Sail Date: April 2010
There's other reviews for this Hawaii Circle Cruise on the Zaandam, and I won't repeat all that I agree with here. However, there are some additions worth noting. This review is more of a supplement to the other reviews for this ... Read More
There's other reviews for this Hawaii Circle Cruise on the Zaandam, and I won't repeat all that I agree with here. However, there are some additions worth noting. This review is more of a supplement to the other reviews for this particular itinerary/ship than a standalone review. As background, we've cruised eight or so times previously on other cruise lines - this was our first on HAL. EMBARKATION San Diego's cruise termininal is efficient and fast. No issues. We stayed at the Old Town San Diego the night before, and got free covered parking for the cruise (we drove to port). Such a deal! PORTS The ports are typical Hawaii - each island is unique. We tried to stay busy with excursions in each port. Overall, I found the premium for HAL-selected excursions to be worth it. The excursion operators seemed very much interested in keeping HAL happy - and it showed in their service and quality. Best excursions were biking the volcano, and zip-lining Kauai on the private ranch. TENDERING If you've not cruised this long of an itinerary with HAL before, just be prepared for the tendering experience (in those ports where it is required). It can take up to 30 minutes each to load/offload those less physically mobile and the associated mechanical assistance devices. This can impact the captain's decision on how rough acceptable seas are before tendering can be allowed. Ports can be cancelled (like Maui was on this cruise). FOOD Relative to other cruise lines we have been on, the food was better in the Lido (the buffet area) and about the same or below par in the formal dining room. The flexible seating times were wonderful, but on three nights, we had to wait more than 30 minutes after being seated before a waiter came over to take our order. The flexibility is nice as you can pick not only when you want to eat, but if you want to dine as a couple or be social with others. THE SHIP (this part was posted in a roll call thread for our cruise, but is repeated here): Being an engineer, this was a pet peeve of mine. I found myself running tab of 'deferred maintenance' items I noticed on the ship after about the fifth item: 1) Extensive Rust on the ships exterior. The most egregious example was the latch holding the life preserver above the port-side fly-bridge. It was so rusted, it was welded shut. Virtually all painted surfaces not visible from shore were infected with rust. If you know anything about rust - it is like a virus. Once it starts, it is very difficult to get rid of. This ship is in trouble if they don't start doing something soon. 2) Burned out light bulbs. We even started a game: "Count the Burned-Out Bulbs". My favorite was in the theater where they actually pulled the bulbs because they were burning/melting the plastic lenses in the stairway lights. We could not find a location on the ship where at least 2 burned out bulbs could be seen from one position. Many times, the game-winning number of burned out bulbs was 20+! 3) Electrical Issues: Dining room: Flickering lights on a service bar. Every wave generated an on/off event. That's not what I want to see on my ship - intermittent electrical wiring ??????? Can we just fix that? 4) HVAC: Many thermostats set to an extreme setting - and wanting to set it even more extreme. Example: The Neptune Lounge was extremely cold. Thermostat pegged on hot, but the temp was 68 Deg F or lower throughout the cruise. 5) Metal cutting in the hallways. For two days, there was extensive metal cutting in the ceiling outside our stateroom. Why? That's a bit worrisome. Cutting Metal? 6) Stabilizers: Functionality lost for 6+ hours while at sea forcing a new heading of the ship. 7) Teak wood decks: Significantly neglected and beginning to splinter. I love natural wood - but it takes love and care. HAL is not doing even the minimums to preserve these beautiful decks. 8) Electrical outlets on Deck 4: Many labeled "Not working". 9) Cracked vinyl in the Explorer's Lounge (above the bridge). Really? Failing to replacing cracked and peeling vinyl upholstery is a significant oversight from the recent drydock. This is an inexpensive, high visibility repair. Why was it not done? 10) Flooding: Two floods were noticed during the cruise. The wet/dry shop-vacs were put to good use. 11) Elevators shut down. It is acceptable to have an elevator down for a few days at sea - but once you've visited a port where parts could have been flown in- that's an economic decision saying it is cheaper to let the elevator be broken than to make an attempt to fix it. One elevator was down for the entire cruise. Based on previous posts, this was in improvement compared to the months just before this cruise! 12) Exterior Glass. Absolutely NO attempt was made to clean the exterior glass in the common areas of the ship. In some places, there were layers of dirt, salt, and scum that reduced visibility to less than 50%! It takes very little effort to clean glass while in port with a Bosun's chair and a squeegee. HAL made ZERO effort to clean glass during this 15 day cruise (and apparently not during any of the recent cruises prior). I've cruised other cruise lines for years, and have not noticed anywhere near the number of deferred maintenance items that I noticed on this ship. It is very much an economic decision on the part of HAL. They are just counting on the fact that passengers will not notice...or if they do notice, they won't skip a booking on HAL due to the maintenance issues. CABIN This is an older ship. There are two electrical outlets in the entire Deluxe Verandah Suite. We knew this, and brought extension cords and multi-outlet adapters - but this is something you should know. Temp control is iffy - at best. Balcony was HUGE - very nice. Beds, pillows and linens were comfortable. Stains on upholstery/furniture and carpets. CREW/STAFF The crew was more homogenized compared to other cruises we have been on. They are more uniformly trained, and less flexible. Tips are auto-billed to your credit card - and the staff knows it. They get the same compensation no matter the effort they put forward. The times where we independently tipped/provided gifts to our cabin steward - there was no gratitude or even acknowledgment of the gift. The crew and staff were OK, but we have had far superior service on other cruise lines like RCCL. That said, we have also had much worse. HAL has found a way to ensure mediocrity in service at an extraordinarily average level. DISEMBARKATION Again, the San Diego terminal baggage staff were top notch. Getting off the ship was quick and easy. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
This was my family's first-ever trip to Hawaii - so we were looking forward to this trip w/ much anticipation. We went with a group of experienced cruisers - some had cruised to Hawaii before aboard Zaandam, others had been to Hawaii ... Read More
This was my family's first-ever trip to Hawaii - so we were looking forward to this trip w/ much anticipation. We went with a group of experienced cruisers - some had cruised to Hawaii before aboard Zaandam, others had been to Hawaii but not aboard a ship, and others had cruised but not to Hawaii. Our friend and travel agent made the arrangements for our group and also for our shore excursions, pre-cruise hotel, Bon Voyage dinner, Meet and Greet - plus she procured HAL luggage tags for our group! Can't say enough good things about her. Embarcation was fine despite the fact that the [I]Carnival Spirit[/I] was embarking on her 8 day cruise the same day - the hotel across the street where we were staying was full and the lines on the pier were tremendous: We were glad to stay at the hotel for a couple extra hours to enjoy breakfast on the terrace and a couple of drinks at the bar as the lines on the pier dissipated. One thing to note is that HAL no longer takes your CC for the shipboard account on the pier - either you do it online or you must swing by the front office to set up your account: I waited a couple days to go to the desk to do this to avoid the lines. Service was splendid and the staff and crew were outstanding - I cannot say enough about how wonderful the crew are aboard Zaandam: CD Anthony is the best I've ever experienced. Edy, Geoffrey, Wayou, Rafael, the guys in the Crow's Nest, the Ocean Bar and Lido Bar and our cabin stewards as well as the spa staff and Kris and Iris at the Front Office took really great care of us. The band was good and the activities were plentiful, if one wished to participate - otherwise, there was plenty of time and space to relax and read a good book (for this itinerary I recommend "Letters from Hawaii" by Mark Twain - available thru Amazon) I also cannot say enough good things about our waiter's conscientiousness regarding my Gluten-Free diet. Scotty and I also caught sinus infections (it seemed to be going around) on the return trip and we both went to the infirmary on separate days - and we were both dealt with kindly and professionally by the staff and the same Doctor we met last year aboard Noordam. Iris helped us have two Meet and Greets in the Crow's Nest - which I highly recommend, particularly on a longer itinerary, as folks seem to have so much more to share at the end of the cruise. I was also invited to a tea w/ our HM, Fierman, and GRM, Iris, who asked us group leaders how we felt about the cruise - I thought this was a nice touch and showed genuine concern for our well-being. The ship did schedule some LGBT unhosted meetings in the Crow's Nest but they weren't well attended. Seems that our group was nearly all the LGBT that were aboard and we knew one another already. Never went to a show. The very idea of scheduling the main seating show before dinner during cocktail hour is ridiculous - and scheduling the Ocean Bar band to take their break during cocktail hour is even dumber! The trio in the Ocean Bar was good despite the drummer's apparent surliness for the first half of the cruise - Thankfully he managed to get himself thrown off the ship in Hawaii during a Coast Guard inspection and the remaining duo seemed much happier without him. The HAL Cats were rather good - but as with most HAL Cats combos, they need to turn down the amplification... The itinerary was wonderful and we saw so much - every Hawaiian port was truly enjoyable. Some highlights of the trip included encountering a huge herd of dolphins mid-ocean westbound who raced to meet the ship in such great numbers as if we were offering free crack in the ghetto. We also saw a great many whales frolicking off the port of Lahaina, Maui all about the ship all day long. Our friend, Mary, rented a van and drove a number of us around Honolulu to Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace and the state government buildings, and afterwards to the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki for a delightful lunch (I could stay there forever...) Kona is a lovely port just to wander around: much better than Hilo where one must take a taxi or bus to get out of the former Military installation and into town, and Kauai is a gorgeous rustic island which is very much the way I imagined Hawaii to be. I think of my short time in Hawaii, I'd have to say that my favorite ports were Kawai, Honolulu and Kona. Sadly - [I]Zaandam[/I] herself was not up to the standard of what I expected a HAL ship to look like after the recent January drydock (I could see it from my apartment here in SF for two weeks so I know it was there!) The cabins were in good condition, and the dining room chairs were brand new - but other than that, I could not tell you what had been done: Hull and Superstructure are in desperate need of paint - Rust streaks are everywhere, the paint was scraped away beneath the bow anchors to such an extent that it appeared more rust than blue (Some painting was done on the portside bow while we were in Kauai - nowhere else) and paint is bubbling and peeling around the windows and hull-doors so that one can easily see the rust streaks on the white superstructure from pier or tender. Lightbulbs burnt out all over the place - and of the 6 chandeliers in the MDR, 1 was never lit for the entire cruise. Lamps in the Lido were broken or crooked. Torn and frayed upholstery in the Lido and certain public rooms on Upper Promenade Deck. Broken out windows in the Lido. Filthy windows, including the Magrodome itself until after we had had some rain in Hilo and Kauai. Decorative decals that wrap around the bulkhead surrounding the opening for the Magrodome are decayed and peeling off in the central areas. Ships clocks are unsynchronized, and the TV channel that gives time and date was often wrong. Forward Lido clock under the Magrodome is correct - Aft Lido clock under the Magrodome is off by 3 1/2 hours. Scuffs and scrapes in the hard flooring around the Lido bar. (It wouldn't take a couple hours one night w/ a floor polisher to get rid of those scrapes, says the Old Military man...) Cracking and peeling finishes on the wooden tables near the Lido Bar. Broken chairs in the Lido Restaurant (I pinched my finger in the loose arm joint of one chair while pulling it beneath me - nearly fell through the broken seat of another...) Hair Salon only had one cape to cover clients - the beauticians had to share back and forth while doing Mother's hair and mine. Also, a chair in the salon had broken brakes: After Mom had her hair washed, the ship rolled and she rolled helplessly towards the windows scaring her half-to-death! Dirty tile in the Thermal Spa - I could take my hand and wipe the dirt away from the tile around the T-Pool. I really wanted to take a scrub-brush to the place! Frayed and poorly laid carpets in the corridors - I could easily see the concrete between the gaps in the cuts! Of the 8 lamp standards around the aft pool: 2 had new lamp globes, 4 had yellowed and filthy globes, and 2 had no globes at all! Damaged artwork: One of the carved marble sculptures outside the Sports Bar was tied up with rope to hold it together throughout the cruise, and the great circular painting at the top of the midship stairwell had gilding from the frame peeled off from what appeared to be tape that had been applied here & there. Broken Lifeboat Davit? Portside-Aft davit was left extended throughout the return trip to California - Didn't notice if it was extended for the entire cruise... Broken Granite floor tiles in the elevators and a huge gouge in the door of one elevator. When I asked the Captain during one of his talks what happens during a drydock, he mentioned that there's quite a lot of maintenance that goes on - cleaning the hull, polishing the propellers, etc - which is all well and good. I later asked our kind Hotel Manager, Fierman, about the poor condition of the ship to which he replied, "I know". He did say that many ports prohibit painting and window-washing nowadays - but again, one would think that the floors and tiles could have been scrubbed, lightbulbs could have been changed and a good coat of paint could have been slapped on the ship as she sat in the drydock for two weeks, don't you? Yes, it's a 10 year old ship, but it's not going to make it another 10 years unless Seattle puts some time and effort into the condition of this ship - Ryndam and Statendam were in better condition last fall than Zaandam today! IMO, who cares about new showroom furniture, rearranged cocktail lounges and shops and the sliding glass door staterooms that are being installed on the ships when the basics go ignored? Would I go to Hawaii again? In a heartbeat. Would I take a Hawaii cruise again? I believe that seeing Hawaii by ship is probably the best way to go - I wouldn't know which island to go to first and think that I might get bored had I been on only one island. However, I honestly don't think that it's worth the time away to only spend 4 days in port and not 5 - All those days at sea got to be a bit much on the return trip that a mere 4 ports just wouldn't be worth it unless an overnight were planned someplace like Honolulu. I'd either book the one 15-day cruise in January 2011 that still includes Kona or the 30-day Polynesian/Pacific Cruise that includes Hawaii - but I wouldn't do the 14-day Hawaiian cruise from San Diego. ...and despite the exceptional staff and crew - whom I've realized is very much the reason I continue to sail HAL - until HAL gets its act in order and cleans up the ship and does some necessary repairs, I wouldn't book any cruise aboard Zaandam as the sad condition of the ship was the most disappointing aspect of the entire cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
