200 Holland America Zaandam Cruise Reviews

We enjoyed the Zaandam very much - it was the perfect size- about 1400 passengers I think. One of the real pluses of the 14 days was that every at-sea day (9 of them if you count getting to Ensenada in the evening the last night) our guide ... Read More
We enjoyed the Zaandam very much - it was the perfect size- about 1400 passengers I think. One of the real pluses of the 14 days was that every at-sea day (9 of them if you count getting to Ensenada in the evening the last night) our guide Kainoa gave two talks - 1/2 hour in the am and about 45 minutes at 2 pm - on Hawaii, which is his native state. He talked about everything from geology, to history, to the hula. We went to them all - he was also available all the time on the ship for questions. The entertainment staff was perhaps the best overall we have had in 12 cruises - especially the dance staff. The food was very good - our vote for best escargot and best lobster on our 12 cruises - maybe a bit too many sauces, but I learned to order simple cuts of meat, etc. I did not like the lamb chops, but loved the baked brie. Casual dining was not overly-crowded and the food was very good. Cannot comment on the special buffets as we avoid them, only eating 3 meals, breakfast and lunch in the Lido, dinner in the dining room and sometimes cookies or sundaes at snack time. Best meal of the cruise was in the Canneletto Dining area- it is no-extra-charge, but you should make a reservation. The chicken marsala was so good we went back for more another night. And tiramisu dessert was extra-special. All service on the ship was very good and with a friendly smile. We travel to relax and enjoyed the promenade deck chairs as often as we could - also enjoyed getting exercise on the wrap-around promenade deck. We really had no problems aboard except for a water problem in the cabin which was addressed and fixed the same day and a light bulb that was replaced immediately. One problem on the ship seems to be the TV remote control which did not work very well and several have mentioned on other reviews. We hardly ever watch the TV in our cabins, so it was not a big deal. It was a great two weeks - this was our first HAL cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
My husband and I took our two children on the 14 day voyage to Hawaii. After reading all the negative comments about the Zaandam I was greatly relieved by the wonderful experience we had. The ship is well used but is charming. I did ... Read More
My husband and I took our two children on the 14 day voyage to Hawaii. After reading all the negative comments about the Zaandam I was greatly relieved by the wonderful experience we had. The ship is well used but is charming. I did not find it disgusting I found it well used. The staff was amazing and constantly cleaning or repairing things. My only critique would be at that time the allowance of smoking in the staterooms. I believe that policy is now changed. It was an adjustment to get over the smell of smoke but after 14 days we were fine! This was by far the best dining experience we have had on any of our cruises. The food was very good. The Pinnacle Grill was fantastic and a great treat for me and the Hubby without the kids. The older group of passengers was relaxing and very friendly. This is not one of the "fun ships". This cruise is really about relaxing. We did not have to deal with one drunk belligerent person on this cruise and that was very nice. We are are younger and we love Holland America. We are looking forward to our next cruise with them soon. I would recommend this for anyone wanting to cross the Pacific, see the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, and just have some real peace and quite. It was great. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We have cruised on Holland America several times before, once on Disney, and once on Royal Caribbean. We booked this cruise over a year ago. We were traveling with my husband's brother and sister-in-law. We love to cruise for ... Read More
We have cruised on Holland America several times before, once on Disney, and once on Royal Caribbean. We booked this cruise over a year ago. We were traveling with my husband's brother and sister-in-law. We love to cruise for the rest and relaxation and getting away from our hectic jobs. Now our journey ... We arrived in Vancouver 10/01, the day before our cruise. We had booked the Fairmont Waterfront through HAL and we met the HAL representative at the airport and they ushered us to a taxi and straight to the hotel (a breeze). Room was on the port side (beautiful view). We woke up a little before 6:00 a.m. and saw the Zaandam arrive. There were also two other ships in port that day (1 Princess and 1 NCL). We had transfers to the ship that also included a city tour. The tour started at 9:00 a.m. and was nice at first but they did not want us on the ship until 2:00 p.m. The ship sailed at 3:00 p.m.!!!! Needless to say, most on the bus were not happy campers. We finally got to the ship and just barely got our lunch when the Lido was closing. We have always boarded the ship early .... so excited to get there. So, if you have booked the transfers, I would just skip the city tour and walk over to the ship yourself. On the plus side, there were no lines since we were boarding so late and our luggage was in our rooms when we boarded. Our room was great!! We booked the secret rooms (there are two 7086 & 7083). They are classified as insides but actually have a large window on the aft/stern of the ship. Great location .... just one quick flight up to the Lido. We ate all our meals in the Lido. This was to be our first (and NOT last) cruise where we packed lightly (no formal clothes). YIKES, some would say but we loved it!! This is a vacation after all!! We were surprised that the Lido was so busy every night. Seems lots of other cruisers have the same idea. I have to say that service in the Lido was fantastic. We tend to eat at the same table (if we can get it) on the port side and met Andi who was our waiter/go getter. He was great .... always smiling and happy. He learned our names and after the second day, he remembered us. The first couple of days we were served and that made service slower but once we could serve ourselves and get drinks it went much quicker. I loved the Asian Cuisine and that is what I ate almost every day at lunch (along with bread pudding, or course). Wish they had more selections on the nightly buffet though. We had a great turnout for our cruise critic meeting. It was great seeing everyone and putting names with faces. Ran into several of them all through the cruise and it was like meeting up with family. The ship provided cookies, coffee and refreshments but none of the officers showed up. Well ... as for the ship. We have been on the Zaandam before (back in 2006) and it was in better shape then but the Zaandam is still a great ship. It could use a little TLC. Seems like they have cut way back on the staff, service is still good but maybe they need more staff to maintain the ship. It wouldn't hurt them to wash the windows. I put that on the survey by the way. There was a contact crew that got on when we were getting off. They had taken down some lightning on the aft pool deck and was hauling plywood up the stairs outside our room. Couldn't figure out exactly what they were going to do. The organ in the atrium is beautiful. We got to see it play on one of the sea days when we happened to be at the front desk. It started playing and the little figures on the sides started moving. It was very nice. I made a comment to the desk clerk that I had not seen it play and I believe he said it played on sea days at 10:00 a.m. and Noon. Now for the sea days .... I love sea days, I really do. Time to relax and do nothing, if you so chose, BUT we have decided that four and lastly five are way too many for us!! The last couple of days we were wishing we were back home and that is a first for us. We didn't see any of the shows. Sat in on one Liars Club - that's a HOOT!! Went to all of Kainoa's (the native travel guide) talks and lectures. You sure learn a lot about Hawaii from him. Disembarkation was a breeze ... we chose expedited which means you can carry off all your luggage without any help and get to leave the ship first. We left the ship at 8:30 a.m. and grabbed a waiting taxi and was at the airport before 9:00 a.m. All in all, we had a great time. Not the best way to see Hawaii. My husband had never been and we did not get enough time in each port but we knew that going into it. We got to cruise (which we love) and see a little of Hawaii - What more can you ask??? Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Our two week cruise aboard the ms Zaandam out of San Diego to Hawaii went very well, with one major exception. During the cruise, we decided to bid on a painting by Daryl Millard during a silent auction; the price listed on the painting ... Read More
Our two week cruise aboard the ms Zaandam out of San Diego to Hawaii went very well, with one major exception. During the cruise, we decided to bid on a painting by Daryl Millard during a silent auction; the price listed on the painting was $600.00; we bid $450.00. The auction ended at 5:00 PM, and at 5:05 the art director called our cabin and told us that the painting was ours. We made arrangements to come down and sign the paperwork after dinner, and upon arriving, the director said "Are you here to buy the Millard painting for $450.00?" We said yes, and he said that $500.00 would "Seal the deal". We asked him what he meant, and he explained that he couldn't sell it for only $450.00, and that $500.00 was as low as he could go. I would expect that type of fraud in a 3rd world market stall, but not aboard one of the premier cruise lines. We later found out that one of the couples at our dinner table had a similar experience, and that they were very upset about it. We have since written to H.A.L's corporate offices, and await their response. As to the rest of the cruise, everything else went off without a hitch. This was our 14th cruise, and the first with Holland America. We primarily cruise with Celebrity & Princess, but were surprised to find that the service aboard HAL exceeded both those lines in most areas (if such a statement can be made after only one cruise). Embarkation was pretty smooth, with some delays caused by computer problems, but nothing to complain about. Disembarkation at the end of the cruise was the best we have ever experienced. We had a standard verandah stateroom (#6190 - category B) and although it was a fairly standard size, the layout was excellent, with ample storage. The room was maintained very well, and included a flat screen TV with a DVD player, a small refrigerator and a small whirlpool bath tub. During the cruise we heard a few passengers complain about the upkeep of their cabins, and couldn't figure out what could possibly be wrong. During disembarkation as we were walking along deck two, we could see into some of the cabins and the walls had large rust streaks under the windows going to the floor along with other obvious problems. Overall, the food was excellent. The Lido buffet was pretty good, but they tend to repeat the same dishes a lot; you wouldn't notice it on a one week cruise, but after two weeks, it gets a little old. But hey, it's a buffet, and if you are expecting excellent food at a buffet, you are going to be disappointed. On the other hand, the service at the buffet was the best we have ever seen. They simply cannot do enough to make sure you are happy. Waiters are clearing your table of empty plates quickly; others are pushing carts around to refill coffee cups and water glasses. If you are drinking ice tea, they go get you another glass. I simply cannot describe how good they are; they truly go the extra distance to help you. Dinner in the main dining room met and in some cases exceeded our expectations. Service was excellent, but it usually is with other line also. We felt the food and its presentation were slightly above other lines, but others felt it was about the same. This ship also has two specialty restaurants: The Pinnacle Grill (which charges an extra $20 per person) and Canaletto (free, but you need to make a reservation). The steak house type restaurant, Pinnacle Grill, was good, but not worth the extra money. The Italian restaurant, Canaletto, was outstanding. That is a must if you are cruising on this ship, and in fact, we ate there twice. Don't miss it. Entertainment throughout the cruise was uneven, just like any other ship. The pool band was terrible, as was the piano bar, but the groups in the Explorers Lounge and the Ocean Bar were outstanding. Generally very good entertainment in the main theater, and the cruise director Eric did a nice job keeping things going without being obnoxious. The photo staff did a nice enough job, but $40 for an 8X10 is out of line with other ships. Also, some 5X7's would have been a nice option. One thing that was unique for us was the Culinary Arts Center, which holds cooking classes in a very comfortable environment during at-sea days. Unlike some of the superficial demonstrations done on other lines, these are very in-depth and they give you copies of the recipes at the end of the show. The host, Paula, is to be commended for her work in clarifying things and making it easy to understand. One thing to avoid is buying the ships internet program. They charge $100 for 250 minutes, which is great compared to other lines, but the connection is so slow that it is worthless. When you complain about it, they give the stock answer that ships internet is much slower than on land; yes it is, but not this slow. It is roughly half the speed of dial up, so buyer beware. In conclusion, we would recommend this line and ship, but stay away from the deceptive art department and the internet. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
I really did not have any intention of booking this cruise because I did the round trip itinerary in March. The relaxed feeling I had after coming home did not last as I started working on a software upgrade at work. I knew I would ... Read More
I really did not have any intention of booking this cruise because I did the round trip itinerary in March. The relaxed feeling I had after coming home did not last as I started working on a software upgrade at work. I knew I would not make the Alaska season so I started looking at a Panama Canal Cruise on the Zuiderdam that was embarking close to my home. It hadn't come down in price. Than I noticed this repositioning from Vancouver to San Diego via Hawaii at a great price. I was intrigued because the ship was in port til 11:00 PM in 3 of the 5 ports. We flew to Vancouver from SFO the day before and stayed at the Hampton Inn Suites Downtown on Robson. The hotel provided a free shuttle from the Hotel to Canada Place. Since the ship was leaving at 3:00 embarkation was at 12:00 so I requested the 11:00 shuttle but it was full so we had to take the 10:30 Shuttle. By 11:30 A.M. we were checked in and waited in the holding place til we could board the ship. We were on the ship by 11:45. We went to the Lido to get a cup of coffee til the MDR opened for lunch. After Lunch we walked around and cheated a little and made our way to our cabin. We were forward on the Lower Promenade Deck. About 15 minutes they announced that the rooms were ready. We found our gifts from our travel agent 2 $50.00 soda cards, a bottle of champagne and 3 bottles of Wine. The soda cards did come in handy although I only used half of it. I could only purchase soda with it. I wasn't able to purchase bottled water to take ashore with the soda card. Our Cabin Stewards Eddy & Harry were the greatest Stewards I have ever had on a HAL Ship. Believe me they were busy in my section. On the first day at Sea a pipe burst in one of the cabins and affected the cabins on both sides. They were able to relocate the passengers in the cabin with the bursted water pipe til we got to Hilo. The Hal Staff responded promptly to this situation. I was concerned on how it might affect my cabin. We did end up with a plumbing problem 3 days before the end of the cruise which was responded to promptly. The first two days out of Vancouver were a little chilly, by the 3rd day things started warming up and as we got closer to Hawaii the weather was great. Day 3 we had a meet and greet in the crow's nest. It was really great to meet everyone on the roll call. We had open seating. I have always been an advocate of open seating. This time I was very disappointed. This is the 4th Hal Ship I have sailed on and there has never been a problem getting a table within 5 minutes when you walk up and you don't mind sitting with others. The first four days they sure didn't have it together. We got a pager and waited 30 - 45 minutes to get a table. Even people with reservations had problems. The night before we hit Hilo the wait time was down to 10 minutes. When we were in Hilo, Lahina and Honolulu there wasn't a problem. After that the Dining room looked empty so I don't know if people got fed up and just decided to go to the Lido. The food was hit and miss (I know this is subjective) There was always something to find so I didn't starve. I did think the food was better when I did this trip in March. Breakfast and Lunch we ate in the Lido and dinner we had in the dining room. The show times this trip for the most part were 8:00PM and 10:00PM a great improvement from 7:00PM and 9:00PM. On the nights when there was one show the show was at 9:30 and the night of the Black and White Ball the show was the old 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM. I only went to half of the shows. One really great act was a Husband and Wife team from England called Kimka. For the most part I did book Hal Excursions. For the most part they were very good except for the Planetarium Tour in Hilo. This problem was due to a technical error. They couldn't get the show to work. HAL did refund this excursion 50%. The excursion also included a trip to Rainbow Falls, tour through downtown Hilo and to the Island Candy Co. which did take place. HILO -5 I have been to this Port several times before and have toured allot of the area. This Port has the Volcanoes National Park and great Water Falls. I opted for the Planetarium because it was something different. Lahaina - 5 This is a tendering Port and some people had problems. Since the ship was in lahaina til 11:00 I booked the road to Hana Excursion. It was a long day but so worth it. Honolulu - 5 There is something always to do here. My Dad and I took the Free Hilo Haties shuttle to Hilo Haties than took the free Shopping Shuttle to Ala moana Shopping Center. This is the pick up point to pick up the bus that goes around the island. My Dad was $1.00 and I was $2.50. We were in Honolulu on a Saturday so all the local kids were getting on with their surf boards and checking out all the beaches on North Shore. We got off at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Admission and Lunch was $60.00 which was over $100.00 cheaper than the ships excursion. We couldn't stay for the night show. We got the 5:04 bus back to Honolulu and had to transfer at Ala Moana Shopping Center and got back to the ship at 7:30. Before leaving Honolulu we were all ready to go when they opened the gangway again due to a Medical Emergency. We were about 15 minutes leaving. Nawiliwili, Kauai - 5 Waimea Canyon was wonderful and a great view. Tons of Chickens on Kauai Tour went along the coast. This would be an easy place to rent a car. Kona - 5 Did a Sail and Snorkel Tour on a Catamaran. This port was very hot so it was a great day to go swimming. This is a tendering port with limited time. Kainoa the travel guide is great. You really learn allot from his lectures and you can tell he has real passion for his heritage. If you are taking this trip and you really don't know what you want to do, go listen to him. He is also available in the explorations lounge during certain hours to ask questions. This trip did what I needed it to due. "Chill" Allot of Sea Days are not for everyone. I had a great time and everything does not have to be perfect to have great time. The Zaandam is an older ship and not as spruce as some of the newer ships. The crew was always working hard and responded to things that needed attending too. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We are 60 and 71 and this was my 6th cruise and my husband's 4th. We loved this cruise the best of any. The days at sea are wonderfully relaxing as you do not have to get ready to go to ports of call. This was our first time in a ... Read More
