202 Holland America Zaandam Cruise Reviews

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
This was my 34th cruise 15th with HAL. And I can say this was a very nice cruise. The weather was outstanding. The locals where all saying it was too hot for them at all of our ports of calls. We also got a very nice sun tan from all of ... Read More
This was my 34th cruise 15th with HAL. And I can say this was a very nice cruise. The weather was outstanding. The locals where all saying it was too hot for them at all of our ports of calls. We also got a very nice sun tan from all of the nice weather. (What's with this global warming) 2nd time to Alaska. Was there 3 years ago same time. Back then the weather was much cooler. I found the service on the ship to be outstanding. Our room steward was always there when we left our room. Asking us if everything was OK. Every where we went a crew member would say hello to us. I found the ship to be very clean and in good shape. We had outstanding service in all the bars we visited. And the casino staff was very friendly and more then willing to help explain games we did not understand. My girlfriend discover blackjack on this cruise and they help her understand the game . I learned Texas holdem and the staff went out of there way to help us. We had As You Wish Dinning and never had to wait for a table. We never made a reservation and usually showed up around 7ish and as long as we did not want a table for two we where seated right away. And we met some very nice people every night at our table. On two nights we had dinner in the Lido and where very happy with the service. There was someone there to take your tray and walk you to a table. And they had the same food as in the Dinning room. We did do the Pinnacle grill one night. We enjoyed it. But it was not as good as the last time I was in the Pinnacle this past December on the Ziderdam. As for tours. In Juneau we waited till we got off the ship and took the bus to Mendenhall Glacier where we had a nice afternoon. After that we booked a whale tour with Capt. Larry Orca Enterprises at the pier right by our ship, for $114.00 per person. For the 4PM tour. There was a total of 5 of us on his boat and we saw it all. It was a great tour. In Sitka we booked the Sea and Wildlife tour. It was great. We saw lots of Eagles, Otters, Puffins, and whales. It was truly a beautiful day and a very nice place to visit for the day. Although you can see all of downtown Sitka in about an hour or two. So be sure to do a tour. Other wise there is not much to do there. In Ketchikan we did the Duck Tour. I would recommend this tour to anyone who wants to get a quick over view of the city and then still have time to do your own thing. The tour guides where very funny and was a local that knew the area very well. Again we saw lots of Eagles. My only complaint was the ship was there from 7AM till 2PM not enough time to really enjoy the island. Wish they would cut down the time in Sitka and spend more time in Ketchikan. In Victoria we arrive late around 7:15PM and we where off at 7:45. It seems like the Zaandam has been getting there late the past few weeks. Wonder why? Anyway we took the bus to downtown and enjoyed a nice sunset as we walk around and enjoyed the city. The weather was very warm. Wish we could have spend more time there. This is a very beautiful city that I would like to spend some time there. We where in no hurry to get off the ship as we where going to spend the day in Seattle. We walked off the ship around 9:30 and where at our hotel by 10AM ready to enjoy the day site seeing. What a great day. As always a cruise is "What You Make Out Of It". And as I always say. I have never yet had a bad cruise. Happy Cruising. John Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
ZAANDAM San Diego, Hawaii, Vancouver Cabin category D Staff: Captain: Sybe de Boer Cruise Director: Michael Headla Arrived at the ship terminal at 12:15 am, even as there was lots of people, embarkation was a breeze. Went to the Lido ... Read More
ZAANDAM San Diego, Hawaii, Vancouver Cabin category D Staff: Captain: Sybe de Boer Cruise Director: Michael Headla Arrived at the ship terminal at 12:15 am, even as there was lots of people, embarkation was a breeze. Went to the Lido restaurant for lunch, it was very crowdy, we had to wait for a table, that was ok, we were on vacation. ROOM: Ready by 1.30 pm. We were delighted with our mid-ship ocean view room, plenty of room, storage space and washroom space. . First day spent roaming around the ship so we could get our bearings, which we got fairly quickly except for the 4th floor, which is not a walk-through floor. Our baggage arrived around 3.00. Then, time for the emergency drill, which is quite comprehensive on HAL and lasted close to 30 minutes. One Lady in the back row almost fainted as it was very warm and we were well 'squeezed'. Diner was very casual that night, there was only one show to introduce the Zaandam singers and dancers. On our first formal evening, the Captain welcomed us in the theatre, introduced some of his senior staff and explained what they were responsible for. I also enjoyed the Captain's introduction to his Zaandam employee of the month which, this time, was a staff member from the engineering room. A nice way to show your appreciation for a job well done. One activity we really enjoyed was Michael (cruise director) 9.00-am coffee chat with either staff or entertainers on board. The guest would answer candidly any questions we had and would even stay behind to talk one on one with anyone who had further questions and did not want to ask out loud. We particularly enjoyed the senior staff availability and willingness to talk to the passengers and answer their questions. We could also see them thoughout the ship, performing their duties or simply having lunch on the Lido deck. Every crew and senior staff we spoke to, were happy to be on this ship. Every day we were at sea the captain made announcements around 1.00 pm to inform us where we were situated, how many miles we had done, how many miles left to our first port, as well as some navigational and weather related information. FOOD: Food was very important to me; not the quantity but the quality. I would usually have breakfast on the Lido deck, fruits cottage cheese would be my usual, hubby would have hot or cold as he pleased, he enjoyed the freshly made omelettes. Lunch would often be a salad, which we had either on the Lido deck or in the dining room, which then was open seating with excellent service. Try the cold strawberry soup, to dye for. We found diner to be well varied and tasty. Meat was always cooked perfectly. We enjoyed beef Wellington, rack of lamb, veal medallion, quails, chicken, fresh fish and of course lobster. High priced items were used sparingly, I would have like more mushrooms in my mushroom risotto or more strawberries on my pavlova (which was hard). Green vegetables were cooked in over salted water (IMO). Soups were always great. I am not a dessert person, so sometimes found them too sweet for my taste. We went to the Pinnacle Grill for the sommelier's wine pairing diner, it was very well done and delicious. ENTERTAINMENT: Zaandam singers and dancers (sorry the lead singer got injured, had to revert to backup singers), a comedian/violist (great), a singer/comedian (Great), ventriculist (great), singer (great), Banjo player (not my cup of tea but others enjoyed him), another comedian (also great, I like to laugh), Magician (not so great), BBQ and music on the Lido deck, (very well done). Movies were also available daily in the culinary art centre. We were fortunate to have a group of square dancing passengers who practice every sea day to the enjoyment of many other passengers. ACTIVITIES: Activities under the direction of Michael (CD). They were varied and numerous. Digital workshop, photo workshop, movie workshop and how to create your web page with Patricia (which was absolutely great, she made things very easy to understand) culinary demonstration and trivia with Laura, Games: Golf and Ping Pong challenges. Bingo, Bridge, Trivia, Karaoke, Dance classes. SPA/GYM. The Gym was well equipped which a number of popular machines, treadmills and weights. They offered fitness classes and yoga classes for a fee. Spa seminars were a sales pitch for very expensive SPA treatments, which they offered only after you signed a release form. MEDICAL: The medical staff was fairly busy on this cruise, at least 5 passengers needed to be evacuated and other passengers needed minor medical assistance. The medical staff along with support staff provided very professional and caring assistance. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise, the sea was exceptionally calm, the staff was always smiling, courteous and willing to engage in chit-chats. We took advantage of a future cruise offering, This is adictive.     Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Hawaii 15 day Zaandam, April 2009, HAL IN GENERAL: This was the BEST vacation ever. It started with a tour of the ship from Lee Casey. You don't want to miss the tour if you've never cruised with HAL before. Lee is in ... Read More