Overall my trip was good and I got some rest and relaxation. Unfortunately I woke up with a sore throat the morning after I left the ship, but that is to be expected I guess on a ship full of people where half of them go around coughing ... Read More
Overall my trip was good and I got some rest and relaxation. Unfortunately I woke up with a sore throat the morning after I left the ship, but that is to be expected I guess on a ship full of people where half of them go around coughing and hacking all over the place. While there have been some on board that are humorously or downright annoying, (see examples below) the majority of people are great to talk with and learn more about life from.How to Annoy People:1. Oh the joy of finding a perfect theatre seat and someone sits next to you who is repeatedly opening and closing their clutch purse every 5 or 10 seconds with a loud snap. SNAP... snap... snap.... SNAP.... Snap.... Snap.... snap...yeah, you get the picture? Throughout the entire movie. Seriously, do I even need to have to say something?2. Or, how about coughing all over people (sometimes I think deliberately) standing next you? Hello???? Do us a favor please, "Cover your mouth and cough into your elbow please?"3. Walk 5 people abreast across all corridors. 4. Really annoying are people who argue with ship staff and think they are owed something far grander than the experience or service that they were not happy with.My tolerance levels for some things is lessening as I get older. That said, I did meet some fascinating and lovely people. I had open seating arrangements but after the first night I stayed with one table I was seated at. (I had to argue with dining room staff the first time to sit there again, but after that first night they let me sit there)The Explorer lounge was being completely revamped and was closed the entire trip except for the last day on ship. It didn't look a whole lot different to me than it did before; they must have upgraded it.I've been on the Zaandam once previously in 2007 and there seemed to be a missing element from this ship though. I believe all the staff were brand new and it showed. They didn't seem to have the training that the other staff have in terms of service and attentiveness that I've experienced on other ships. I don't blame the staff and greatly appreciated their hard work. They are doing the best they can with the tools they are given. I do blame whoever is training them or supervising them. For example, one evening I went into the piano bar and there was a young man making drinks behind the counter. He stood there doing nothing for 20 minutes meanwhile people were coming into the piano bar. There were no other servers around and instead of coming out and asking people if they wanted anything, he just stood there, bored and looking off into space. I guess with my own managerial background, I found this unacceptable. It was only after a half hour went by and some servers finally showed up from another area of the ship, that the bar had actual working servers. Another experience is that late one afternoon I was in the Ocean bar and there was no one else in there. There were three people behind the bar and they were wandering around looking out the windows, etc. One of them asked me whether I wanted something and I said okay, I will have a tall Kahlua and milk. All three of them heard my order and I paid up at the bar and went and sat back down. So off they go and a half hour goes by... (I'm patient) and still nothing. I thought wow maybe they had to go to the kitchen to get some milk. So a little while later, one of them comes over and asks if I want another drink. I said, I still haven't got my first one yet. So they go back to the bar and they all start laughing and I yelled out to them that I thought maybe you had to go milk the cow. I finally got my drink and an apology. So I get it, people make mistakes... no big deal. However, between the three of them you would think one of them would remember or be attentive enough to recall that I had ordered a drink and paid for it.The comedy shows were great. Only once in 11 days did I see anyone coming around asking if anyone wanted drinks in the Theatre. The other thing that drove me crazy this trip was every time you turn around, someone is trying to sell you something. It felt like it was being shoved down my throat this time. All the Port information sheets contained almost nothing but advertising of places to go shopping and I don't really care about that. I want sight seeing information. I did eat in the Pinnacle one night and it was amazing. The steak was outstanding. Another huge disappointment was that I arranged to have my portraits done utilizing their high end black and white photographs. I paid for five photos and when they came in the mail, there were only four and the one I wanted most wasn't included. I will NEVER do that again. I was extremely disappointed with the pictures and the fact that I didn't receive what I had paid for - which was costly. I threw them out.So while my intent was not to paint a negative picture, I felt an element was missing this trip. I know most people were working hard and I hate to critique but I did leave some constructive comments this time. My room stewards were good; however, I found a dirty sock under the desk when I first got to my room. My room seemed refurbished from the last trip and it was newer and brighter. One day I returned to my room to find an odd smell in the bathroom and in looking around, they had completely recaulked the bathtub and put in new moldings. It must have been leaking to the floor below. I was impressed at how quickly they did it and if I weren't for my good sense of smell, I probably would not have noticed.This was my fifth and final cruise with Holland America. For someone travelling alone, their prices are no longer affordable and they do not provide a large enough discount for solo travelers anymore. When you pay good money for a cruise, you also want the service that you come to appreciate and expect with that cruiseline. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
     Embarkation was easy and fast. My wife and I booked a verandah suite.  Overall the cruise to Alaska was OK...but not as good as previous cruises with HAL.  The food was bland, the portions were very small,  and the service was ... Read More
     Embarkation was easy and fast. My wife and I booked a verandah suite.  Overall the cruise to Alaska was OK...but not as good as previous cruises with HAL.  The food was bland, the portions were very small,  and the service was very slow.  It took ten minutes to get an iced tea and I always had to ask for refills.  The dining room stewards were working the tails off but there were not enough of them.  It appears that HAL is trying to save money on labor costs.  The Lido buffet served the exact same food as the dining room...so we ate at the buffet often.  The service was better and faster.  The Pinnacle Grill served the "premium" food...but at an extra cost.  I remember the days of cruising when we ate the premium food every night in the dining room (no extra cost) and the buffets served various foods around the clock.  It appears that HAL is trying to cut costs on food service as well.        The toilets on the ship worked only part time.  I made numerous calls to guest services and finally got someone to answer the phone on the fourth attempt.  They said they were doing tank repairs.  The toilet issues lasted the duration of the cruise.  I called the dining room to cancel a  5:15 dinner reservation (again numerous attempts) and no one answered the phone...ever.  I called guest services (they answered the phone on the first attempt) and they informed the dining room telephone line "closes" after 4pm.  No recording...no answer machine...no automatic call forwarding...simply rings and rings with no answer.       The gym was nice but the air conditioning seemed weak...it was very hot up there.  The gym was adequately equiped and had a nice view.     Room service was so so...I ordered breakfast every morning with coffee. On one occasion they forgot to bring cream for my coffee.  I called room service and they informed me that I had to actually order cream.  I thought it would be automatically included with a coffee order.  They advised me they would bring cream right away...it never showed up.   The next day's breakfast (I saw there actually was a check box for cream on the order form) came much earlier than it was supposed to.  The room service steward seem upset that it took me extra time to wake up, put on clothes, get dressed, and answer the door.  I asked him to remove a tray from last night's burger and he frowned and sighed with disgust as he took the tray. Another employee got upset with me because I couldnt understand his broken english.     Now to disembarkation....we were told we could wait in our rooms or a lounge until our scheduled time to leave the ship.  Our scheduled disembarkation time was 9:00 am.  We had breakfast and went back to the room at 8:30 to wait.  We are sitting on the bed waiting and we see a door open on our PRIVATE balcony and a HAL employee steps on to our balcony and looks into our stateroom.  I guess its a good thing we weren't changing clothes or something other.  I couldn't believe HAL couldn't wait until all passengers left the ship before they started invading private balconies. After this we decided to leave our room and wait in a lounge. Disembarkation went smoothly and quickly.  I'm not sure I would sail with HAL again...it appears they are cutting costs too much.  Service and food quality suffered a huge decline from from the past.  We spoke with other passengers and they noticed the decline in quality and service as well. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We live in San Diego so embarkation was a breeze for us. We arrived at the terminal around 2:30 and experienced a short wait to check in. We like inside staterooms and chose this one because there were not other staterooms behind or ... Read More
We live in San Diego so embarkation was a breeze for us. We arrived at the terminal around 2:30 and experienced a short wait to check in. We like inside staterooms and chose this one because there were not other staterooms behind or next to it. The one thing that we didn't count on was the vibration and constant engine noise! It was so bad the first night my husband couldn't sleep at all. We found the beds extremely uncomfortable. I had a terrific backache that lasted for days. The ship needs renovation. We had black along the wall next to the bathroom that looked like mold. There was mold in the shower and some of the tile grout was molded and crumbling. The room stewards were excellent and seemed upset if they couldn't turn our bed down at night. The food was a disappointment. We last sailed with Holland America two years ago on the Amsterdam and found the food while portion controlled, very good. The food on the Zaandam ranged from excellent to truly awful. It was apparent that we were fed leftovers. The tenderloin of beef was excellent at dinner. The next day it showed up at the past passenger brunch (well done this time.) Then it showed up again that night in the Lido. The same was true for the beef short ribs. The first time they showed up was at the Lido Pool Hawaiian grill night. Then the next day as braised short ribs, then again with a sauce over them. The same was true for the pork tenderloin. It showed up several days with a different sauce. Mashed potatoes tasted warmed over. Vegetables were bagged frozen perhaps from Costco? All pasta dishes had the same sauce and it tasted like it came from a jar. Fish dishes were all over cooked. One day I had Mahi Mahi and crab legs. What I got was two mushy fish medallions (silver dollar size) and a quarter of a dried out crab leg split in half. With the exception of the Indonesian buffet one day at the Lido pool, all the Asian food was truly awful. My husband and I both tried several of the Asian dishes during the cruise and could not eat any of them. One day at lunch I decided to go for a tuna sandwich. The chef tossed a pre-made Wonder Bread sandwich with a half slice of American cheese and a slice of tomato on a plate and handed it to me. I should have handed it back. The bread was stale and the amount of tuna in the sandwich would not have covered a saltine cracker. Breakfast on the Lido was OK if you had fresh cooked eggs and ham or boxed cereal. The blueberry muffins had one blueberry per muffin. (I tried several over the cruise and did find two blueberries one time.) Hot cereal was made with no salt. I put the oatmeal in the truly awful category. The sausage patties looked and tasted exactly like those found at McDonald's in the Sausage McMuffins. The Taco bar looked and tasted a lot like Taco Bell. The grilled hamburgers were good. The potato salad looked and tasted exactly the same as you would buy at a supermarket deli. Rolls and butter were good and most desserts were good. We liked the ice cream that was available daily. With the portion control so tight on the entree's we found ourselves eating more rolls and butter and dessert than normal just to get enough to eat. The buffet was not open 24 hours per day as on a Princess ship. If you didn't get dinner by 8:15 pm you didn't eat until 11 pm. The entertainment on the ship was OK. All the entertainment was geared to the Geritol generation so if Lawrence Welk is your idea of fun you would have been happy. Most of the ship's activities were geared to 70 and 80 year olds (which included 80 percent of the passengers). If you like to learn to make towel animals, this was your cruise! We were not impressed with Lizabeth the cruise director. Her attitude seemed toxic both on and off the stage. On the night the Hula Dancers performed at the Lido pool, several passengers rudely came in late and stood directly in front of seated passengers totally blocking their view. Many people asked these rude people to move and they refused. There was nearly a riot with some pushing and shoving and name calling. The ship could have prevented this with a little crowd control. There were no crew members in sight. This spoiled everyone's time. Ports - If you didn't take a HAL tour, the ship provided no useful port information. We took the shopping bus at Hilo and was dropped off at Hilo Hattie's in a mall with Wal-mart across the street. We rented a car in Honolulu. Thrifty picked us up at the dock and took us back near the airport to rent the car. There was a $15 early return penalty. What we didn't know was parking around the pier was $50 for over night. We found a parking garage about six blocks away for $12 but had to have the car out before 7 am. We would have been better off to book the car one day at a time and saved parking. Maui has a nice beach a short walk from the pier. This was the only day it didn't rain so it became our beach day. There wasn't much to see at Kona. After awhile all the shops began to look the same. The day before disembarkation everyone was told to report to the Mondrian Lounge at 10 am for instructions. The first problem was not everyone fit. Then Lizabeth the cruise director told us that her instructions would be on the ship's TV (so lots of people left including us). We were told that we would have a "silent" disembarkation and to report at out assigned time. The next day, they proceeded to call tags as usual. Overall, comparing Princess to HAL we would have to go with Princess. Last year's cruise on the Grand Princess was superior to this one. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Boarding in San Diego went well. Once on board, we were told by the Captain that departure would be delayed until 5:45 pm. Had the required life vest and lifeboat drill before leaving port. This was the worst drill I have ever seen. ... Read More