We are 60 and 71 and this was my 6th cruise and my husband's 4th. We loved this cruise the best of any. The days at sea are wonderfully relaxing as you do not have to get ready to go to ports of call. This was our first time in a deluxe suite and it was truly a pampered experience, we had so much room it was amazing. Our special thanks to Gladys and Joshua who were always there for us in the Neptune lounge they helped with things like how to attach a formal tux tie and even provided me with flowers for my hair one evening. Our balcony door would not stay shut and it was fixed promptly as was a broken glass swept up right away....It was nice to able to put on your robe and go down and get coffee in the morning or ice tea in the afternoon etc. I could have taken ½ the clothes since the laundry service (free for deluxe suite guests) was prompt and well done. Our cabin attendants, Suko and Soli were wonderful, always happy and they kept our room so nice..we are are big slobs so we tipped them when we first came on board and when we left. They kept our wine chilled and filled up our little ice chest each day all with the nicest manners and good nature we have ever experienced. I am not sure I would get deluxe again maybe for a cruise lasting longer than a week. Internet: We took both our laptops and signed up for 200 minutes for $100.00, we could get connection in our cabin pretty slow some days but ok....our Broadband card worked all the 4 days in Hawaii so we really did not need all our ship's time but I was doing a travel blog so it was nice. Dining: We had anytime dining which I think is wonderful, as you can reserve a time, however, one nite when we did not have reservations we found it was very crowded so we got beepers and then just decided not to wait and go to Lido deck. We only had one dinner in the dining room and we were happy to go to Lido or order our dinner from room service. I think many folks do not know that during the dinner hours you can order from the main dining room menu..one nite we had lobster and filet mignon in the privacy of our stateroom and it was a wonderful experience. The food was fabulous everywhere, I really like salads and always enjoy the variety of everything. We are not that fond of fish but they have tons of it for you who enjoy it. A suite perk was an Indonesian lunch with the Captain and he sat at our table there was only 4 of us and him....so that was wonderful, he is very nice and it was a very special treat. Ports of Call Hilo, found Waylon at the pier phone number 808 640 1244 nice little mini van with only 7 of us we got to see two waterfalls stop at a little market that sold exquisite native preserves, I got coffee flavored butter and a low sugar passion fruit with guava, then the Macadamia Nut farm were we bought a lot of goodies....Mauna Loa...... then a little romp on a true black sand beach and back to the ship for lunch. If you are keen on seeing volcanoes this was not included on this tour. Honolulu: We took the ships tour for the Arizona and we would not do that again. First we got up way to early, then off to the lounge at 8 am then off to board and there were so many folks including handicapped the process took way to long. We saw the cemetery and the King's palace and stopped for a restroom break each time boarding and unloading tons of folks. We ended up at the Memorial with a hour to spare , the gift shop was very nice but again we feel we could have done this a better shorter way, as we ended up back at the ship around 2:30 starving and kind of peeved that everything took so long. The Memorial is awesome. Kauai: took free shuttle to Coconut shopping center, lovely gift items and the trip showed us lots of the scenery, enough for us at least. Maui was our favorite port, the beautiful shopping center and large banyan tree are right at the pier; we bought Made in Mau rum, macadamia nut liquor, bailey's Irish crème. All security on all four ports was done by private companies and evidently they do not care if you are taking liquor back on board so we did as we were running a little low from what we brought on in our suitcases. We thought about finding a beach but decided to go back on board and swim the pool was deserted and wonderful the view Aft was of lovely Maui, we felt we were in a tropical paradise which we were of course. Photos: there are four formal nites and we planned our clothes for them, therefore we got the photo package for $300.00 which gives you every picture they take, ports of call everything and a CD which was a real bargain. The last formal nite we wore our matching Hawaiian shirts for our portraits and they came out nice, we then retired to our room. Everyone was in a festive mood and said we looked adorable..even tho we were dressed casual they were decked out. Entertainment: We are not big show goers but the band the Paperback Writers doing a Beatle medley was superb. I won $350.00 in bingo. The slots were lots of fun, won a lot and lost a lot about even I think.....the 2 cent machines were paying like crazy and the quarters not bad at all. Mostly I got to spend a lot of time there without too much damage to the pocketbook. The only way you can win is to bet max each time. On the morning of embarkation we toted all our bags down ourselves very heavy but we were being picked up so not so bad. We did meet a gentleman at the elevators and we greeted him good morning and asked how he liked his cruise. Since he was on our floor I assume he either had a deluxe or superior suite and that would cost him some bucks....well...He said he did not like it at all and I asked why...he just said don't get me started. This always amazes me that someone can find something wrong with a cruise, for me it is what you make of it. I guess I have never met a cruise I did not love, however, as stated this was our favorite, the ship , the food the service ....EVERYTHING WAS WONDERFUL Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Embarkation exceptionally easy.....on board in under ten minutes and in cabin (after lunch on the Lido) right on time. Stateroom rather small but adequate with lots and lots of storage. Clean and comfortable. Fresh flowers in room and ... Read More
Embarkation exceptionally easy.....on board in under ten minutes and in cabin (after lunch on the Lido) right on time. Stateroom rather small but adequate with lots and lots of storage. Clean and comfortable. Fresh flowers in room and luggage delivered promptly. Ate in the optional (no cost) Italian dining room. EXCELLENT food and service. At sea we thoroughly enjoyed the quiet relaxing Explorer Cafe and Lounge as well as the exceptionally well presented cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Theater. The "enrichment" guide Kainoa was incredibly knowledgeable and entertaining. Entertainment was above par with the usual large Vegas type reviews and two exceptional comedians that left us in stiches. Ate in the upscale Pinnacle one night and had an incredible meal.....truly a memorable dining experience. Well worth the upcharge. Dining on the Zaandam consistently exceeded expectations and HAL remains the best of the cruse lines we have sailed with. The friendliness of the wait staff and other personnel is exceptional! Special kudos to Dody and Ari. The only dining problem is that HAL is trying to institute a split dining schedule with assigned seating AND as you wish seating. It doesn't work. All early seats reserved early and we wound up eating either at the Lido buffet or at 7:45 (too late). They need to either go back to the fixed seating or all freestyle. Many complaints from folks like us who had to wait. On the bright side the food in the Lido was exceptionally well prepared with a varied menu. The HAL approach of putting out freshly cooked food in small quantities paid off. Crisp fresh cooked vegetables were fantastic. Chef Paulo runs a fine operation. Lamb, ham. turkey, chops, duck, Italian, Asian, fresh salads, all available at various times. Reasonable uncrowded and at dinner tables were set with tablecloths to make up for missing the Rotterdam dining Room. The Cruise Director Eric) was one of the best we have had.......UNOBTRUSIVE with only a few announcements per day rather than the constant barrage of announcements (mostly ads) you find today on most lines. Room service was prompt with fresh good tasting food but the menu could stand expanding. Poolside dining from the grill featured good hamburgers, hot dogs, etc., but the pizza was a disappointment. The decor and layout of the Zaandam is upscale with comfortable furnishings. The general condition is excellent but the carpets in the public areas need cleaning or replacing in some areas. Windows need cleaning badly. Great music available in all the lounges. This is not a "party" ship but one aimed at the older and/or retired clientele.....which was perfect for us. Shops offered good quality and decent prices but I found the phots to be exceptionally overpriced. ($40 for a single 8x10 is excessive) Disembarkation was exceptional.......in less than one hour from the time we were told to proceed to the gangway we were at our gate at the airport. We would recommend the luggage express option ($19 each) which was fantastic. Great ship, fantastic crew, above average food.......would definitely sail HAL again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
First, I am not a Holland America "homer". I've now sailed with them 3 times but my allegience is with Princess thanks to the great amenities we've earned over 22 sailings. I wish CCL would allow Captain's Circle ... Read More
First, I am not a Holland America "homer". I've now sailed with them 3 times but my allegience is with Princess thanks to the great amenities we've earned over 22 sailings. I wish CCL would allow Captain's Circle members the same amenities on Holland as the Mariner Society members receive and vice versa. It would be really good for CCL business if they allowed that type of arrangement among all of their cruise companies. Our cruise was booked close to a year in advance. As the date got closer I looked into Zaandam reviews on cruisecritic and was somewhat alarmed at what was written by some people who must be very difficult to please. It's not the rundown vessel plagued by poor service some would like others to believe. Yes, there is a little rust here and there but I challenge everyone to try not to find rust on a 10 year old vessel. I noted only one burned out lightbulb on the ship. The overall service was outstanding. Boarding: We arrived at Seattle pier 91 a bit later than we had hoped and waited 20 minutes to get our keys Cabin: We switched to a 4 person cabin about 6 weeks from departure when it appeared Grammie's work schedule would allow her to join us. We ended up as far forward and inside as one can be on the Dolphin Deck. Great exercise going up and down the stairways to the dining areas and very convenient to the Mondrian Lounge where all the shows were held. Twin beds with a pull down bunk for grandson #2 and a pull out sofa for grandson #1. Lots of closet space and space under beds for luggage. Bathroom was quite adequate and the shower seemed a little roomier than what we find on Princess. Only detractor for the cruise was the intermittent operation of the toilet flushing mechanism. It was tempermental but the resident plumber showed us how to use a "magic pencil" to flush the toilet manually when necessary. (There's a little hole on the right side of the bowl at the wall, insert the pencil and whoosh). The trouble was noted and scheduled for fixing. Flat screen TV worked well with a decent selection of channels like CNN (constantly nothing new), cartoons, the bow channel, a couple of movie channels (one showed the movie NO SIGNAL for most of the cruise). Cabin attendent Aden did a good job keeping the room squared away. Dining: Dining manager Indra assigned us a window seat at table 110 every evening at 5:15 in the anytime (Deck 4) section of the Rotterdam Dining Room. Our waiter Tono was quite special and very good with the boys. All of his recommendations during our 6 nights with him were spot on and he and his assistant kept the meals going at a reasonable yet unrushed pace. When he had a moment, Tono conversed with us and even showed us some magic tricks. We enjoyed our final dinner at Caneletto a nice, no-surcharge, Italian focused dining area set aside from the Lido buffet on Deck 8. The antipasto, minestrone, lasagne, fruitti de mare and tiramisu were quite good. From conversations we heard at tables nearby it seemed as if many folks spent the majority of their dinners at Caneletto which had a superb varied menu that I would have enjoyed multiple times. The meals in the Rotterdam Dining Room were stellar. Breakfast choices were limitless and those we ordered were wonderful. Our dinner choices of crab legs, steak, seafood, lamb chops, soups, salads and desserts were served at the proper temperature and all thoroughly enjoyed. (The lobster was a bit salty.) The Lido breakfasts and lunches were equally impressive regarding variety and quality. The staff was right on top of cleanliness in all eating venues. Tried the poolside taco bar once and was completely satisfied. Entertainment: Cruise Director Erik put together great shows for us. I generally sat through both early and late shows because the boys were at Club HAL during the early show and they wanted to see the stage shows as well. Lee Bayless' comedy was totally family oriented and fun proving one doesn't require profanity to be successful. Well Done Lee! Joel Mason's Elton John tribute was done to perfection and interlaced with family suitable comedy. What a talented musician he is. The Zaandam singers and dancers were energetic and technically very proficient and the band was fantastic. The dueling drummer and bongo player during a break in the Elton John act was top notch...well done ladies! Club HAL: The boys spent nearly every waking onboard moment with new friends and a kid-passionate counselor, Cassandra, immersed in numerous, never boring, Club HAL activities. Everything they got involved with was judged to have passed with flying colors according to the boys. They even had some high quality one on eight interaction with a Park Ranger in Glacier Bay. Itinerary: I chose this cruise with the boys because I wanted them to experience Sitka's Russian heritage, the Raptor Center, and also a wildlife expedition. Princess does not visit Sitka very often and not out of Seattle. Unfortunately, on the first night out Zaandam ran into very high seas (30+ft swells) that really pounded the ship. With an unfavorable forecast for better conditions the Captain wisely turned around and detoured the ship into the Inside Passage. A lot of meclizine was consumed that night. Being berthed well forward we had e-ticket thrills for quite a while. I resurrected my USN sealegs and was thankful to have them come back so quickly. Unfortunately, the change in routing caused Sitka to be axed from the schedule. Disappointing to everyone? Yes, but the Captain did the right thing for our comfort and safety. The weather in Juneau was good enough for us to enjoy a visit to Mendenhall Glacier and a trip up the Mt. Roberts Tram before the weather turned foul. People who took helo rides up to the glaciers were not disappointed. Despite the rainy (what else?) weather in Ketchikan, The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show was a big hit with those who attended. Having visited Victoria several times in the past, we stayed aboard during the 4 hour stop in that port. Disembarkation: Very smooth as we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, let most everyone off ahead of us and we took care of our own luggage. No heartburn here! Other comments: Paula the Party Planner was a joy. She hosted numerous activities in the Wajang Theatre/Culinary Arts Center that were quite popular. The cooking demonstrations and the galley tour were fun. Pilar in the gift shop was also very personable as was Maki, the barrista in the Explorers Cafe. The daily sudoku and trivia contests in the library were challenging and the musicians (especially the "Adagio Strings") did a fine job of entertaining the passengers throughout the ship. The Front Office staff were well-groomed, professional, personable, and helpful. I did not miss the Park West art program but couldn't get too excited by its replacement. John and Miriam who run the future cruise assistance desk are fine HAL representatives and very knowledgeable about the HAL vessels and itineraries. The material condition of Zaandam was good and effort continues daily to keep the ship up to HAL's high standards. I didn't see a frown on the face of any crewmember the entire week. Even the deckhands cleaning the lower promenade wraparound deck at 5am were in good spirits. Reflecting back on some derogatory comments I read by recent posters on cruisecritic.com I wonder if we were on the same ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
First, about us. South Alabama residents, D and I are 35 and 26. He is a contractor and I am a newspaper reporter. We don't have children -- yet -- and this cruise was one of the things to do on our "bucket list" before we ... Read More
First, about us. South Alabama residents, D and I are 35 and 26. He is a contractor and I am a newspaper reporter. We don't have children -- yet -- and this cruise was one of the things to do on our "bucket list" before we have children. Because we're young and on a budget, we always look for a good deal when planning a cruise (this was our third). We also look for great ports, where we can have new and memorable experiences! Our travel agent's parents took this same cruise a year ago, and she worried that the ship's passengers would be too "old" for us. We actually have a lot of friends who are older, so we enjoyed the older crowd on the ship. I would say the median age on the Zaandam was 55 or so. Because of that, the atmosphere was relaxed and people were well-behaved, which was a nice change from our cruises on Carnival. Now for the information about our trip! I'll tell our story in chronological order. THURSDAY, NOON. We departed the airport in Pensacola, Fla., and landed in Houston before arriving to Seattle at 5 p.m. Thursday. Because I am an obsessive planner and had researched Seattle's public transit system, I decided we would take the light rail from SeaTac to the Sheraton downtown. The light rail makes several stops before finally reaching the heart of downtown Seattle. Taking the light rail cost $2.50 per person, and took about 25 minutes to get from the airport to downtown. A cab ride would have cost $30-$40, I'm told. The only downside about the light rail was the walk from the airport terminal to the light rail station, which was probably 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile. With our luggage (one 30 pound duffle bag each, plus a backpack and my purse), it was a pretty good trek (and we're both in good shape). We felt like pack mules by the time we reached the light rail station! But getting to see different parts of Seattle from the train, plus spending only $5 on transit, was fantastic. From the light rail station at Westlake in downtown Seattle, it was a short 1 or 2 block walk to the Sheraton, where we stayed Thursday night. Our 17th floor room at the Sheraton (paid for with credit card points, so essentially free), was nice ... clean and comfortable. After settling in, we walked to P.F. Chang's (the chain Chinese restaurant) for dinner, which was pretty good. We were starving, having only eaten one small airplane meal since 9 a.m.! Armed with a map of downtown Seattle, it was easy to get around. Even though we're from a small town, I felt safe and comfortable downtown. FRIDAY, 8 A.M. Rising early the next morning, we walked down to Pike Place Market and ate breakfast at the Pike Place Bar and Grill, which overlooked the market. The food was just okay, though my husband did enjoy the all-you-can-eat waffles. The market, however, was fabulous! All the scents, sights and tastes were incredible ... we particularly loved the flower stalls. $5 for a gorgeous bouquet! I bought some really cute t-shirts from one artistic vendor who hand-draws the shirt images and screenprints the shirts by herself. We walked around for several hours, and even ended up in some alley where people's chewed-up wads of gum covered a huge wall! It was strange but interesting, just like Seattle. We scurried back to the hotel by 11 a.m., took a quick nap and checked out right before noon. We were able to easily get a cab with a porter's help, and were at Pier 91 in two shakes of a lamb's tail, at a cost of $25 (including tip). When we arrived at the cruise terminal at 12:15 p.m., we found it to be extremely well-organized, and we had our luggage turned in and our ship cards in our pockets within 45 minutes, and we were thrilled to get on the ship! We ate lunch at the Lido Buffet, and wandered the ship until our room was ready at 1:30. Our cabin was pretty spacious, with a large window. The bathroom was roomier than on other cruises, and having a tub was nice (though realistically, I couldn't see myself squeezing into that small tub). There was tons of closet space in our cabin! We spent the rest of the day wandering the ship and were pleased with what we saw. Yes, the Zaandam is aging, but it is very clean and extremely comfortable. Some of our favorite spots were the Crow's Nest, for its incredible views and the Explorations Cafe (library), for its good selection of books and very comfortable chairs (we both love to read, and also enjoyed playing board games there). We also were grateful to be able to print out our boarding passes at the Ex Cafe at the end of the cruise, though the Internet was slow and it ended up costing about $30 to get online. Friday night, we had a 5 p.m. reservation at the Pinnacle Grill, courtesy of our lovely travel agent. We had already decided not to pay extra to visit the Pinnacle Grill, but sweet Rebecca had other plans for us! The service at the Pinnacle Grill was very good, and we enjoyed the special treatment. I dined on lobster macaroni and cheese and D had cedar plank grilled fish. I had chocolate, coffee and vanilla creme brulee for dessert. Late Friday night we got back to our room and enjoyed looking over the activities for Saturday and filling out the room service breakfast card. The seas were getting rough as we sailed into the Pacific, and they only got more rough at the night progressed. By early Saturday morning, we were being tossed in our beds like rag dolls. However, D and I, being Southerners who were used to the calm Gulf of Mexico, thought this was what the ocean was supposed to feel like. How wrong we were! Apparently during the night, the seas were 30 feet and the captain had to turn the ship around and start our journey over again to get out of the Pacific. We learned that having to turn the ship around took lots of time, and would result in us cruising through Canada's Inside Passage, and missing our stop in Sitka. This was bittersweet for lots of passengers and just plain disappointing for others. We appreciated the captain's wisdom in keeping the passengers and crew safe, but we were sad to skip Sitka, where we intended to go on an amazing shore excursion to a bear refuge and then go on a wildlife-watching boat ride. You have to remember, though, you're on a ship, and plans can change quickly. You have to go with the flow, like my dad says, and we did. However, it was four days before we stepped foot on dry land again. The Inside Passage was amazing, though, and we enjoyed seeing the coastline for much of our cruise. MONDAY, 11 A.M. Finally, during all that sailing, we reached a highlight of our cruise and saw Glacier Bay. I was nearly tearful at seeing the amazing glaciers, and the captain kindly let the ship sit in front of the largest glacier, Johns Hopkins, for over an hour while we marveled at the calving. Friends who cruised on the Zaandam a few weeks before didn't see any calving, so we felt lucky to have this experience. Glacier Bay National Park is spectacular, and we really enjoyed hearing the park ranger's talk about how the land has changed and continues to change. Did you know that those massive glaciers are formed starting with one little snowflake? Snowflakes build and compress to create these huge chunks of moving ice. Amazing. TUESDAY, 8 A.M. Finally, dry land. We had originally just planned to walk around Juneau and ride the Mt. Roberts Tram, but after losing Sitka we planned a better shore excursion for Juneau. A bus (driven by the hilarious and talented poet Wendell aka "Grandpa Goose") took us 20 minutes north of Juneau to a marina where our three-story catamaran was docked. The boat was so comfortable and well-appointed, it was like taking a whale watching tour while riding around in your living room. Minutes after we left the marina, we saw killer whales (orcas) breaking through the water. The boat's naturalist said they only saw killer whales around 5 or 10 percent of the time, so we felt really lucky to see and photograph these amazing creatures. Soon after, we saw the tell-tale "blow" of 50-foot long humpback whales. Their huge backs would break the surface of the water, and then their giant tails would be visible above the waves. Again, I was getting a bit teary to see these amazing creatures, just a short distance from our boat! I will always treasure my photographs of the whales! After the left the boat, we rode the tram up Mt. Roberts, which was a great view, but would have been more fun if it hadn't been rainy. However, the Alaskans we met said it was always drizzly there! We had hoped to do some hiking around Mt. Roberts, but not in bad weather. We visited a couple shops that were having big clearance sales, because we would be the very last cruise ship to dock in Juneau until next May. WEDNESDAY, 8 A.M. We left the ship and boarded a bus in Ketchikan with 6 other people under the age of 30. We were all looking forward to our shore excursion: Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure! The snorkeling guide told us all about the gear and other particulars on the way to their