all passengers. He made the trip so much easier and enjoyable. He was present dockside on all the Hawaiian ports, readily available to answer questions and direct you to where you wanted to go. Also kudos to Eric, cruise director, a very talented, funny individual who made the cruise more eventful with his one liners, his stories, and his Georgian accent. The Culinary Arts center was a great hit. Not that we are great chefs or have the inclination to be so back home. It was fine entertainment, good learning, and just a good time was had by all. Paula, the party planner, was always a jovial, friendly, delightful, knowledgeable hostess whom we can't say enough good things about. We were especially delighted by the Executive Cook-Captain battle one day. The Theatre seating was not typical movie theater hard seats but cushioned seats more of a cocktail lounge act seating. It made the ambiance of the theater better. Entertainment was good not great. Justin Miller, guitarist, was outstanding and played an afternoon matinee in addition to his night show (and substituted a second night when one of the regularly scheduled entertainers came down sick. That is above and beyond the call of duty!!). The singers and dancers were excellent. The comedian for two days was hilarious and played perfectly to the senior crowd. For the first time ever we saw an acrobatic act on a cruise ship stage and had to agree it was different and kept the crowd's attention throughout the show. We were pleasantly pleased with the library and exploration (computer center) on the Zaandam. Very spacious, many volumes, well organized, quite a few comfortable chairs and tables and an onboard librarian. It would set a great example for other ships. The Zaandam has a retractable roof that covers the 8th Lido deck pool area. Great for rainy/bad weather. But often they leave it up instead of opening it when weather is good. Nice feature though. Afternoon Tea (3pm) was a daily stop for us. Light finger food and pastries with your choice of tea or coffee. A chance to reconnect with friends or make new friends. A midafternoon break. A delightful tradition that I would recommend all cruise lines partake in. Negatives: As usual the number one negative in my book was the high cost and inversely proportional low speed of the Internet. I make my living on the Internet and can cruise during off-season only by working while cruising. You would think that with current technology, reasonable speeds can be obtained. I hate paying the high rates for Internet and I hate it worst when I wait for minutes for a page to load, meanwhile watching the minute meter keep increasing without accomplishing anything. First cruise line that provides fast, inexpensive, reliable internet service will have us as lifetime loyal customers. Better yet, offer an unlimited internet rate and all the pressure and stress will disappear for us road warriors. Food was adequate. Portions were large, too large and half portions should have been offered. Our goal for every cruise was to come back the same weight as we arrived. We sampled all the restaurants. Ample variety. Good but no better than other cruise lines we had been on (this comment we would remark many times during the duration of the cruise and hear others). We found the variety lacking (and found this seconded by other passengers with experiences from other lines) and assortment limited on the menus. As the cruise went on, the quality of the food decreased. The Zaandam must have a new pastry chef; with the exception of large cookies and ice cream (which you can hardly mess up even if you tried), the special deserts lacked flavor and texture. This is a petty concern of mine but I must express it: The Zaandam only offers water and tea as complementary beverages; other ships we have been on include Lemonade and Fruit Punch. These additional drinks add to the variety of the food offered. We chose "anytime dining" as a means to be flexible. As I understood it, you could go to the Main Dining Room anytime during dinner hours (or make a reservation). The ship likes the flexibility as it provides some flattening of the usual dinner hour traffic jams. Well, as we learned much to our disappointment, a better name is "Anything but" dining. We tried most of the two weeks to make a reservation and the only time they had was 7:45 (if we wanted that late we would have chosen the 8pm seating). We also tried numerous times to show up and every time was told 7:45pm. Either offer it sincerely or do not offer it. We had two room stewards. Why two? Not enough work for two and we did not see them for days. DW marked our sheets and they were not changed for several days. One night by nine, our room had yet to be serviced for the night. That is getting late in anyone's book. We enjoy a few minutes in the jacuzzi before bedtime. The 'hot tub' was more accurately named "luke warm tub." It was the only hot tub I have ever been in that was at room temperature. DW tried to call the desk for 30 minutes (and then a further 30 minutes back in the room) without the phone being answered. DW also cornered four or five crew members (including one officer) and asked about the problem, "We will contact someone for you." Thirty minutes later no one had yet surfaced to assist us. For a premium line, we expected a hot Jacuzzi and prompt service, neither of which was forthcoming. After numerous phone calls, we were told they closed the Jacuzzi at 7pm. This is nonsense and idiotic. Do they roll up the streets at 6:30 too? I know the average age for HAL is in the seventies but there are some that want something to do after dinner. Oh and no towels on the pool deck; we dripped and dried ourselves all the way back to our room. To be quite honest, they did fix the situation and sent us an apology letter with a special