Boarding in San Diego went well. Once on board, we were told by the Captain that departure would be delayed until 5:45 pm. Had the required life vest and lifeboat drill before leaving port. This was the worst drill I have ever seen. Disorganized large groups. Crew members could not be heard. At 5:15 pm, we feel the ship moving. No announcement from the Captain so we were well away before reaching the sail away on the Lido. This was to prove typical of the Zaandam's crew. The stateroom was in need of cleaning. Stained carpeting, dirty bathroom floor, TERRIBLE bed and cabin stewards that barely spoke English. Our room was never serviced before 1 pm no matter how early we left. HAL boasts about their Dream Beds. The CEO'S should have to sleep in them! Worn and lumpy, smelly sheets and pillows and no duvet and touted; just a blanket between 2 sheets. After 4 days, we had to request our bedding be changed and twice more after that. Food presentation was very nice but the food was bland. Seems as if HAL is trying to be more health conscious but the result is poor. Most all meat was overcooked which also made it tough. Service in the dining room, especially at breakfast, was poor to good. Worst we have ever encountered. Service people would turn their backs to the diners and talk making it impossible to get their attention. The crew needs to be able to speak and understand English much better than they did. Entertainment was enjoyable but not as good as other cruise lines. The very best thing was the Sommelier Lunch. The food and the wine paring was excellent. Shore Excursions are no better and no worse than others. For some reason, the Captain decided to change the itinerary for viewing the volcanic eruption. He went from Hilo instead of going past it after leaving Kona. It was a rainy, cloudy night which made for no viewing. Leaving Kona, it was lovely weather and we could have had the view we expected. Disembarkation was another foul up. First, we were told it would be a silent disembarkation. It was changed to a call off. Lizabeth, the Social Director, did the calling. We were scheduled to depart at 10 am. We were called just about 10 am. Took the elevator down and were met by a huge crowd. Every hallway, every corridor and every nook and cranny was packed with passengers not moving. Lizabeth is continuing to call. Seems no one told her of the human jam and no one was telling us the reason for it. Finally, we are told, through the grape vine, that the ramp had slipped and they were working to get it reattached. When we finally began moving, I spotted Beth, one of Lizabeth's staff, just standing there. She had not thought it necessary to contact Lizabeth to stop the call or to inform us as to the problem. It was a mess that could have been avoided. However, you never got the feeling that the upper echelon cared much. All in all, it was not the dream vacation we had expected. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2008
First a bit about us. My wife and I are 48 & 50 years old, and have been married for four years. We have taken nine cruises together (HAL, Princess, Norwegian, Carnival, and MSC). Our Honeymoon was on the HAL Westerdam (inaugural ... Read More
First a bit about us. My wife and I are 48 & 50 years old, and have been married for four years. We have taken nine cruises together (HAL, Princess, Norwegian, Carnival, and MSC). Our Honeymoon was on the HAL Westerdam (inaugural Atlantic crossing 11/04). Embarkation We arrived at the port at 11:30am and were on the ship by Noon. We were asked to go to the Lido deck and await the call to our room, since none of the rooms were ready yet, we expected this since we boarded so early. The food at the buffet was ok. At 1:45pm the announcement came that all rooms were ready. Many of the passengers were over 65. This was expected being a fifteen day HAL cruise. This was not a problem at all. Stateroom We went to our deck three inside stateroom and found it to be very clean and set up the way we requested. Our room steward (Jamie) showed up about 10 minutes later with all our luggage. I asked him if he could get us an egg create mattress topper. Ten minutes later he showed up with it. Jamie was great throughout the entire cruise. Our room was not cleaned till after 2pm daily. But it was always very clean. We did have a problem with the air conditioning throughout the entire cruise. The room would not get below 73 degrees. We notified the front desk every day for the first 7 days; they sent people to check it out every day. They also followed up with us every night. They never could do anything to fix it so they gave us a fan to use after the second day (it helped). They also offered to move us to another room, but only offered smaller rooms in less desirable locations. So we stayed in our original room. The cruise line offered us a $100 credit due to the A/C problem. We negotiated it up to $200. The front office staff was very accommodating. Our stateroom was very quiet throughout the entire cruise. Food The food throughout the cruise (Lido Buffet, and Dining room) varied from great to just ok. All of it was very bland (probably due to the older passenger's dietary needs). I'm a chef and found the food selection and presentation fine. We ate breakfast at the Lido buffet every day (the only way to get a hot cooked to order omelet). We also ate lunch at the Lido buffet. I enjoyed the Sushi. The sandwich bar was ok after you realized that you needed to tell them to put more meat on the bread. The ice cream was some of the best we've ever had; they changed the flavors almost hourly. Dinner in the dining room was nice and as I said the quality of the food varied every night from great to acceptable. The wait staff was average. Entertainment The cruise director Lizabeth was the worst we've ever had. She was not at all entertaining. She would ignore you while she was walking around the ship. She just wasn't a warm person. The Dancers were great. The Singers were rejects from American Idol. The guest entertainers (a juggler, Comedians, Singer, and a Ventriloquist) were all good. On board activities were all geared toward the 60 and over crowd (Bridge, Bingo, Water color painting, towel folding, Golf). The trivia events were twice a day, Breakfast trivia 9am, and Team trivia some time between 1:30 - 3pm. All the trivia events were hosted by Lizabeth the terrible. Spa We bought the Thermal suite retreat for the full cruise. A small room overlooking the ocean with a private hot tub, 2 saunas, 2 aroma showers and 5 thermal beds. This room was our sanctuary everyday before dinner. VERY relaxing. It cost $240 per couple for unlimited use for entire cruise. It was well worth it!!! 4 Sea days after leaving San Diego The first two days it was very cold and windy outside. The weather started to warm up on the third day, but it was still windy due to the Pacific trade winds. Ports Hilo, Hawaii was great. We rented a car and drove to the volcano (highly recommended). We took a 2 mile guided hike, and loved every minute of it. We stopped at Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut plantation on the way back to the ship. We spent way too much there but picked up Christmas gifts for everyone. We also stopped at Wal Mart (located in the same shopping center as Hilo Hattie's). You can get a free shuttle to Hilo Hattie's from the pier, then walk across the parking lot and buy your Hawaiian shirts in Wal Mart for between $7-$30. Also buy your Macadamia Nuts and Hawaiian souvenirs in Wal Mart They have a large section full of everything that you didn't know you wanted (you will save lots of money). Honolulu, Oahu (two days) What a zoo!!! Reminded me of New York City (I grew up there) over crowded, way too much traffic all day. We rented a car for two days, but returned it after one. It was just too stressful trying to drive around the city. The second day we walked around the downtown area, and enjoyed all the sights. Lahaina, Maui We spent the day walking up and down Front Street, and sat under the 135 year old massive Banyan tree. This day was very relaxing. Don't eat at "Cheese Burger In paradise" the food was horrible, with the exception of the coconut shrimp. Kona, Hawaii This was the only port we booked a shore excursion. We went on the "Kahun Ranch with ATV Adventure" tour. It took an hour bus ride to get to the ranch, followed by a 2.5 hour ATV ride. What a blast!!! We each had our own ATV, then an hour back to port. The Bus driver / tour guide was great. Back in the port there was a street festival going on, we walked around and picked up a few more gifts. 5 Sea days the return trip These sea days were also windy, and the last two were cold. We were supposed to stop in Ensenada, Mexico on the last night, but due to the extreme fog the Captain decided to bypass this port. Better safe then sorry. Mexico been there done that, gave the tee shirt to Goodwill!! Debarkation I think it was the easiest we've ever had. We chose to get off after 10am. From the time we were called till the time we were in the taxi on the way to the airport was only 20 minutes. That is including finding our luggage. Overall we had a great time. We met another couple onboard and did everything with them. I know we will be life long friends and are already planning our next cruise together, next November. The ship was in need of many repairs, but nothing that was unsafe. The engineers were constantly working all over the ship. The ship was clean. The crew was not the friendliest we've ever experienced. But I'm not a complainer, I just wanted to let everyone know what to expect. If you can't have a great time on a cruise, just stay at work. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2008
Embarkation in Vancouver at the Canada Place Pier was a breeze. Granted we have cruised once before a few years back so had a good idea of where to go, what to do, and what to expect. We stayed the day prior at the Sutton Place (a US TV ... Read More
Embarkation in Vancouver at the Canada Place Pier was a breeze. Granted we have cruised once before a few years back so had a good idea of where to go, what to do, and what to expect. We stayed the day prior at the Sutton Place (a US TV celebrity was checking in behind us - pretty nifty) and had booked this hotel for one night pre and post cruise to make travel less stressful. We booked through AMEX platinum travel so was automatically upgraded to a 2 room executive suite+breakfast+$75 food/bev credit. Kudos to American Express Platinum Travel (AMEX PTS)! We checked out of the hotel Sunday after breakfast, around 10:00am and took a $6.00 cab ride to the pier where we were literally dropped of at the longshoremans luggage crib and the next time we saw our luggage was neatly placed in our room onboard. From that moment we were through customs, through HAL check-in, and sitting down to Beef Wellington and a long island iced tea within 45minutes! Whoo Hooo! The verandah suite cabin was clean and everything in working order however was in need of woodwork touch up and upholstery updating. Incredibly comfortable bed and sheets. Flat screen TV. Booking through AMEX PTS had a bottle of champagne waiting on ice, a fresh flower arrangement, and 2 free Pinnacle Grill reservations waiting on us in the room. The comedy entertainment was 100% top notch as was the guest female singer. The HAL "broadway production" completely sucked and 30% of those in the Mondorian Theatre left mid-performance because it was so bad. The overweight cruise director "Lizabeth" was snooty/stuck-up and seemed to care less about her job or the quality of the entertainment/activities her job dictates she spearhead. After 7 days we were sick of her using the phrase DAM SHIP in every other sentence. We met the captain for the one cocktail hour in which he stood shoulder to shoulder with Lizabeth like an embalmed corpse and spoke "hello welcome, hi, good evening, enjoy the cruise...(repeat 100 times).  The food was a Carnival buffet in disguise and the Pinnacle Grill steak tasted just as overcooked as in the Rotterdam Dining Room. The Pinnacle Grill service was intrusive and clumsy. Too many people doing too many things constantly in your space reaching across you and interrupting conversation. The food in general was good but Royal C was a bit better and totally consistent whereas this HAL Zaandam experience was like a Golden Corral / Ryans Steakhouse experience. The wine steward (we called him the porn star as he got excessively romantic with the ladies) was an idiot. I asked for a Penfold Merlot and he said they do not stock any Brazilian wine...what an idiot. The gym was very nice with well placed and maintained equipment. The gym manager was an ass trying to hard sell $1200 worth of "detox" herbs to us as well as the spa manager who put my wife on a guilt trip for not engaging her in a $300 acupuncture session - good grief! On Saturday the Front desk called our room at 6:32 A M to advise us we needed to reregister our credit card for onboard expenses. This kind of crap never happened on Windstar or Royal C for that matter. The one shore excursion was the Saddle & Paddle which was OK. I can now say I rode a horse in the Yukon. We saw 0 wildlife and the paddle portion had our canoe guide yelling so loud that any moose/bear/deer were long gone before we would have ever seen them. The saddle portion was a nice slow horse ride in a group of 6 along a worn the hell out trail that lasted a whopping 25 minutes. The lunch was a gas station type sandwich, bowl of progresso soup, a slice of pie, and a little plastic cup of tap water, all in a "lodge" that felt like a mobile home. Last but not least.....CIGARETTE SMOKE PERMEATED virtually every area of this ship, especially our room/bathroom. I will never book a HAL cruise for this single reason. It totally ruined the cruise experience. If you think staying in a Ramada or a Radisson is 1st class accommodations than you are going to love Holland America and the Zaandam.  I think we'll cruise less often so as to save our money for lines like Windstar, Seabourn, or Silvesea.   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
Let me start by saying we have sailed with just about every cruise line so we are relatively experienced and know what we enjoy on a cruise. We are in our early 60's and enjoy an active cruise. We departed from Vancouver after a ... Read More
Let me start by saying we have sailed with just about every cruise line so we are relatively experienced and know what we enjoy on a cruise. We are in our early 60's and enjoy an active cruise. We departed from Vancouver after a wonderful stay at the Hampton Inn; the rooms are beautiful and the breakfast more than sufficient. They provided a shuttle to the pier but we were extremely crowded since the shuttle was late and had to squeeze in 2 time slots. We arrived at the ship around noon and everything went very smoothly. No complaints. The ship is on the small side with only 1400 passengers which I thought would be an advantage. After sailing on the Grand Princess, I guess we were spoiled by all the shows, shops etc. We had a very good lunch in the Lido then were allowed in our rooms. The room is very nice with a bathtub no less. I was pleased we didn't have a tight shower. We had an outside room but we were disappointed because the bed was in front of the window and the window isn't exactly huge. We had 2 hair dryers; an old one in the bathroom and one in the drawer. I was very frustrated because I couldn't find a receptacle in the bathroom and it was the 4th day before someone told me in was built into the old hairdryer. The bed and pillows were wonderful. They even left a card at the end of the cruise telling you how you could order the mattress. The steward never made an appearance all week although I think it was him in the hallway because he called us by our name. Service was hit and miss. If I didn't leave a note, it didn't happen. Service got better towards the end of the week. He even started leaving towel animals which I have to admit, I get a charge out of. The ship did have a laundromat but only had one ironing board and iron. It had several washers and dryers. The washers were very small and charged $2.00 including soap. I don't recall the charge for "fill a bag" but I thought is was rather high and the bag small so I did my own. We had assigned dining which we prefer because we love to get to know our waiters. It can be so much fun because we love to tease and joke and they always seem to enjoy it as well though it usually takes a couple of days for them to warm up. Anyway, the dining room was very nice and surrounded by windows. If you were lucky, you were able to watch the view while dining, especially since it didn't get dark til long after dinner was over. The food some nights was excellent and others so so but we found the chef is willing to make special orders with advanced notice. Every night the head waiter would show us the menu for the next day. We didn't take advantage of this but we did request cheese and fruit before dinner every night which we received. They served Alaskan king crab legs one night and another small lobster tails. Salmon was always available as was steak and chicken. The menu had the usual choices but we noticed they weren't too quick about bringing another entree; portions were adequate. We did not eat in the Pinnacle but our friends did and said it was phenomenal. It was almost funny but when we started to check out the ship, we kept looking for the stores. There is a jewelry store and every stop in Alaska has TONS of jewelry stores. It has a souvenir shop and a liquor store with a handful of toiletries. My suggestion is - don't forget anything at home! Even at the stops you might have a problem. I couldn't find advantix film even at the camera shops in port. I just want to add they do have a catholic priest on board with mass every day. When departing, you can stay in your stateroom and even receive room service. Now the real reason I wanted to write this review was, for one, I was constantly under the impression this was more "upper class". Don't you believe it! I know Alaska cruises are more casual but this bordered on ridiculous. Most of the time people looked like they were making a quick run to the store for milk. I'm talking about dinner in the dining room too. Forget the "smart" casual. Jeans were the order of the day. On formal nights most people dressed very nice but some didn't dress at all and don't pack that tuxedo, for sure. For entertainment, there was a show almost every night. They were very good as cruise ships go. BUT, if you are hoping to be entertained any other time of the day - forget it! Unless, of course, you consider bingo and trivia to be entertainment. There were lectures on the ports and Alaska and plenty of lectures coming from the spa, a couple cooking classes, and movies which were poorly timed for early diners. The age group on this ship was everything from families with small children and up. I really felt sorry for anyone (myself included) under the age of 80. There is a nice library and if reading and napping and early to bed are your thing, you have found the right ship. They had plenty of music in the evenings but the people weren't there and if they were they were gone very early. The casino is small but you won't have a problem finding a spot. I don't know if it was the small ship or Holland America's reputation but we will definitely not sail her again. It is back to Celebrity or Princess or Costa for us. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2008