shop, where we squeezed into wetsuits, boots, masks and other gear to go snorkeling in the 52 degree Alaskan waters. Yes, it was a little bit crazy, but an amazing way to see Alaska. It took about 2 minutes for to get warmed up once we were in the water, which was 100 feet deep in some places, and a little rough. But underwater, we saw another world ... starfish in bright shades of red, yellow and purple, spiky sea urchins, long and squishy sea cucumbers, rock fish that looked like rocks, long tails of kelp, and lots of other sea life. Our two guides said they swam with a humpback whale in that same area just a few weeks before, so we were thrilled to get in the water with all this native Alaska sea life. And only our lips got cold, for the record! We snorkeled for an hour and made our way back to the ship ... although there were other things we would have liked to see in Ketchikan, the ship left port at 1:30 p.m., so we didn't have any time. Funny story: We were early getting on the shore ex bus, and we were chatting with the bus driver. We asked her if we would still be able to snorkel, since the weather was pretty rainy. She's like, what rain? You mean this drizzle? When we just have drizzle like this, we count it as a beautiful day in Ketchikan! You should have seen it raining buckets yesterday. :) Lesson learned. Alaska is rainy. That's why they tell you to pack a raincoat! Bring one and you'll be just fine! THURSDAY We sailed for much of Thursday and landed in Victoria, BC, about 7 p.m. We debated even getting off the ship, because we knew it would leave Victoria at 11:30 p.m., and that didn't leave much time to sight see. However, the lure of being able to say we had been to Canada won out, and we took a bus to downtown Victoria ($7 per person round trip) and walked Government Street for a while. An Irish linen shop's window showed lots of beautiful treasures, but unfortunately, the shop was closed for the day. Disappointing. Victoria was interesting and beautiful, though, and we enjoyed the bus driver's narration about the city. FRIDAY, 6 A.M. We woke up on our day of disembarkation back in the Emerald City and had our luggage packed, ready to run. We had a 11:30 flight to catch at SeaTac and didn't have a moment to lose. We enjoyed a final delicious breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room and did self-assist debarkation so we were off the ship by 8:15 (amazing!). Our cab driver took us on a fast 20 minute ride to SeaTac for about $50, and we were at our gate by 9:15, and touched down in Pensacola, Fla., at 8:30 that night, glad to be home! Here are some highlights from the ship: Entertainment: We LOVED the "Elton John" show, and really liked the PG-rated comedian. Haven't laughed that much in a long time! The productions by the ship's entertainment were also very good. Food: We ate dinner in the Rotterdam dining room nearly every day for lunch and dinner. The food was very good, and we enjoyed trying dishes that we don't have at home, like chilled fruit soup and escargot. We enjoyed the seafood: shrimp cocktail, Alaskan crab, salmon, etc. The desserts were pretty good, either hit or miss. I actually enjoyed the desserts better on our Carnival cruises, but they were still pretty good on the Zaandam. We ate breakfast in the Rotterdam dining room on two occasions, and then had room service a few days and ate in the Lido a few days. Room service breakfast was pretty good, but the selection at the Lido was hard to beat. We especially enjoyed the custom-made omelets, but missed having grits and biscuits like at home! Room service was pretty quick (food always came within 30-45 minutes). Our sandwiches that we ordered one day after the snorkeling excursion were just decent, nothing great. Still, it was nice to be able to eat in our room with our robes on, and not have to get gussied up to leave the room. That's what made the room service so great. Service: Excellent, of course. Cute towel animals every night and though our room steward seemed busy, we always came back to a clean room, if we stayed away long enough to let him do his job. Our servers in the dining room were wonderful - friendly and fun to be around. I think they related to us better because we were all around the same age. After asking for iced tea the first day, I had iced tea again every night for dinner, without even asking for it! Other: We loved the gym, with its spectacular view. It allowed us to eat multiple-course meals three times and day and not gain weight. The treadmills were easy to operate as was the other equipment. I didn't get that uncomfortable feeling you do at some gyms, when you're surrounded by people with fantastic bodies ... I felt totally at home there, surrounded by people who were just trying to keep the cruise food from sticking to them! Check out the little fridge with cold, wet, rolled-up towels ... so refreshing! We also loved the pools. In the aft pool, the water was 85 degrees, but because the air temperature was 50 degrees, no one got in, so I had it to myself! Yay! The Lido pool was chillier but still comfortable and, again, no one was in it. The Lido hot tubs were sometimes occupied, but it was easy to find a time to get in without having to share. I loved the watercolor painting class, which was taught by the artist in residence on the ship. It was really fun to try something new! Other things we loved: the third floor promenade deck, which was great for long walks; the blankets provided outside when it got chilly; reading the library's selection of good books; our comfortable cabin bed; the funny cruise director, Eric; fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast; the kitchen tour; having laundry facilities on nearly each floor, meaning we arrived home with only clean clothes for $3 a load; and seeing the bald eagles all around Alaska. All in all, our cruise on the Zaandam was fantastic, with little surprises around every corner. Sure, it wasn't exactly the cruise we thought we were going to take, but it was amazing nonetheless! Alaska is just a masterpiece, and Seattle and Victoria are interesting, vibrant cities. If you want a bargain and seek to avoid big crowds, and are willing to compromise a little, and endure some shaky seas and a little rain and cold, take a late-season Alaska cruise. Otherwise, go at the peak of the season! Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was my 33rd cruise and my 15th on Holland America Line. Guess you could say I like the HAL experience. It was also my fifth trip to Alaska - but I'd never seen Glacier Bay on previous itineraries. We knew GB would be the ... Read More
This was my 33rd cruise and my 15th on Holland America Line. Guess you could say I like the HAL experience. It was also my fifth trip to Alaska - but I'd never seen Glacier Bay on previous itineraries. We knew GB would be the highlight of the trip...and it was. The weather was amazing. Juneau and GB had temps in the low 70s (just after Memorial Day weekend), so we enjoyed the wonder of Alaska under sunny skies. After spending the day in GB, I can hardly wait to experience it again. Truly magnificent. I had done the rest of the itinerary before: Juneau, lots to see and do and shop; Sitka, sort of ordinary and not much to see; Ketchikan, lots of rain (and still more shopping); and Victoria, B.C., which we visited for only a few hours (but got me thinking that a return visit to BC is in order). The Zaandam is a fine ship. I'm only going to cover some highlights: the Pinnacle Grill: worth the $25 extra per person charge - a five star dining experience at sea; As You Wish dining option: finally, HAL offers an option from the set dining times (we had no trouble getting a table for two any night of the week); Charlie Jourdan in the Piano Bar: a great singer/guitar player who was the entertainment highlight of our week; DVD players in the cabins: nice; bar service throughout the ship: gracious and ever present; public rooms: great quiet nooks to watch the scenery go by; daily activities: something for every interest. Just a few lowlights: casino: way too small for a ship this large; on-board shopping: surprisingly ordinary; Lido Restaurant: got better as the week went on; showroom entertainment: as ordinary as on most cruise ships. But the Zaandam is a beautiful ship and a great value. We'd sail on her again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
I have been reading the reviews concerning this ship, and I want to put some of my comments down. This was the fourth cruise for my two sisters and me, and it was our second with HAL Our ages are 82, 78, and 66. I'm the youngster!! ... Read More
I have been reading the reviews concerning this ship, and I want to put some of my comments down. This was the fourth cruise for my two sisters and me, and it was our second with HAL Our ages are 82, 78, and 66. I'm the youngster!! I'll have to admit that we loved it. Yes, the ship needs paint and some other repairs (one of the forward elevators wasn't ever fixed)as mentioned by other reviewers, but the cruise was wonderful. In fact, we like HAL and enjoye ourselves so much that we booked our next cruise while we were onboard. We'll be doing the Panama Canal cruise departing San Diego next April 15th. It's on the Statendam, so I've been reading reviews about that ship and sincerely hope they have solved all the problems it seems to have!! This cruise was very special for us, because our cousin, her husband, (in their 60's) his mother (91), their daughter and her husband (in their 30's) and their son (aged 3) joined us. They live in California, and we're from Texas We drove from Anaheim and arrived at the pier and unloaded our luggage. Then they parked their vehicle in the lot across the street. Checking in was very easy. The three of us had booked a deluxe verandah suite on the navigation deck (Deck 7), and our cousins had upgraded to the penthouse after receiving the offer (not free) on Friday, so our check-in was right at the front of the big warehouse where CI takes place. There was not a long line for suites, and we were checked in and on our way to board the ship in a matter of minutes. Their daughter and her family flew in later in the afternoon. Even though they were not in a suite, they said that check-in was a breeze. They were in a verandah suite just down the hall from us. Since we are HAL Mariners, we asked where the embarkation lunch was being held, but the crew members we asked had no clue. We didn't give up and finally made our way to the Rotterdam Dining Room (Lower Level) where lunch was being served. We didn't think there were too many people there, and having read the reviews, I can see that many Mariners didn't persevere—they just gave up and went to the Lido. It was a very nice luncheon. On the next cruise, we'll just go straight to the Rotterdam. STATEROOM: Having had a deluxe verandah suite on our Alaskan cruise aboard the Volendam, we didn't even consider a lesser category cabin. (We've had those with small verandahs on Disney and RCCL) Once we traveled in this deluxe manner with a large cabin and living room area, big bathroom with tub/shower combo, a large dressing room with an extra lavatory and three nice closets, complimentary laundry, dry cleaning, and pressing, access to the Neptune Lounge and all the concierge service that entails, priority boarding of tenders going to and coming from shore, etc., etc., etc., the three of us really wouldn't want to sail any other way. In fact, the Neptune Lounge is actually why we prefer HAL. While other cruise lines have deluxe cabins, no other offers this special concierge service in a private lounge close to your stateroom. Let's face it, it's nice to be treated like royalty, and that's how Cris, our wonderful concierge in the NL made us feel. Our stateroom stewards were Bangun and Widodo from Indonesia. You couldn't stay in the doldrums for long with them around. Bangun came into our stateroom the minute we walked in, and he had a big smile on his face. (We never saw him during the cruise that he wasn't smiling and laughing!) He introduced himself and told us that we were to let him know about anything we wanted. So, I asked if he had a long extension cord for my CPAP machine. (I sleep on the sofa and the only outlet is clear across the room by one of the beds, so I had brought one along, but it wasn't long enough.) He was back in no time with that cord which I was allowed to keep for the entire 15 nights. Then I told him that I didn't want the sofa sleeper bed made up each night. I explained that after one night on that bed during our Alaska cruise I had come up with a better idea. So, at my request, he got two extra duvets and a set of sheets, and he and I made my bed. He removed the back cushion, folded the two duvets in half and placed them on the sofa as pads. Then he made the bed on top of them. It makes a very comfortable bed. I told him just to make it neat in the mornings, as I wanted access to it during the day!! He thought that was funny, but he followed my instructions explicitly. It took a few days to convince him that one of my sisters didn't want all of the top bedding tucked in at the foot of her bed. I think it really went against his inner-self and all of his training to leave a bed partially unmade. But he did it (finally) and got a great extra tip at the end of the cruise! Another reason we like the deluxe verandah suite is because we spend a lot of time there. We're not too "socially active" on cruises. We use it as a time to unwind and rest, read, etc. We have a Christmas business, and we work very hard in the months before our vacations.) DINING: We had "As you Wish" dining, so for the first two evenings our whole group went up to the Lido. After that, we had Cris make a standing reservation for us to dine in the Rotterdam Dining Room at 6:00 p.m. We always had the same table and the same wait staff. However, if we did want to do something different, we told her and she let them know that table would be vacant that night. It was so much nicer than the Lido. My sisters and I decided to go there for breakfast one morning, but never did that again. Our experience in the Lido on the Volendam in 2007 was wonderful. We often had breakfast and/or lunch there. But that was when they had trays! Now HAL has decided to do away with the trays, and you have to carry a plate of food which you take to your table. Then you have to go back for anything else you want like bread, drinks, etc. Being the youngest, I did a lot of that walking for my older sister. By the time you get everything to your table, most of it is cold! On the Volendam, there was always an attendant ready to carry the tray for you, but alas, no more! It was an absolute pain! I was worn out at the end of the meals, so we stayed away from there for the rest of the cruise. It was NOT as enjoyable as it was on our Alaskan cruise. I'm not even sure that the food was good or bad, because the whole experience of getting your food to the table was terrible! The Rotterdam Dining Room was a much nicer experience. We got to know our servers and they got to know us. Each evening we would arrive, and they would already have our little three year old's (I'll call him "A." from now on) high chair in place. "A." is very well behaved—many people commented on that. He is also very cute and personable. We eight adults became known as " 'A's' party." Each evening, the moment we were seated, the head waiter would come and bring "A." a plate of fresh fruit. Then he would tell him what was on the child's menu and ask him what he wanted. He had a choice of spaghetti and meatballs, a hotdog and fries, macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. All of our wait staff knew that he would end his meal with sugar free vanilla ice cream, a treat that he doesn't get often at home. They knew my older sister would want the kind with sugar! Baba was our waiter and Nanda was his assistant, and they were really, really good. (On a Disney cruise in 2008, the assistant waiter could never remember what we liked.) These two men knew all of our likes and dislikes. We never had a bad dining experience there. The food was very good. It's so much fun to be able to order anything you want, because it gives one the opportunity to try things you would never order in a restaurant. Cruising is how I found out that I love escargot! We had some very rough days at sea on this cruise due to the weather. One evening as we got up from the table to leave, the ship lurched and my older sister was falling. Baba grabbed her and kept her upright. He didn't let go of her arm until he had walked her to the elevator. He escorted her out of the dining room every night for the rest of the cruise. As I was making a monthly payment back in November, the reservation agent commented on the fact that the middle sister would be having a birthday in April. He said that HAL would be happy to help us celebrate. So, on the 19th of April, a chocolate cake with a lighted candle was brought to our table in the Rotterdam and waiters from all over the dining room joined our waiters in singing an Indosian birthday song to her. Then Baba came with a plate piled high with scoops of vanilla ice cream which he served to all of us. All nine of us ate at the Pinnacle Grill on the last night of the cruise. That was wonderful. Everything was delicious and beautifully presented. The service was impeccable. Once again, "A." made a big hit. All the girls who were on the staff there hugged him goodbye as we were leaving. We had one other occasion to dine in the Pinnacle Grill. The Captain hosted an Indonesian luncheon during the first week of the cruise. The penthouse and all deluxe verandah suite guests were invited. We were thrilled, because we were invited to sit at the captain's table (it's the penthouse that did it!). However, JoJo, the Guest Relations Manager came to our table and joined us. She extended the captain's apology, because he was unable to attend the luncheon at all. We knew that the ship had been rolling for a while that morning, and it turned out that one of the stabilizers had gone out. So we understood why the captain missed lunch. The Indonesian food was wonderful. Even my older sister who is the world's pickiest eater liked it!! The Neptune Lounge always has food available. That is where we all ate breakfast most mornings. They always had an array of food available like cereals, muesli, fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries, cheese, cold meats, all kinds of bread, and I could go on and on. The fresh orange juice is the best I've ever had. Coffee, Cappuccino, Latte, Espresso, hot tea, hot chocolate, iced tea, cold water—all are available all day. All kinds of little finger sandwiches and other goodies were there to tempt us. (Yes, I gained weight!) Who needs the Lido if you have the Neptune Lounge. Of course, you do have to book a deluxe suite! I must give kudos to the ladies who make the lounge so special—Cris, the concierge, Mary Rose, her relief, Made (Ma day) and Rose, who kept the food replenished and fresh all day. They all went out of their way to make sure that everything was clean and attractive and that the suite and penthouse guests were happy and well taken care of. Made and Rose also work in the Pinnacle Grill. It is amazing the hours that the crew works each day. You see them in different places at different times of the day, and they are always happy and courteous. ENTERTAINMENT: My two sisters and I went to every evening show in the Mondrian Lounge. We are singers/entertainers, so we love the shows, but can be a little critical. However, the shows were okay. We don't expect Disney entertainment quality or New York Broadway quality. We were disappointed to find that the production shows put on by the HAL singers and dancers were the same ones we saw on the Volendam three years earlier. Since they encourage repeat cruisers with their Star Mariner Rewards, etc., I would think that they could develop some different productions and not make us sit through the same ones. I guess we'll see them again on the next cruise in 2011. Or maybe we'll find something else to do on those evenings. However, the special entertainers who were on board to perform were really good. We thoroughly enjoyed each one. Only one complaint about the HALcats band and the recorded music used in the theater—IT IS TOO LOUD!! Tone it down for Pete's sake. Those young people must all be losing their hearing from being around all that loud noise constantly. At our age our hearing isn't what it used to be, but we can hear that!! Thank goodness I carry ear plugs for my sisters and me to wear. . SHORE EXCURSIONS: We booked all of our excursions through HAL. We enjoyed them all—some more than I thought we would. I wasn't too excited at the thought of going to the Tsunami Museum in Hilo, but it was very interesting and informative. That tour, called Waves and Waterfalls, took us to Akaka Falls State Park. The walk through the rain forest down to the waterfall viewing area was beautiful. I got some really great photographs. In Kauai, my sisters and I took a tour called Waterfalls and Movies. That was the most entertaining excursion of all the ones we did. There were only ten people on our little bus, and we had a wonderful tour guide. As we traveled from place to place, she showed clips of the movies and TV shows. We were taken all over the island to the locations where these were filmed. We also saw the waterfall featured in Fantasy Island. The most meaningful tour we took was the one to Pearl Harbor. Due to construction taking place there, we were unable to go out to the Arizona memorial, so we changed our tour to include the battleship Missouri, known as the "Mighty Mo." We stood on the deck right where the Surrender of Japan took place. From the "Mo" we were able to see the Arizona Memorial very clearly. Due to very high winds and rough water, our day in Lahaina, Maui was canceled. We had all scheduled a luau there, but HAL refunded our money. Instead we sailed along the north coast of Molokai which was beautiful. Once again, we stayed in our cabin on the port side and enjoyed the cliffs, waterfalls, and waves crashing on the shore from our verandah. We kept the door open and could hear the commentary on the P.A. system. I took fantastic pictures! This is the website for the Captain's blog about that day. It includes pictures. http://www.hollandamericablog.com/2010/04/16/captains-log-postcards-from-molokai/#comments Our last excursion at Kona was to the Kahua Ranch. Since the three of us own a cattle ranch here in Texas, we thought it would be interesting to see how they do it in Hawaii, and it was. It's not very different except their view is a lot prettier! The hour trip back to the pier took us through the lava flows. That sight was awesome! My only regret is that the bus didn't stop and let us take good "still" photos. I got lots, but all from the moving bus. KID'S CLUB: My sisters and I are single, so no children with us. However, our little cousin, "A." loved Kid's Club. His mom and dad took him there for the first couple of evenings after dinner, and stayed with him. After a while they felt comfortable leaving him there. I think that says a lot about the program and the crew members who were in charge. EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATION: Both were easy. We like to get to the pier early before the crowds arrive, but that is really not an issue in San Diego where they had lots of people working to get people checked in. I always take advantage of Online Check-in, so we only had to fill out the medical questionnaire. Getting off the ship was even easier, because we kept our luggage in our rooms, and special ship's porters came and got them about 9:15. All nine of us were then taken down and out an exit that opened right at ground level on the pier. That was convenient since our cousin's mother-in-law used a wheelchair. SERVICE; I think I have already praised the people who were in charge of serving us. They were fantastic. We never, ever met a grouchy crew member. Everyone outdid themselves in giving service. We left the $11 a day service charge/tip on our bill, but we handed out envelopes with extra tips for those who had served us so well. VALUE FOR THE MONEY: Well, that might be debatable. The deluxe suites are very expensive, unless you get a free upgrade or one for minimum $. The people in the stateroom next to ours got it free. Wow, what a deal! I make our reservations 10 to 12 months early, and we're willing to pay for the deluxe accommodations. It might not be worth it to everyone. We went on board as One Star Mariners and left as Two Stars. We hope to make it to three some day. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We took the Feb 15, 2010 Circle Hawaii cruise on Holland America's ship Zaandam. This is my 6th cruise on HAL, also 6 on Princess and 1 each on RCI, Oceania and Cunard. We had been on a Baltic cruise on the Rotterdam just last June, ... Read More