food gift. But it did take them the better part of two days whereas it should never have occurred in the first place. We also enjoy playing the penny slots. We were glad to see two-cent slots. However, upon closer examination the minimum bet one could play was 40 cents (twenty lines minimum at 2 cents). This, at the very least, was false and misleading advertising. Needless to say, we did not play the slots or the casino. What else, we wondered, were they misleading us on there? The crew is mostly Filipino with Dutch officers. They were excellent and made every attempt to assist you when necessary. We did find their grasp of English to be substandard and it was hard at times to understand what they were trying to say. Holland-America uses a negative check-off system (similar to that used by record/book companies when you must send back a card otherwise they send you the next selection). Tips are automatically charged to your unless you intentionally fill out a form at the Front office. And to make it more difficult, you can only do it the last night before debarking. They are obviously trying to make it as difficult as possible in the hopes you will forget or just give up. We believe in determining for ourselves the gratuities given staff. And feel insulted that HAL wants to force us into a system instead of letting us decide for ourselves. We had an aft cabin that was only two cabins short of being on the stern of the ship. Often when we sat on the verandah (note not balcony, verandah), the smoke from the ship's smokestack could be seen in a downward spiral on our side of the ship. Often we could smell the fumes and had residue on the verandah occasionally. It did not make for a fitful sleep knowing fumes were nearby. The ship needs a good overall and maintenance checkup. Rust could be seen throughout the ship. It was clearly showing its age. When we on the tender to/from Maui, the rust was clearly visible all along the waterline. Not a comforting sight to say the least. We found service to be substandard. Not just us but others attempted to contact the Front Desk and Guest Relations and spent 30-40 minutes without anyone picking up the phone. The Front Desk was basically afraid of their own shadows and could not make decisions or make allowances to the guest. And the computer guru said to DW, "If you have any more problems, I am going to have to sever your connection." Not fix it, not assist it but eliminate the source and the problem will go away; she got my award for the Best effort to dissuade you from every returning to HAL. The room stewards did not have a direct extension; to contact them you had to phone the front desk (whom never did answer their phone so how do you communicate with them when you needed them? Still not certain how) Not exactly service oriented displays by a cruise line that portrays itself as a superior service line. Conclusion HAL considers itself a premium line (it is a legend in its own mind as the joke goes). It offers excellent service but at a considerable monetary premium to other lines. The question in our mind is whether the service and amenities offered are worth the premium paid to cruise with HAL. IMHO (and DW concurs), HAL is overrated and is not worthy of the premium prices paid (Not just us but many of those we spoke too had the same feeling including several who had cruised many times at HAL). Its service is no better and in many fashions worse than other lines. DW would not recommend them at half the price. We do like some of the innovative itineraries they have proposed (whereupon you leave and return to the same American port but get to visit Europe, South America or the South Pacific, thus eliminating the dreaded 9 hour cross Atlantic flights). But this is not enough to overcome their basic service problems. We have therefore scratched HAL from further consideration for our future cruises. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
The Sea of Cortez is a new cruise area and the shore excursions will need some upgrading to make them value for money.   Food selection was quite good but the food service level in the main dinning room was more rushed than that ... Read More
The Sea of Cortez is a new cruise area and the shore excursions will need some upgrading to make them value for money.   Food selection was quite good but the food service level in the main dinning room was more rushed than that received on HAL ships Prinsendam & Ryndam.The main dinning room was understaffed compared to those ships and service staff were very rushed.Drinks service was very slow.   Entertainment was quite good with lounge acts professional and big stage shows delivered with plenty of polish and verve.   The ship is not new and could use some refurbishment in public areas and you will not find a fridge in your cabin for some reason.   A special note for service crew in the bars.They were a happy group delivering prompt and cheerful service to their guests.The cabin service can best be described as indifferent and inferior to any we have received in our past eight cruises on Princess,Celebrity and HAL.   We were "upgraded" from a full sized obstructed cabin to a Category G cabin that was only 2/3rds the size of a standard outside cabin. Too bad for us,the ship was fully booked and we could not get the full sized room we had booked.HAL insists that a small room with two portholes is an upgrade from a full size obstructed view room.   A couple of 45 day HAL guests will be taking their business elsewhere. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
I was determined to try a Holland America ship after our cruise to Alaska last year on Princess. Princess has always treated us very well, but when we docked in Victoria next to HAL's Amsterdam, the ship just looked so elegant. ... Read More