We've cruised Carnival, Princess & NCL and enjoyed all 5 trips. So, I expected a good experience with Holland since it appears to be highly regarded. When we had the chance to take a quick 4-nites between San Diego/Vancouver (with ... Read More
We've cruised Carnival, Princess & NCL and enjoyed all 5 trips. So, I expected a good experience with Holland since it appears to be highly regarded. When we had the chance to take a quick 4-nites between San Diego/Vancouver (with 1-stop in Victoria) on the Zaandam, I jumped on it. We arrived a day early in San Diego to avoid any airline snafu and over-nighted at the Holiday Inn On The Bay, which is directly across the street from the Cruise Terminal where the Zaandam would dock. Convenience is thy middle name! We've stayed at this Holiday Inn before but now, the rooms have been nicely refurbished. Most of the major hotel chains seem to be bringing in new comfortable beds with top-rate linens; no exception here. We boarded the Zaandam at noon; embarkation was easy. Our stateroom was large & well-designed with a deep balcony, an actual tub (plus shower) in the nice sized bathroom, good lighting & heavy drapes you can use to separate the comfortable sitting area from the bedroom. The storage space looked adequate at first glance but there wasn't much room to hang long garments. The beds were even better than the Holiday Inn with luxurious Egyptian cotton linens & 3 pillows for each guest. All in all, this was the best balcony cabin we've had so far. I wish I could say the same for the cruise itself! Thank goodness this was only a 4-nite trip. Daily activities were limited to bingo, seminars, reading rooms, cards & an overly expensive Art Auction. I usually attend the art auctions but felt the pricing at this show was over the top, possibly because Holland appears to cater to the older crowd who may have money. There was, however, a short daily culinary demonstration plus cocktail/wine tasting. We found the small Casino entertaining & generous but did not attend the evening shows. You have your choice of assigned or open seating in the 2-story dining room. We chose open seating but found it necessary to phone ahead for reservations to avoid a somewhat long wait for a table. Personally, we found the meals tastier, with a good variety of dishes, in the Lido Buffet. Steaks (served twice at the buffet)seemed to be a better grade of meat than the daily steak option in main dining. Real mashed potatoes were available every nite along with your choice of two soups, a variety of well-prepared vegetables, a few choices of meat entrees but the desserts were uninteresting. Too much cut-up watermelon & cantaloupe, bland cakes and the diabetic selections had absolutely no taste. Breakfast at the buffet was a treat with fluffy scrambled eggs, made-to-order omelets, crisp bacon, ham on/the/bone and breakfast breads. The turkey sandwich I had for lunch was so-so; I expected carved turkey, not slices. And the potato chips looked like they came from the bottom of the bag - all broken! My husband enjoyed the stir-fry and fried rice and thought the salad selection was more than adequate. I've got to admit the Zaandam's iced tea was simply delicious. Regarding service, the waiters in the Lido buffet were pleasant enough and carried your tray to the table which was a nice touch. Waiters in the main dining room made no personal connection with the table guests from what we observed. Our cabin steward did his job, smiled a lot but no connection there either. Honestly, we only ran into one bartender that went out of his way to mix with us. Least I forget, the Captain. The Captain made no extra effort to reassure his passengers that all's well during 36-hours of very rough seas, 14' waves and a ship that was dipping and rolling Ad-nauseam. No announcement was made that meds were available if needed for sea sickness. The bad weather and rolling ship were simply ignored by staff unless you, as the passenger, made it your business to react. I cannot imagine a first-time cruiser EVER going back for a second try! That major lapse of judgment, along with the dead flowers on the dining tables, chipped paint, broken lounge chairs in the Observation Deck, (tasted like)watered down orange juice, uninterested cruiseship employees, etc. told me Holland America is not for me. I realize it's unfair to judge an entire line by one ship but, unless I'm given a free cruise, I will not use Holland in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
Background Information - I am 36 and my husband is 44 and in the last three months we have cruised transatlantic, caribbean and now most recently Hawaii. We have never been displeased with a cruise experience aside from a few details that ... Read More
Background Information - I am 36 and my husband is 44 and in the last three months we have cruised transatlantic, caribbean and now most recently Hawaii. We have never been displeased with a cruise experience aside from a few details that were missed on our recent RCCL experience that were actually rectified when we arrived home from our HAL cruise in a letter. Hotel Info 4 nights at the Holiday Inn directly directly across from the ship. Ship Info Zaandam Activities There is tennis and a small gym Service The staff were great, I have nothing bad to say about any service. Only an observation that we found it very odd that the staff were always using the lido deck dining area, the restaurant there and the deck to eat...occupying the long lines and the few tables. I have never seen this before and found it very against the rules of any hotel operation. Shore Excursions We rented cars or toured on our own which worked out fantastically. Plus there were many many taxi's , as expected, available for our departure though the cruise line would go a long way to suggest none would be available in order to gain a large fee for their shuttle. Travel To Port of Embarkation Houston was horrible as usual with terrible staff at their Continental desk - plus the flight was delayed leaving us stranded in Houston overnight, having a 10 usd voucher each at a candy shop (nothing more) and a 5 hour sleep before having to catch our rescheduled flight. Horrible experience that dragged out an otherwise quick trip from our home in Cancun Stateroom Fantastic with jacuzzi, veranda and tv channels, free rental of DVD's in the library . Room steward was fantastic. Found it a little odd that there was no way to let the steward know we were not in the room...we are used to having a little card placed in the door slot to let them know we are not there and to 'make up room'. Would have saved him a lot of time. Dining Great food in the dining room but especially in the Pinnacle Grill was there a true cruise like experience. The main dining room delivered the food incredibly quickly allowing us to enjoy a five course dinner in 60 minutes time is really quite silly. Not a true dining experience. Pinnacle was completely different. We had a courtesy visit there and the second time paid 60usd. Were not charged for the bottle of wine that we brought, perhaps because we tipped so madly 60usd for our table of 8. Children's Clubs No children, thank goodness. Or perhaps just a few from the crew and their wives...again , occupying the coffee lines and the restaurant on the lido deck. Entertainment We did not venture to see the entertainment because we feared it would just not meet our expectations, having the majority of the fellow passengers some 40 years older than us. Disembarkation Fantastically fast and was wonderful to sit in our cabin until we were called. Much quicker than Miami disembarkation but questionable that customs did not give that much care. Miami has much higher security and technology that was missing entirely here. decor - the entire ship was tired, it was very hard to believe that the ship was in fact only seven years old because the technology was missing entirely, the areas were super dated and reflected the 70's. The furniture in the public areas was of the oldest style and there just were not any beautiful areas to take photos that we are so accustomed to. The gym was carpeted in orange and turquoise, almost like there was a sale on ugly carpet...it doesn't have to be that way. Nothing to wow or marvel at as far as any public area and we are used to being wowed...grey old walls covered the hallways...we didn't use the elevators because our 6th floor cabin allowed for easy access to every single area being that everything was on the 5th floor or 8th floor and we were right off the stairway. I would recommend this cruise to your parents or grandparents, anyone over 75 years old...because the crowd was what we infact referred to as a 'floating seniors citizens home'. The buffet was a little odd because the glass (that serves to keep people from drooling on the food) did not able a person to serve himself without doing an awkward back bend to reach food not placed directly closest to you.Ridiculously unaccessible. The dessert buffet outside one night was beautiful to look at but the food was simple and did not taste good, the only thing flavorful were the chocolate covered strawberries which are hard to mess up. The waiter in the dining room even awkwardly presented the desserts each night as they were nothing to look at. All in all, if you would rather see Hawaii than be in an old age home this cruise would be great for you. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
SHIP: Zandaam, Holland America Lines, 15 day Hawaii (from 12/21/06 to 01/05/070, round trip San Diego. Cabin#6109 Verandah Deck Embarkation: Checking in went fast and the stateroom was ready at 1:00 PM as promised. We were suppose to ... Read More
SHIP: Zandaam, Holland America Lines, 15 day Hawaii (from 12/21/06 to 01/05/070, round trip San Diego. Cabin#6109 Verandah Deck Embarkation: Checking in went fast and the stateroom was ready at 1:00 PM as promised. We were suppose to leave San Diego at 5:00 PM, but a medical emergency delayed our departure. The Cabin: a Verandah Suite, port side forward. The room needed updating, the carpeting was worn with several stains. The couch was also stained. The bathroom shower also had black mold around the soap dish and hand hold. During the evening you can hear you can hear what is taking place in lounge which is below the stateroom. The layout of the room made it seem small. On the positive side the bed was the most comfortable I've ever encountered on a cruise ship. SHIP: the ship itself was well maintained and the attendants were constantly cleaning. Overall I found the ship consistent with those of the Princess line, but nothing out of the ordinary. ACTIVITIES at Sea: Everyday the ship posted a list of activities.The list was always full, but it consisted mainly of activities intended to get you to spend more money, such as: bingo, watch and jewelry sales, spa treatments, gambling, ect.. The vast majority of people spent their time at sea reading. SEA Days: There were 10 days at sea on this cruise. Thats way too many and it was voice others on this cruise. I certainly didn't realize how bored you can get on a cruise ship. The first five days are not that bad because you are looking forward to Hawaii, but the return voyage is hard to take. Think twice if your trying to decide to take this cruise or similar ones offered by Princess or Celebrity. DINING: The dining room on this ship is beautiful. The service is not as good as I've received on other cruise lines. The food in the main dining room is the worst I've every experienced. On several occasions the meals were cold, and were not cooked properly. Pasta was hard, the meat was tough. Overall a bad experience. Another couple had made this cruise on four previous occasions, but not on the Zandaam. According to them, Holland America food is usually very good and they felt the food was only a problem with this ship. They only satisfactory meal we experienced on this cruise was a when we dined at the Captain's table. Cruise Experience: One of the high point of this voyage was suppose to be cruising by the volcano national park at night to observe the lava flow into the ocean This was to take place on 12/30/06, and according to the Cruise Director, the ship would pass by the volcano and then turn around and pass the volcano again so people on both sides of the ship would get a good view. The Captain announced, over the ship's PA system, that we pass the volcano between 11PM and 12 AM. Well the ship passed the volcano at about 11:05PM, at about 19.5 knots, with no announcement made over the ship's PA system. While dining with the Captain he was asked "why didn't you announce we were passing the volcano" and his response was "I didn't want everybody to run on deck and go to one side of the ship". Another person asked the captain "why didn't we turn around as the Cruise Director said we would", and Captain's response was "it was too windy to turn the ship around". I personally heard these questions asked of the Captain and these are his exact responses. Ship's Staff: the best service I ever had on a cruise ship. The service in the bar was outstanding. I have to commend the staff on this ship. Weather: on the voyage to Hawaii we 2 bad days. The seas were rough and numerous people were sea sick. On the voyage back the last night before we reached San Diego was extremely rough and was one of the worst days on the voyage. Overall, not too many smooth days at sea Shore Excursions: We the helicopter tour of Lihue, HI and it was well worth the money. The best tour I've ever taken on a cruise. The other were general tours arranged thru the cruise ship. Nothing outstanding. Shows: The shows put on by the ship's crew were top notch. This is the first cruise where I found the stage shows by the crew were better than the guest performers. Embarkation: well organized and went smoothly Conclusion: I probable would not cruise with Holland America again. The food is below average, the cruise experience is about the same as Princess, but the ships crew service was well above average. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
Embarkation was disorganized, we arrived at @12:30. There was a huge crowd trying to get on two ships, the Spirit and the Zaandam. Both groups in the same line, very confusing. No signs directing people to the correct ship. A lady was ... Read More