Hawaii 15 day Zaandam, April 2009, HAL IN GENERAL: This was the BEST vacation ever. It started with a tour of the ship from Lee Casey. You don't want to miss the tour if you've never cruised with HAL before. Lee is in charge of most of the fun activities where passengers can accrue "dam" dollars, and is the DJ in the Crow's Nest, a hotspot for dancing, music and singing in the evenings. Lee introduced us to Laura Thibeault (Party Planner), who signed us up to be on stage the very first night. I don't want to give it away, but it is loads of laughs. Laura also heads up the culinary demonstrations given by chefs and guest chefs in the Culinary Arts Center (the girl can also cook!), as well as scrapbooking, lei making, table decorating, and other fun activities. Both Lee and Laura are friendly, genuine, and remind you that we are all here to have FUN! The cruise director, Michael Headla, is equally as friendly and has the most beautiful smile. My husband and I felt as if we were special, but we weren't treated any differently than anyone else. In fact, there was not one single crew member who failed to look me directly in the eyes, smile, and acknowledge me. If you can get up early (9 am), go to the Coffee Chat in the Explorer's Lounge where you can meet some of the crew members as well as entertainers. Cruise Critic guru Spinner2 set up the meet and greet where 16 other cruise critic members met Lee, Laura, Michael, and the beverage service manager, hotel manager, chief engineer, and environmental officer. They answered all of our questions and even arranged drinks and cookies for us. Thanks Spinner2, it was a wonderful way to meet people from the start! STATEROOMS: There is ample storage in every cabin, even the inside staterooms. The closets are full of wooden hangers, and can easily transform into shelves. The bathroom has plenty of storage for toiletries and other necessities to make us look good. We had a Verandah Suite which came with a balcony and whirlpool tub. The smaller cabins have the same amount of ample storage space except there is a shower (cruise ship size) and no balcony. The vanity chair is also a hamper to put dirty clothes. We took advantage of the laundry service so we had very little laundry to do at home. I also highly recommend arranging transportation to and from the ship and the special baggage handling with HAL. After the cruise, all we had to do was walk off the ship and on to our flight. Once we packed and left our luggage outside our stateroom the evening prior to disembarkation we didn't see it again until we reached our final destination at home. Our cabin stewards, Adi and Suarsa, made sure we had everything we wanted and more. FOOD: I would rate the food as excellent, well prepared and presented. We booked a table for two in the Rotterdam dining room for early seating and had the most incredible waiter, "Prince" Albert. He was friendly, engaging, and professional. He insisted on bringing us extra food to taste, which gave us a chance to try new foods. All was melt-in-your-mouth good, although difficult to resist. The extra pounds I gained were well worth it. There is also the "dine as you wish" alternative where you can simply show up at the restaurant and will get seated at a table fairly quickly. William, the assistant dining room manager, was attentive and professional. I always rearranged my wine and water glass just to watch him move it back the way it's supposed to be on the table. We laughed every night with him about it! One night my husband choked on a shrimp because he was telling me about his shore excursion while eating and accidentally inhaled a piece of shrimp. Since I'm a doctor, I immediately did the Heimlich maneuver on him while he was still seated in his chair. William was right there by us, and diverted attention from other diners. Dan recovered without event and we resumed our dining. From then on, William came to check on us often. The staff are all trained for possible emergencies like this. There is also a doctor on board, but I didn't meet any of the medical staff on this particular cruise. Warning: don't eat and talk at the same time, especially when you've had an incredible day and want to share it with others. The Lido restaurant had a great variety of foods from which to choose. All the servers, chefs and assistants were amazing and remembered what I liked to eat. Everyone remembered our names which surprised me. We also had room service for breakfast and they always brought our food on time. If you want a special treat, go to the Pinnacle Grill, which has a Pacific Northwest flair. It is a bargain for only $20. How many 5-star restaurants can you remember paying only $20? We had a party of 7 one night and had a great time. Our wine steward, Mike, is a gentle and beautiful soul from India. He arranged for me to purchase a Navigator package of wine and brought it to the Pinnacle Grill. Since we have a vineyard in the Northwest we know every winery in Washington, Oregon and California and wanted to try different wines than what are offered in the Pinnacle Grill. Mike made it happen for us. ENTERTAINMENT: I already mentioned DJ Lee and Party Planner Laura above. You don't want to miss any of their activities, but finding time to fit everything in will be a challenge. For example, I never had time to attend the digital photography workshop, the watercolor class, or play bingo, to name a few. There is a wonderful man who is descended from Hawaiian royalty named Kainoa Dela Cruz. He was the "King" of the Aloha Festival in 1993. If you are as drawn to Hawaii as I am, you will appreciate this brilliant shining star of a man. I learned he was going to be the Ambassador of Aloha on the cruise and made him a kakui nut lei. When I gave him the lei he gave me his! If you want to do this, you present the lei by placing it over the person's head, touching foreheads, and saying "aloha." The "ha" is the exchange of the breath of life. Kainoa gave several touching talks about Hawaii and taught us the Hikilau hula dance. He's also knowledgeable about all the shore excursions. He also does the Alaska cruise, so we hope to see him again on our future Alaska cruise. Tim Kelly at the Piano Bar plays every known tune, and even dresses the part with funny hats and wigs. He has many voices and can magically reproduce the songs of others. Some songs he gets the passengers to sing along, some he had us in tears, others were grab-your-side laugh out loud fun. His grand piano also can produce instrumentals and drum beats. Jerod, the band leader of the HALcats, is genuine and funny. Try to get to know Jerod and let him share his experience of Alaska. He has a hilarious story about the time when he and two other crew members hiked up and down a treacherous trail and got back to the ship for their gig in the nick of time. We hadn't thought about cruising Alaska until hearing his story. The HALcats, along with vocalist Natalie, play live music in the Crow's Nest, Ocean Bar, and Lido Deck. The Neptunes, with vocalist Sean Bell on piano, play in the Ocean Bar. Sean is funny and fun. He is in some of the skits done on stage and will crack you up. There is a live string quartet called Adagio Strings who play in the Explorer's Lounge and dining room on formal nights. The talented singers and dancers of the ms Zaandam will entertain you with several live shows in the Mondriaan Lounge. Other shows throughout the cruise included Craig Diamond (magic and comedy), Paul Pappas (piano and vocalist), Thien Fu (comedy and juggling), Robin Fellows (vocalist), Chris Nicholson (classical guitar), Mike Robinson (ventriloquist), and George Solomon (singer and comedian - the BEST!). Even on the days when I was dead-tired, every show deserved a standing ovation. There are also movies running in the Culinary Arts Center and a library with books and movies on DVD. GREENHOUSE SPA, GYM, and SALON: Since we were on a 15-day cruise, we purchased the Thermal Suite, which allowed us to unwind in a mineral hot tub, relax on the heated tile lounges, and detoxify in the two steam saunas. There is a shower with mister in the suite, and use of the Relaxation Room with comfortable lounges, hot herbal tea, fresh fruit, and fruit-scented water. The relaxation room is where a passenger can go to wait until your appointment if you book a spa treatment or salon. The thermal suite has a special door key so nonpaying passengers don't sneak in, like on other cruise lines. The gym is for passenger use and has state-of-the-art exercise equipment and a dry sauna in the men and women's dressing rooms. I observed the beauticians transforming tired passengers into gorgeous beauties. There is an acupuncturist, Noura, who was able to make me feel 20 again and had my husband running up and down the stairs after our treatment. I also had two relaxation massages but the oil gave me a terrible rash. My skin is very sensitive, so check with the therapist first to get a sample of the oil used. Unfortunately, I had the message on 2 different occasions, which made the rash worse the second time. SHORE EXCURSIONS: BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII: We did several through HAL. My favorite was Secrets of Puna out of Hilo, Hawaii. Here you will meet several local Hawaiians of the Puna Region. There is a delicious BBQ at Puna Girl Farms, and auntie Sherry (a recent California transplant to Hawaii) will let you pick apple bananas right off the tree to sample. We visited the Peridot beach and passengers picked up several pieces of this Hawaiin gem. I was told never to disturb or take home lava, so I refused to take a sample of the olivine stone (You were warned, take it at your own risk and superstition). You will visit Green Mountain, a privately owned 350-acre area with one of the deepest fresh water lakes (there are only 2 on Hawaii). Here we picked guava right off the tree and sugar cane out of the field and had a tasty treat. Our guide (it is a small tour with 2 vans and only 6 passengers per van) picked noni fruit which is made into a medicinal drink by Hawaiians and is the ingredient of noni juice. The Noni Juice Hawaiin plant is located across the street from Puna Girl Farms. The guides also explained many of the flora and fauna found on Hawaii. For example, the lehua blossom is a beautiful bright red flower that grows on the ohia tree. As legend tells it, the volcano goddess, Pele, met a handsome warrior named Ohia, but he was in love with her sister, Lehua. Pele was jealous when Ohia refused her affection, so she turned him into the ohia tree with twisted branches. Lehua was heartbroken, the gods took pity on her, and turned her into the lehua flower so she could always be with her beloved ohia. The legend states that if you pick the lehua flower it will rain because it is her crying over the separation from ohia. My husband did two different helicopter tours, one out of Hilo (Circle of Fire), the other out of Kona (Big Island Spectacular), and saw lava each time. In Kona I did the Kahua Ranch horseback ride which was a blast. Others from the ship did the ATV or tram ride, which I heard was also fun. The ship cruises past the lava flowing into the ocean when leaving Kona. The photo shop will take professional pictures so don't bother wasting your time trying to capture the lava unless you know photography and have a good camera. Kainoa does a beautiful Hawaiin prayer from the bridge that everyone on the Lido deck or balcony can hear. HONOLULU, OAHU: We took a cab to Sea Life Park (not through HAL) and did the dolphin encounter. We got to pet, hug, kiss and coddle a dolphin. My husband also did the sealion adventure where he did the same with a sealion. Afterwards we rode the public bus ($2 each) back to Waikiki and did the Outrigger Canoe ride. It is located right next door to Dukes where we later ate fish tacos and watched live