I was determined to try a Holland America ship after our cruise to Alaska last year on Princess. Princess has always treated us very well, but when we docked in Victoria next to HAL's Amsterdam, the ship just looked so elegant. Reviews of the fleet, the service, and the food confirmed my impressions, so we booked a test run on a 1 day sail from Seattle to Vancouver. Pre-board: Documents and luggage tags arrived via email as expected, but what was missing was information about boarding time. Because I routinely visit cruise forums, I had heard that boarding would be late on this sailing due to maritime testing. Unfortunately for MANY passengers, this message was not conveyed. Even a call to HAL on the day of sailing produced incorrect information. The CSA said that boarding would begin at 11:30. When I mentioned I had heard there would be a delay, she then took my information and said boarding would be at 4 PM, but we might be able to board as early as 1 PM. I believe they called the first group of passengers at 3:30 to begin boarding. Room: We were in 1883 (ocean view - Dolphin). The room felt spacious compared to a comparable room on Princess and the tub was wonderful! However, this was probably the only area where I felt like HAL outdid Princess. Decor: Oh boy. From the exterior, HAL's Zaandam looks elegant, classic, and timeless. The inside told a different story. Faded fuchsia and yellow paint spatter carpets, beveled smoked mirrored walls, gaudy stone statues and masks that looked like they came from one of those yard art roadside stands, and that inexplicable three story silver-toned organ that completely overwhelmed the atrium... it was all very tacky. On the positive side, I thought the dining room was lovely, the library/Internet area was beautiful, the Lido was nicely done, and the cabin was very tasteful. Food: It wasn't awful, it wasn't amazing. We ate dinner in the main dining room and breakfast at the Lido. We also sampled some snacks at the coffee bar. For desert, I had ordered something called "The Big Blitz". While it was tasty, the presentation was not thrilling - a lone piece of pie (broken crust) on a plate minimally drizzled with caramel sauce. No topping, no flair. Princess seems to always go the extra mile with presentation, so this was a disappointment. The Lido was just odd! I've never not been able to serve myself in a buffet before unless someone was prepping an omelette for me or cutting meat. They wouldn't even let you pour your own coffee or grab a blueberry muffin. That said, there was good variety and the french toast was quite good. Service: Service seemed really poor. No one was terribly friendly, unfortunately. Our room steward would quietly knock and then immediately walk in the room without pause. The morning of debarkation, he told me that we should be off the ship even though they had not yet called our group and our scheduled time was still more than an hour away. When I told him what group we were in, he seemed confused and muttered something about having to go check. He never returned. Service in the dining room was polite at best. Not friendly and fairly abrupt. Receiving a drink in the Crow's Nest was slow. From order to delivery was a 20 minute process and I later heard other passengers complaining. I think HAL missed a really good opportunity with this sailing to gain future cruisers. However, all of the passengers we spoke with had a similar experience to ours and were also using this as a way to see if HAL was a good fit for them for future cruises. Unfortunately, I didn't talk to one person who said they would sail on HAL again. I am not sure if this was typical of a HAL cruise or if things were off because of the odd 1 night sail. That said, there is never an excuse for poor customer service. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We decided to take a quick 1 night cruise to Vancouver BC as part of an anniversary celebration. After checking with the HAL office in Seattle, we found we could board early, eat lunch and then relax on board before we set sail. Alas, it ... Read More
We decided to take a quick 1 night cruise to Vancouver BC as part of an anniversary celebration. After checking with the HAL office in Seattle, we found we could board early, eat lunch and then relax on board before we set sail. Alas, it was not to be. After scrambling to catch an early morning flight as planned, we were met by security officials at the terminal who said that boarding the ship had been postponed by the Coast Guard. After entering the terminal around 11am, we had to pay to have our luggage stored (adding more insult to injury). We were then directed to check in. As we checked in, we were told that we had been notified about this delay (we had not). A one page written explanation was provided to us. Apparently the ship had "gained weight" (don't we all in middle age?). This had been noted during the last time the ship was in dry dock. As part of licensing procedures, additional testing was needed. The incline test requires that there be no additional weight on board (translation - passengers, food and most of the crew). Engineering crew remained on board along with a few others, we were told. Some informal networking while enduring the 5 hour wait with fellow passengers (and some HAL employees) revealed that this indeed was known fairly well in advance, but was never disclosed to us during the booking phase. With all the information the cruise lines have for each passenger (cell phone, email, etc), the bigger question remains of why they couldn't send a text or email advising of the delay as the airlines will often do. Embarking procedures eventually occurred. The waiting was long and uncomfortable. Many people had to sit on the floor. The terminal reminded me and my husband of Ellis Island (but in reverse). HAL provided water and sympathy, as well as a free bus ride into/out of downtown Seattle to help pass the time. We were told to go get lunch (on our own), which we did. Once on board, the rest of the evening was rushed, with many services missing or incomplete. This experience was not what we had hoped for. During our wait to disembark, we counted at least 5 different groups of staff who came into our room to check on various things (mini-bar, water, linens, bed, etc.). The room stewards came in and asked if they could make up the bed (no problem!), but instead left bundled linens on the bed,towels in the bathtub and left without further discussion. Our check out assignment time had been assigned the prior evening, so we were a little surprised (and annoyed) with all of the interruptions. We just gave up and left the ship early. We guess that is what they wanted, anyway. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
Our cabin was at the back of the ship directly below the Rotterdam dining room. While the first 2 nights were relatively quiet, the 3rd and 4th nights it sounded like they were bowling. Lots of banging, and dropping stuff that sounded like ... Read More
Our cabin was at the back of the ship directly below the Rotterdam dining room. While the first 2 nights were relatively quiet, the 3rd and 4th nights it sounded like they were bowling. Lots of banging, and dropping stuff that sounded like bowling balls. When I inquired by phone at the front desk I was offered ear plugs. The trip to Juneau was a bit rough but I did not get sea sick. Hardly any engine noise, and the lull of the engines and the constant rocking was a great way for me to get to sleep. Lido.....buffet, the scrambled eggs were way to runny and greasy, when I decided to order fresh scrambled at the omelet/eggs to order area the server directed me back to the runny eggs. I was finally able to convince him to cook my eggs hard scrambled with no oil. This seemed to totally rattle him. There was a definite language barrier, most food servers/waiters were from Indonesia. Overall the food on the buffet was lukewarm at it's best. There is a part of the Lido which is converted at night to an Italian restaurant (reservations required). The lasagna is not made with ricotta or mozzarella cheese, instead they pour some kind of cheese sauce over the top. I passed on this and ordered the Chicken Marsala....wrong there too, it came with BROWN GRAVY.....of which I just left. Not sure where they get their Italian recipe's. Rotterdam Dining Room......The meringue on the Baked Alaska was rushed and tasted like soft serve, hardly any browning of the meringue. The fillet Mignon was more like a thick rib eye, but the shrimp was delicious. Room Stewards......We had two of the best on the ship, Haryanto (Harry) and Zaini. They were without a doubt the most friendly of the staff on the ship. They always had a smile, a hello and had time to chat. Hats off to both of them. Disembarking..........was insane. as we carried our own luggage we were in the last group to get off the ship. We were originally to disembark at deck 3 which was great as that is where our cabin was. There was problems and we were told to go to deck 2. Since everyone was going to deck 2 we waited it out and then came a staff person that said deck 3 would be available shortly. After 20-30 minutes we were directed to another area on deck 3, waited there another 20-30 minutes then directed back to the original area. By this time it was 10am, we found out that the computer that scans your ship card was not working. Common sense finally prevailed and we were just asked for out cabin number which they wrote down and we were finally off. Excursions.........were fantastic. Took a small boat and saw whales, otters, eagles, seals and yes!!! a puffin. The day long cruising of Glacier Bay was beautiful and surpassed by expectations. This was on the pricey side but worth every penny. Sadly our excursion to Butchart Gardens was no where near the amount required to appreciate this spectacular area. The ship was in port (Victoria) only 4 hours. It took 45 minutes each way to get to and from the Gardens, we got back to the ship at 11:15 and it departed at 11:35. They could have just skipped this port and added more time at one of the others, either Ketchikan or Sitka. Cabin, was spacious enough, we had an outside cabin with a large window. However the carpet had many stains and the old hair dryer was till there, that would burn your hand it got so hot. We eventually found the smaller one that was hidden way back in the top drawer of the vanity. The pillows were way too soft, needed 3 to get comfortable. The pillow top mattress's were very comfortable. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
I've been on four cruises (1 other to Alaska in the early 90's) and have never experienced a cruiseship move as much as the Zaandam. I actually got seasick for the first time in my life (and I've been on much smaller boats ... Read More