Embarkation was disorganized, we arrived at @12:30. There was a huge crowd trying to get on two ships, the Spirit and the Zaandam. Both groups in the same line, very confusing. No signs directing people to the correct ship. A lady was taking people ahead of us so I asked why, she said she was trying to get Zaandam people on board. I said we were Zaandam and she said to follow her. We bypassed everyone to find no one in line at the Zaandam check-in counter. A sign directing people to the correct line would have been nice. The food in the Rotterdam dining room was so-so, not as good as the Celebrity Mercury, but the omelets at the Lido were great. Arthur working the Lido deck was great and always had a smile as he greeted you by name. The Pinnacle Grill was a major disappointment...they overcooked the steaks even when ordered medium rare or rare. The entertainment seemed aimed at an older crowd. As I am only 57, the music put me to sleep. The "Crows Nest" was nearly empty every night, no one was dancing. The "shows" in the theater were OK but not a lot of variety. On the whole, I have to say that the ship is very average. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
Background -- I have never been on a bad cruise. I have always enjoyed the experience. I have been on 10 cruises four of those on HAL. I have always told my friends that HAL is the best. I think HAL missed the high water mark on this ... Read More
Background -- I have never been on a bad cruise. I have always enjoyed the experience. I have been on 10 cruises four of those on HAL. I have always told my friends that HAL is the best. I think HAL missed the high water mark on this cruise. The cruise seemed to be off the mark on almost everything. It was understaffed and several of the officers/senior members seem to be down right grumpy. (Especial the dinning room/Lido deck senior officer). No future cruise sales person and very stressed out dinning room staff. The ship -- The ship is small by todays standard but, it had a great traffic flow and had all the things you needed in a cruise ship . The Artwork and flowers on all the public areas make HAL my choice for the most classy ships. Our cabin and cabin steward were awesome. The food -- The food was good in most places. I usually look forward to a night in the Pinnacle Grill. For the first time I was very disappointed. The pawns were overcooked, steak was average and the both deserts were overcooked so they were as hard as rock. (molten cake and crème) The worst was the high tea. We were given a dirty fork and tea bangs but no hot water. We did really enjoy the dinner room for dinner and a couple of times for breakfast. We had table 42 with a total of 10 people. The waiter and assistant waiter did an excellent job. Our table mates were awesome. The Cruise -- One of the more interesting things that happen on the cruise was an electric fire in the crew quarters. It happen late one evening. About 45 minutes after the alarm went off and we were told to stay calm, the captain came onto the speaker and told us that the firs was out but he was turn on the ventilation system so we might smell additional smoke. I did not sleep very will that night. We also skip Victoria Canada because of the rough seas. Just sat in the bay for four hours. All in all this was an ok cruise. I hope HAL was just having a day week and this is not a trend that I will be seeing in HAL in the future. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2005
This was the 2005 Christmas cruise. I purchased this cruise at the last minute and ended up in cabin 1806, Dolphin Deck, right on the bow of the ship. The cabin had two portholes, no sofa but had a very large handicap-accessible ... Read More
This was the 2005 Christmas cruise. I purchased this cruise at the last minute and ended up in cabin 1806, Dolphin Deck, right on the bow of the ship. The cabin had two portholes, no sofa but had a very large handicap-accessible bathroom. The room was very nice. It had a LCD TV with DVD player. The beds were new and extremely comfortable. The location of the cabin ended up being a treat, as you could hear the sound of the waves as they cut through the bow of the ship. Actually, for some reason, every time I was in the bathroom I could actually feel the waves splashing against the floor. It was fun. The Zaandam is nice, but I would say that Royal Caribbean Ships are nicer. The ship does have a classic elegance to it, but it did not have all the open public areas that I enjoy in RCCL ships. The cruise was literally God's waiting room but there were also younger people, probably the children and grandchildren of the passengers. Having heard that Holland America was a "premium" line I was expecting much. But to be completely honest I think that RCCL had better service, better food and shows. The food was a big disappointment. The shows were so laughable that it became a topic of conversation at dinner. We are not talking about lousy singers, but singers not being able to stay on key! For some reason, during this sailing, there were big-time sewage problems. Misery loves company, and by the middle of the cruise passengers were trading toilet horror stories. Mine: during the cruise there was this persistent sewage smell in my cabin. But on Christmas eve upon returning to my cabin from the day's excursion, there was raw sewage in my bathroom's floor. It was gross. it took three complaints, but finally the mess was cleaned. It was Christmas and I was not going to let anything ruin my vacation, so I gave all this a pass. The ports of call were Nassau, La Romana, St. Croix and Half Moon cay. I had been to Nassau before, so I just walked around town. La Romana. I don't think many people liked this stop. For one thing is far from everything, in the middle of an industrial gritty area. If you do excursions here, please do yourself a favor and do a ship-sponsored one. We had a group of passengers that hired a van to go to some remote beach two hours away. They pre-paid the fare and got abandoned. The van never returned to pick them up. St Croix. This was a very nice visit. It had been a while since a big cruise ship stopped here, so the island put a big festival to welcome passengers even though it was Christmas day. Here is a link to a news article that details the Zaandam's visit. Half-Moon Cay. This was a blissful visit, pure paradise. I could have spent the whole week here. this private island is beautiful and offers a bit of everything. In General I would say that the cruise was okay. It did not meet my expectation of a "premium" cruise. But I always find a way to enjoy every cruise, sewer smells and all. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
Some background on us; we are in our very early 50s and cruise just about twice a year. We have cruise on HAL 11 times prior, Princess 9 times and Celebrity 2 times. This cruise was just supposed to be relaxing after the very hard winter ... Read More
Some background on us; we are in our very early 50s and cruise just about twice a year. We have cruise on HAL 11 times prior, Princess 9 times and Celebrity 2 times. This cruise was just supposed to be relaxing after the very hard winter we have had and we did accomplish this. The weather was fabulous except for the last day at Half Moon Cay it was cloudy and overcast, we watched the tenders going back and forth to the Island and they were really bouncing around. We have been to St. Thomas and Tortola several times so we did not do any excursions, just got off and walked around. We did buy a new Nikon D70 in St. Thomas for an excellent price and I bought a beautiful necklace with blue diamonds for a really great price. It was nice getting off and finding a little outside bar and being able to enjoy a real drink for a reasonable price. We have always been very happy with the service and food on HAL but not this time. The food in the dining room was always cold, presentation was poor, always getting our orders mixed up (we were at a table for 8) and very slow in delivery. We always have a bottle of wine with dinner and every night we had to ask the Head waiter to send over the wine Stewart, our wine usually ended up on the table when they would just be serving our entrEe. The deserts were okay except for the "plastic Jello" (which is what our server called it) it seems to be flavorless. Drink prices were very high and they measured every drink a little less then a full shot and if you asked for a little more they would charge you double for the drink. Lido was not bad the food was well presented but there again the boys that worked behind the line seemed burnt out by passengers. I had ask that I have some fresh tomatoes, basil, spinach and a little garlic on the spaghetti noodles and the server gave me a hard time. The server said "the tomatoes, basil and spinach are for the tortellini and I should have either the Mariner sauce or the Alfredo sauce". When I ask please he did put it all together for me along with 2 full tablespoons of garlic on top, he was very put out by request. By the way they closed the Lido 5 minutes later (2:00 PM). Now on to the poolside dining, the hamburgers and hot dogs were good but then again the server working the grill really wish he was some where else. The condiment bar for the hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and taco's were always empty, it took them a while to get them filled and then they would leave a mess were they had dump the food into the containers. I found hair in my taco one day, now that was interesting. What I found strange was that a few CEO's from Seattle were on board trying to correct the problems. At one point we did seem them telling a Head waiter to get more staff out at the pool area, he was not happy. The food at the Pinnacle was fabulous. Maybe HAL should charge more and serve the same type of food that they served in the Pinnacle. The only problem we had in the Pinnacle was when they tried to charge us $15.00 corkage fee for a bottle of wine that the ship had given us. When I told the wine Stewart that the ship had given it too us and we had dropped it off the day before to be chilled he told me that "we will investigate this and let you know what we come up with", we also had a free meal in the Pinnacle compliments of the ship. I don't know maybe a lot of people make up stories regarding wine that they bring on but it really made me feel like I was trying to put something over them. We also had arranged a Bridge tour from some one high up in Princess, when I went down to the desk to find out when the tour would be they did not believe me. I had a copy of the email so they took that and told me "we will investigate this a get back to you" I said that will be fine just return the email back to my cabin. The next day the email was delivered back to our cabin and we did not hear until the next day the tour was arranged. Again they made me feel like I was trying to pull something over them. Our cabin steward was okay, not fantastic but okay. We always had to get our own ice, luckily we were right across were the ice machine was so hubby was able to go over and get our own, even with our room Stewart watching him. Our sheets on our bed were never changed the entire week, even in a hotel room they will change them at least twice in a week stay. The balcony floor was dirty, it was sticking like something had spilled on it and it had not been cleaned in a few weeks. I did ask for it to washed but it never was. The showers were another story, one minute it was nice and hot and then the next it was very cold. The toilet seems to work some of the times, always took a long time to get someone to look at it. On our last day we could not get it to work at all. Other people we had talk to on this trip were very unhappy with the same items I have addressed here. The shows were nothing great, the juggler needs to find a new job. Here again one of the CEO's from Seattle was on board to look over the entertainment. The casinos were very tight, I did spend a lot of money but never seem to really hit anything. The staffs in the casino were really nice, there was only one dealer we called her "Iron Woman" she never smiled and was strictly business. It actually became funny whenever she would come to a table and start dealing, everyone would leave. As I said in the beginning we went on this trip to relax and defrost, we did accomplish this. The down side is what is happening to the cruise industry and Holland America? We are set to do a another trip this November on the Westerdam and I have been reading some other reviews on this ship. So we are trying to decided whether to cancel our back to back on this ship and this line. It is sad that on our next trip we would be up to 100 days on HAL and now I do not think that will be happening. I have also forwarded this letter onto HAL headquarters, hopefully they may get back on track and we will be able to sail them again. Any questions please feel free to email me. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
The Zaandam is a beautiful ship. Small and elegant. The public spaces were tastefully decorated and and the cabins were not too small. The bathtub was very small, almost a washtub. The service in the main dining room was acceptable but ... Read More
The Zaandam is a beautiful ship. Small and elegant. The public spaces were tastefully decorated and and the cabins were not too small. The bathtub was very small, almost a washtub. The service in the main dining room was acceptable but not exceptionable. The food was good but menu very limited. We had to ask for bread 3 times in one night. The service in the buffet was worse. Good luck in the buffet, the lines were long and the food was limited. Closed down early compared to other ships I have been on. The pool area is small. Water cold. The ship staff seemed to not want to be there. No one smiled or even made conversation till the last day. The rooms were not made up quickly and no cute towel animals for our enjoyment like on other ships. I am not sure if this is the norm on this ship or if it was due to the fact that most of the ship's crew's contracts were up. I thought we had booked a luxury cruise and we were very disappointed. I don't think we will sail with this line again. As much as we love cruising, this line has lost clients. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
Or Happy Birthday Bob Cruise. To start off this was a surprise cruise for my wife's (Barbara) cousins (Patty) husbands (Bob) 70th birthday. There were ten in all booked on this trip. Bob the guest of honor and his wife Patty - who ... Read More