entertainment on the beach. The Outrigger Canoe ride is $10 each, there are 5 passengers and the 2 Hawaiin guides and everyone paddles out into the ocean. The canoe is turned around and, once the wave approaches, everyone paddles quickly until the canoe is riding the wave. You do this twice and it's a lot of fun. When we arrived back to the cruise ship there was a light mist in the air from a brief afternoon shower and there was a beautiful rainbow over the city of Honolulu. NAWILIWILI, KAUAI: Canopy zipline adventure is fantastic! My husband has a bad back and had both hips done, but he had no trouble navigating the immaculate trails to the 7 ziplines. Afterward we swam in the South Fork Wailua River, so bring a bathing suit and towel. There is a changing room at the river. LAHAINA, MAUI: Lana'i 4x4 trekker. We started out with a ferry boat ride to Lana'i where we saw several humpback whales and their babies. Whale watching is from Dec-April when the whales migrate to Hawaii to give birth and mate. In Lana'i, you will visit Garden of the Gods, but bring a light jacket because it gets windy here. You will visit Hulopoe Beach, where a pod of spinner dolphin hang out and jump and spin in the water just off shore. Shipwreck beach usually has a kite surfer in the water to please us picture-taking fanatics. You will have lunch in town after a tour of the city and island, then back on the ferry to Lahaina. If the weather is clear, take the Sunset Cruise and make sure captain Jack is working. In Hawaii, there is the phenomenon called the Green Flash. When the horizon is clear, be aware of the sun setting. Don't look directly into the sun or it might burn your retina and you'll see a green haze (fool's flash) and possibly hurt your eyes. Right as the very top of the sun slips below the horizon, look at it directly and you will notice a vivid flash of green. This is due to the sun's rays passing through the thickest part of the atmosphere where the light is bent, much like a rainbow. The light that bends the most is green and blue, but more green, so a flash of green is prevalent. This only occurs in Hawaii because of the latitude and atmosphere. Legend states that this is Hawaii's gift to humanity, her beautiful green cloak, that she shares with you at sunset. CONCLUSION: This was the best vacation and HAL does not fail to deliver. As always, there is the occasional complaining passenger and some will never be happy or satisfied. Please remember, you are on vacation, life is short, you are here to laugh, live and experience the bliss that is your essence. Forever in Bliss. Mahalo. Just4You Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Out of 7 cruises this was the absolute best. I am not sure why but partly  it was due to the friendliness of the passengers as well as the crew. We stayed in San Diego for a couple of days. Went to the zoo on the hottest day of the year ... Read More
Out of 7 cruises this was the absolute best. I am not sure why but partly  it was due to the friendliness of the passengers as well as the crew. We stayed in San Diego for a couple of days. Went to the zoo on the hottest day of the year but still had fun. Did a dinner cruise in the evening. The hotel shuttle took us everywhere including out to a restaurant and  then picked us up when we were finished. This cruise we had a cabin in D with a window. Most of the people we met were all in the same area.We are fans of anytime dining but Holland America offers both to passengers. Our cabin was clean and comfortable and our stewards took very good care of us. We asked for a fan the first day and that helps keep the air circulating. We met many interesting people from different countries and enjoyed their company. Formed a group of six called Oliver Twist and played mega trivia every day. Lots of good competition and lively games. Our son had written to Holland America saying it was Bills 70th birthday, he had worked on a P and O line as a young man and would be honored to sit at the captains table. This actually happened and was a great evening. Bill is from Scotland and purchased a full kilt outfit to wear for the formal nights. Whenever he wore the kilt people would smile at us. Hawaii was better this time than the first time because of the tours we booked. We saw much more and my absolute favorite was the hollywood tour in Narwilliwilli. It is overpriced but for a movie buff great. Next year we plan to do the same trip but Vancouver to Vancouver. I just want to say to Jim our cruise critic leader that he did an excellent job in the singing contest and to me should have won.I guess I cannot say enough positives about everyone involved. Michael the cruise director was great directing the activities as was Laura the party planner from Ottawa. We found the ship in good shape. The entertainment did not draw us to the shows but the Adagio quartet in the lounge was great.Disembarkation was so smooth we were off the ship and at the airport before we knew it. It is almost a week later and we still feel the glow of the trip. Thanks Captain de Boer and all of your staff Bill and Sandy Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Zaandam-Circle Hawaii-Feb. 5-20, 2009 We live in the Palm Springs area so drove to San Diego in the morning. We parked at San Diego Airport Parking which was wonderful and inexpensive. They parked our car, dropped us directly at the ... Read More
Zaandam-Circle Hawaii-Feb. 5-20, 2009 We live in the Palm Springs area so drove to San Diego in the morning. We parked at San Diego Airport Parking which was wonderful and inexpensive. They parked our car, dropped us directly at the cruise terminal, picked us up at the end of the trip...all for 105.00 for the entire 15 day cruise. Day 1 Embarkation process was fairly easy. We boarded at about noon. Had a WangWang on the Lido by the pool and shared the table with a very nice couple. Our room was ready at about 1:45pm. Our beds were situated as two singles. Our room stewards, Sugiyanto and Rhido introduced themselves and situated the beds as one queen. We brought 2 cases of wine on board and our stewards brought up a wine cooler and ice which they kept full the entire cruise. We had muster which is always our worst part of the cruise, but it was done very quickly and efficiently. We returned to our cabin for a bottle of champagne and to begin our celebration of the great cruise. A trip around the ship found it to be in good condition. There were a few areas that were well used, such as the recliners in the Crow's Nest. Overall, we found it to be wonderful. This is a musically inspired cruise. Various instruments around the ships that are interesting. Our Verandah cabin 6121 was in good condition, very neat and clean. The bed is very comfortable. We had late dining and were assigned table 49. Our dining stewards were Hendra and Budi. They were great at suggesting what they considered the "best item". As the cruise progressed they got to know our particular tastes and would suggest what they thought we would enjoy. My husband loves hot and spicy. Hendra would make sure to have Sambal (not sure of spelling) but a really hot Indonesian spice, at our table. They were fantastic. Our wine steward was Romeo with some help from Benny. We were charged 15.00/bottle corkage, except when we ate at the Pinnacle where we were charged 18.00/bottle. Bon Voyage party in the Crow's Nest acquainted us with the crew. Michael Helda was our CD. He did a fabulous job keeping things going. He was fairly young, and I believe this was only his second HAL cruise. He did very well, and kept things lively and enjoyable...."Out and About" DJ Matt and Party Planner Jen were fun. We felt that things went well. I felt that they were fairly young and very energetic with tons of things to do. Day 2. We were hit by a significant storm. Sea Sick bags appeared everywhere. Many folks were sick. The captain, Jan Smit, came on to alert us that we were having 30 ft seas and 55knot winds. We needed to remove all items from shelves and take them to the floor, as they were ending up there anyway. We were asked to stay inside and avoid outside decks. This was a definite E ticket ride. We were not sick, buy most others were very ill. We enjoyed the show at the dining room as the agile stewards delivered stacks of meals with the very high seas. One young steward did quite a dance and ended up sitting over the edge of an empty chair, but he saved the meals from sure disaster. Thankfully many seats were empty due to the horrible weather. He did not end up in the lap of a diner. We had a Meet and Greet with other Cruise Critic folk that David put together, name tags and all. Very nicely done. I enjoyed meeting Nigel, the Beverage Manager and Michael, the CD also attended. I asked Nigel about the Hendricks Gin I requested prior to the cruise. He told me that at every port he sent out his assistant to find a bottle, without success. He said the assistant would return empty handed with a taxi bill for the search. Eventually, he felt that it was costing way too much in taxi fare so gave up the search. I apologized for the work I created. He asked me where I purchased this Gin and I told him that I found it least expensive at Trader Joes. I thanked him for his efforts. I purchased the occasional martini on board and we had a bottle of Sapphire delivered to our room...not Hendricks but better than Mr. Green (in my opinion). They really try to meet all requests. I enjoyed meeting some of the other CCers. All were very nice. Day 3. We got breakfast in our room, as we did each and every morning. It was always a nice treat. We got fresh coffee, pineapple, cottage cheese and chocolate croissant. The breakfast room service was as broad as one would like. Very nice. We would usually sleep until they arrived with our breakfast at 8am. We played a little Bingo, hung out by the pool, even did the Walz lessons. This led a special kind of dancing with the movement of the ships on the high seas. We had fun and nobody was permanently injured. Did the Indonesian High Tea which was fun. Captains toast was nice, we were not overly impressed with the late shows, but they were okay. They were entertaining. Somehow I keep hearing Simon Cowels voice in my head saying "To be honest, it reminded me of something one would see on a cruise ship." We did enjoy the piano player in the Piano Bar, Tim Kelly. He was entertaining and played a broad range of standards. Day 4. We were greeted with news of being on Code Red. Apparently there were a small but growing