We took the Feb 15, 2010 Circle Hawaii cruise on Holland America's ship Zaandam. This is my 6th cruise on HAL, also 6 on Princess and 1 each on RCI, Oceania and Cunard. We had been on a Baltic cruise on the Rotterdam just last June, so this near identical twin ship was very familiar. We flew from the east coast of Canada to San Diego the day before the cruise. Great flights on United, changing in Chicago. We checked into the Holiday Inn on the Bay, right across from the cruise terminal. We had noticed its convenient location the last time we were in San Diego sailing on the Oosterdam. Despite some less than enthusiastic reviews I had read about this hotel, I have to say we were completely satisfied. We upgraded to a Bayview room, which is highly recommended if you like to see your ship arrive in the morning and watch the passengers disembark. At 11.30 am, we checked out of the hotel and rolled our bags across the street and checked in. We were on the ship at 11:55. I have a couple of criticisms of the check in- first the luggage handlers damaged both of our suitcases (they were fine when we handed them over, and whether the damage occurred by the shore staff or on the ship we will never know) and secondly there are not enough seats in the waiting area prior to boarding the vessel. Also, Mariner Society members are supposed to have an "Embarkation Brunch" - where is it? We were never told about it at check-in and were directed to the Lido by the ship's staff as we boarded. We got to see our cabin at 1:25 - it was on the Navigation deck just across from the access to the aft elevators and stairs. Great location - just one flight of stairs up to the Lido and two down to the upper level of the Dining room. We had booked a BC Verandah guarantee and were delighted with the upgrade to an AA. The cabin had a few minor maintenance problems but these were quickly fixed by either the staff or myself (stopping squeaks with wadded up cardboard). The ship had recently been in drydock and many carpets in public areas and chairs in the Dining Room and elsewhere had been replaced. New chairs/pads on our Verandah as well. At the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet, the Hotel Manager, in response to my question "what was done in the drydock?" said "Not enough!". He was especially disappointed that the chairs in the Lido restaurant had not been replaced. At first he blamed it on running out of time, but later in the cruise he said it was a cost issue. The public areas were all in great shape. It was obvious the hull above the water line was not painted in the drydock and was quite rusty in places, also the overhang of the Lido above our verandah. But generally the white paint all looked fresh and the ship overall was in very good condition (exception-the elevators, two of which in the forward group have not been working since the drydock). This cruise and ship had three great things going for it - one was the Captain, Darin Bowlind, a Canadian who lives in my part of the country when not on the ship. He was a fantastic communicator - by far the best of any Master I have encountered. He was not so great in the one-on-one encounters, which I will attribute to shyness or being overly focused on the job. Second was the Hotel Manager, Fermin. He was everywhere, which I have never seen before. He was funny and you could tell his employees were happy. He is a former chef and did a very entertaining cooking demonstration in the Culinary Arts Center. Finally, the Travel Guide Kainoa, a native Hawaiian. He gave lectures twice a day on all matters Hawaiian and was absolutely fascinating. A tremendous communicator. He was also available on shore in each port to answer questions and offer suggestions. I should also mention the Cruise Director, Anthony Choice. He has only been a CD for three months, and had not worked in the cruise industry at all for some time. I thought he was very good and exceeded my expectations, due to some negative comments about him from the previous Hawaii cruise participants. We ate mostly in the Dining Room, occasionally in the Lido. We did not eat in the Canaletto or in the Pinnacle this cruise. Most of the meals were excellent, especially in flavor. We found breakfast very slow in the dining room, if you arrived right at opening time. It took 40 to 45 minutes for the "Breakfast Specials" to arrive at your table after ordering. If you went later in the 90 minute window for breakfast, it was faster. In the evening, we had a Table for 2 at the early sitting in the upper dining room. Service by our waiter Edy and assistant Randy was excellent and friendly. Service by our Room Stewards Luki and Hasan was also very efficient and all requests were promptly attended to. I have to say I have never found a more friendly crew overall on any ship - I think this indicates there was good morale aboard, as noted above. The entertainment exceeded my expectations. I have been critical of HAL in the past for mediocre entertainment, but this was definitely a big improvement. The Production shows (4) were all good, although I would agree that 2 of the four singers were a bit challenged. The other performers they brought on board were all fantastic, with the exception of a comedian, who I think offended a few people and was not very funny. The funniest guy was actually billed as a juggler - Thien Fu - he had the best one-liners I have heard in a long time. The "Divas of Motown" were also fantastic. It looks to me like HAL is making a real effort to beef up their entertainment and it is working, at least on this ship. The HALcats, the band that plays on the pool deck, the Crowsnest and elsewhere, also is the orchestra for guest musicians, and they filled both roles very well, except when they were joined by vocalist "Jenny", who is not that great, and tries to overcome it by singing too loud. I have commented on the ports and excursions below. Disembarkation on the last day was efficiently done. We opted for Express disembarkation, which meant we took our own bags off. We were in a taxi on the way to the airport by 8:45 am. I was especially glad I had chosen to carry my own bags off after I witnessed one unfortunate passenger's bag fall into the San Diego harbor while being offloaded from the ship by the forklift. This was the fault of the ship's crew, who had piled bags way too high on the cages, as others were toppling off on the pier.The stevedores eventually succeeded in fishing the now soaked bag out of the water with a long pole. Overall, this was a fantastic cruise. Just about everything that was under the control of the ship's staff was excellent. The seas were very rough coming and going, which the Captain said was very unusual except for this winter, but they cannot control that. The ship, admitted the Captain, did not handle the rough seas as well as a larger vessel would. I will certainly continue to pick HAL as my favourite cruise line. I think the service and food are better than on Princess, which still is a very good choice as well. We always cruise in February, and I am disappointed I cannot find a suitable length cruise on HAL for next year at this time that would be something new for us. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
This will be a long review of our Holland America Zaandam 10 day cruise from San Diego to Mexico and the Copper Canyon. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. No one else does this particular route. Besides the usual Cabo San ... Read More
This will be a long review of our Holland America Zaandam 10 day cruise from San Diego to Mexico and the Copper Canyon. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. No one else does this particular route. Besides the usual Cabo San Lucas, Matazalan, and Puerto Vallarta, that everyone does, this cruise adds Loreto, Guymas, and Topolobango (port for Copper Canyon.) Personal Background Information We are Princess Cruise fans and it's been over 20 years since we were on a Holland American ship (the old Westerdam, no longer in the fleet). So there will be a number of comparisons as we kind of viewed Holland America with fresh eyes. We both retired last year and while we worked we were both librarians so that's our background. Travel To Port of Embarkation We live in a suburb of Los Angeles (Torrance) and traveled via Amtrak train to San Diego from LA's Union Station. The great thing about doing this is that instead of 4 inches of legroom, you get 4 feet between rows and coffee served at your seat in business class. But the best thing is that when you arrive at San Diego's Union Station, you are just across the street from the cruise ship. So we just wheeled our bags over there and dropped them off in no time. Embarkation Embarkation went relatively smoothly except that the checkin computers went dead just before we walked in so we had to wait about 20 minutes before they got those working again. We had a CruiseCritic Meet and Greet that I contacted Holland America to arrange. As usual great people. You learn so much talking to them. They reserved the Piano Lounge and had the bar open and music. They didn't provide the coffee and cookies they promised, but everyone was happy to have a reserved space and to order their own drinks. The Ship The Zaandam was built in 2000 and just came out of dry-dock after two weeks of refurbishment. They did a 14 day Hawaii cruise right after that, just before our Mexico cruise. During the Hawaii cruise, they ran into a giant storm and the ship was really banged about from what we heard from some passengers who continued on after the Hawaii cruise to our Mexico one. The ship's crew said the same thing. They lost the use of 5 elevators during this storm. They were able to fix three of them with spare parts on board, but 2 remained out of service during our cruise because they needed more parts which they will get in San Diego. The dry-dock was not a major remodel. The dining room got all new chairs (quite comfortable). The verandas got new loungers and chairs too. At a focus group meeting that we were invited to at the end of the cruise, the hotel manager reflected on the fact that the dining room chairs were one inch wider, so he could now only get 7 chairs at a table that used to hold 8. Additionally, the lounge chairs on the verandah are 10 inches longer than before. They now span the entire depth of the verandah from the glass railing to the glass doors. It's difficult to move them as they are so tight a fit. But they sure are comfortable! So here's our personal take on the ship. We don't expect that everyone will agree with us, but it's our experience this time. Nice HAL touches You can have hot items on the room service breakfast like scrambled eggs (even with egg beaters if you wanted) or a ham and cheese omelet and a choice of ham, bacon, or sausage. Princess doesn't offer anything hot for breakfast on the room service menu. Holland America prints a 4 page folded mini version of the daily New York Times and this is distributed to every room. I think Princess may do this but there's a charge if they do. Holland America serves appetizers in the lounges prior to dinner, Princess doesn't. We didn't actually see what was offered because we usually had "happy hour" out on our balcony each night. There were nice canapEs in the Exploration Cafe stand where they do the fresh coffees. Princess offers something similar on the new ships in their atriums and that feature is being brought to their older ships as they go into dry-dock. That's the good news for Holland America. Essentially we were not impressed with the design of the Zaandam. This is a ship built in 2000 the year Grand Princess was built and we've been on her a number of times. So we couldn't help making comparisons. They are very different ships. Grand Princess is of course much bigger—2,600 passengers versus 1,400 on Zaandam. Many Holland America cruisers prefer these smaller ships. They are more compact and easier to get around for mobility impaired passengers. Stateroom But we kind of felt cramped both in the cabin and in the public areas. The Verandah Suite we stayed in is comparable to the mini-suites on Grand Princess and her sisters. There was a Jacuzzi tub which in not on the Princess ships, but these cabins are considerably smaller than Princess mini-suites. They run about 295 sq. ft versus around 325 sq. ft. on Princess. This was OK for this cruise for the two of us. However, I love to SCUBA dive (not on this trip), and in the future there would really be no room for my diving gear in these type cabins whereas there is plenty of room on the Princess ships. Part of this is the design of the "living room" area where the couch is. On Holland America the desk and mirror is directly across from the couch so this narrows the room for that section. On Princess the desk is angled out between the bedroom areas and living area so the living room has nothing across from the couch but a l chair. There's more a feeling of open space and more storage space because of the two dividing partitions on the Princess ships which have lots of shelves, TV's and the refrigerator. We weren't too impressed with the public spaces on this ship, but I think this relates to what the interior designers chose to do with this particular version. The three story atrium is completely filled with a giant white ornate pipe organ. It goes from floor to ceiling and is so wide that it really fills up the atrium. You gain no sense of open space on any of the three floors of the atrium. Princess atriums are all spectacular spaces with most of the public rooms connected around them. That's the other weird thing in the Zaandam design (shared by the smaller Holland ships), the real "promenade" deck where you can walk completely around the ship is not a public deck. It is filled with passenger cabins. There are lots of outside cabins whose picture windows look out to this deck. They have a mirrored covering so you can't see in during the day but you have to be sure to close your drapes at night because you would be able to see in then. The good news for Holland is that this design gave them more outside rooms with unobstructed views as the two public decks are above this is where the life boats hang and block any possible views. To make things even more confusing they called all three of these "promenade—upper, lower and main. There are relatively few cabins with balconies in this design. Grand Princess has four and a half decks of balcony, mini-suite, and suites with balconies. There are two decks on Zaandam with either full suites, or "verandah suites". There are no standard balcony cabins. Holland is trying to fix this in a kind of strange way. On the four smaller 1,200 passenger versions of this design, they are taking out the picture windows on the promenade deck outside cabins and putting in a single glass door. They are trying to give the effect of a balcony cabin, except that your "balcony" is really the promenade deck which is public and everyone walks around it. The deck chairs outside your room wouldn't be "yours" either because they are the public ones. We don't think we would like this lack of privacy but its' a kind of desperate attempt to update these older ships with more balcony type cabins. Many of the public corridors on the two public decks are paneled in a kind of grey weathered wood effect. We found this a little dark and depressing. We are used to lighter and brighter colors on Princess ships. Their lounges are very nice but some of them open up to the casino where they permit smoking. This drifts into the piano bar and we aren't fans of breathing other peoples smoke. They are doing a survey of current passengers on smoking on board so they may change their policy in the future. The gym was perfect. It was up top and in front so had great views. Precor treadmills and Cybex weight machines were great. We spent a lot of time up there trying to work off all of the food. Dining Food is my next comparison. The food overall was very good, we never had a bad meal. But we do think Princess has an edge here. The quality and presentation are nicer on Princess and the extra cost Pinnacle Grill on Zaandam (and all other Holland ships) is blown away by the Crown Grill on the newer Princess ships. The biggest disappointment was the Canaletto Lido restaurant just installed on Zaandam. There is no cost to this one unlike Pinnacle, but the extra cost Sabatini's on board most Princess ships put the Holland version to shame. It's kind of heavy pasta in Canaletto not the wonderful quality and presentation that Princess does. This brings me to my worst grade for Holland America. It's their wine list. They get a big fat "F" for outrageously overpricing. Princess markup is around 3 to 4 times from retail. Holland was 5 or 6 times markup. Example, our house chardonnay at home is Chateau St. Michelle. It's a very nice chardonnay and not that expensive for everyday. We bought 4 bottles of it at Ralph's supermarket in downtown San Diego (we actually live in LA and took the train down to San Diego). It was on special for $7.77 a bottle. They don't have it on the regular wine list on the ship, but it's on the Pinnacle Grill wine list for $59 a bottle. That's almost insulting. Eighty percent of the Holland wine list would cost $8 to $11 per bottle in the supermarket, but costs roughly $49 to $59 on the wine list. The result is that despite their very high corkage fee ($18) far more people bring their own wine bottles into the dining room than any Princess ship we've ever been on. In desperation, I purchased four $25 bottles of great quality California cabernet and chardonnay and brought them into the dining room too. Adding the corkage fee of $18 made that come to $43. If they would have had those particular wines on their wine list, they would have charge me $100 plus 15% tip for the wine steward. What's really bad is that Holland America doesn't pay retail prices for wine, they buy in bulk wholesale so the markup is really huge. So it's really a big rip off. Holland has a "coke" card that's cheaper than the Princess one but here you get what you pay for. Holland's version is a punch card setup where they punch the coke card each time you have one and you are maxed out at 20. You are also limited in the size glasses as they won't give you really large glasses of Coke but kind of regular iced tea size. On Princess you pay more for the card, but the Coke is unlimited with it for the cruise. They also have much bigger glasses than Holland. When we are in the hot and humid Caribbean I can down three of the large Princess ones at lunch alone. While we didn't need that much drink on this cruise because it wasn't very hot, I would be in big trouble in the Caribbean on Holland. Holland also has a wine card which Princess does not. I did buy one of these to use in the public lounges. It works out roughly to $4 per glass which is cheaper than the regular list price of glasses of wine. However as other Holland passenger have recently pointed out, most of what you are limited to is really not very good. The cabernet is "red" I'll admit, but it doesn't taste much like cabernet. Many people have stopped buying the wine card since they changed whatever brand they are now using. The only decent wine is the Pinot Grigio which is imported from Italy so it's relatively light and drinkable. Staff & Service The staff was outstanding from top to bottom. The Indonesian and Phillippino crew were just wonderful and cheerful. When we were on Holland American about 25 years ago, we found them to be very polite and give wonderful service, but they were a little more formal and reserved that we were used to on Princess. That is no longer the case. They always said hello and bartenders and waiters quickly learned your name even after going for just one night. The shore excursion people were great even accompanying us on the buses and train to Copper Canyon to ensure things went OK. At the end of the cruise, we were randomly selected for a focus group session with the Cruise Director , Hotel Manager, and Shore Excursion Manager. There were a couple of travel agents there that had a few complaints about the condition of the cabins (due for refurbishment next year) and the good old "what happened to the trays in the Lido buffet?" thread. The Hotel Manager gave a good account of the tray thing. This was deliberate decision by Holland America after much study. What happens when the trays are used is that passengers get into the "cafeteria" mentality—I must take my tray, and start at the beginning and run it along every station serving food whether I want food from that area or not! What this does is clog the Lido buffet to extreme. Also people tend to pile up lots of food this way, and then leave lots unfinished on their plates after they have eaten and leave. The elimination of the trays has altered this pattern. People go to the specific station they want i.e. salad bar, sandwich station, Italian or entrEe station and get specifically what they want. They then sit down and eat it. If they are still hungry, they come back for more. This allows people for example to get a salad and eat that, and then go to the buffet for their hot entrEe and the entrEe is hot when they eat it. If they do the "cafeteria" thing, then they get everything on the tray, eat the salad first, and their entrEe is almost cold by the time they get to it. Finally, Holland discovered there has been a lot less wasted food left on the tables (that was an inadvertent consequence that they actually hadn't planned on). So the trays are definitely not coming back! Entertainment We didn't hit any of the shows as we had late seating and just felt like listening to the string quartet in the lounge or the last few nights the woman at the Piano Bar who was excellent. No one commented at our table on the shows, so we don't have any feedback there. Shore Excursions We did the following things at each port (all