I've been on four cruises (1 other to Alaska in the early 90's) and have never experienced a cruiseship move as much as the Zaandam. I actually got seasick for the first time in my life (and I've been on much smaller boats in rough seas) on the Seattle to Juneau leg. I understand about 1/3 of the ship's passengers did too. Not only did the ship move from front to back and up and down, it also moved from side to side quite alot throughout the voyage. In addition, there was a constant vibrating rumble which went on almost every night all night long making it difficult to sleep. More consideration for the passengers should have been taken' especially on the leg on Saturday. In addition, our stateroom (a Verandah Suite w/ balcony #6162) was not in the best of condition for what I consider a "premium" cabin. There were multiple stains on the carpet, chips in the furniture and the bathroom smelled like solid waste for most of the journey. The common areas of the ship were clean and well maintained although the hallways and thoroughfares seemed to be a little too narrow for 1300 + people but overall the ship was in good condition. I was impressed with the lounges as they had qdequate comfortable seating with good views. The service, food, entertainment and shore excursions are a large part of what I have come to admire about Holland America. I don't have any complaints about these. Alaska itself was beautiful and we enjoyed all of our shore excursions. I plan to return but I don't think I'll cruise on HA again (certainly not on the Zaandam) because of the state of the ship and the cabin. I certainly wasn't dissappointed in what Alaska had to offer,though. It is a magical place and I highly recommend visting that great state! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2010
My wife and I have planned our cruise to Alaska for several years. Originally it was a Double Denali! Well our checkbook convinced us to look at a more conservative plan. The bad? The food? Well, it was better than Golden Corral. The ... Read More
My wife and I have planned our cruise to Alaska for several years. Originally it was a Double Denali! Well our checkbook convinced us to look at a more conservative plan. The bad? The food? Well, it was better than Golden Corral. The ship? The emblems indicated the ship was either christened or re-furbed in 2000. It's time for another re-furb. Our room had a sewer smell, the stairway landings had fluid leaks (source unidentified) and there was an abundance of rust on the exterior edges surrounding the ship. Overall the condition of the ship would indicate 10+ years of heavy usage. The furniture and carpets showed lots of wear. The linens wear heavily worn. I know that expectations can be easily dashed and ours were. We had visions of plush, decadence. A common mans chance at feeling like a king. Instead of the experience of grandeur we experienced an RV experience of a low degree. Another issue was an inconsistent method of communicating with the passengers. One the disembarking instructions for the port of call were announced via ships PA then others they only gave you instructions in the nightly flyers outside your room. Then the cruise director managed to make me feel like a nuisance when I asked what was going on with the tenders in Sitka. Now let me tell you the good: The crew made us feel as if we had known each other for years. The dining room manage greeted us and escorted us to our table every meal. I felt that he genuinely took an interest in our well being. The wait staff while totally under staffed spoke and treated us with respect and courtesy. They never slacked off. Our room steward made sure our room was straightened every day and asked about the condition of my wife who was sea-sick most of the voyage. The small things helped overshadow the others. As I asked they provided a fresh bucket of ice every day at 4:00 PM. I was ecstatic over the towel creatures ( I know simple things for simple ... you know). We did our research and felt for our style Holland America was the best choice. We wanted a smaller ship, fewer children and our hope was that the food would be outstanding. The first two we got. The ports of call were great. We found that we would have rather had more time on shore to explore Alaska vs the stinky old ship. So, we have come to the conclusion we are not "Cruise People". On a more positive note: I recommend using Captain Jack and the Scania for a better than you can imagine whale watching in Juneau. Thank you Captain Jack. It was beyond our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
Having sailed Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean, wanted to try Holland America and the one night cruise fit into our schedule. We had booked an interior, but after prices dropped they allowed us to upgrade to a verandah suite for ... Read More
Having sailed Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean, wanted to try Holland America and the one night cruise fit into our schedule. We had booked an interior, but after prices dropped they allowed us to upgrade to a verandah suite for only $20 more, which I appreciated. Embarkation was quick as the ship was half empty. The stateroom was large and comfortable with a great bathroom with tub and nice balcony. We did find clothing from the prior occupants (nice pants, but too large for me), bags from Hilo Hattie and ABC Stores (brought back memories from our honeymoon in Hawaii) and letterhead for the prior occupants. However, the sanitary cleaning appeared to have been done. Food in the lido buffet was excellent with a good variety, prepare to order stations, and varieties of ice cream, with very friendly staff. I found the dining room average, however, and it seemed that things had been dialed down given for the one day cruise, even though there were a number of travel agents on board. The overall decor in the public areas was a bit dark for my taste. I was intrigued by the pipe organ in the atrium, but unfortunately there was only one brief unannounced show that I caught the end of. Did attend the production show, which was ok, but given the one night cruise did not partake in some of the facilities. We needed an early departure in the morning and shore desk was not particularly helpful. Overall, I was satisfied but would probably not cruise again unless there was an itinerary I wanted or great deal - I did not find it to be a premium experience worth paying more than say Princess. Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.7
Service 3.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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