number of folks with the Norovirus. We were told it was only 1.8% total, but they were jumping on it to prevent a widespread outbreak. I was impressed by the proactive Captain and Crew. The crew responded with super scrubber, sanitizing precautions. Bread, salt and pepper shakers disappeared. No self service. As a neat freak, I actually like Code Red precautions....but I could tell it was putting undue stress on the crew. I was told they were working 15 hour days to overcome the Code Red. We overheard the Dining Room Manager, Inder, telling some staff to refrain from shaking hands and place their hands behind their backs and politely bow to the guests and welcome them back. We were told to wash our hands often and for at least 20 seconds. We were provided with personal bottles of hand sanitizer. We personally already use Clorex wipes when we first board and wipe down all surfaces in our room including remote control, bathroom walls, all handles on drawers, doors, etc. Then whenever we leave or enter our room we wash our hands, so our room is a "Clean Zone." We take the stairs since I believe the sickies do not feel well enough to take the stairs, avoid hand rails and touching anything. We especially avoid public restrooms. The entire crew were working overtime for sure and I was impressed. Day 5. Lazy day, read, poked around the ship, lounged around by the pool. Found myself irritated by the chair hogs. A few women who must get to the pool early and save 7 or 8 lounge chairs by putting a shoe or bag on them. They would then come and go throughout the entire day. It really bugged me as some of them were empty most of the day. Very rude to my way of thinking. At one point my husband asked if he could move the belongings as the chair had not been used for over an hour. The deck steward was very nice and apologetic but said they could not touch the belongings. The Indonesian crew show was a lot of fun. I loved seeing them. They are a fun loving group. Day 6. HILO!! We rented a car and really made tracks. We did VCP, the macadamia nut house, Akaka Falls, Big Island Candy factory. We had a plate lunch which we enjoyed (double scoop rice, beef, macaroni salad). This was a great day. We reboarded at about 4. I would recommend renting a car for sure. We went through Thrifty, it was easy and no problem with logistics. Day 7. Honolulu. We spent the day at Waikiki Beach. We took The Bus (great transportation) to Diamond Head and then came back to the beach. We rented a couple of chairs and umbrella and spent the day at the beach. We ate Sushi in the early evening and made our way back to the ship at about 6. We showered and ate in the Dining room. The food was always very good. We set sail for Kauai at about 11:30pm. Day 8. Nawiliwili, Kauai. We did the Back Country Zipline excursion. It was great fun and I would do it again. It was one of the highlights of our trip. After we returned from the excursion we still had a little time left, so went to Dukes and had fish and chips and Macadamia nut pie. Fantastic! We boarded tired in time for sail away party. Very fun day. Day 9. Maui. The captain informed us that there was a very bad storm coming in that evening which made tendering unsafe, so we would need to cut that port short. Those that planned the Luau or Road to Hana were very disappointed. We had been to Maui a number of times so just poked around Lahaina and did some shopping. We ate a nice lunch at a fish house and bought souvenirs. The whales were very much out. We could sit on our verandah deck and watch the breaching of whales and calves. It was quite a show...and for free! We left Maui at 5pm and sure enough had very rough seas later that evening as we made our way to Kona. Day 10. Kona- We did shopping, snorkeling and had a nice lunch. We enjoyed Kona. Later that evening we took a trip to see the Volcano as it poured into the sea. It was fairly spectacular. Beautiful! It was very late though, well past midnight before be got close to the site. Valentine's Day and we found a nice plate of chocolate covered strawberries and chocolates in our room, compliments of the captain. Very nice touch. Very late night and a lot of fun with dancing in the Crow's Nest with Jen leading the fun until quite late. Day 11. Starting back to the states. We spent the time lounging by the pool, reading and relaxing. Code Red stays in effect. I was told there were something like 90ish people that became ill, but new reports were going down and people were getting out of quarantine. This has not really negatively effected our trip, but I do think the crew is working very hard to overcome this. We noticed unusual folks serving food in the Lido, the Cruise Director, the Hal Cats (Musicians) members, the guy who gave the lectures about Hawaii...lots of unusual folks. I believe they were all working double time to get on top of the Code Red. Continually there were staff with industrial cleaners doing sanitizing procedures on the ship. I kind of liked the buffets being closed to self serve. I think it is cleaner with things being served to us. I kind of liked it. Day 12. We ate in Pinnacle Grill. We found it to be very good. My husband got the lobster and I got a giant steak and we shared so we both had surf and turf. The lobster tail was not small, I would consider it probably from a 1 pound lobster, it was served to us poached but we could have had it grilled. We prefer poached and it was very good. The chocolate volcano cake was great. I think it is definitely worth the 20.00 fee, but I rather like my dining room stewards better than the Pinnacle stewards, but service was great and food excellent. Day 13-We are out of Code red. There have been no new cases for the required timeframe and they feel they are on top of the virus. Bread ended back on our tables, Self serve coffee, tea and salad has returned. Taco bar back opened. I am very impressed with the efforts by the crew. Had Lobster tonight and Hendra brought my husband a second helping. Two lobster tail and a filet were on each plate. The lobster were excellent and nice sized. Very well done and a lot of fun. There was a celebratory feel as we are out of Code Red and the seas have calmed down. Day 14 Final full day at sea. Again, relaxing day. We enjoyed the Master Chefs dinner. Quite a show. Very nicely done. The food was only okay, but I enjoyed seeing the crew ham it up. Due to the weather, we were informed by the captain that we were not going to be able to enjoy the Ensenada port. We were running 3 hours behind due to previously rough seas and just could not make up that time. We anchored rather than docked and quickly did paperwork and proceeded to San Diego. Some were disappointed, I was fine with it...not a huge Ensenada fan. Today—We ended our cruise with very orderly disembarkation. A very sad day for us. We loved our trip, despite weather and Code Red. We think Holland America did an excellent job overcoming these challenges. We would travel with them again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Tried to keep a log this time... and I made it until those last sea days. Too relaxing, I suppose! We were delighted to sail once again on our beloved Zaandam. She never seems to change always the same atmosphere and great crew! We ... Read More
Tried to keep a log this time... and I made it until those last sea days. Too relaxing, I suppose! We were delighted to sail once again on our beloved Zaandam. She never seems to change always the same atmosphere and great crew! We were a little late boarding, due to previous code Red conditions, as the 'sterilization process' was taking a while. But, it was only about an hour later than usual that we boarded. Great Sail Away party in the Crow's Nest and it was a beautiful day. Wonderful cabin stewards [Harry and Kadek] and dining room servers [Buddi and Dede, wine steward Mike]. All took wonderful care of us, of course. As did 'Nette in the Neptune Lounge. A new string quartet in the Explorer Lounge. After a few rough starts, they performed very nicely. I wish we could have spent a little more time listening. The seas the first night were 'very bouncy' a condition we all soon learned to deal with. My anti-seasick system is: two bonine at night, one ginger capsule in the a.m. Although we rolled and pitched at times I never missed a meal or felt that I should have. Took part in some, but not nearly all DAM dollar competitions. There was so much going on and we had a few scheduling difficulties ours, not HALs. Went to some of the Culinary Demonstrations. The head chef [I'm sure that's not the correct title], named Daniel, is a most personable man, and he was very entertaining at these [free] sessions. We saw him all over the ship. Busy guy! No one going to Hawaii should miss the gentleman, Koinoa, who did a wonderful presentation nearly every day. What a storyteller! On this cruise, we decided to do the wine tastings. There were two an introductory tasting and one in the Pinnacle Grill. Also, a new thing The Sommelier Wine Dinner, held in the Pinnacle Grill. The Pinnacle chef and the Cellar Master created a fabulous menu to go with the great wines that were served. Well worth the money. One would pay a good deal more for such dinners here on land. As a result of the above activities, we became acquainted with Cellar Master Larry, and he would stop at our table to chat every evening. BTW, I have to add that we were not buying wine we had purchased a wine card online. We had seen some of the entertainers before Tony Pace and Dave Levesque, but they were wonderful to enjoy once again. A new face to us was Annie Frances. What a lovely voice! And, coming home we had Barnaby and Paul Pappas. Great piano bar man as well... last name, Kelly. Went to some of the production shows. Until they can do something about the sound levels in these shows, we tend to either leave, sit way in back or just not go. Just too loud for us.... Michael Headla was a very good Cruise Director. He was everywhere! Had a good crew working with him, as well. Hilo had some light rain. We went on the tour to Volcano National Park. Had a terrific bus driver/guide [James] and we really enjoyed this tour. Stopped in terminal for two of the beautiful fragrant $8 leis. [HAL didn't provide these this trip. Is this some new cost-cutting thing?? Anyone know?] After the show, we sailed past the lava flow. [Good timing, Captain Smit!] The volcano was in good form this evening. Always impressive. On Honolulu, we didn't do a tour, but made an attempt to walk to Waikiki. After 