booked through Holland): Cabo San Lucas We did the deluxe whale watch tour on a large catamaran. It was great. Just by luck we sat up front and that's where the whales appeared. We saw them swim, dive and later followed a mother whale and her calf. The calf just loved to jump up out of the water repeatedly so he/she put on quite a show. I got great photographs. Loreto We did a van tour way up into the mountains to see the best preserved Spanish mission church in Baja. It is not the earliest, but it is still almost like it was in the 1600's and yet in a great state of preservation. Had a great ride up to the town. The first 10 miles were paved, but the next 10 miles were gravel road and a little bumpy. But we had great views from the top of the canyons. We had lunch at a local restaurant in the little village at the top. We also walked through some local gardens. They were healthy and used a well designed hand built, gravity reclaimed water irrigation system. Guymas We hadn't booked anything here and planned just to walk around the downtown area. When we docked, we were kind of outside the downtown area in an industrial port area. The surprise was that there were free shuttles into downtown. When we got downtown, there were a number of teenagers with T-shirts that said in big letters "May I help you". They were great. They spoke perfect English. I had forgotten our map of the downtown area from the ship and they gave me a new one. Guymas is famous as a fishing port especially for shrimp. I asked them for a recommendation for a restaurant for lunch with shrimp and they gave me a color flyer for what turned out to be a giant shrimp fiesta out on the plaza facing the bay. They had craft booths set up, tented areas for you to sit down and have lunch too. On one side were individual food vendors where for a "tasting fee" of $2 you could have shrimp any of about six or seven ways. I OD'd on not just large, not just giant, but colossal shrimp (2 plus some nice rice). Beers were a $1. So for about $12 Maureen and I had some great shrimp and two beers each. They also had folklorico dancers who put on a show for everyone there. The town really celebrated. We heard later that we were the first cruise ship of the year so I guess we were special. I don't know whether they will do that for later ones (they only get about 6 cruise ships per year). Topolobango This is the port for Copper Canyon. We chose this cruise primarily because it had this trip. The only other way to see Copper Canyon is to drive or take a bus tour from Texas south to the inland end of the Copper Canyon. On Holland, this was an almost 16 hour trip in total and was over $400 per person. It's a pretty expensive tour. We had to get off the ship at 4:30 am. We then boarded very nice clean and newer Greyhound type buses which were very comfortable. There was an hour and a half bus ride to the El Fuerte where we picked up the train. The reason they don't board the train in Topolbango is that the section of track between Topolobango and Las Fuerte where we boarded hasn't been improved. It took an hour and a half by bus, but it would take 4 hours on the train making it impossible to do this trip in one day. So they use the buses. The train cars are restored 1950's and the seats were wide and probably three to four feet between rows. They were very comfortable. There was a tour guide on each train car who narrated the trip as you went up the canyon. The route is very scenic as you climb up the canyon. There are 86 tunnels and lots of bridges as you climb up the sides of the canyon. At one point there are three switchbacks up the side of a canyon wall that climb 1,000 feet in elevation. The turnaround points for each level are the tunnels so you kind of never see yourself turning around. At the end of 6 hours on the train, we reached the top. They took us to an overlook where we could see the Copper Canyon proper and a lot of other canyons too. It is not as big, nor quite as colorful as Grand Canyon in Arizona. There's more white rock than Grand Canyon although there's lots of red rock too. There's more vegetation in the Mexico version too. There were native Indians selling handmade baskets as you walked up to see the view. Next we went to lunch at a hotel nearby. The dining room had a spectacular view of the canyon while you had your buffet. Holland has also given up a box breakfast on board the train up, and a box snack coming down. The local Indians gave us a short program of their native dances with music from rustic handmade instruments. It was then time to take the train and bus back to the ship. That's another 6 hour train ride and one and a half hour bus ride. The fun thing we did was to go back one train car to the bar car. They had a Mariachi singer who sang songs and they provided fresh popcorn and peanuts while you sipped your beer or margarita. That made some of the time fly. We got back to the ship at 10 pm and the Captain and senior officers were all out on the tarmac to welcome us back. They gave us all a glass of champagne and announced there was a prime rib buffet up in the Lido for the returning passengers if you wanted it. It really tasted great after a long trip! Matzalan We did a walking tour of the old historic Colonial city here. Had a great time and learned a lot. Stopped by a restored old mansion, the opera house, an art gallery being restored, the Melville Hotel and we started with the cliff divers. We also stopped at a wonderful old panderia for baker items. Tthe guide took us out to the plaza in front where there were a lot of restaurants facing the central square. He treated us to a beer while we sat outside on the patio. Finished with a tour of the cathedral. Matzalan was ready to start Carnival that evening. We were tempted to jump ship! Puerto Vallarta We did a van tour which took us downtown to see the older part of town. After doing some shopping and walking we stopped for lunch and had a cooking school at a local restaurant which has an open front wall facing the bay. We made salsa by chopping up fresh tomato, onion, cilantro, and serano peppers and tasted our creation with some chips provided. They told us to save most of our salsa and then gave us a half avocado to chop and mash into the salsa. That made great guacamole! We also made a chicken tostada. Finally we made mole chicken enchiladas. I'm not a big fan of "mole" which is a dark brown chocolate sauce that the Mexican's love. It's not sticky sweet as it's more like dark chocolate and it was OK. There was a spectacular sunset here while we relaxed out on our balcony as we didn't sail until 10 pm. Finally we had two days at sea returning to San Diego. Disembarkation Disembarkation went very smoothly. They asked that you vacate your cabin by 8 they planned to start at 8:15. Customs delayed that a little so they didn't start until 8:45 but we were off the ship by 9:30 am. Summary All in all we had a wonderful time. But we have come to the conclusion that we do prefer Princess to Holland America. We would consider Holland again if the price and itinerary were really great, but we'd had to make some adjustments to our normal cruising experience on Princess. We would go again, but our first choice would be a Princess ship if the routes were the same. I'm sure others would disagree, and I'm only expressing our view. Other people have different priorities than we do and that's great. It's "whatever floats your boat"!!! Thanks Norm Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
BACKGROUND: This was the 8th cruise for my husband, Tom, and me (Laura). We started cruising in 2000 to celebrate our 25th anniversary, the "trip of a lifetime". The trip of a lifetime became the first of many. Joining us on this ... Read More
BACKGROUND: This was the 8th cruise for my husband, Tom, and me (Laura). We started cruising in 2000 to celebrate our 25th anniversary, the "trip of a lifetime". The trip of a lifetime became the first of many. Joining us on this cruise were 2nd-timers, Tom's mother, Dorothy and his sister, Susan. We had decided on this cruise as incentive for Dorothy to get well, who a year earlier was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. She is a survivor, with no reoccurrences, and we all ended up on the Zaandam cruising to Hawai'i! TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION AND HOTEL INFO: We boarded a Frontier airlines jet in Denver the day before our cruise and arrived on time in sunny San Diego. Our reservation at the Hampton Inn-Downtown included a shuttle from the airport and another shuttle to the cruise port. The Hampton Inn is clean and comfortable. The location is approximately three blocks from the cruise port. We made reservations for the cruise port shuttle when we checked in. The shuttle leaves every hour on the half hour. Even with registering early, our choices were limited to either 10:30 or 1:30. The shuttles fill up fast. If you are planning to use this service, make your reservations at arrival. We checked in at approximately 11:30. After checking in, we stashed our bags with the hotel and walked down to the port area. We found a restaurant inside the Holiday Inn right across from the cruise port, Elephant & Castle, with delicious sandwiches and great service. By the time we were finished eating and had walked back to the hotel, our rooms were ready. The Hampton Inn has a free breakfast, free wireless internet connection in the lobby, and is within walking distance to the pier and to Rite-Aid for last minute necessities (including wine). The hotel is adjacent to the trolley/train tracks. The trolley/train provides quick transportation to many parts of San Diego, but also has a loud whistle that bothers some. The whistle did not bother me. I slept well. EMBARKATION: The next morning, following a breakfast of bagels and fruit, we were on the 10:30 shuttle to the port. There were employees in abundance to guide us at check-in. Because Dorothy uses a walker when she cruises, our group was able to accompany her to the handicapped boarding. This process bypasses the Embarkation Photo and the steep gangway. You board after taking an elevator to the top ramp. I kind of missed not having the Embarkation Photo taken, sometimes that is the only one that we buy, but we did save a lot of time with handicapped boarding. Once aboard, which was a very simple and speedy process, we were taken by elevator to the Lido deck for lunch. There was a place near the pool to check our carry-ons, so our hands were free as we walked around the public areas after lunch. Our rooms were ready at 1:30. The life boat drill was held promptly at 4:15. The drill ran smoothly and was over quickly. SERVICE AND DINING: The quality of service aboard Holland America ships is outstanding. Most of Tom and my cruises have been on HAL and we have always been pleased with the service. On this trip it seemed as though the room stewards had more rooms assigned to them, which made our room cleaning delayed a few hours over other cruises we have taken. Our dining room stewards had more tables to take care of, making our dining time longer. But the service each provided was up to the high standards that HAL is known for. We choose traditional assigned dining at 5:45 at a table for eight. We sat with a family from the Sacramento area (Katie, Meredith, R.K. and Greg) at an oval table. Each night at dinner was a celebration. We talked and laughed so much that we were noticed by other diners who did not have such lively times. The fun was enhanced by our table stewards, Ridwan, Rudi and our wine steward, Geoffrey. The Zaandam has a new restaurant that began operation (I have read) on the cruise right before ours. It serves Italian food, and is called Canaletto. Tom and I ate there one night and highly recommend it. Reservations are required but there is no extra charge. Dress is casual. For lunch there are options of the grill by the Lido pool, the Lido buffet, and the dining room. My favorite was the grill, serving hamburgers, cheeseburgers, veggie-burgers, brauts and hot dogs. They also have a taco bar. For breakfast, choices are the Lido buffet and the dining room. There is a wide variety of breakfast foods. The Lido is also available for dinner as an option to the dining room. The Zaandam has another restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, a for-charge restaurant that we did not try on this trip. Room service is open 24 hours for no extra charge; however it is customary (but not required) to tip. ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment in the show lounge was adequate for a diversion. The most enjoyable entertainer that we saw (we didn't go to every show) was Jeff Trachta. Jeff was formerly on the soap "The Bold and the Beautiful" from roughly 1988 to 1999. He did impressions, told jokes and sang. We both enjoyed his show. I really enjoyed listening to talks by the Hawai'ian travel guide, Kainoa. He told of the history of Hawai'i and told of places to visit at each port. He was available daily in the library for questions and answers. And he gave hula lessons. The class graduation was a performance before a full house waiting for the disembarkation talk in the show lounge. The best entertainment of any cruise ship, and especially HAL ships because the outside deck wraps completely around the ship, is being out on deck in the middle of the ocean away from 'it all'. The casino is open when the ship is not in port. Bingo sessions are held at least once and usually twice on sea days. First run movies are shown nightly. If you miss the show, the movies are shown in the staterooms on TV the following day. SHIP INFORMATION: The Zaandam is a beautiful HAL ship. She is going into dry dock in January 2010. We were told on board that besides a little spiffing up the changes will mostly be behind the scenes. The character and charm and musical decor will not change. The Zaandam has capacity for 1432 passengers and 615 crew members. ACTIVITIES: Wii games; volleyball and basketball games between passengers and crew; "On Deck For The Cure", a fund-raising activity for breast cancer research; culinary classes; napkin folding classes; dance classes; a well-stocked library; card room; computer classes, including an intro to Windows 7. In the evenings many of the bars have musical entertainment. I'm sure I missed something, but there is usually something going on beginning on the hour and half hour especially on sea days. DISEMBARKATION: Based on how you fill out the disembarkation questionnaire that is due at the Front Desk soon after arrival, you are assigned a time to exit the ship. You are asked not to crowd the gangway but to wait in your stateroom or in a public area until the time shown on your disembarkation papers. Your bags, with color-coded tags that you attach the night before, will be in the terminal at your assigned disembarkation time. If you disembark earlier than assigned, your bags will not be ready for you. Enjoy the last morning on board and don't rush to get off. For this cruise, it was a silent disembarkation. There were no announcements telling you when your color-coded group should leave. All instructions were on the disembarkation papers. It seemed to run smoothly except for the bottleneck caused by those who couldn't wait to get off and crowded the gangway. PORT REVIEW - HILO, BIG ISLAND (HAWAII) It rained all day in Hilo, varying from a steady downpour to mist in the air. Hilo is one of the wettest places on earth with 200 inches in the town and 500 inches in the mountains surrounding Hilo. Consequently it is very green. The port is in an industrial area. We didn't get a chance to walk around town after our excursion because the ship arrived almost two hours late due to rough seas slowing us down in route. Tom and I took a ship's hiking excursion in Volcano National Park. The tour operator provided backpacks and raingear for those who didn't have their own. The tour consisted of a first stop at the Thurston Lava Tube for a walk-through. Then we walked back across the parking lot where the tour van was parked and caught a trail that leads through a rain forest and eventually to the Kilauea Iki (small) crater. We saw steam vents with steam so hot you could barely hold your hand over it. We saw a lot of lava, both smooth and rough. Before walking across the crater we had lunch of a sandwich and bottled water provided by the tour operator. We walked across the crater, up a steep trail, and into another part of the rain forest. Our walk ended back at the parking lot. We walked a total of about 4 miles across sometimes rough terrain. It was a pleasant walk. It is probably good that it was raining. If the sun would have been out, it would have been hot. We made a stop at the visitor center where there are lookouts over the park and a museum and gift shop. Because we were so late getting to Hilo, we only had ten minutes at the visitor center before we had to leave and get back to the ship. The cost for this excursion was $149 per person, which seemed high to take a walk in a National Park. If I were going to do this again, I would rent a car and drive myself to the park. PORT REVIEW: HONOLULU, OAHU It was a sunny day with a clear blue sky and about 80 degrees. The four of us had booked a ship's excursion to Pearl Harbor and a tour of the city. It has been said many times that Pearl Harbor is a must-see on your first visit to Honolulu. I agree. Pearl Harbor is a big part of US History and the bombing was the beginning of the US entrance into World War II. We first visited the museum and gift shop. When our tour was called, we were ushered into a theater where we saw a short film on the history of December 7, 1941. Then it was our turn to ride a shuttle boat to the memorial over the USS Arizona. After the Pearl Harbor visit we drove around Honolulu and saw some of the sights including the Punchbowl Crater (the national cemetery of the Pacific), various Buddhist and Shinto temples, and the King Kamehameha statue. We stopped at the statue to take pictures. At that stop there were various street vendors selling shirts, jewelry, and homemade crafts and food items. This tour also makes a stop at Hilo Hatties for souvenir shopping. We didn't get off at this stop, but later took a free shuttle there. They have nice shirts that seem to be well made. There were other items in the store that I saw for up to 50% less at other shops that we visited later. The ship docks right in downtown Honolulu. There are many shuttles at the dock (and at the other ports) that go to chain discount department stores. You can ride the trolley or city bus to Waikiki Beach. There is a combination indoor/outdoor mall at the dock. This is where the Aloha Tower is. It used to be the tallest building in Hawaii at 10 stories until the height restriction was lifted for Honolulu. You can go to the top of the tower by elevator for a view of the area. Note: It closes at 5:00 p.m. PORT REVIEW: NAWILIWILI AND LIHUE, KAUAI The ship docked at Nawiliwili, which is the name of the harbor. The nearby town, within walking distance (approx 5 blocks) is Lihue. Tom and I took a ship's excursion to the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon. It is a 45 minute bus ride from the port. Along the way our driver (who was hilarious) told us about the island and the various towns as we drove through them. The bus made some stops after visiting Waimea Canyon. One stop was at a gift shop where we could taste complimentary Kauai Coffee. It is very mild and tastes good. Another stop was at a blow hole with beautiful views. The ocean waves were crashing into the shore at the blow hole and at another stop where we saw a now-unused harbor. Waimea Canyon is very colorful. It was cold and windy when we were at the lookout and the trail is very steep in places. It is wheelchair-assessable but it would be much easier to navigate if your wheelchair was motorized. Kauai has some very rough landscape. There are areas in the interior that you can only see by helicopter. Many movies and TV shows have been filmed here. It is very beautiful and would be a great place to take an extended vacation. There are colorful wild chickens all over Kauai whose ancestors were brought in by some of the first inhabitants of Hawaii many centuries ago. After the bus tour and eating lunch on board the Zaandam, Tom and I walked to Kalapali Beach. The beach is in downtown Lihue. Many people were swimming and surfing on the beach. All beaches in Hawaii are free to anyone and are open 24 hours. Not all have lifeguards, so enter the water at your own risk. PORT REVIEW: LAHAINA, MAUI This was my favorite port. As we cruised toward Maui we saw so many rainbows I lost count. The weather was sunny and warm. This is a tender port. The streets of Lahaina are narrow and filled with gift shops, small restaurants and tourists (at least when a cruise ship in anchored off shore). The tender pier is right in town. There are shuttle buses available to take you to different places. We did not have a shore excursion planned. We walked around town and took in the sights. There is a huge Banyan Tree in the city park near the pier that takes up a whole city block. Next to the park is a combo visitor center and museum. When we were there they had samples of Hawai'ian pineapple for tasting (very sweet). Tom & I took a walk to the largest Buddha outside of Japan (the brochure said). It is at a Buddhist mission about six blocks from the pier. There are two nice beaches within walking distance from the pier. One is near the Buddhist mission; one is within a block or two of the pier. We spent the afternoon at the one closest to the pier. The water was clear and warm and the sun was bright. In the evening all four of us went on a ship's excursion to the Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Hotel in Ka'anapali, a town about six miles from Lahaina. The Hyatt is beautiful. The luau had the typical foods of roast pig, chicken, fish, lots of salads, poi, and Mai Tais (all you could drink). There was also a dessert bar. Hula dancers put on a show and told of the history of Hawaii. After the luau the tour buses took us back to the pier. The night was so beautiful that Tom & I stayed in town for awhile and took a later tender back to the ship. PORT REVIEW: KONA, BIG ISLAND (HAWAII) It was hot and dry in Kona. This is another tender port. Tom & I did not have an excursion planned for today. We decided to take a shuttle ($5 each way per person) to Turtle Beach, which the Zaandam Hawai'ian guide, Kainoa, recommended for snorkeling. Tom snorkeled here, I sunned and swam and took pictures of the wildlife: a turtle, colorful birds, and fish. It was a nice way to spend a Monday morning. There is not much sand on this beach, nor on any of the beaches that we saw in Kona except one. That one is the Disappearing Sands beach. During certain times of the year there is sand, other times there is not. In early December 2009 there was a lot of sand on this beach. After our morning at the beach, we returned to the Zaandam, showered and ate lunch. In the afternoon I went back to Kona without Tom to check out the town and gift shops. In my opinion there are more gift shops in Kona than in any other port we visited on this trip. They have some great deals, example: tee shirts 7 for $20. I didn't look too close at these and didn't buy any, so I can't tell you the quality. (I did buy tee shirts in Maui for $6 and $7 that have held up well after two or three washings.) The ship did a late night passing of the Kilauea Volcano. Under a full moon with no clouds in the sky, the red hot lava and white billowing steam clouds gave us quite a show. PORT REVIEW: SAN DIEGO Pre-cruise, Tom & I walked down to the pier and took a self-guided tour of the USS Midway. The ship is now a museum but served the US Navy from 1945 to 1991 as an aircraft carrier. We were there approximately two hours. That is not nearly enough time to see it all. On the top deck is a display of military aircraft. On other decks you can tour the jail, officer's quarters, enlisted men's quarters, infirmary, engine room, etc. Post-cruise we booked a ship's excursion bus tour of San Diego. For $75 per person the bus drove us through Old Town, New Town and the Gaslight District while our tour guide gave a history of the city. The tour included a drive over the bridge to Coronado Island and we stopped for a short time at the Hotel Del Coronado. We were able to walk the grounds and go inside the hotel. It is a beautiful hotel with a lot of history. We stopped in Old Town and the four of us ate at the Old Town Mexican Cafe. The food was delicious. The place we stopped was near an area of shops and other attractions. We happened to be in town during one of the rare rainstorms in San Diego, it was pouring so much we didn't tour this area but went back on board the bus after lunch. The tour ended at San Diego International Airport. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 3:10 to take us back to below-freezing temperatures in Denver. The flight finally took off at 7:40, but that's another story unrelated to this cruise review! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