Or Happy Birthday Bob Cruise. To start off this was a surprise cruise for my wife's (Barbara) cousins (Patty) husbands (Bob) 70th birthday. There were ten in all booked on this trip. Bob the guest of honor and his wife Patty - who suggested this cruise. Their life long friends Linda and Nelson from Tampa. Our friends Bob and Eileen from Michigan. And our group of four. Bob and Patty live in Florida just north of Tampa. Our group of four are all from North Jersey. With Patty picking out the trip to go on we planned this over nine months in advance. Where she asked us all to come on the trip and she would not tell Bob anyone else was going. Surprise building. My TA Deb took care of all the ship bookings for all of use and got us all great deals on the cabins. We had four sharing the suite. My wife Barbara and I with my sister in law Julie and their friend Carole. Bob and Eileen got a slightly smaller suite with a veranda and our Florida travelers opted for inside cabins. All on the same floor. Just a few doors down from us. Linda and Nelson were on the starboard side while Patty and Bob were on the Port side. The wife purchased us both oversize drag bags. The ones that are about three feet tall - two feet wide and just over a foot deep inside. You can also unzip them a bit to expand their size to get more into them. We had to carefully pack and weigh the large bags as they now have scales at all check in sites and will charge you for the excess over 50 pounds per bag. We did not have any problem being sure we were under weight on the way down to the boat. I also took a small drag bag which I packed with my running gear and a case of Guinness's Stout Pub cans. This came in handy for meeting people on the ship, the Guinness's Stout, and for taking home dirty clothes, using the smaller empty drag bag. I had a small carry on for my camera and some party items. With all four people we had only six bags to check. I had booked everyone in our group onto Continental for the flight down and back. This was an Early morning flight out of Newark. I had pressed and packed everything that I was going to use for the cruise. Suits and Tux all fit easily into the bag. And the other cruise clothes were also packed on easily. This will give me some ideas on how and how much I can pack for our next trip in February. Up early to the Airport - 3:30 AM or so to leave about 5 AM for Newark. We're all ready and off we go across town to Julie's house. Carole is to meet us there at 5 AM to leave for the airport. Her husband Jimmy is driving her. And she said she knew how to get to Julie's house. Not a problem as there is usually no traffic on the roads at this time. Well we get to Julie's and load the extra luggage into the Van. But no Carole yet. We go inside and wait. Did I tell you we have Carole's E ticket to get on the plane. So 5:15 comes and goes and we wait. At 5:20 we get to note writing to tell her to meet us at the Continental check in and the flight information. We are walking out the door at 5:25 AM to go... A car comes zooming around the corner and down the block. Better late than never. Lost in town. Carole did not ask for exact directions as she had been here only one time before and got off at the wrong exit. Her husband Jimmy ended up asking a policeman who directed them to the exact street was. "Dear Jimmy - They were going to leave without me." and Dear Jimmy "I remember the exit said Fair Lawn." We get her one suitcase and carry bag into the Van and off we go. Over to Route 80 to the turnpike. Wouldn't you know it they have closed the turnpike entrance to get on and we have to detour around. Did I tell you Carole is Blonde. So after the detour around we get to the Airport about 6:00 AM. There is not much of a line at the E ticket check in at the curb. Out we go and I line the luggage up for everyone. They check id's and ask about the bag weights. No problems here. Off we go into the screening process. Since 9-11 this has gotten a lot tighter. There are no lines here as in the past and we get through relatively quickly. They screen the carry on bags very closely. I have my Camera in one of the bags. I shoot 200 speed film and have not had a problem with it going through the machines yet. We have to walk to the other end of the Continental area as our gate is not close by. So I pick up most of the carry bags and off I go. The ladies behind. Well I go about 100 yards down and they are already 50 behind. Thank goodness I'm 6 foot plus and they can pick me out of a crowd. We get down to the gate area I get four seats close to the gate entrance. They start calling for the first class and business class people about forty minutes before the flight. A little early from what I remember. Well we are on the plane by 7:00 AM. And it's up, up and away. We bank to the left then its time to head the plane south. Great flight. Air is a bit stuffy. But no problems. I have booked the ladies into seats 17A, 17B, 17C. I have a window seat in 18A. So I am pinned in. I just get my complimentary OJ and morning muffin and read. We land in Orlando, a bit bumpy on the hit, about 5 minutes before schedule. We are at the terminal very quickly. It is about 10 AM as we get off the plane and start up to the tramway to get our luggage. Downstairs to the luggage go round. I pick up all the luggage off the belt and leave it to the ladies. We move all the luggage to the pick up arrivals area and sit down for our short wait. We are outside by about 10:20 or so. Dear Jimmy: "They made me move my own luggage." We call Linda on her cell phone. They are about 10 minutes away at this point. I had originally booked an Avis car to rent to take over to the pier. But Linda and Nelson suggested they pick us up in their van. No problem there - I go with their suggestion. The car rental would be about $50.00 for each way. While waiting. I walk over to the other side of the road at the arrival area we are waiting in. Down below this level there are busses galore for all the cruise lines and Disney. They are slowly loading in the carry bags and luggage. Linda and Nelson pull up at about 10:40 AM. We quickly load the luggage in. This is a close fit and we are sitting with some things in our laps for the ride over to the pier. The route has good markings from here as they specify what turns to take to get to the passenger ship terminal. The ride over is about 40 minutes as the speed limit on this road is 70. The other participants - Bob and Eileen had flown in from Michigan the day before. They were over in Disney and coming over by rental car. And knew about what time we would hit the ship. We had already found out that the long term parking for the ship was next to the pier. So after we had dropped all the luggage off to be checked in and the other carry bag - we dropped the car - all of 100 yards away - at the long term parking. The price was $70.00 for the week. Very convenient for all involved. It also looks like they are expanding the parking in a few other areas. Not bad for this close to the ship. You get a coupon for the car and drive in - park and lock. When Nelson and I walked back - there were Eileen and Bob from being dropped off by the Hertz shuttle service. Great timing. So all eight of us were going into the terminal at one time. Linda had heard from Patty that they were about an hour or so behind us and there was no problem with them checking in at the same time. We were walking through the check in process about 11:30 AM. The Suites have their own separate check in area. No one on line when we were walking up. We presented our tickets and such to the people there. This process was a bit slow going for us. As the people here did not seem comfortable checking documents and getting all the needed paper work done. The others had no problem and were done before us. Too bad the line has not invented a plastic see through id holder for you to use. To speed up the process of taking out id showing it with birth certificates and the like. Then adding in a slot for the cruise card. Holland America did not take identity pictures - that we stopped and posed for - like Celebrity has for their cards. They would just have the card to key into the slot to get on and off the ship. Interesting. Well onto the ship we go..... And how lovely it is as we enter onto deck 4. This is the bottom of the three level Atrium. In the middle is a large pipe organ. A bit out of place on a ship for my liking. I was about the ship and cutting through here every day and night. Only heard it played one time. They should have had a nice concert grand piano on one of the upper levels and had someone play it daily. But the pipe organ was right across from the front office. They may have been a noise problem here. One of the things that could have been changed. We were booked into Demi Suite 7031 - Navigation Deck. We keyed the room and the door opened up. This was about noon and we had heard the rooms would not be ready till after 1:00 PM. So we just dropped the luggage and walked the ship for a bit. DeDe was our house keeper for the week. I only saw him randomly and never in our room. Great clean up service. This suite was great for the price we paid. The size was about two and a half times the normal space you would get in a regular cabin. Then add in the Verandah area also. The size is 563 square feet. This includes the verandah. Spacious - yes. A king size bed with the pull out couch to a double. Dear Jimmy "They only gave me one Pillow." The cabin also has a mini bar which we pulled out all the contents and put the Champagne we had brought on board into it. Along with the other wine, beer and other things we picked up along the way that week. There was a complimentary bottle of Champagne chilling when we arrived. The one thing they could do with a suite - if you have a lot of people in it was get more cabinet space. One whole side of the room had cabinets to put things into but they were too small and could have used another level. The storage area for bags was also small as we could only store four of them under the king size bed and the rest had to go into the closets. There was a closet for each of us. Nice wood tones and the like in the dressing room with floor to ceiling mirrors on the closet doors. But there were not a lot of hangers in them. The dressing room had a small sink in it. This proved useful when getting four ready for dinner. There was only one electrical outlet here to plus into. The bathroom was quite large - considering we had never cruised in this size room before. There is a large vanity and sink here with a hair dryer - the ladies got a lot of use out of this. The shower / tub was large and you could have taken a Jacuzzi bath if you had wanted to. No one ever got around to it. The shower had a great temperature adjustment to it. Worked real well. The only thing in the bathroom is they only had two glasses for use. Odd. Back to the room. The Verandah was huge. You could easily fit over 10 people on it with the chairs. And we did do this the first night shifting some chairs from the room to outside. The door opens to a normal size but you can clip open the side part to make it a larger opening. This does not help the room A/C unit. This is a nice place to stop and watch the ship go by and take a relaxing nap on. We used it mostly for our daily room parties. They also leave you with personalized stationary for each person. The seating tickets for the second seating dinner were in the room. Along with an invitation to a suite party and other welcome aboard information. All done quite well and laid out nicely. They also have a pair of binoculars you could use to look at the sights. Once we had all dropped off our luggage and carry bags at about noon we all headed upstairs to the lido to look around. The Lido pool layout was very nice in the middle of the ship with a roof that could be opened and closed. This would work great if you are in Alaska. There are also two hot tubs here. The steel band was playing here. You could get some lunch here in the starboard side front area - this is the terrace grill. This area had a few salads and a place where you could get hot dogs, hamburgers and a few other things. There was also an table with hot lamps that they left fresh pizza on for you to take. The only drinks you could get ice tea and water. We headed for the lido restaurant. To check out what else they had to offer. We ate near the pool and listened to the steel band play. Our group of eight was under a time constraint - in that the surprise was still on for the birthday boy Bob. We knew they would be getting onto the ship about 1:00 pm. And just after that we headed down to our room to hide. Back to the party planning. I had bought some party balloons and I blew them up in the cabin. Looked around to find something to get them to stick to the metal ceiling. Nothing. Went down to the front desk and they gave me a roll of scotch tape. Very nice of them. I returned it later in the day. Worked great - now the balloons and banner letters are hung in the cabin. This with "Happy 70th Birthday" on it. The Champagne is chilling and everyone is assembled. We had Julie call over to Patty and Bob's room. To invite them over, we had told Patty to tell Bob there was someone on the ship she knew from church. But Bob does not like to visit people he does not know. So Julie disguises her voice and calls over to tell her on the phone to come over to the room for a drink. This was all pre arranged. To top it off Patty had been conversing with Barbara a few days earlier and had let her talk to Bob. Barbara being the resident cruise person with over 150 days at sea. Bob was joking around said how about you coming with us. But when she said yes. I'll be there right away. He back tracked on that. We left the security lock on the door so it was part way open. Then we sat down to wait knowing Patty would have to talk him into coming over. Not knowing what awaited him. Camera at the ready. They walk in and it's "Happy Birthday Bob". I'm sure we got him on this one. Pictures taken and greeting yelled out. What a great way to start the cruise. Pop the Champagne and pour it out. Nelson made a great toast to Bob. Now were cruising. The theme every night for dinner as we sat down or came into the restaurant was "Happy Birthday Bob". Everyone relaxes a bit and they check out the room and the veranda. It's great. More than even I expected. We all agreed to walk about the ship and meet back here when we set sail. Up to the lido restaurant for lunch. Our second now. There were some very tasty treats laid out for everyone to pick what they wanted. I did get some Rum Raisin ice cream later. My favorite flavor. We sat back outside in the pool area. They also have a nice bar area up near the Lido pool. This is the Dolphin bar. Wicker chairs and tables with umbrellas are on their serving area here. Very nice spot to sit out and grab a drink as the ship pulls out of port. I went up and looked about the ship. Into the gym area. This is a great sized area for this ship. There is a big area to have aerobics and other types of group workouts. In front of this is a group of walking machines / treadmills. There are about 15 of them here across the whole width of the ship looking forward. Slightly behind the treadmills to the port side of the ship were the nautilus machines. There are about 15 of these. And an assortment of free weights. Upstairs on the Sports Deck is the Crows Nest lounge. This is at the forward part of the ship. An expansive area for you to sit in an enclosed area and have a great vista view of where the ship is going. This lounge area has a large dance floor on the Starboard side and a bar on the port side. Nice soft wood tones and salmon colored seating on one side. There are two alcove like areas you could go and hide in that had seating for twenty or so. Going back on this deck level to the Aft - rear - of the ship you would walk around the dome cover to the lido pool. There are ring toss and shuffleboard games here on both sides. Then depending on what side of the ship you are on you run into either a volleyball court - Starboard - or a tennis / basketball court - Port. Both are fully net enclosed so as not to lose any equipment or passengers over the side. As you exit the enclosed area you exit onto the back deck area that sits above the outside pool at the Aft - back - of the ship. There are a lot of lounge chairs set up here for all to use. The outside pool area was below on the lido deck. Here is where most passengers were for the sail away party going on. They had a nice setup for getting any type of drink you wanted. They were also giving you a free colorful HAL sail away plastic drink glass, when you bought the sail away drink. There was a spot to get a beer from as they had a lot of choices set up on ice next to the pool. There is also a small ship bar area here. So if you sit outside and it get's too hot. Do a Jump Up and get over there to cool yourself off. Ideally located. At about 4:00 PM we had our life boat drill. I had no problem getting the ladies all set and sent them out to the assemble area. The wife was dithering around the room a bit and I could only find three life jackets. It took me a few minutes to find mine in another closet that was just inside the entry door. Ahhhh.... the adjustments you have to make to a big suite. So it's get the straps right and get downstairs to the lower promenade deck to check in as they call you name. We were late and thought we had missed our call. But they waded through the names and checked everyone. This is mandatory and worth the fifteen minutes or so it takes to do. If you ever remember to take your camera along do it one time for the pictures of you and those traveling with you. When it's over you end up walking back to your room as the elevators are jammed with people - now walking to their cabins. Come on guys this is a long cruise you should walk the steps as much as you can. I'm just about the last off the deck and back into the ship. But I can find Julie, Carole and Barbara by their laughing. They are one deck up by now and when I get to them they are engaged in some conversation about something funny. Dear Jimmy "It would not be hard to find them on the Ship. Listen for the laughter." Well it was time to pull out of port. So it was back to the cabin for most of us. First to drop off the life vests which I stored on the top of each closet. By now our second and third bottle of Champagne were well chilled. And I had called room service to drop off some hors devours for us at 5:00 pm. Just in time for sail away. We all meet back here and I get some great sail away pictures at the rail. Another reason to have the suite. We watch the sun set back over the pier area we just left. The ships proceeds slowly down the channel. Past the other dock areas that have the Casino ships and out into the Atlantic. The Disney Magic is just ahead of us as we leave. Some other notes from walking around the ship and doing things. I had to go down to the library and confirm our dinner reserve so to be sure to be all at one table. When Holland American had replied they had listed some of the group at confirmed second seating and some at first seating. Deb had faxed and emailed them the switch all to second seating but we never got a confirm back from them. They had left ticket stubs in an envelope in the cabin. I found ours and everyone else had told me theirs was the same letter code. O.K. off I went to check. But there is no one there to confirm the seating just in case. So I walk into the Rotterdam dining room on the lower level. I look around for table "F". Only see numbered tables. I ask one of the waiters passing through where that table is located. He points it out and says "That is the Captains Table". I'm impressed. Guess my TA does have some pull with this line. It's in a central location as I quickly look around and depart. I do get over to the library and find them checking over table seating. There are a few people in front of me in line and I sit down to wait. All of them are older gentlemen. The same theme or question is asked. "I asked for first seating Dinner. I got second. I need to eat early.".... The maitre 'd has replied the same thing. "I have a full dining room for the first seating dinner. I have 328 people waiting to get into the dining room on that seating. I can out you on the wait list." The last gentleman thought he must have had him. He presented a note from his Doctor saying he had to eat early. Oh well. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it. But the answer was still no. I can put you on the list. I just confirm the room numbers of those at the table and they match. I run for it. The Suites have priority on what seating dinner they want. So they may just default you in a suite into the first seating. If I had known this I could have sold our first sitting dinner seats for some bucks to someone right there. Well I walk over to the internet area and talk to the lady from the ship. I ask about response time and a few other things then go through the Casino and past the big screen TV they have next to it. This is the Casino bar area. Very convent. If your getting beat in the casino step away to their bar and TV area. Well back to the room. To give you an idea of the layout - even if you bring it up on the display. As you enter there is a closet to the left. Which I ended up using after I found it. The entry area can be separated by pulling a curtain across to make a small area about five feet by five feet. The ladies used this as a changing area when they were getting ready for dinner. As you stepped into the room there is a bar on left that is about eight feet long two levels with a shelf and out Champagne cooler and glasses and other bar items on it. This is at a forty five degree angle. The top is a mirrored area with built in shelves that took me a day to find. This looks extra glasses and some small liquor bottles in case you want to mix you own drink. They have a wide selection here. But if you take it you pay for it. Underneath there is a mini fridge. Inside it is stocked with a large selection of beer, wine, soda. To the left of the fridge is another storage area. The safe is located in here. You have to set down or sit in a chair to get at it. Not the most convenient thing in the room. I did not find the safe till the fifth day of the cruise. As you step into the room there is a master bed - king size on the mirrored wall to the left. The right side of the room has a large couch that could, and did for us, easily seat five adults. There is a small coffee table with two chairs. You have as you enter to the left about ten feet after you step into the room a doorway that is open. This is the entrance to the dressing room and bathroom. The dressing room table has a sink at one end and a small chair you can sit in. There are three closets in the dressing room area. And the bathroom through a separate door. The dressing room can be closed off with a curtain they have there. The bathroom has a close and latch door. So more than one person can be getting ready at a time. The Verandah I already went over above. I will say it is a great place to hang out with the group or by yourself when you like the escape time during the day. I will depart from a step by step description here. If I did not this review would never get done. I will walk through each room on the ship and describe what it is like and the activities they had going on in it. Along with some insights on the things done. As you can see above I have and will add in quotes from Carole to her husband as we go along. I'll start at the top of the ship and work my way down deck by deck. Forward where you can only reach it by waking up the steps forward just as you are walking around the pool dome cover. This is the Sky Deck. There were a few lounge chairs here. The area has a wind shield on it so as not to have you blow off the ship. This could be used for a quiet place to read in the sun or retreat to the shaded side when needed. Crows Nest Lounge. This is on the Sports Deck Forward. The colors are a peach or salmon for the chairs and decor. There is a large sized dance floor here. The seating areas are at the windows looking forward. There is a good bar area also with stools at it. The side areas have a walk around to get to them. could be used for semi private meeting or quiet area. We had many of the trivia games up here with Ana from the cruise staff. Did well here. never won any of the games but had fun. There was a group of seniors that went around to all the trivia and games. This was a group of ten. With the trivia games you played in teams of six. Here is where you can use a music expert and we did meet up with one. But it only helped a little bit. On one of the most attended games there were eleven teams. And a lot of fun was had with getting the answers. The Sports deck also has a tennis court and racquets to use if you wanted. This is a fully net enclosed area on the port side of the ship. They had the basketball hoop here on half of one court. We had a foul shooting contest here on the second day. The wind does have an effect on where the ball goes. About ten or so people lined up to try it out. The winner made 4 of 5 shots. From what I had seen of this area it was not used much. The other side - starboard - had a similar enclosed with a net area for volleyball. This would have to have been the best attended sport on the ship. We had about 25 or so players who were there during the week. We even played with an intrepid group of ten then eight then six the last afternoon of the cruise in the wind. Here I met Mary and her sister and brother in law. The real estate brokers from Tennessee. Mr. Zaandam and his wife and a host of others. We had a great time of it when we played. Thanks everyone. The facility was fine and as long as you did not crash into the wall or each other there were no problems. At the back of the Sports deck was the Sky room. This was for the Club HAL kids on the cruise. There were not many. They did have three MAC computers here to play computer games on. This was not a highly used area on the ship as there were not a lot of children on board this cruise. I only saw about ten to twenty in all. The room was nice and had a great view to the back of the ship. When there are more children aboard this should be a well used area. Outside the sky room are the wings lounging area for the outside pool on the deck below. There were a lot of lounge chairs set up on this level and in use most of the time. On the Lido deck starting forward. This is where the Ocean Spa Gym was located. The Gym takes up the whole front of the boat. There is a small area you can walk out on but no one seemed to be there any time. The equipment in the gym is as follows: The twelve walking machine here facing forward so you can see the ship as it goes places and walk off a few pounds. There is also about fifteen or so Universal machines. Not many for working out the tummy with mostly leg and arm work. There are some free weights also here on the port side of the boat. The Spa has classes they charge for in the gym. These run twice a day and you can get a discount by buying all the classes up front. There is a large workout floor in the middle for aerobics. I think that's what the classes were about. But I was never around here when this may have taken place. I used the weights and did my daily set of sit-ups in the gym area here. They have a large supply of the small towels here to keep you and the equipment dry. Right next to the gym forward on the Lido deck is the Beauty Salon. This was a great location as in the early AM when I was finished running I would cut through here to get to the gym. They always had an aroma therapy bowl out in the hall. The beauty salon is on the port side of the ship and the massage area is on the starboard side. The ladies on the trip used both areas. The massage they had there was to die for. Or so they tell me. Carole got her nails done while on board. Dear Jimmy - "You paid for that to be done on a ship?" When she could have done them at home? The Spa / Gym / Beauty salon people were always around to greet you or answer all your questions. The Lido pool area is amid ship. This included a pool only about thirty feet long. Not great for trying to swim a few laps in the am. Too many turns. The pool water ran from about three feet deep to about six foot deep. The water was cool the first day but was warmer as the week went on. This is a fresh water pool. To the front of this area are a men's and ladies room along with two shower areas. There are two hot tubs here just next to the pool. But boy the one I was in was way too hot for me. The other one was a bit cooler. There were always a few people here using the hot tubs. Very convenient as the terrace grill was tucked into the corner of the ship here. They served some great lunch treats and had a small buffet and pizza area here. The ship steel band played in here in the afternoon and at sail away. At the end of this area was the Dolphin bar. So if you want to relax this is the place. Good food some music and a hot tub and bar. What more could you want. They had some pool games here - like pitching a plastic golf ball into the tube for prizes on one of our sea days. They also had some pool games here the last day of the cruise but I was up playing Volleyball. This entire pool area has a sliding cover to keep out the elements. It was open most times I was there. When the rain came one day they closed it. The ping pong games were also played here during the week. I got killed the first tourney they had and did not show back for the others. There were a lot of good players on the boat this week. As you move to the Aft section of the ship on this deck you come through the sliding glass doors to the Lido restaurant. This was a nice area that had specialty areas for making omelets in the AM and your macaroni specialty in the lunch time. They also have a sandwich area - which I had never seen on any other ship before this. They always were greeting you with a smile and helping you find a seat. This was most crowded at lunch time. The restaurant has glass windows so you can look out and watch the ship slip through the waves while at sea or see what action is going on near the ship while in port. Just beyond this area to the very back (aft) of the ship was the outside pool area. There were plenty of chairs here for your use. There is also a small bar area tucked in under the deck overhang from above. This was mostly where any of the children were when near a pool on this ship. The younger crowd used this pool area extensively. The sun was nice to catch out here as this area is not shaded at all. Skipping down past the Navigation and the Verandah Decks - these are passenger decks with staterooms only. We'll come to the Upper Promenade Deck level 5. At the forward part of the ship is the upper level to the Mondriaan lounge balcony. This is the theatre area where the production shows are put on. The seating was great up top you could see everything. If you wanted to catch a nap before bed this was the place. The chairs are way too comfortable to sit in for that not to happen when the lights go down. As you exit the balcony and start walking to the back of the ship. As you exit to your left is the Ocean bar. This is a nice cozy place to meet before dinner for a drink. They played music here at night. It was also used for playing some of the games like Pictionary or Outburst. The Senior citizens jitney seemed to have this place pegged as a place to stop. The group of ten that were together were here most days. There was a nice sized dance floor and a lot of seating for groups large and small that wanted to use this area. Directly across from here were some of the gift shops. The clothes, souvenirs, liquor, snacks and cigarettes at a discount. Here is where Holland America differs from most lines. They will let you keep your bottle of liquor you buy in their shop for a small surcharge. You can take it to consume in your room. But if you wish to purchase it without the discount you can have them deliver it to your room when you are ready to depart. They did not have an extensive selection in that regard. But the prices were very good. The other areas here did not have anything that caught my eye. As I have been on a lot of cruises and know what to pack for myself and try not to have to buy on the ship. The other part of the shopping arcade area was to the left as you walked to the back of the ship. This area had their more expensive gifts. Watches, perfume, gold.... ouch. A nice selection of things to buy on board here. They had some sales on watches and gold during the cruise. But not knowing what I'm buying keeps me from it. Dear Jimmy "There are a lot of old people on this ship." To the middle of the ship as you exit the shopping area is the Casino bar. They have a wide screen TV set up here. They get ESPN in off the satellite. But it's a foreign feed from the islands. This is a nice area to sit and watch people go by and to take a break from the casino. They also have some TV's in the bar itself to watch. There is seating for about fifteen at the bar and twenty or so in the lounge area to watch the TV. They had my team playing on Sunday night ESPN game so it was real nice. The Cowboys lost the game. But it was nice to see it. This was a slightly dark area on the ship as it was shielded from outside light on both sides. The wall where the giant TV was separated this area from the Casino. The Casino is located on the port side of the ship. If you entered through the front of the bar area you would find two coin pusher games. These had a variation on just winning the coins that fell down. There was also a slot machine there to give you a second chance to win some coins. It was great because one of the machines talked and played a nautical theme while you dropped the coins in the slot. This one took me for a few dollars. But it was fun to play it. As you enter the Casino from this front area the playing tables are there for you. I think there was one dice table and one roulette table. There were a lot more black jack tables and a Caribbean stud poker table also. My three Dutch friends from Volleyball were playing on a table by themselves on the last night of the cruise and winning a little. This is a major feat seeing that they now have automatic card shufflers and this cuts your odds down a bit. The casino also had a big supply of various slot machines. I would have to say there were over 100 in this area. From the Video Poker types to the $5.00 big hit machines. They also ran a Slot and Black Jack tournaments during the week. This was a well run casino and well attended during the cruise. The wife made her usual trip donation on the video poker machines. Dear Jimmy: "Contrary to what others may say... I did not win anything while in the casino." Around the corner from the Casino bar walking on the starboard side of the ship, just around the corner is the Sea view lounge. This was the piano bar area on the ship. There was someone in here playing most nights. They had some of the trivia games here. And some other meetings of groups. Just as you exit the Sea view Lounge and are walking past the middle bank of stairs and elevators you will end up in the Explorers lounges. This is a green lounge colored area. This was used to host