45 minutes, we turned back and walked along the ocean-front park. Weather gorgeous only one light shower. NEXT time, we'll take the shuttle to Waikiki and walk back! Missed Kauai and our tour to the Fern Grotto. Decided this was a good enough reason to return one day. There was a huge ocean swell and high winds. That would have been very tricky to try to get into that dock. Glad we were in good hands. Maui was gorgeous! We had a rental car and took a picnic lunch to the Ioe Needle. Lovely!! Highly recommend this one! There is a nice park and walking path. It was about an hour's drive to get there. Returned car and met some friends from home who have been renting a condo for a month. Sat on their terrace and watched whale after whale! What a show! On the way home, the choppy seas really kicked in. This rather curtailed our daily morning walks on deck. Too windy! Plus it was easy to stay in, have a lovely breakfast and just watch the waves. One day, when we were having dinner late, we did have High Tea served in our room. Oh my! What a great thing to do!! We felt very special. And, on one of the days going to the Islands, we managed to have the club sandwiches from Room Service out on the verandah. Yum! I have no further notes on the return cruise, other than the rockiness. We were just lazy and ate a lot. Heard of no sickness, thank goodness. Missing Ensenada was no great loss to us. Understand the wind and seas slowed us down too much to get there in time. We would have stayed on the ship anyhow, and the 'farewell champagne' was a nice touch! As always, it's tough to come home to reality! I think cruising is a bit surreal anyhow. It's like a wonderful Never-land we get to visit from time to time. Cheers all! Here's to the next one. LoyHAL __________________ Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Review of Zaandam to Hawaii 12-7 to 12-22 Captain: Sybe de Boer CD: Lizabeth Knight HM: Frank Ulbricht 12/6: Arrive in San Diego and we are staying at the Holiday Inn, right across the street from the cruise terminal. The location is great ... Read More
Review of Zaandam to Hawaii 12-7 to 12-22 Captain: Sybe de Boer CD: Lizabeth Knight HM: Frank Ulbricht 12/6: Arrive in San Diego and we are staying at the Holiday Inn, right across the street from the cruise terminal. The location is great and the room is OK. We dined at Anthony's on the pier and got to watch the Oosterdam sail away. In the am we watched the Zaandam sail in from our balcony. An ambulance arrived shortly after the ship docked and an individual was brought off by stretcher to the waiting ambulance. We could see the Captain on the bridge supervising. 12/7 Embarkation: Arrived at 11 am, after rolling our luggage across the street ourselves. The check-in line moved very quickly. We had to wait until about 12 noon to board. We had lunch at the Lido. Rooms were not ready until 2 PM. Our luggage did not arrive until after 5 PM. We were some of the last to get our luggage. I was getting nervous since we didn't have one suitcase yet! Sea days: We had 5 each way. Plenty of time to enjoy enrichment lectures, cooking demonstrations, the thermal spa, Royal Dutch high tea, the Indonesian tea, water color class, golf putting and chipping contests, learn how to hula, attend a floral arranging class by the onboard florist, go to a movie or watch one in the room, attend a chat with the Chief Engineer to learn about the ship, and many other activities. Ports of call: We had been to Hawaii before so we did not do that many excursions. Hilo, Hawaii: First was Hilo where we took a ship's excursion to Volcano National Park. This was a great excursion and we visited the Visitor Center, the Jagger Museum and stopped to see the steam vents, stopped at a local black sand beach and that evening we sailed past the volcano as it was splashing lava into the sea. We were able to watch it from our starboard verandah and the Captain announced he got the closest ever - ½ mile away. It was spectacular. Volcano viewing was excellent. Pictures can't do it justice. Binoculars helped with viewing. Lahaina, Maui: This was a tender port. We waited until after most of the excursions had left and took a free shuttle to Whaler's Village for shopping and then went back to Lahaina for more shopping and a late lunch at Bubba Gump's. It was lightly raining by late afternoon when we returned. Tendering was difficult because the sea was very rough. We were there until 10pm, but the Captain actually suspended tenders in to shore around 6 pm because he determined it was just too risky. Those that wanted to come back to the ship were brought in, but no one else could go back ashore. We were a little late leaving because it was difficult getting the tenders hooked back up to the ship. Nawailiwili, Kauai: We went ashore to Duke's Canoe club at the Marriott for lunch and drinks and then did some shopping nearby. There is an ABC store, jewelry stores, clothing stores, etc. Beautiful sunset that evening. Honolulu, Oahu: Got up at 6 am to watch the ship sail in to harbor and was treated to the most spectacular sunrise with Diamond Head from the starboard verandah. This was one of the highlights of the cruise! We took the Natural Highlights ship's excursion and it was very good. We went to Diamond Head - in the middle of the crater, to Hanunama Bay and along the coastline, saw the beach where "From Here to Eternity" was filmed, and to a sacred, ancient Hawaiian temple ruins and then on to the Pali Lookout. We had an excellent guide who was an expert in his area. Then back to the ship for a snack and then in the afternoon we took a taxi to Waikiki beach to the Halekulani Hotel to House Without a Key for Hawaiian music, hula, cocktails and pupus. It was overcast so no sunset. Mai Tai's were very strong. Very good! Then around 7 pm we had another taxi drop us off at the Honolulu City Hall for the "Honolulu City Lights" Christmas lighting display. It was lovely. They really decorate for Christmas and inside City Hall were all kinds of Christmas Tree displays. Many families were there and there were pictures with Santa. We walked back to the ship - past the Iolani Palace and the State House, etc. More beautiful decorations! The ship docks at the Aloha Tower and there is shopping, etc. there. Kona, Hawaii: Another tender port. We just walked around the town to see what had changed since we were there last. Did a little shopping and stopped for Kona coffee. There were free shuttles offered here for shopping, as well. Some high points from the cruise: -The Pinnacle Grill: We ate here 4 times. This was our 4th HAL cruise, but we had never dined in the PG. We thoroughly enjoyed it! The food and the service were excellent. -The shore excursions we mentioned and the nighttime viewing of the volcano -The Hawaiian guide and enrichment lecturer, Kainoa. We attended every single talk he had and he was excellent. We learned a lot about Hawaiian culture and beliefs. He made the cruise for us! Definitely a highlight! -Don't forget the culinary demonstrations. Many are free and they are very informational and entertaining. -Free hands-on water coloring classes in the afternoons -Bought a lei in Hilo for $8 right at the pier as well as a cabin arrangement for $10. Great bargain! -Classical music in the Explorer's lounge and at dinner by Spring Breeze -Piano Bar : Ed Kelly and also Sonja Marie Happy Hour from 4-5 pm - great chance to try all the signature cocktails. We had fun with those. -Mariner brunch was handled very nicely on this ship. -The Christmas decorations were very beautiful We had a couple of problems that were taken care of. One was no hot water for the first 3 days. We called our telephone concierge each day, but nothing improved. I contacted the HM and it was taken care of within a few hours. The other thing was the bed was just not as comfortable as on our 3 previous HAL sailings. I had read 2 reviews lately that complained about the beds and I was surprised. But, we had the problem, too, and it was easily taken care of with an egg crate mattress. It was a great cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We spent a couple days in San Diego exploring and recovering from the long flight from Alabama! My daughter's brand new in box watch listed at $900, my husbands cuff links, new in box cumberbun and bow tie and out new binoculars were ... Read More
We spent a couple days in San Diego exploring and recovering from the long flight from Alabama! My daughter's brand new in box watch listed at $900, my husbands cuff links, new in box cumberbun and bow tie and out new binoculars were all stolen out of luggage on AA. The watch I didn't realize was put in there so that should have been expected, but the rest?... Anyway, we had a restful time at a nice hotel in the gaslamp district. We boarded the ship on a rainy day, but had short lines and very nice people helping us with the abbreviated paperwork. We had all pre-boarding passes etc. taken care of. The ship is in very nice condition. We traveled on her a few years ago shortly after she was refurbished and the upgrades have been mostly maintained. The only things I could comment on were the stain on the sofa in our room (not a problem for us) and the fact that we had a regular blanket as opposed to a feather comforter between the sheets (no duvet) on our bed. Our cabin stewards were fantastic and our waiter (late set seating) was wonderful! We had ice in our room when we needed it and our food came quickly as our waiter took note of the 3 teens who would rather not spend much time eating! Very thoughtful! The shows were quite good. We only went to 3 but enjoyed them! We played a lot of Bingo. The girls love this so we went every day. One daughter won a little once which kept us coming back. I do have to say my praises for DJ Matt! He is always cheerful and entertaining. I did several of the Dam bucks events and had a blast! I have 2 coffee mugs to show for my (non)golfing/hockey/tennis etc. lack of talent. Lizbeth was sweet and a good hostess as well as a good sport as she got in the pool and played volleyball! I would not have put myself in that pool for money as it was a little chilly! We had a lot of fun in the casino. It wasn't a winning trip (understatement) but the people were absolutely wonderful - a big and welcome difference from our last trip! Our ports were Hilo - we rented a car and went to VNP - beautiful and fun, Honolulu - again rented a car and did some sightseeing, Maui - we did the river kayak trip which was great fun and the waterfalls were lovely, kauai we did the whale watch tour and a luau and we just vegged in sunshine on Kona at a lovely beach bar and tiny beach. The food on the ship was good! We had no complaints about dinner in the dining room and the food in the Lido was mostly good. You can't expect good crispy bacon when cooked in in bulk and eggs are something best ordered at the window so they are cooked to your preference! I do love the pizza and sandwich station! REALLY GREAT! This was a really special trip as it was or longest cruise yet and our first trip to Hawaii! Thank you Holland for another special experience!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background We are a married couple, 30 years old. My mother also cruised with us and she is 67. We have cruised on Holland America, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. This cruise was the 15 day Circle Hawaii ... Read More