October 23, 2009 MS Zaandam to Hawaii Summary: Hawaii is always a great cruise destination and Holland America just makes it better. While a cruise does not give a lot of time in the islands, it does offer access to all four islands ... Read More
October 23, 2009 MS Zaandam to Hawaii Summary: Hawaii is always a great cruise destination and Holland America just makes it better. While a cruise does not give a lot of time in the islands, it does offer access to all four islands and the sea days are a relaxing beginning and end to the vacation experience. Background: Mary and I are an early 60s couple, recently retired and living in Brooklyn, NY. This is our 30th cruise, mostly Holland America with a number of cruises with Celebrity, Princess and NCL thrown in. We booked this cruise about six months out and due to the recession, we got a modest discount. The Ship: The Zaandam is a Rotterdam class ship of about 61,000 GRT and carries about 1,400 pax. A lot has been written about this and other R class ships and I leave them for your perusal. The Zaandam appeared to be in good working order with some wear and rust spots, but nothing indicating any deferred maintenance issues. Deck 3 has a wide wrap-around promenade and deck 6 has a forward observation area accessible by going forward on the portside. The aft sections of decks 6 and 7 offer a wind shaded quiet area to relax if you do not have a veranda cabin and find the promenade deck too busy. Self-service laundry rooms are available on decks 2, 3 and 6 with four washer-dryer units each ($2 for wash and $1 for dry, quarters only) for standard sized loads. They provide soap but not fabric softener. Pre-cruise: We arranged air separately using JetBlue direct from JFK to SAN. JetBlue has good seat pitch and LCD displays for in-flight entertainment. While they provide drinks and snacks, you have to provide your own meals on board or beforehand which can be done once you clear security at JFK and SAN. Selections of meals are better in the terminal and offer wider choices. Yes, I know that the airlines used to provide in-flight meals but I got tired of having to read the emergency procedures manuals that come with them. We also booked hotel separately with a two day stay at the Hampton Inn Downtown which is on Pacific Highway, a few blocks away from the cruise port. Taxi fare to the hotel from the airport is about $10. The Amtrak and San Diego light rail pass right behind the hotel and we had a north facing room so we heard the trains sounding for the crossings on a regular basis. We had no problem with it, others may. The Hampton Inn provides hot and cold breakfast items and hot coffee all day. Room size is adequate though our room was a bit dim. About 11 AM on the 23rd, we walked our bags over to the port; it is about three long blocks from the hotel to the port entry. If you cross over Pac Highway to the west side where the county admin building is, the sidewalks are much wider and smoother. Post-cruise, we stayed at the Best Western on Ash Street. You may want to use their shuttle bus since the hotel is a few blocks uphill from the port. They also shuttled us to the airport on the last day. The Best Western provides a hot and cold breakfast and they have larger and more sunlit rooms. Then again, they were more expensive. For last minute items including liquor, there is a Rite-Aid on Ash and Kettner Boulevard on the uphill side of the railroad tracks. HAL has no problems with wine being brought on board and there are a number of wine shops near the port. San Diego's Little Italy is just north of these hotels on India Street and it has a number of good restaurants. Port check-in required that you first present the boarding pass and ID at the port entry, then deposit your bags in a luggage cage in the middle of the parking area then go inside to clear security. We did the pre-printed HAL paper bag tags but I reinforced them with clear plastic packing tape. For some reason, security clearance required removal of belts and shoes, just like at the airports. Not sure if this is a new requirement or just a California thing. After clearing security, check in was quick with a health questionnaire to fill out and then we were able to board. Lunch was available in the Rotterdam dining room. We had to take our carry-ons into the dining rooms since the fire doors closed off access to the rooms until after lunch. The Cabin: We booked a veranda suite 6116 (port forward) which is about 220 sq feet with a 60 sq foot veranda, plenty deep for a lounger, a regular chair and small cocktail table. The cabin is long and narrow and has in addition to a king bed; a desk with TV/DVD player and shelves for books and barware. The ice bucket sits on the desktop. The desk has a small hassock with a removable top that can be used for additional storage (laundry?) and a single 110V outlet. Do bring a power strip or you can get one from the front office. Opposite the desk is a couch and minifridge, a coffee table that can be raised to dining table height and a small chair. Even on deck 6, there can be some salt spray especially when it is windy. I did have to clean the dried salt off the railings and glass partition a few times. The bathroom is compact but has adequate shelf space and countertop along with a shelf beneath the sink for additional storage. The built-in hairdryer did not work in our cabin and a separate handheld dryer was provided in the desk drawer (of which there are 9). More than adequate closet space completes the room layout. We chose the port side since we would be passing Kilauea on that side after leaving Kailua-Kona, our last port. The Itinerary: From San Diego, the Zaandam sailed west by southwest four days to our first port Lahaina, Maui at which we arrived Wednesday October 28th at 10 AM and commenced tender operations. We booked a day tour of the Iao Needle and Mt. Haleakula with lunch at the Maui Tropic Plantation. Through HAL, it cost about $120 each. Definitely bring your own water bottles along for this trip. The Iao Needle is a basaltic core of a volcano whose outer casing eroded away leaving a needle like column reaching up 2,200 feet. It is nestled in a narrow valley reachable by bus with a visitor's center that was not open when we were there. Porta-potties are available. From there we back tracked down towards the town of Maalaea to the Maui Tropic Plantation for a light lunch of BBQ chicken, rice, salad and dessert. We had about an hour to walk around though no tours of the plantation were included. You can buy various tropical food products and also bottled water if you did not bring any. After lunch, we traveled east through some sugar cane and pineapple fields to pick up Crater Road to the top of Haleakula. Much of the way up, we were in clouds until about 8,000 feet when we broke through the top cloud deck into clear skies and sunshine. From the top of Haleakula about 10,000 feet high, we could see and photograph the top of Mauna Kea on the Big Island about 80 miles away poking through the cloud deck. There is a visitor's center at the 7,000 foot level with souvenir shop and rest rooms and a smaller one at the top which was closed that day. The temperature is about 30 F cooler at the top so dress accordingly. There was not much wind so I was comfortable in shorts and a short sleeve shirt but YMMV. The next port was Hilo on the windward (east) side of the Island of Hawaii. There we booked independently (through Hawaii Discounts) a helo tour of Volcanos National Park with Paradise Helicopter Tours. Although expensive, a helo tour gets you up close to any flowing lava without having to hike for miles across a broken up lava field. Doing it independently does require that you pick up the cost of a taxi between the port and Hilo Airport which is about $20 each way with tip. For us the cost of a 50 minute flight for two was $460 plus $40 for taxis. HAL charges $300 per person so there are some savings available. The main reason we booked independently was Paradise does some flights "doors off" with the cockpit open to the slipstream. Definitely not for everyone but I must agree with one of the ground personnel that once you fly doors off, you will always want to fly that way. I sat up front on the right side (pilot was on the left and Mary in the middle) with a four point harness to keep me in the cockpit. I felt very secure and had no qualms about leaning out the door to get photos of the lava. Doors off, you can feel the heat from the lava and smell the sulfur fumes. While there was some lava flows, it was gray not red hot. Still, worth every penny. In the terminal building (just a warehouse), there are a number of vendors selling lei, flower arrangements and other Island souvenirs. For $10 we got a floral bouquet for our stateroom that lasted the remainder of the cruise. After lunch, we took the shuttle bus (just outside the terminal) to Hilo Hattie's and picked up a few Hawaiian shirts. Note that Hilo can be rainy in the morning and evenings but the rains do not last long. Friday found us docked at Aloha Tower Marketplace in Honolulu, Oahu. We took the Arizona Memorial tour booked through HAL for $39 each. The tour bus driver picked us up at about 8:30 and we arrived at the memorial about 9:15. He went to get our tour tickets which had us on the 10:15 movie presentation and then the water shuttle to the memorial. That gave us enough time to tour the museum and bookstore before the 20 minute movie presentation. Afterward, we rode out to the memorial and quietly paid our respects. Yes, there is still fuel oil leaking out of the Arizona and it is said that the day the last Arizona survivor dies, the oil will stop leaking. After the memorial tour, our driver took around various parts of Honolulu including the Iolani Palace and Punchbowl National Cemetery along with an obligatory customer drop off at Hilo Hattie's. Bring bottled water and eat a hearty breakfast as the tour will last until 2 PM. Afterwards, we had planned on climbing Diamond Head but with temps near 90F, we opted to stay near Aloha Tower and do a round of beers at a local brew pub. If you need a drugstore, there is a Longs Drugstore on the corner of Bishop and Hotel Street three blocks from the port. We picked up 2-7 oz packages of 100% Kona coffee there for $16. Longs also sells wines. That night there was a Halloween party at the Aloha Marketplace. The ship refuels and resupplies at Honolulu as well. Nawiliwili, Kauai was the fourth port and there I booked independently a zipline excursion with Kauai Backcountry Adventures (KBA). Booking independently it cost about $120 plus cab fare, $20 each way. HAL charged $195 for the same excursion but they do provide transportation to KBA's office. Mary took a ship's tour of the Kauai Plantation. A zipline for those not familiar with the term is a ½ to ¾ inch steel cable stretched between a high point and a low point on which you slide suspended from an overhead trolley device. KBA has access to a private upcountry area for their zipline operation. They use an off-road vehicle to go to the site which takes about 40 minutes. There are a total of 7 lines ranging from 300 to about 800 feet in length and 20 to 150 feet in height that zigzag across a stream. They provide a comprehensive safety lecture both at the office and at the zipline site. The staff assists you in suiting up and they rig you on and off the lines. I felt quite safe doing this though I must admit that the first step off does overrev the heart a bit. After meeting back at the ship, we went over to Kalapaki beach at the Marriot nearby (less than a half mile walk) had lunch at Duke's Canoe Club and a quick swim. Watch the undertow at the beach. Note that the ship must thread a tight zig-zag channel into the harbor and there have been reports that during the winter, sea or wind conditions may prevent the ship from safely negotiating this channel. Keep that in mind if you book an independent excursion. Our last port was Kailua-Kona on the west (dry) side of the Island of Hawaii. By this point, we were somewhat tired of the ports and we did not do anything other than tender ashore and walk around a bit. That evening about 10:30 PM, we passed by Kilauea which was spewing modest amount of glowing lava. Then it was five days back to San Diego with a four hour stop in Ensenada, Mexico. The seas in the islands and heading back were moderate without the rough seas and beam wind we had going out. Food. We ate mostly in the Rotterdam dining room and service there was excellent. There is a fixed menu for breakfast with four daily specials. Lunches had a selection of appetizers, salads and soups and four entrees. Dinner offered four appetizers, three soups and a salad and five dinner entrees with a red meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian option. Dinner also had an always available selection of French onion soup, Caesar salad, grilled chicken, broiled salmon and New York strip steak. While the soups and sauces tended to be salty, everything else was good. We tried the Pinnacle Grill for dinner and all I have to say is bring your appetite. Service was excellent and the food was exceptional. Dinner once in the Pinnacle is definitely worth considering. The Lido cafe no longer has the long lines that snake past everything. For lunch, there are separate areas for salads, Asian, Italian and other hot foods plus a separate station for sandwiches which also does made to order omelets at breakfast. We found this to work better since you can go directly to the food type you want with only one or two people ahead of you. The busboys come around with refills for coffee at breakfast and ice tea and water at lunch. Tableware and napkins are set up at the tables. Not having trays was not much of an issue and does cut down on crowding, food waste and additional cleaning. In the islands, the Lido and Terrace Grill are your only lunch choices. Pizza is available next to the taco bar. On sea days, additional buffet items are available in the lido pool area. Shipboard Activities. If you link up with shipmates on the cruise critics site (they have roll calls for most cruises), you will have a readymade group of people to meet and mingle with. I worked with HAL's main office to set up a meet and greet on the first sea day which was in the Piano Bar. HAL provided coffee, tea, cookies and a round of complementary mimosas. The Food and Beverage Manager Bas Van Es and the Cruise Director Mike Headla dropped by to say hello. I scheduled a second meet and greet with Mr. Van Es for a sea day after we left the islands and he was very helpful. Through cruise critics, we were able to set up a group to share a cab to the zipline excursion and field a successful trivia team. Mary got some nice swag for her efforts. HAL now schedules the main seating entertainment before dinner at 7 PM rather than 10 PM. Since we like a pre-dinner cocktail, we usually missed the shows. The only musical group we heard regularly was Katrina and the HAL Cats which were just OK. On the other hand, the Explorations Cafe is an excellent setup with internet connectivity and an extensive library. HAL also offers classes on digital photography and related applications from Microsoft several times a day. They also had a Windows 7 roll-out party on Oct 28th. Public bridge sessions are offered on sea days in the Rotterdam dining room. There was also a private bridge group that took up the Explorer's Lounge and the small Hudson room mornings and afternoons on sea days. Sea days also saw culinary presentations in the Wajang Theater which has been modded for live cooking demonstrations. As three star Mariners (100+ days), we were invited to the Mariners champagne brunch which was held in the Rotterdam Dining room on the first and second sea days out of Kailua-Kona. They were handing out gold medallions for 500 days and platinum for 700 days. It appears that their revised mariner program is still evolving. In addition, we were invited to a cocktail party with the senior officers after departing Kauai on Halloween night in a sectioned off part of the Crows Nest bar. Later that night also in the Crows Nest bar was a costume party with prizes for the best costumes. A number of the cruise staff did dress up to add to the festivities. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We took a repositioning cruise on HAL Zaandam from Vancouver BC to San Diego in early October. This was our fourth time on HAL and our 23rd cruise overall. We flew from Ohio to Seattle the day prior to the ship sailing and stayed at ... Read More
We took a repositioning cruise on HAL Zaandam from Vancouver BC to San Diego in early October. This was our fourth time on HAL and our 23rd cruise overall. We flew from Ohio to Seattle the day prior to the ship sailing and stayed at the Hampton Inn downtown and then took the Cascades train to Vancouver. We used the Seattle bus system to reach the King Street Amtrak station which worked pretty well but there were several mentally ill street people on the bus one of whom was partially dressed. and raving so we would take a cab in the future. Some passengers headed for our cruise ship had their luggage misplaced/swiped by someone on the train. When the train stops all bags are deposited on the platform with no security so be certain that you get off ASAP and be aggressive in claiming your property. After retrieving our luggage from the train we walked our rollers to the Sky Train platform and used that method to go to Canada Place where we boarded the ship. We could not locate an elevator from street level to the Sky Train platform so we had to carry our bags up a long stairway. It's surprising that there isn't an elevator or escalator, or at least one that we could locate. Also, the ticket issuing machine is not at all user friendly to those using US money or credit cards so I strongly suggest that you get $2.50 C for each passenger prior to using Sky Train. The doors on the cars of this EL close quickly and with some force so be very alert and fast when boarding. When we used this system in 2008 my wife was almost left at the platform and this time it was my turn. The route to Canada Place is on your right at the top of the stairs, the signage is a bit unclear on this. A short ride took us to the cruise ship terminal and we boarded in about fifteen minutes. The stevedores showed little enthusiasm for stevedoring however, so we tagged our bags, rolled them to the pile and departed without tipping anyone for services not performed. These are not HAL employees by the way. The cruising part of the cruise was quite pleasant. The buffet was open and not crowded when we boarded and the food throughout was very good there. A nice couple of features were the sushi at lunch time and not to be missed fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning. RCCL charges $2.00 per glass for this as we later discovered. The tables were quickly bussed and staff moved through the area offering drinks. The meals and service in the main dining room was also very good, superior to RCCL ship we took on back to back cruises when Zaandam landed. As we had noted on our previous HAL cruises, activities on board are insufficient. There just isn't enough to do so that days at sea can seem long. We used the as you wish dining option and had no delays in being seated and met some interesting table mates. We had an inside cabin and our hopes for an upgrade were not realized. The cabin was similar in size and design to those on other ships. We met the cabin steward for the first time the night prior to leaving the ship when he distributed the customer satisfaction survey but the room was well maintained so we can live with that. Disembarkation was a breeze and we walked off with our luggage and strolled to a nearby hotel to spend one night in San Diego (a wonderful town by the way) to rest before boarding the RCCL Radiance of the Seas for a five night cruise to Mexico departing the next day. Back to back trips on different cruise lines provided us with a very clear comparison of each company. I will post a review of Radiance when I post this one in case the reader would like to peruse it. To summarize however, HAL is superior in food, wait staff, overall service, customer focus and cleanliness of the buffet while RCCL is superior in on board activities and equal in entertainment. HAL passengers seemed more refined and frankly older but that is becoming a better fit for us with each cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
After a smooth flight from Nashville to Seattle on Southwest, my husband and I collected our luggage, found a waiting cab, and headed to the downtown Mayflower Park Hotel. We chose it for its central location and sophisticated ambience. ... Read More