some of the suite get together parties. They also held their afternoon informal tea in this lounge. They were great in this area. As my wife is a coffee drinker and they brought her a cappuccino to substitute for tea for her. They also used this area as a get acquainted party for the suite passengers the day we left Mexico. The bar personnel were top notch and had a big selection of beer and drinks that night for the passengers. Nice open lounge area. Across to the opposite side of ship from the lounge areas on this level were the meeting rooms. This is on the Port side of the ship. Just beyond the Casino. There are the Hudson room for small meetings and religious services. After that there is the larger Half Moon Room which we used as our daily card room on the ship. They has a few games you could use here. There was also a large supply of card tables and chairs for use if you wanted. We used it to play our daily game of 500 rummy. We do this on most every trip. Mostly between the Wife and me. But this time we had five of our travel group playing every day. A fun time. I think Bob bested us all this trip. The next room down this chain of rooms was the Inter net web site cafe. They have about twelve terminals here you can use. If you think you are going to use the internet room more than one time - buy the minute package they offer. And you have to do it before you start up on-line. You can't try to do it after like I did after I got killed keying in a responses on the cruise critic board. Twenty dollars for a short time on-line. Ouch....!!!! But a nice room to have it in. There is also someone manning their help desk most of the day. The last room in this line was the Erasmus Library. Again like most ship libraries at sea. You could check out books and return them when finished. There were also some nice reading chairs you could sneak off into. Dear Jimmy "Barbara had us playing with a deck of 51 the last day." The last room's) to cover as we work our way back id the Rotterdam Dining room. This was the formal dining room for dinner and if you wanted to go and sit down for breakfast or lunch. This was set up differently from most other large two tier dining rooms of ships. As there is only a circular hole in the dining area and a true two tier complete dining area. As you enter on this level this would have been the upper level of the dining area. Off to each side of this upper level are two areas that they could use for overflow dining or private parties. They also had a piano and area for the house musicians to play each night - which they did. They even struck up "Happy Birthday" when we sang for Bob on the day we had his cake at the table. Our table was table "F". This was the Captains table in the middle of the cut out area in the dining room and viewable from the area on the second tier. We would let Bob and Patty get to the dining room before us each night then come into the upper level and shout out "Happy Birthday Bob!!!". By the end of the cruise we had a lot of people joining in on this. The back of the ship had tables at it on both levels. Not the open view and two levels of glass everyone in the dining room could look out. This was a very nice dining room. The ceiling had a twinkling star display in it that would light during the night time dining hours. There were two sweeping stairways from the top to the lower level. We were served by Hendra and Merta was our bus boy. Although they may have blurred the lines here and Merta also worked serving other tables. Great service by their staff. Dear Jimmy: "Any pictures we got from Tom may have been altered. I did not hug the guy at the exit every night." Working now from the front of the Promenade deck level 4. This was the lower level of the Mondriaan lounge theater. Like I stated in the previous description nice views and soft seats. But there was no place to put your drink if you got one. There were no small tables like I have seen on other ships. As you exit the theater from the port or left side of the ship you would run into the Photo Gallery. I think we cut through here a few times. We did not pose for any of the pictures they took. As a side note the ship photographers were not around all that much at dinner. They did get a few people to pose at the gangway as we entered each port. But they did have a lot of people lined up for the formal picture night. I did see some of these set shot pictures and they were very good. After you exited the photo gallery you would be in the Atrium. Across from here was the Front office. Boy were they busy during this trip. Lots of change to make, collecting and checking cabin bills. Giving ship information and so on. I had stopped by here a few times to purchase a deck of cards and to make bill payments. Borrow some tape for decorating our room. Every time greeted cheerfully and I got an answer. Next to this office was the shore excursion office. They were not open when I stopped by to get on a tour. But they responded to my request to go on the Swim with the Sting Ray's and put me in the first group. My friends Bob and Eileen had booked on-line before we even got on the ship and asked me to go along. More on this in the bottom of the review. As you circled the Atrium you would next run into the Java Cafe. This is a coffee and Tea bar. Tucked into the side of the ship. You can sit and sip and relax here. Nice place to watch the other cruise passengers go by with you favorite coffee or flavor of tea. Across from the Java Cafe is the Wajang Theatre. They played some first run movies in here. There was also a popcorn popping machine so you could really get into the movie experience at sea. We used this to muster for one of the trips we took off the boat. This was a theatre that could hold about two hundred people. The chairs were really comfortable. More so than any normal movie house I have been in. The movies were played about three times a day at various times. The last big area on this deck is the Marco Polo Restaurant. This is the upscale restaurant. We went in here one night. There is a cover charge to enter. And if you are in a suite you can get priority reserve on it. We only booked once we came on the ship. The night we were there the restaurant was just about full. The decorations and atmosphere were nice. The portions were a bit larger than in the normal dining room. The wife got a Manhattan steak and did not finish it because it was too big. For me it was O.K.. I ordered a seafood medley which was fine. The service was not as good as the regular dining room. But this was this groups first week on the ship. They brought in a completely new serving group onto the ship the week we got on. The ship did host a small lunch party in here for those in the suites later in the week. We just walked in and they seated us. This was a well attended event with our door greeter dressed up in native costume dancing to the Indonesian music playing. We ate with one of the ships nurses. They contract out this job and she was telling us that she was only on for two weeks at a time. Nice break to get out of the cold. Cruise and have lite work duty. The only other room left to tell about is the Video Arcade. This was only a room about twenty feet by twenty feet. There were about fifteen arcade games in here. Nothing caught my eye enough to play them. And from all the times I went by this room there were not many people in there. The last place on the ship to talk about is the Lower Promenade Deck. This is where I met pilot Gary and his wife. He originally was walking fast in the other direction while I walking a bit slower, drinking a Guinness's Stout, with the wife in the other. In the later afternoon. When he stopped he was asking where on the ship I had gotten the beer. No where. They did not sell dark beers on this ship. I ended up talking to him for awhile and sharing some of my excess during the trip. This deck is a completely wrap around the ship deck. I was up here every morning running. This deck is about thirty feet wide. They do have a lot of deck chairs that you could use to sit out in the fresh air and read or catch some shaded sun during the day. The line also puts out padded lounge coders as these chairs are all wood. The mileage marked said three and a half laps were equal to a mile. I think this was a bit short. About three and a half laps plus about 150 yards may be more accurate. But a great place to get in you walking and watch the ocean go by. They also had two water fountains on this deck. Great to get a drink of water if you needed it. Nelson and Bob were out here really early each morning walking about ten laps or so. They moved at a real quick pace. Well that about closes the review of the ship as to what it was and what you could do and where. The cruise staff of four were great. At all the games I attended they had a fun time with us. But where did they get all those senior citizens from. Did the Florida old folks homes dump a few extra on the ship??? Joking here. Ana was from Australia and was a very nice 23 year old. She hosted many of the Trivia and other games. Scott handled the outdoor activities. Both were great. They also doubled up working at the ports where we tendered in. I also met Erica who was the assistant bar manager for the ship. A lovely young lady from Holland staffed on the ship. We ran into her at about every ship function. Great to talk to. I had the pleasure of also talking to the Captain Olav Vander Waard at one of the suite parties. Well traveled for the line. He is one of the youngest looking captains I had ever seen. Or am I getting older. Naaahhhhh. Some of the things that I remember are the food in the lido restaurant did not change much for the whole week we were on board. Same selections for breakfast and lunch. Even in the paste and omelet areas. The food was not quite up to the level I have had on Celebrity. Maybe it's the sauces they serve on Celebrity that is the difference. The service was just as good wherever I have sailed. I will say that the suite was spectacular. All ten of so enjoyed the cruise immensely. I also attended a short slot lecture given by the casino staff while we at sea on day. They opened up a machine and explained the inner workings and how the wheels were automatically set to roll and pay off. The more you bet, max coins, the more you could win or lose. Depending on how lucky you are. We did go on the Sting Ray City swim tour in Grand Cayman. This was a fun trip with Eileen and Bob. Off the boat to the tender. Then collect everyone from the tour group. This does not work well if the tour guide is four foot nothing and has a sign to hold up to collect everyone. I took it off her and made sure everyone walked through the crowd on the street to the bus departure point. It was a twenty minute trip over to the boat in the first bus we were on. The second bus showed up a little later. But we all go on the boat. Applied some sun tan lotion for the time we would be out there. Donned our life vests and headed out to see the sting rays. After a bit of instructions about feeding and touching the Sting Rays we were there. Pick up a mask and fins and into the water you go. The feeding area is located on a sand bar about a fifteen minute ride from the boat dock. There were about twenty boats anchored about the sand bar area, which was about as large as a football field. The water depth varied from two feet to the slope where it dropped off to twenty to thirty feet deep. Most everyone stayed close to the boat. The guides were the only people who should handle the fish. It's spectacular to see them there swimming about. The guide was saying that this has been going on for twenty years or so. When they swim by and brush you it feels like wet velvet. I swam all around the sand bar area and into other groups that were there. A lot of people were on the sand bar in a lot of tours. Large and small. We stayed here about forty minutes or more. Then back to the boat for the trip back. We got back onto the bus and we were greeted with the Cayman Islands only singing bus driver. Please let's not get stuck in traffic. After about ten songs we were back and off the bus. A trip worth taking at least on time. The last stop on the Trip was the out island - Half Moon Cay. A Holland America Island. You tendered in here and had to get tickets for this. Bob and Patty along with Linda and Nelson got off the ship early and hit the beach. The rest of us did not get off till about 11:00 AM. The private island was quite large and could have held about twice the number of people that were on our ship. They had some nicely shaded areas and a lot of beach chairs. I swam out about a third of the way to the ship but the beach patrol boat came out and asked I swim back. But the wife bet me I could not get to the ship. Darn. The beach was about a mile to the far point if you wanted to walk. I played beach volleyball here with about twelve other passengers and Scott from the Cruise staff. Nice facilities here. Well worth the tender in to use them. They also served a buffet lunch in the middle of the island. The shows on the ship were fine along with the Comedy shows. I do not go to a lot of shows and entertainment. But what I did see of it was good by cruise standards. The last thing to cover here is the departure. The first day we filled out a form to say if we were traveling with others in the group. We were as Linda and Nelson were driving us back to the airport. Bob and Patty were also taking some of the extra luggage and their cousins. So we filled out the forms and sent them in. Bob and Patty did not get the correct luggage tags as ours and I went to the front office and exchanged them no problem. The last thing to do was re-pack for the trip home. Minus all the beer I carted down this should be a breeze. I put a lot of the heavier items into the small bags. Packed our large bags. Tagged all of them and along with Carols bag and Julies suitcase. She was still working on packing it. I left the tag next to it and told he to tag it when finished. Dear Jimmy - "Tom packed his own suitcase and he took care of all the luggage for me. You never do that." Well we get our departure numbers and in the am about eight or so they start calling numbers to get off. Anyone want to by a number 8. We go through the document check to get back into the United States. This is a bit more since 9 / 11. You have to have proper id to get back in. Wouldn't you know it the wife and Julie get stuck for a short time. They only have their town issued pool cards for their picture id. After this delay it's down to pick up the luggage. Well I find everything but.... Julies garment bag. When I ask her did you tag the bag. She says "Tag?? what tag". Now I feel like Al Bundy. Why me!!! I go find someone from the port area and ask them where the lost / untagged luggage would be. They lead me over to three pieces. There it is. Insert roll eyes here. Well we get the luggage together and we get out into the sunshine. I know where Nelson parked his car so I make two trips and get everything over to his van to pack into it. We say our goodbyes to Bob and Eileen. And we walk over and pack the vans for the trip to the airport. The drive to Orlando airport in not a problem. We get out and drop all the luggage at the curb. The attendant weighs the two large bags and they are a few pounds over. He lets us go on this. I think he was distracted. Dear Jimmy "It pays to wear a tight shirt slightly un buttoned when traveling." Well we walk into the airport and sit down. Just opposite where we are is a pet gift and souvenir shop. The wife has to buy our dog a gift. Dear Jimmy "Barbara bought the dog a gift but Tom nothing." Well after this we get into the line to go down to the gate area. The line was really long. But it moved very quickly. Not much of a problem. Got down to the gate and got the ladies seated. Then went back to get them a Cinnibon and a drink. No problems for the flight back. We got into Newark about 4 pm and found our ride home. My brother in law came and got us. All the luggage into the van and off to home. Jimmy came later and picked Carole up. Dear Jimmy " I had a great time. Laughed a lot. But missed you." Thanks to everyone on the trip. Deb my TA for setting everything up. Patty for suggesting and getting Linda and Nelson to go. Bob and Eileen for coming in from Michigan. Julie, Carole and the wife Barbara for having a good time and laughing it up. And our guest of honor Bob for being a good sport the whole week. Till next time - February 14 day cruise to the South. Tom Treimel 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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