Background We are a married couple, 30 years old. My mother also cruised with us and she is 67. We have cruised on Holland America, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. This cruise was the 15 day Circle Hawaii cruise that sailed roundtrip to the islands from San Diego, CA. We visited Hilo, Lahaina, 2 days in Honolulu and Kona. Embarkation We arrived at the pier around noon. There were lots of people there already but check in was easy and we only had to wait in line a few minutes. When we boarded the ship the staterooms were not ready so we headed to Lido for a bite to eat. Our Stateroom Our Stateroom was an outside cabin on Deck 1 - Dolphin Deck, Midship Category E. The cabin was very nice with plenty of storage for all three of us. The third bed is a sofa which makes into a bed. My mother said it was not very comfortable. Our bed was two twins pushed together and was comfortable. The bathroom had a tub/shower combo. The service form the cabin stewards were excellent. Sea Days and Things to do on the Ship There were 10 sea days on this 15 day cruise. Most of the passengers on this cruise were 65 years or older. We only saw a few young people and 2 small children. The ship was very peaceful and quiet. No drunk people and no kids running around. We like cruising with the older people so we fit in great. However, due to the average age of the passengers there were not many activities geared toward the younger crowd. Every day there would be cooking demonstrations, trivia, live music, bingo and sports events. We took place in the sports events to collect the Dam Dollars to redeem at the end of the cruise for souvenirs. There were also dance lessons, coffee chats, travel talks, and various other events during the sea days. The library had many books, magazines, games and puzzles for people to use. Most sea days the library was packed with people reading or playing games. DVDs were also available to check out for $3 each. Every cabin has a TV and DVD player. Big screen movies would play in the culinary theatre at night. The selection of movies was very good. But the theatre is not set up very well with the position of the chairs and the screen. It helped very much that there were 2 large screen TVs on each side of the big screen to see the movie as well. These were much clearer and provided for an unobstructed view of the movie. They also provided popcorn and sold drinks. I wish they would have played the movies during the sea days as well. But usually that lounge was used for cooking demonstrations during the sea days. They also played these movies on the cabin TVs the next day. There was also a travel guide aboard the ship to tell us all about Hawaii. He was very knowledgeable and fun to listen to. He would give talks during the day and they would be shown on the cabin TVs as well. The Casino is very small but all of the staff was very friendly. They had the usual table games and the limit was low at $5. Every sea day they would hold 2 sessions of Texas Hold'em Poker. The slots machines were very tight and did not pay anything. The shops were your average souvenir and jewelry stores you find on cruise ships. Entertainment The cruise director on the ship was Lizabeth and she was a very nice lady. She fit the older crowd but was not very entertaining. The production shows with the singers and dancers were great shows. However, the singing was awful and the shows were missing the live music that Carnival always has. The other entertainers included singers, comedians, ventriloquists, and jugglers. All of these shows were fantastic. The live music around the ship was very nice as well. There were also 2 crew shows - one Indonesian and one Filipino. Both were excellent shows! Food The food on the ship was very good. I would not say it was outstanding but it was very good. Every night in the dining room there would be one dish of either chicken, beef, fish, pasta and vegetable. These were accompanied by appetizers, soup, salad and of course dessert. The service in the dining room was excellent. The lido buffet was good as well serving almost the same thing for dinner each night as was served in the dining room. Lunch offered a variety of items as well as a deli, salad bar, Mexican bar and hamburger/hot dog/pizza station by the pool. Dessert and ice cream was offered as well. Late night snacks were also provided on lido deck starting around 11pm. Drinks On this cruise you could purchase a drink card for soda, wine or cocktails. Each card has its own price and offers a certain amount of drinks. Your card is punched every time you have a drink. The price you pay initially includes the tips and taxes. My husband purchased the wine card for $67 + tax and tip. This provided 20 glasses of house wines which he could use anywhere on the ship. The best deal was the happy hours in the Ocean Bar. Almost every day from 4pm-5pm they would offer half price drinks in the Ocean Bar. This was a great deal and better than purchasing any of the drink cards. Gym/Spa We did not purchase any spa services but took a tour of the area. It was very nice and the gym was quite busy on sea days. They offered specials throughout the cruise. Photographs The photographs were very expensive. We only purchased our embarkation photo along with a photo of the ship in a Folio album. This cost $53. There were only a few photographers on the ship and they did not hound you to take photos like on other cruise lines. They didn't follow you around or make you take photos. They would usually ask first if you wanted a photo. This was a great feature. Hawaiian Ports We did not take any of the HAL shore excursions as they were very expensive. With 3 people we found it cheaper and better to rent a car in each port. We explored the islands and saw the sights we chose and did it all on our own time schedule. I think this is a great way to see the islands. We calculated that the cost of the car plus gas averaged $24 per person per day. This is a great way to see many places at your own pace and for a low cost. We were supposed to sail past the Volcano on the big island once we departed Hawaii on the last port day. The captain switched the schedule so that we would sail past the Volcano after the first port day in Hilo. He did this because we would be sailing past at an earlier time so more people would be awake to view this. Unfortunately, it was raining and we could not see the volcano very well. We did see the glowing red lava but it was very far away and hard to see through the fog/rain. I believe each person can make the best or worst of their port days so I won't go into detail about each stop. I will say that we really enjoyed Hawaii and there is a lot to see and do. Make the best of your time there! ? Debarkation Originally we were going to have a silent debarkation. This means you are given your designated time to leave the ship and you go at this time. However, it was changed and they did make announcements for when we could leave the ship. We got off the ship early and with no problems. However, there were a lot of people trying to get of the ship and it seems like they needed more time between each color being called. The elevators were slow as were they people walking off the ship with their luggage. More time for each group of people to leave the ship would have been better. Conclusion This was a wonderful cruise with excellent service. The food was very good and the entertainment was great. We really enjoyed the long cruise experience. It provided for relaxing sea days and plenty of time to enjoy all areas of the ship. Expect an older crowd with the average age of the guest being 65 years and older. Most of the passengers have been to Hawaii before and cruise mainly for the experience. We did not encounter any long lines, party atmospheres or kids running loose. It was a very quiet and peaceful cruise. We had a great time and would take this cruise again! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was our 11th cruise and our first with HAL. There were some small bumps in the road but overall we enjoyed the cruise and will sail with HAL again. The good The embarkation in Vancouver was the best ever as it was quick and well ... Read More