After a smooth flight from Nashville to Seattle on Southwest, my husband and I collected our luggage, found a waiting cab, and headed to the downtown Mayflower Park Hotel. We chose it for its central location and sophisticated ambience. It's downright elegant. But it is in the middle of things, so we asked ahead for a quiet room. At the Mayflower that often means a room away from street noise but facing the connecting shopping mall. That results in white noise from the mall air conditioning units. It wasn't a problem for us as it reminded us of our own heat pump, and we slept like babies, but it may not suit everyone. We had dinner at the nearby Johnny Rockets, ambled through stores, and hung out at Barnes & Noble. The hotel has a great bar - may I recommend the French 75 Champagne Cocktail? Breakfast at the hotel restaurant the following morning was possibly the world's best French toast. We checked out at 11, and it was a quick and inexpensive cab ride to the dock. Embarkation went smoothly, with only a short wait, and we were taken directly to the Lido for lunch. Cabins were ready early. We were in 6101 on the verandah deck. The cabin steward is Hatta and if he ever needs a home, we'll happily provide one. The lifeboat drill went quickly and easily, but a word to the wise. Attendance is mandatory - your cabin number is written on your lifejacket and your presence or lack there of noted. The following morning I decided to walk the lower Promenade Deck and came across a group of very unhappy passengers huddled in life jacks. The non-attendees had been rounded up by an extremely stern ship's officer and were being required to hold their own drill. Shades of detention hall! It was much colder out there in the wind than it had been in Seattle and there was a lot of ineffectual complaining going on. We had 'any time' dining and called the dining room for a reservation soon after soon after we reached our cabin. They prefer taking reservations either at an early or later seating (often 5:30 or 8:00, but the times sometimes vary). We were given Table 126 in the stern, one table in from the window. After that we called each morning and requested Table 124 - the window table - and we spent our evenings watching the wake and being served dinner by the ever attentive Widi. The trick to getting your table of choice every night is to call on Saturday morning for both Sunday and Monday. Then just call on Sunday for Tuesday and so on. The food in the dining room is a much discussed topic. We enjoyed our dinners. The food is good for meals cooked for so many people, but the descriptions and presentation are far better than the execution. It was superior to food in the small Tennessee Valley town we call home, but it wasn't on a par with gourmet meals in Seattle, San Francisco, or Paris. There were no complaints from us; I made it home having gained only half a pound. Btw, the best dining room dessert I had was the flourless chocolate cake. We ordered room service breakfasts our first two mornings; the food was fair but the milk was tepid. The first day it arrived ten minutes early, but the second day thirty minutes early - there's a BIG difference in 7 AM and 6:30 AM, so thereafter we had a much better breakfast in the Lido. And of course that's where the famous fresh-squeezed orange juice and raisin buns are found. We also enjoyed trying the muesli. Now I have to find out how to make it. We did one lunch in the main dining room, but the slow pace defeated me. The same for the afternoon tea....it moved too slowly. The Lido hamburgers and bread pudding are as good as everyone reports. And the Lido grilled salmon in Ketchikan was far better than anything the dining room offered. We were pleased with the Zaandam. The ship is lovely, and, as far as we could see, well maintained. The crew and officers are friendly and hard working. If asked, they're happy to talk about themselves. The ship is large enough to have different venues for different tastes. We liked the Explorations Lounge/Library. We went to the library each afternoon to play the Bananagram game we purchased in Seattle and to read while sitting in the wonderful Danish loungers in front of the floor to ceiling windows. Their coffee and teas are quite good and reasonable in price; the cucumber sandwiches and tarts are free with the beverage. The computers for passenger use are located there and we did hear several complaints about how slow they are. In the evenings we went to the lounge on the other side, had an aperitif and listened to the excellent string quartet. We also enjoyed walking on the Lower Promenade Deck, browsing the shops, and exploring the ship. We signed up for the spa hydrotherapy package and were able to use the spa hot tub, scented showers, and heated loungers for the week. The room was never crowded; it's a very relaxing place to be. (We avoided the spa treatments because we'd heard so many complaints about the constant sales pitches.) Most of the other passengers were quite pleasant - of course with a few exceptions - you know who you are! There seemed to be a number of well-behaved children; no problem there. They seemed happy and busy. There were people of all ages, and as far as I could tell, each of us found the areas of the ship that suited our interests. One question that keeps coming up on the boards is whether or not a veranda cabin is a good investment for Alaska. It was for us. Glacier Bay was breath taking. We saw an Alaskan brown bear and seven puffins from our balcony - I'm sure of this because the park naturalist was pointing them out. The bear was the larger fuzzy brown spot on the shore and the puffins the seven tiny brown spots floating in the water. And yes, I was using binoculars. We saw so many whales on this trip that we lost count. We used our veranda every day. If you can afford a veranda then by all means get one. If not, the Zaandam has a great number of public viewing areas. And the ship is not crowded. There's always a window seat available somewhere. We booked our excursions through HAL and did floatplane trips in Juneau and Ketchikan. And it was worth every penny! For us, Juneau was the least interesting port (other than the flight). We're not touristy shoppers. But Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria were interesting in themselves. We visited the Russian church, raptor center, and national park service area in Sitka. Don't miss the salmon stream and totem poles in the park. Even the shops seemed to be more interesting than in Juneau. And tendering was quick and easy. Throughout our trip we met local college students working in the tourist trade; they were all polite and more than willing to talk about their lives and the fact that their mothers are sad they'll be heading off to Fairbanks all too soon. Ketchikan is the home of the fourth smallest Wal-Mart in the entire world! I just like knowing that. And the day it opened, they had to close in two hours because they had sold all the merchandise. It's a great place to just wander around; Misty Fjords is so beautiful it's indescribable. We arrived early for Victoria; cabs are waiting at the dock and are easily found near the Empress Hotel for the return trip. They are more than happy to accept your American dollars and some stores will even give you the proper discount. I talked to a few people who did the gardens tour and were unhappy because they had little time to see the flowers before it was too dark. We just walked around downtown near the harbor in the light rain and felt lucky to be there. It's a beautiful city. What to pack? If you can, Gore-Tex raincoats and layers. Lots of layers. I wore six layers in Glacier Bay - and it was sunny. Gloves and a hat. And many thanks to the poster who suggested a fleece vest. Yes, I saw at least one pair of jeans on smart casual night in the dining room. Did she look happy? No, but it may have had nothing to do with the jeans. Most of the passengers seem to follow the rules; those that don't stand out. Formal nights were dressy but not really formal, with dark suits for most men and theater/cocktail party clothes for women rather than gowns. The children wore their dress up clothes and fit in quite well. It was fun to see them. We had a minor snafu at disembarkation; all was going smoothly - passengers are divided into color coded groups - until someone sent down the blue group's luggage for the orange group. So we had to wait till the right luggage was found. Think of it as a last minute 'meet and mingle' at the terminal. It gave us a chance to meet a few new people and compare our trips. But that did result in a delay getting a cab - when passengers had stopped exiting the building the cabs left thinking disembarkation was over. We had to wait till they were summoned back. In conclusion - finally! - it was a great trip. After reading comments and reviews here at CruiseCritic we realized just how important a passenger's attitude is. We were determined to make the best of our trip. Alaska is a great place to visit and HAL is just the cruise line for us. We'll be back. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This is my 23rd cruise, (crossings not included) and my 4th on HAL. I've done a variety of cruise lines from Carnival to Crystal, the most recent being a Panama Canal trip on the Celebrity Mercury in January. Embarkation: The ... Read More
This is my 23rd cruise, (crossings not included) and my 4th on HAL. I've done a variety of cruise lines from Carnival to Crystal, the most recent being a Panama Canal trip on the Celebrity Mercury in January. Embarkation: The commute to the ship was a grueling 7-minute drive from my home. I could have made it in 6 minutes, but there was a red light. I arrived at Pier 91 at 1:15pm, and I kid you not was onboard by 1:30pm. The longest and slowest line I encounter was for the welcome aboard picture, which I by-passed. The Crowd: It is summer, school is out and it was a diverse crowd. Seniors, toddlers, teenagers, large family groups, everything and everyone were represented. Any thought that the Lido (covered) pool was adult only was abandoned immediately. The place reverberated with the screams and laughter of children. It was so chilly in the aft pool area that they had to go somewhere, and I'm not that much of a curmudgeon that I would deny them their fun. If you want a less kid (verses kid-less) cruise book before the end of May or in September when school is in session. Stateroom, Public Rooms, Condition in General: The Zaandam is not a new ship. Are there loose carpet seams here and there and a bit of wear and tear? Yes. Is it tired and dirty? No way. The ship has great flow, attractive public areas, fantastic art and is extremely comfortable with cushy and inviting furniture throughout. Of special note, the mattress in my cabin wasn't a thin piece of foam over a plastic platform (like the Mercury for example) it was a real, honest to goodness thick mattress. My stateroom was functional and clean and kept that way by my stealthy room attendants. Food: My expectations were in check due to a lot of comments about the decline in the quality of HAL's food from the Boards. I'm a foodie and to be honest can be critical of sub-par food and service. With all that said, I thought the food was good to excellent throughout the cruise. I tend to lean more towards beef and chicken so take that into account. The portions aren't huge in the dining room, but with 5 courses they shouldn't be. If that is a concern just order an additional entrEe and the waiters will gladly comply. The service in the dining room was professional and appropriate. The food in the Lido was equally a pleasant surprise. Entertainment: More "ugh" than "awe". Quality entertainment at night on the Zaandam was not so easy to find. The Showroom: I've learned never to expect much from the Production Shows on a cruise. The ships don't pay enough to get top tier talent, the stage isn't big enough, and the production values (props, costumes and special effects) are about squeezing one more season out of what is already paid for then investing in anything new or fresh. HAL exceed my expectations, but probably not the way they intended. The Production Shows were so tired, cheesy, poorly danced and sung I had to wonder if I was missing something. Was this a parody of a production show? The Headliners, a musician billed as a young Kenny G (is that a compliment?) and magician/comic did provide some good moments and was worth checking out. A most welcomed surprise. Lounge Acts: The Zaandam has beautiful Lounges but less than half the Lounge bands were competent and entertaining. Additionally, kudos to the D.J. in the Crows-Nest who always seemed to find the right songs to get people out of their seats and on to the dance floor. From there it falls off the face of the earth. A venue I love, the Piano Bar was a wasteland every night when it should be packed because of a guy that doesn't play very well, sings worse and appears to not to like people very much. At the bottom of the entertainment heap was a very good band, with lead singer so vocally challenged she dragged them to the bottom faster than one of the Zaandam's huge anchors. I really had to wonder if anyone in the corporate offices of HAL even bothers listening to the audition tapes. The other alternative is that they are trying to drive people into the Casino by having such limited quality entertainment at night. Stuff to Do: While the daily program aren't as packed as the most of the recent cruises I've been on, the activities were well paced and interesting. The culinary demonstrations, lectures and computer classes blend well with the regular cruise ship fare of trivia, pool games and bingo. There is no reason to be bored if you want to get involved. A major plus was the Cruise Director Michael who was seemingly everywhere at once, with boundless energy delivered in an engaging and believable manner. The Captain joked at a function that Michael was the best Cruise Director in a 250 mile radius. Personally, I thought he was one of the best I've seen in 23 cruises. Things I should have believed: No matter how hot it is in your part of the country or even in Seattle, be prepared and dress appropriately for chilly weather and rain, fog or drizzle. Remember even if it is 65 degrees (F) with the speed of the ship underway the wind chill on deck is substantial. Don't think I ever was not wearing fleece of some sort. Ports: Personally the trip for me was about seeing Glacier Bay, and it did not disappoint. Imagine if the Teton's or Rockies had an Ocean at 10,000 feet and you were right next to them? It was magnificent. A Ranger from the US National Parks Service who appears not only to have a degree in geology but also drama narrated the trip. Despite his over to top moments of poetry, native flute interludes and asking us to spiritually become one with the Glacier, he kept us well informed of the history and conditions in the area. I was reluctant to pre book excursions due to fluctuating weather conditions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. A floatplane trip in the fog would not be my idea of fun. As for wild life watching, we saw so many Whales and Eagles from the ship that after a few days it became commonplace. I just got off the ship and wandered around without paying attention to the ships shopping guides, as they only include stores that pay huge kickbacks to the cruise line. If I had to do it over I would do the salmon bake in Juneau, which drew rave reviews. What HAL does best in one word: Service. From the Officers to the people who clear the tables HAL gets it right. Here are a few adjectives I jotted down during the cruise: Friendly, familiar yet respectful, impeccable, smiling, seamless and gracious. And in the end: A solid performance, more hits than misses and a comfortable platform to enjoy the sights of Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Seattle: We flew in late the night before, so there was no time to spend in the city, something I would definitely change next time. Lots to do. Embarkation: We arrived early (10:15) on the HAL transfer bus, and breezed through the ... Read More
Seattle: We flew in late the night before, so there was no time to spend in the city, something I would definitely change next time. Lots to do. Embarkation: We arrived early (10:15) on the HAL transfer bus, and breezed through the check-in process (thanks to the on-line process beforehand). We were in Group 2 to board, and were on the ship at 11:40! The Zaandam: We loved the ship, which is 10 years old, but still looking good. The staff is so friendly and helpful. My SO's 13 year old had such a great time in The Loft and making new friends that we only saw him when we insisted that he join us for dinner!! Activities: I was recovering from a disc problem, but my SO made full use of the gym facilities, which were always busy, even at 6 am. I had a facial, and the experience was blissful. Entertainment: The Show Lounge shows that we attended were very good. The Comedian (Elliot Maxx) was hysterical!! Rachel and the Hal Cats were a conundrum: Rachel couldn't hold the pitch if her life depended on it, but the Hal Cats (backup band) were really great. The String Quartet was very good. The Neptunes (jazz combo) were easy to listen to. Dale in the Piano Bar was dreadful..... Bear in mind that I sing and am a musician, so I tend to be very critical! Food: Absolutely no complaints in this department. Stateroom: We loved our Verandah Suite. Plenty of room for the three of us. The bed was very comfortable, and having a back problem, I was very pleased. Stewards: Our cabin stewards were very sweet, and always looking to please. Laundry: We made use of the washers and driers and ironing board. Disembarkation: Not ever having done a "silent disembarkation", I was amazed at how smoothly the process could go. We only waited 5 minutes for our luggage to be available to claim. We were in the 8:00 am Black #2 group, and we were in the bus and on the way to SeaTac at 8:30. The least pleasant part of the cruise was Day 2, which was our day at sea, and was a seasick day for many. Going west of the Queen Charlotte Islands in the open Pacific was very rough. HAL gives out Meclazine tablets for free, which is a helpful perk. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This was our first cruise, so many of you may know all this.  Despite reading reviews I didn't.  First, although internet access is available 24/7 (ex for sat issues), it was expensive: $.75/min pay as you go; $.55/min for 100 ... Read More
This was our first cruise, so many of you may know all this.  Despite reading reviews I didn't.  First, although internet access is available 24/7 (ex for sat issues), it was expensive: $.75/min pay as you go; $.55/min for 100 min($55); $.40/min for 250 min ($100).  Obviously if you can work offline and up/download you will save money.  If your room is near a 'hot spot' you can pick up the signal in your room.  Do NOT let your kids play on the i-net unless you are prepared to pay.   Obviously a sat card will get you on, if you have one.  Second, I brought a VirginMobile Broadband2GO, it didn't work in AK, although in ports we had cell service on T-mobile and Tracfone.  The VM worked great in Seattle.  Third, finding people on the ship can be tough.  I did see folks with 2-way radios.  Set up meeting spots or fav eating seats. Fourth, I brought along a GPS that worked fine, but a TV channel has similar info.  Fifth, the ship channel RADIO was in our headboard..one 'station' has ship announcements; if you can't find yours, ask. Sixth, if you bring lots of 'toys' bring along a small power strip; we had one convenient outlet in the dresser/desk.   Seventh, the in-room TV is great, but it makes you cycle thru all the channels (one of which is info on the ship's position; another, the bridge cam) to the one you want, no pressing numbers..an annoyance.  Eighth, bring along the best binocs you have; often that was the best way to see wildlife and scenery. I have Canon IS, was advised to bring them, and am so glad I did.  But, the two excursions we went on provided them.  Ninth, there was an inroom safe, but I didn't feel the need to use it.  Tenth, there is laundry service, and self service laundry areas; they need quarters, $3.00/load covers wash and dry.       Generally it was a great experience.  I endorse all the good comments in the other reviews of this ship.  I can't say we had one bad experience.  The cooking & computer demos/classes were excellent.  These are not paperless cruises, however.  Each day you get a ship's schedule, often a shore program, and a daily news summary..the NYT in our case..If you want to save, bring file folders. I did notice a Friend of Bills meeting was offered daily, as well as religious services as appropriate.  The food is excellent, the grill for hamburgers is everything the other reviews say..outstanding!  The Lido deck has more choices daily then you can possibly eat.    The only flaw was the chocolate dessert night...a mob scene.  I'm sure they will work on it.  Entering/exiting was smooth..get to the dock before the busses from the hotels and you avoid lines.  The seas were calm, so I can't comment on seasickness; but i heard it wasn't always so.  Come prepared. The entertainment was excellent; go to them all, if you don't like them, you can leave without a fuss if you sit in the back.  Every seat offers a great view.. Would I go again..yes. On HAL..most definitely. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We were a family of 6. My husband, me two kids and husband's parents. Cabin:Our cabin was the lowest level and far stern. There was noise from the thrusters whenever we docked, or pulled away from dock. This didn't bother us, ... Read More
We were a family of 6. My husband, me two kids and husband's parents. Cabin:Our cabin was the lowest level and far stern. There was noise from the thrusters whenever we docked, or pulled away from dock. This didn't bother us, because we were already up, either enjoying the Lido breakfast buffett or getting ready to go there! The housekeeping steward were amzingly efficient. No sooner than we'd come back before lunch or sometimes earlier, the cabin would be spotless and new fresh towels delivered. Wish I could have that at home. With 4 people in the cabin it never seemed really tight. The bathroom was spacious, full tub/shoer combo. Nice sink space and shelf underneath.Food:A lot of people claim the food isin't good or noting special. I have no idea what they were talking about. The food was so  so good. I try to cut back, but everything was so yummy it was hard. We ate in the Lido buffet for breakfast and lunch, and sometimes late night snack 11pm-12am. For dinner we ate at the upper Rotterdam dining room. Our dining room steward and his assistant were so attentive and funny, we really got to know and appreciate them so much. Each course was great. We all ordered differnt things and no one had anything left on their plates. Entertainment:There are a lot of activities going on. You get a daily program the night before that lists them all out. At times we were conflicted as we wanted to see 2 things that were offered at the same time. There is a movie theater that show a selected movie at 3 different times during the day. Bingo and trivia games  were fun. They also had a lot of games with other passengers they choose out of the crowd. Those were always good for a laugh. The Comic was funny, and the magician/comedian was good as well. We passed on the saxaphonist.Itinerary:Alaska was amazing. We cruised Glacial Bay and the scenery was so breathtaking. We were lucky as we had sunny, blue skys the entire trip. The ship got so close to Margorie Glacier we could see the blue fissures from our cabin. We had lots of time in Juneau, Sitka and even Ketchikan which was only half a day.  The only negative was Victoria. We had booked the Buutchart Garden excursion with the ship and the captain announced the day were were to arrive, that we'd be getting into Victoria at 6:30pm.  We'll he didn't dock until 7:45pm, the ship didn't clear to let passengers off until 8:00pm. There were passengers blocking stairwells, crammed though hallways all pushing to finally get off the ship. Our bus didn't leave till 8:30 and the bus driver insted on driving the long way to give a tour of the town. So when we got to the gardens we had enough light for 2 pictures and that was it. Darkness in a garden, even lit by pathway lights is not all that wrothwhile. You get no scale of how big it is, or views of sculptures. Definately NOT worth the money.Other than Victoria, our cruise though was really amazing and we'd sail Zaandam again! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