This was our 11th cruise and our first with HAL. There were some small bumps in the road but overall we enjoyed the cruise and will sail with HAL again. The good The embarkation in Vancouver was the best ever as it was quick and well organized. The food was very good in the dining room. We were impressed the dinner had 7 choices plus the three standard choices for entrees. Most entrees were well prepared and tasty and the portions were not too large. The soups were all great. The crab legs were excellent and our waiter brought extras when we requested them. We recommend eating in the dining room for both breakfast and lunch rather than fighting with the masses in the Lido. The food in the Lido was fine but not outstanding. We had an ocean view cabin on the Lower Promenade deck and it was fine(subject to comments below). It was handy on this deck as we had quick access to the outside deck which allowed you to walk around the whole ship. 4 laps to a mile. The rooms were cleaned twice a day and the cabin stewards did a good job. We only went on one HAL excursion and that was the train trip to White Pass. This was a worthwhile excursion and was well organized and went off without any problems. The guide provided an interesting talk on the trip. The trip to Glacier Bay was the highlight of the cruise. This is a must see place and on our first visit we saw a large calving of the Glacier which impressed everyone who saw it. Our friend took some great pictures of the calving which are quite impressive. The size of the ship was perfect compared to our previous cruise on the Liberty Of The Seas. On a smaller ship you have more contact with the staff who were outstanding. Our waiter Bambang and assistant waiter Sena were a great team and remembered your preferences especially Sena with our cappuccinos. The bar staff were great especially Fabian who made the best Bloody Marys and Joanna who was both pleasant and efficient. Our wine stewards Mydel and Raphet were great and extremely friendly. Ron the cellar master was great to talk to about wines and was the first time on a cruise we ever had such a friendly cellar master. The itinerary was good for one week but on the return trip it wasn't as exciting. We would recommend a one week cruise instead of a 2 week cruise. The disembarkation ( we chose self disembarkation) was quick and efficient. The bad We signed up for cooking class for $29 apiece. This was a disappointment and it was not due to Chef Jerome. My friend and I peeled potatoes and that was it for us. There were 3 children in the class who dominated everything with the encouragement of their annoying mothers. In the future HAL should have adult only classes and prep the food before the class. The ugly Unfortunately our first cabin was below the galley. It became extremely noisy starting at 11:30 p.m. and continued all night long. We complained and received an apology and bottle of wine after the first night. They said there were no other cabins available. The second night was just as noisy and we wrote a letter to Customer Relations and magically they find another cabin for us and gave us an on board credit. We had no problems after that. Conclusion We would recommend HAL, the Zaandam and the Alaska itinerary for one week only but be careful in cabin selection. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
We are a married couple in our 50's who celebrated our 25th anniversary with a cruise to Alaska July 20 to August 3. This was our third cruise and the first one to Alaska and on HAL. We have done two Caribbean cruises with RCI in the ... Read More
We are a married couple in our 50's who celebrated our 25th anniversary with a cruise to Alaska July 20 to August 3. This was our third cruise and the first one to Alaska and on HAL. We have done two Caribbean cruises with RCI in the past few years. We had previously reserved for the NCL Pearl for a seven-day Inside Passage in September but changed to this 14 day btb on the Zaandam when we found it discounted in July for only a few hundred dollars more. It was a great move. I would encourage anyone who is going to Alaska to do an extended stay on land or at sea. There is so much to see and do. Seven days is not enough to even begin to scratch the surface. I loved the size of this ship. It was easy to get around while being the ideal size to get close to the glaciers. We loved the friendly staff and impeccable service. We found the food good to very good. The ship is tastefully decorated in an understated way. I was impressed to find orchid plants on every table in the Lido and floral arrangements throughout the ship to accompany an impressive art collection and music-themed memorabilia. The main showroom entertainment was excellent with a mix of production shows and a comedian and magic act. But the lounge music needs to be updated and Katrina and the HAlcats needs a makeover. The Ocean Bar was reserved for dance music, but we never saw more than three couples ever using it. I did, however, enjoy the Ballroom Dancing competition in the Crows Nest Bar which is a wonderful venue by day for sightseeing and by night for partying. There were numerous other activities on board from sports challenges to trivia contests to cooking demonstrations and card games. The Filipino and Indonesian crews presented shows featuring the unique music and dances from their countries. Recently released movies were shown several times a day in the Wang Theatre and the next day on the TV. The Cruise Director Michelle and her staff were always friendly and enthusiastic. The best kept secret on board the Zaandam was the Azalea Strings Quartet who entertained in the Explorer Lounge at night. They could play classical, Broadway hits, folk music, jazz, and even the Beatles. Coffee and candy/fruits were served here to accompany the music and hit just the right note. I loved watching these excellent musicians perform up close. We didn't discover this special gem until late in the second half of our cruise. We had an ocean view stateroom but really didn't spend enough time in the room to warrant the extra cost, imho. It was surprisingly large with an oversized queen bed and loads of closet space. The bathroom had a shower/tub combo which was difficult to step over. There were two under bed drawers that made it impossible to stow a 29" suitcase there. These minor inconveniences were more than made up by our wonderful cabin steward Peri who was always friendly and attentive to any request. We spent a lot of our time in the Explorer Cafe and Lounge. There were so many cozy nooks to comfortably sit and watch the passing scenery with a book or while listening to music. The library and internet/specialty coffee bar was the perfect place to look up information, read the NYT online, do daily crosswords, or help with a jigsaw puzzle. They even had a paperback book exchange. Don't miss the Danish and Indonesian High Teas served in the main dining room once per cruise or the daily English Tea. The wonderful finger foods and impeccably serviced hot teas or coffees were a wonderful way to warm up after an busy day ashore especially if it was cold or rainy that day. The wrap-around Lower Promenade deck was also perfect for viewing the Inside Passage. Four trips around the teak-wooded deck while taking in the breathtaking view equaled one mile. There were also comfortably padded deck chairs with lap blankets at easy access. A Walk for the Cure was held on the last sea day. The Sports deck had a basketball and small tennis court. We never had time to use the pool and hot tubs under the retractable roof or the spa. AYW dining worked well for us. We never had to wait and met many interesting travelers from around the world. Be forewarned that it can take as long as two hours plus to eat a meal in the main dining room. On evenings when we returned late from shore excursions or wanted to see a conflicting showtime/activity, we opted for the Lido. The same entrees were served there on white table clothes without having to dress up. We forgot altogether about the 24 hour room service which also serves main dining room entrees if you order within the first half hour of the fixed dining schedules. We did use this option for breakfast several days before an early shore excursion and found all the food to be hot and tasty. I found the suggested clothing recommendations to be very relaxed. Pack less dress clothes. There were people dressed in casual clothes even on formal nights but nobody seemed to care as we were all enjoying the conversation so much. Alaska is all about what you do in the ports. Sharing information about tours and experiences made for some lively discussions as many people were also taking a land tour pre or post cruise. Don't fixate on clothes. Dress in layers. Relax and enjoy the company of your fellow travelers. I highly recommend a btb cruise for those who cannot afford a land tour. You get to do all the ports twice (the exception being the delightful village of Haines instead of Skagway on the return leg) and four glacier days. From the gold panning and salmon bake in Juneau to the gateway city of Vancouver you couldn't ask for a better itinerary. We had the opportunity to see the glaciers from the bow of the Zaandam, by floatplane from above in Juneau, from a small boat in Kenai Fiords National Park, and to hike up to the Exit Glacier onshore in Seward. This itinerary also gave us a chance to take the White Pass train/bus tour up to the Canadian Yukon. In Ketchikan we visited the Saxman Village to learn about the native culture and did the campy lumberjack show enjoying them both. We saw so many whales and other wildlife...even a bear up close at the Mendenhall Glacier. This cruise was the perfect combination of scenery, relaxation, and activities. I would highly recommend this ship and HAL to anyone who wants to be pampered and active. I just wish that the Zaandam could get past the Rat Pack era in the entertainment area. Frank Sinatra would probably have been happy to hear some more contemporary music from time to time himself. While it's obvious that HAL understands who their target audience is, with just a "little bit" of tweaking without changing the standard formula, I bet they could hook a whole new generation (or two) of cruisers as loyal repeat customers. If the itinerary was right, I'd give the Zaandam and HAL a second look. Bravo to all the crew and cast members who made this a wonderful 25th anniversary celebration. We are now looking into a Princess cruise which I understand is an interesting cross between RCI and HAL. I guess I like variety. NCL's specialty restaurant concept is appealing to us as well. But nobody can equal HAL for service and quality. They do it right. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
It was my wife and I (55-60) and two friends on our first Holland America and Alaska cruise. The Zaandam was the perfect size for an Alaska cruise - not too big and not too small. We had an outside lower deck mid-ship cabin. We had ... Read More