This is my first cruise on Holland American.  Most of my cruises have been on Disney and I must say I am rather spoiled by Disney's service and ships and was a bit Leery that any ship could live up to my expectations.  That being ... Read More
This is my first cruise on Holland American.  Most of my cruises have been on Disney and I must say I am rather spoiled by Disney's service and ships and was a bit Leery that any ship could live up to my expectations.  That being said, HAL was right up there with DCL!  Embarking-Getting to the pier is a tad bit confusing, I do think that they need more signs to get to the drop off area!  Beyond that small hump embarkation was a breeze.  The porter was very helpful and got us moving right along.  From listening to other cc members we got there at about 1030am, perfect timing!   We were handed a letter informing us that swine flu had been confirmed onboard and that we had the option of walking away with a full refund.  We glanced at it and thought for about 2 seconds before filing it away and deciding not to worry about it.  We were on board by about 1115am.  Made our way to the Lido deck, had lunch, only confusion was seeing people with food we couldn't find!  LOL  We then discovered the Lido buffet and loaded up.  I was happy to find my favorite cheese, which is hard to find, that was a nice touch.Room, 2678 cat E-We loved our room, it was small but the storage!  WOW  Having all beds on the ready meant some bumped heads:)   The couch bed made my mom's high standards, it was comfortable(thank goodness).  The pull down was fun for the 9 yr old.  Only complaint here is that the ladder was not really attached and when you did get it to attach it was really loose, it could be a problem if you aren't ready for that.  The main bed was really super comfy!  Our view was always nice to have.  Location of the room was great, pretty easy to find.  Steward was really great, always available for us if we needed anything.  Laundry Service: We purchased the 45 dollar unlimited laundry package on our first day.  This was the best 45 dollars I have ever spent!  Not only was getting four peoples laundry done well it was done fast.  Typically within the same day.  Only once was it ever a bit later and that was the last night of the cruise.  My guess is that more people send out the "by the bag" towards the end?  Nothing to complain about, everything came to us folded in a neat basket or on hangers, pressed and super clean.  If you are even thinking about it DO IT!  If we had known how wonderful this service was we would have not packed about half of what we took!  Kids Club:  Traveling with a rather shy 9 yr old I was concerned about her participating in kids club.  Wow was I ever wrong!  She loved it...so much so that we had to plan events around kids club activities!  The tween program was run by Fifi(nickname), and she was really great.  She always greeted us by name!  They had everything you can imagine to do up there.  Some of what I remember were, tag, board games, arcade, scavenger hunts, dress up contests, coloring contests, bingo, survivor game, camp out(not really), superstar, made t-shirts, chef cooking experience, and probably a bunch of other things!  Well run and enjoyed by all the kids that were in there.  I was worried over nothing!  Spa-I did the thermal suite for 2 for 149 dollars, I was surprised because I had been told it would be 175:)  Well worth it for the thermal suite.  The chairs were just perfect for me, and as an avid reader I could sit and read in comfort and also could really relax completely!   The hot tub was awesome, only the last night the tub was not hot:(  The views were great.  I didn't do any treatments but wish I had, I kept thinking that I would be spending money I needed for other things.  Turns out I would have been fine on money...oh well.  Highly enjoyed the thermal suite!Dining-As  you Wish was perfect for us!  Loved the Lido as I am not a big fan of the 2 hour meals:)   Did eat in the dinning room once with my mom and it was just fine.  All the food was good.  Only small thing was that I wished the hamburger, pizza, hot dog thing was open more.  The hamburger was one of the best I have had!  Alvin in the Lido was so friendly and kind, he is a great guy!  Ship-I was impressed, it was really nice.  I didn't care for the Atrium area but again I am comparing it to Disney.  I also for some odd reason got more turned around on this ship than any I have been on, but that is not HAL's fault, I think I was just relaxed and not thinking fully.  The elevators were fast!  Only small issue that I wish they would have fixed was cleaning the outside of the windows on the Lido deck, I saw them washing them from the inside but this was from the outside and it really needed some work.  It was impossible to take pictures from there and I had a kiddo in the pool so it was where I needed to be.  Techspert sessions!  One word GREAT!   If you are thinking about it go!  I learned a TON and I thought I knew a lot to begin with.  He did go slow to make sure everyone got what they needed but I just worked ahead and listened so it was not a problem, he wants everyone to enjoy it.  Only wish I could have gone to more!  One important note about this cruise....movement!  I have cruised a bunch but this ship had the weirdest motion to it!  Even in calm waters it just seemed off.  Now it could have been just our group but it just felt ... hum... listy?  A lot of vibration as well on each and every deck I was on.  We had rough seas the first day at sea and that night was even worse, I woke up and checked at one point and water was splashing up to our second floor window.  Looked at the tv and it said that there were force 9 winds and 25-30 foot seas.  Woah it was rocky!  In looking at cruises to Alaska again I will highly consider the route and even maybe not do a roundtrip from Seattle.  I think I would want to stick to the inside where we can see land:)  Like I said above, it just felt funny, I read somewhere that maybe a stabilizer was broken and maybe that was it?  Overall it was close to a perfect trip!  And weather!!!  WOW it was like hitting the lottery, amazing weather! Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
    My wife and I love to travel, but with kids in college it's tough to budget for luxury vacations. Cruises are a great solution.  We enjoyed gourmet meals, live entertainment, scenic vistas, deluxe accomodations and superb ... Read More
    My wife and I love to travel, but with kids in college it's tough to budget for luxury vacations. Cruises are a great solution.  We enjoyed gourmet meals, live entertainment, scenic vistas, deluxe accomodations and superb service for an entire week - and all for under $1800 (total for two).  We met lots of other budget travelers onboard, too.  The passengers are varied: families of all ages, couples from all over the country, and some new local friends that we plan to see again. Most were very friendly, one cute old lady thought 'all the mountains looked the same' and that 'whales are boring'!    We sailed out of San Diego on Celebrity's Mercury in Nov 07 for a two week cruise along Mexico's west coast and enjoyed it a lot, even from our inside cabin with its 'virtual porthole' (the TV tuned to the exterior camera on the bow). We met a lot of passengers from San Diego who cruised often.  Last month, we decided to check out local departures from our home port of Seattle. We settled on the 6/5 sailing on HAL's Zaandam and found a discounted deal in H class to get at least a porthole. My TA at VTG was very helpful in putting the package together and our good karma landed us an upgrade to a nice verandah cabin on deck 7. We had a great time.    The weather was questionable as we left Seattle on Friday afternoon and we sailed in thick fog on the way to Juneau, but most of the week was bright sun. The seas were calm and the temperatures mild, but some thin blooded FL & AZ retirees consider anything below 72 to be 'freezing'. I never put on my coat or vest; didn't need to.  The ship was kept sparkling clean. We liked the size of the vessel; not too big and not too small. HAL's 'Star of Excellence' program' must be real because every hand on that ship was sincerely friendly and helpful. Everybody was sharing good comments about the staff & crew. Our cabin steward, Koko from Bali, earned an extra tip and the $11/day added gratuity was probably less than the crew deserved. Without exception, they were all great, in the dining rooms, the shows, the entertainers, the cruise director Michelle, DJ Barok, et al. Thanks!  HAL rocks!    The port calls in SE Alaska are small towns. Juneau has a comical cruise-central commercial street, but we avoided that and enjoyed the State Museum and its interactive displays. Forget the '50 years of statehood' caps; no Alaskan would ever wear one (Alaskans voted down statehood twice before the military was bussed to the polls to vote it through).In Sitka we rented bicycles from Yellow Jacket Bikes @ $25/day and got some needed exercize. The scenic workout room on the top level forward and walks around deck 3 (4X=1mi) helped burn off the buffets too. Ketchikan had good shopping and we rode the Duck for a 90 min amphibious tour (I highly recommend Seattle's Duck tours to local visitors here). Frankly, I would have enjoyed rain in Ketchikan; 300 days of rain per annum and I get the odd sunshine! We stayed on board in Victoria, it deserves a full weekend to enjoy the gardens, water taxi tour, and high tea.    The food was good on board (my fave's). We alternated breakfast between Lido buffets (scottish eggs benedict) and Rotterdam seated dining (kippered herring). Lunch was always a quick buffet for us (asian noodles, sushi rolls) or the on-deck BBQ (beef/chicken satay, salmon). We floated around a calving blue glacier on Monday and were served yummy dutch pea soup on deck. We saw lots of orca pods, humpback whales, seals on icebergs, huge bald eagles and various smaller birds and critters throughout the cruise. Beautiful snowcapped mountains, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and rotary engined Otter floatplanes. Not a single bad moment to remember.    There was more going on than we could find time to do. Still we enjoyed bingo (first time and it was surprisingly fun), cooking classes, movies in the theater, and onboard contests (putting, trivia, hoops). I brought some new DVD's to watch in the cabin - but never did. We didn't even open all the wine we brought!  The drink punch cards are convenient (great martinis & mojitos) and the bartenders were Joval (yes, that's his Indonesian name). At dinner, we enjoyed the Rotterdam, especially on the two formal nights (escargo, steak & lobster, baked alaska). Try the chilled soups! We ate two dinners and a lunch at the Pinnacle and it was worth every penny of the token fee (onion soup, fillet mignon, vanilla souffle). I eat well entertaining clients in fine restaurants, but the service and food here were as good as it ever gets.    Now, let me offer some negative comments for balance. The art and jewelry for sale on the ships had zero appeal to us. We skipped the land excursions - but heard good comments from those who went. I was amazed to see three or four huge cruise ships all dock in these small towns on the same days. And these must be the toughest crowds for entertainers anywhere. The comedian-magician, Jeff Peterson, was very good, but the crowd looked like a bunch of Republicans after the last election. The singers and dancers were also very good - and nobody can complain about a medley. They have to keep it all very family oriented, so let me share you my own gag: "when my wife was filling out her comment card, she rated: Service: the top number 9, Food: 9, Entertainment: 9, Sex:7. When I looked at her card, I asked why the sex only rated 7 and she said, 'oh no honey, you were always a 10, but those other guys were all fives and sixes - none better than an 8".    The embarkation and disembarkation in Seattle was quick and painless (unlike San Diego's cattle drive) and we are already looking at future cruises on HAL. Two weeks would have been nice! Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We are a family of 3. Myself and DH (in our 40's) and our 16year old DS.Thanks to folks here on HAL board we planned our arrival to pier 91with Already There Town Cars for $60 (1 way) from seatac, same as cab(425-445-9101)Easy ... Read More
We are a family of 3. Myself and DH (in our 40's) and our 16year old DS.Thanks to folks here on HAL board we planned our arrival to pier 91with Already There Town Cars for $60 (1 way) from seatac, same as cab(425-445-9101)Easy EmbarkWe loved the Neptune Lounge! Great iced tea & snacks!Nette was so friendly and helpful! Loved our room stewards! Ullysys in the Rotterdam was perfect, always offering extra appetizersand deserts (we were late fixed seating) No exageration on the need for dramamine on first sea day!!I am a light sleeper and the rough open seas kept me awake..my DH and DS slept like babies through it all Also, the first night the Captain announced the clocks would be set an hour backwards that night. At 2:00 AM..an annoying SQUEAK-SQUEAK sound (for at least 2 minutes)of our suite's clock being turned backwards. Again...I'm wide awake...the men just snoozed on..Our favorite part of the cruise was sitting in the hot-tub while cruising through the glacier!I had the in port special (included time in thermal suite) at the greenhouse spa.My DH tried the accupuncture.....perhaps he'll try it on land.Magician -comedian was wonderful..and his little dog, too!The only negative of the whole trip was the other pax smoking on balconies.We invested in a deluxe verandah suite so our son could really seethe glacier (he loved all the seals!!)but my DH is so sensitive to smoke he couldn't stay out there for very long. So we ended up going to the hot-tubs!In the survey at the end of cruise, a section on smoking policy was included. The only way we'll sail HAL again w/verandah is if they adoptno smoking policy...Disembark was easy...We asked for, and were able to borrow a scale to weigh our luggage (keep it under 50 lbs) night before8:00am walked off ship...our towncar was there waiting Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We've cruised once before, on the Celebrity Mercury.  We're a middle aged gay couple.  We wanted to try a longer cruise, so we got a deal on HAL and really liked it.  It was just two weeks ago.    Holland America Line ... Read More
We've cruised once before, on the Celebrity Mercury.  We're a middle aged gay couple.  We wanted to try a longer cruise, so we got a deal on HAL and really liked it.  It was just two weeks ago.    Holland America Line Zaandam lived up to and exceeded its reputation in our eyes.  The Seattle round-trip was convenient because we are local.  Parking was easy; the shuttle was there and waiting for us.  We were surprised to have to load our own luggage, but we managed fine.  (This is a brand new dock/terminal, and apparently by the time of our return the arrangement for luggage handling to and from the parking lot was straightened out, so we didn't lift a finger.)   We arrived at 1:30 pm for a 4 pm sailing.  Only a few people were behind us in line to check in, and there were dozens ahead of us.  The host and registration personnel were knowledgeable, friendly and efficient.  Within 45 minutes we were on board, having dropped our carry-on in the room, already enjoying a buffet lunch on the Lido Deck.  The Captain informed us immediately following the muster that we would embark at 5 because there were still items being loaded onboard.  True to his word, we sailed at 5 pm.   The Lido Buffet served great food.  They always had an Asian, American and an Italian station open.  There were a manned sandwich bar and ice cream bar.  There was plenty of variety.  Salmon, beef and chicken were on the buffet too.  Outside there was a pizza, taco and burger outlet.  Special occasion buffets were set up on deck by the pool.  It seemed odd though, that there were periods during the day when no food was available at all on the Lido Deck.  Apparently all food service shut down to switch each meal service.  We both disliked waiting half an hour for food service at 11:00 a.m. in Ketchikan.  It was cold and rainy outside and we were only in port for the morning, so an early lunch was in order.   Ours was a promenade deck outside window cabin.  The single beds were already pushed together.  The room was clean, quiet, and plenty roomy to store clothing and luggage.  The bath was a good size with great water pressure and water temperature.  Our first night or two were chilly although we had the heat turned up.  I mentioned this to our cabin attendant.  That evening we had two additional blankets waiting for us.  The last few nights of our stay, we turned the heat down and stowed the blankets.   I believe our cabin attendant passed our concern on to engineering who must have fixed it.   Speaking of our Ali, he behaved utterly professionally, commanded English well, and anticipated our needs.  For example, when he realized we are smokers, he left us an ashtray designed to catch all the ashes, etc. even in the wind.  We took advantage of the smoking area on the promenade just around the corner from our cabin.  We thought that was very thoughtful of him.  He kept our cabin fastidiously.  He had clearly mastered the art of towel sculpting too!   We selected the traditional 8 pm dinner seating.  We were never disappointed.  Our server and team were friendly, funny, and professional to a tee.  It was great fun to share the table with four other people.  There were plenty of options at each meal for each course.  We were invited to order multiples of appetizers and skip soup if we like.  Likewise we were invited to have two desserts rather than be forced to choose.  There seemed to be a special occasion each night, like chocolate night, the Dance of the Napkins, and the Baked Alaska parade. Surf and Turf on one of the formal nights impressed us.  While we're all dressed up for a special evening we had as many Lobster Tails as we liked!  All six of us at the table came to dinner that night!   Shipboard, we took the beginner wine tasting class.  That served us well because we met the cellar master and wine steward early on.  Later in the week the cellar master recommended an unlisted wine to us.  We accepted and the bottle was on the table waiting for us when we arrived in the dining room.  The recommendation was excellent and complimented the venison that was served that night.  We enjoy moderately priced wines just fine, and HAL provided them with aplomb.   We took in a presentation in the Cuisine Center.  One of the chefs showed the cruise director how to prepare a dish in the demonstration kitchen.  It was fun and informative.  The staff gave everyone a taste of the completed dish, on china, with silver and a cloth napkin, while the show went on.  It was interactive so some people asked questions and made comments.  The staff gave us the recipe card printed on a hard stock sort of commemorative card.  That was definitely worth a stop while we at sea.   We had breakfast brought in a few mornings.  Room Service was prompt.  Eggs were cooked the way we ordered and served hot.  It was so convenient to just check mark your selections on a menu the night before and hang it on your door.  Your breakfast came within a half hour window of time.  The server handled the big tray expertly.  It was nice to have coffee and breakfast while watching CNN for a few minutes.   We popped into the mixology class on the last day at sea, at the last minute.  The bartenders at the Crow's Nest taught it.  They had taken great care of us all weeklong.  Spending a little time with them in their element was a treat, and we learned to make three smashing cocktails to boot.  Again, we were given the nicely printed recipe cards for each one.  Serge and Federico, Joana and Jamala up in the Crow's Nest spoiled us all week.  They were tirelessly hospitable-every bit as personable at noon as they were at midnight!   We stopped in the casino in the evenings and took in some shopping on board.  Tried our luck at the $100,000 bingo came, but came up just a few numbers short!  The string quartet is not to be missed, even if you just pause on your way to or from the dining room. The library is inviting, well stocked, and staffed.  There's an interactive TV that will give you the ship's location and map it too.  It turned out to be time well spent to attend the shore excursion presentation on our first day.  It was so much easier to make decisions about which ones while the staff presented them.  Then, you just check the boxes for the tours you want and drop the form into a box on the way out.  We got all of our selections and our tickets were delivered to our cabin that afternoon.   As for Alaska, well it's breathtaking.  We saw many whales and porpoise.  Sea lions were all around.  Bald Eagles soared in crystal blue skies against snow-capped mountains that rose vertically from the ocean.  It's just stunningly beautiful.  Cruising Glacier Bay was informative because park rangers narrated, and it was awesome just to see.  We did see a large iceberg calve off a glacier to top it off! We enjoyed fantastic weather for being so early in the season.  It was sunny and clear the entire week but for a few hours in Ketchikan.  Juneau's shops offered some good deals, especially on caps and outerwear that we needed for the next few days.  The Mt. Roberts Tram is a must-do, as is getting out to Mendenhall Glacier.  Sitka was a welcoming town.  We'd recommend the submarine tour and a stop at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral.  The Lumberjack show in Ketchikan is super fun (our team, Dawson Creek, won!) and seating is covered and heated.  The horse drawn carriage tour was perfect on a rainy day as well.   We recommend the Crow's Nest on the top floor.  That room offers panoramic views that really suit the days at Sea and the inland seas too.  You can spend hours watching the beautiful scenery float by while the staff serves you about anything you want, including hot split pea soup while you cruise into the cold reaches of Glacier Bay.  The Crow's Nest staff served hot appetizers in the evenings along with your cocktails.   In fact, the staff at the Crow's Nest and the entire team aboard the Zaandam delivered a top-notch cruise experience.   Finally, there were people from all over the World on board.  It seemed easy to meet people and share a few words.  We met quite a few people and enjoyed some great fun times with them.  This was an adult group, which we wanted.  There were few children on board, though there were youth programs available.  We think most everyone enjoyed them selves like we did.    Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.5 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 3.5 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.5 3.7
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

Find a Zaandam Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click