It was my wife and I (55-60) and two friends on our first Holland America and Alaska cruise. The Zaandam was the perfect size for an Alaska cruise - not too big and not too small. We had an outside lower deck mid-ship cabin. We had traveled to Anchorage the day before and walked around for an afternoon - nice town. We then took the Leopard Comedy Bus Tour to Seward with a stop in the Alaskan Refuge Center - very interesting and well worth the stop. When we arrived in Seward the bus stopped at the luggage pickup and we were then free to roan Seward. We decided to stay close to the port so we had lunch at the bakery and then walked to the pier. Since it was mid-afternoon we had no wait and onboard in about 10 minutes. The ship is easy to navigate. The ship's theme is music with instruments from President Clinton and a number of rock stars. We loved the promenade walk around as well as many other passengers. It was four times around for a mile so it was not a problem. The ship also had a string quartet that played mostly classical music and they had quite a following. Problems - not worth much to speak about. We had rough seas the third night and the dining room were about half full. Not the fault of the captain and my wife and I did not miss a meal. We have had better table service and room attendant but there was nothing that ruined the trip. We had pre-ordered a refrigerator which was in our room when we arrived - a pleasant surprise. The only problem is that there is only one plug and when you plug in the fridge there is a problem with recharging the electronics but we worked around that. Glacier Bay - absolutely a MUST. We started with an overcast day but the sun came out and we saw about 4-5 calvings to include a coupe of big calvings - wow - what a sight. Haines - we decided to try something different. We rented a car in Haines and drove the 150 miles into Canada and the Yukon. This is a trip with one lane each way but 65 mph. You go through a cold pass and through gorgeous scenery. This trip is not for the faint hearted and the road is very curvy. We ended up in Haines Junction and had lunch at the bakery - well worth the trip. Juneau - we went well watching with Captain Jack on the M/S Scania. There were only 7 of us on the boat - us four and a family of 3. We were on the seas for about 3 hours and saw two whales diving. We also saw a pack of sea lions laying on a buoy - great pictures. Ketchikan - we booked a flightseeing trip with Michele at Island Wings. I have a healthy fear of heights but flying with Michel was very comforting. We were in the air for about 1 ½ hours and well worth the money spent. My wife sat in the copilot's seat and was very pleased. Vancouver - we had booked a flight with United to go back home to D.C. I had read on the Boards about a program called U.S. Direct. This program is an agreement between Vancouver airport/docks, the cruise lines and the US airline companies. For a modest cost of $16.00 per person HAL will take your suitcases the night before and the next time you see them is at your home airport. Also, they will take you directly to the airport with a separate entrance for Canadian Customs as well as US customs. We never had to wait except for personal screening. We both agreed that is was well worth the monies. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
My husband and I are back from another fantastic cruise with Holland America from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska. We flew from San Francisco to Vancouver to begin our trip, with tours by Motor Coach and Rail to the interior. We checked our ... Read More
My husband and I are back from another fantastic cruise with Holland America from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska. We flew from San Francisco to Vancouver to begin our trip, with tours by Motor Coach and Rail to the interior. We checked our luggage in San Francisco and never had to bother with it again. Each destination we arrived at found our luggage there waiting in our room. Holland America took care of everything for us. The food was wonderful, and what a variety. We dined in The Rotterdam Dining Room every evening. What a delight that was with the wonderful staff, so very friendly and attentive. I do have to mention some names here... Our server,Ridwan,his asst.Eris,our wine Steward Oliver,Room Captain,Don Sebastian. At the Lido, Patrick who likes to sing to you while preparing your tray, also Deni our stateroom attendant. Everyone of them contributed so much to our enjoyment. Our first stop was in Ketchikan where we attended the Totem Bite & Lumberjack show. A lot of fun. Then the following day to Juneau where we went Gold Panning and to an amazing Salmon Bake (all you can eat) I never tasted Salmon that good before. On to Skagway to Jewel Gardens for a Taste of Skagway. They grow huge vegetables there and many Herbs and Flowers in the most intricate designs. After the Garden Tour you are treated to a great Lunch featuring the things they grow. Of course we cruised Glacier Bay and College Fjord. We disembarked in Seward and took a 2hr. Motorcoach scenic ride to Alyeska and dined at Seven Glaciers. You get to the restaurant by Airiel Tram and the views are breath taking, the food, not so good for a high end restaurant. We spent the night at Hotel Alyeska and next day took the Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise. Spent another night at Hotel Alyeska and next day went to Portage. You go by Motorcoach through a 2 mile tunnel. A very interesting experience. Then on to Anchorage and the Westmark Hotel for the night. The next morning we went by rail to Denali to the McKinley Chalets. Denali has to be experienced to believe. We saw many animals and even saw Mt. Mckinley. We had a great guide, Rick Miller. You cannot get too close to the animals and he had a camera he would mount on his shoulder and zoom in on their activities. The bus has monitors about every third row that drop down and you can see what your guide is zooming in on. Quite a deal. From there we flew to Fairbanks and spent the night at the Westmark Fairbanks. Next morning the Shuttle arrived and took us to the Airport for our return to San Francisco. Remember all this through Holland America, you just pick what you want to do and they take care of the rest. If you want a carefree enjoyable vacation you gotta go Holland America,I dare you to take three air flights and find your luggage at your destination. Happy Cruising. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
We are 61 and 59 years old. This was our 7th cruise, 5 with HAL, and our 2nd cruise to Hawaii. I do have some physical limitations, but we are not "doddering walker" cruisers by any means. The embarkation port was San Diego, ... Read More
We are 61 and 59 years old. This was our 7th cruise, 5 with HAL, and our 2nd cruise to Hawaii. I do have some physical limitations, but we are not "doddering walker" cruisers by any means. The embarkation port was San Diego, where we live, so it was a 30 minute commute by hired Towncar. We arrived at 12:30pm, which is when we usually get to the terminal. We knew , from reading the cruise boards, that the ship had sailed Code Red on the previous cruise. HAL offered a full refund if we wanted to cancel. Some did, but we chose to stay. All passengers were held in the terminal until 2:30PM, while HAL disinfected the ship. City bus tours were offered by HAL (free) for those who didn't want to wait in the terminal. Upon boarding, all passengers were escorted to Lido deck for lunch, where we ALL were held until 4:30. This delayed sailing, and the lifeboat drill was postponed until 10am the next day. Due to late sailing, we arrived late to our first port. The Captain gave us 2 extra hours in the 1st and 2nd ports as compensation. Zaandam is a beautiful ship, well maintained (I only saw some minor wear and tear), and very easy to navigate. The only deck that does not go through from bow to stern is deck 4, Promenade. We were on deck 6, verandah, near the aft elevators. We loved the location ! Very quiet. It was 2 decks up to Lido, and 1 deck down to the dining room. Verandah suites are spacious, have alot of storage, whirlpool tubs, Elemis bathroom products (shampoo, conditioner, bath and bar soap, hand lotion,shower cap) in small bottles on the counter, clothesline in the shower, hairdryer in a drawer, flat screen TV w/DVD player, stocked mini fridge. There is WIFI in the cabins. Balcony has a lounger, chair, and small round table. Partitions are metal and go to the floor on one side, almost to the floor on the other side, clear plexiglass on front side. As usual, service was absolutely outstanding. Dining room food was very, very good, as well as was food in Lido. We had early dining, traditional seating, at 5:45pm. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in Lido, and dinners in the dining room. We thought breakfast and lunch was just ok in the dining room, however, dinners were great there. Our TA had reserved a rear table next to the windows so we had awesome views the whole trip. We had been to Hawaii before and seen the main attractions, so this time we did smaller tours, also, I do have some problems walking distances. In Hilo we opted for the Waves and Waterfalls tour, which included the Tsunami Museum. It was an interesting tour, falls were beautiful. As usual, it was drizzling, but not when we were walking around. Honolulu was the Little Circle Island tour, with our fabulous guide, Nappy. The tide was out when we arrived at Halona Blow Hole, so we didn't get to see the geyser. Again, there was some drizzle, but a fun and informative tour. Kauai we took the Wailua River cruise, mostly because of my walking limitations. It was a nice tour. The Fern Grotto is just now getting back to normal after Hurricane Iniki decimated most of the foliage. Maui was Ulalena Theater. This is the reason we went back to Hawaii. I didn't see it last time, and DH wanted me to see it. It is hard to describe this experience. It is so much more than a Cirque de Soliel adaptation, and was so much worth the effort to see it. Kona we saw the Seahorse Farm, and what a fun treat. This is a "bare bones" facility, but so educational and fun. We got to hold a seahorse !! This is a good tour for everyone, and especially for children. The weather in Kona was cloudy, due to the volcano eruptions. The smell of sulphur was in the air. The locals call it "VOG"--volcano fog. This was our favorite cruise. The only negatives, for us, were the lack of things to do. We aren't pool people, and pools were a big draw for many people. Also, all the activities overlapped, so if we wanted to do 2 things, we had to leave one early. We played Trivia every day, met some nice people. There was live music throughout the ship---fabulous violin, piano,cello trio, piano soloist, and bands. We were serenaded every night before dinner. There were numerous, huge, amazing floral arrangements throughout the ship. One of our favorite things is the Wajang Theater, but the movies were only shown at 5pm (our dinner time) or 10pm (too late for me and my medical issues). Our very favorite place is Explorations Cafe. The library is fairly extensive, comfortable computer area, amble seating, and good game area. The Explorations Cafe coffee area we visited several times every day. The entertainment was actually pretty good. Nick McCullock gave us a great Neil Diamond tribute, Ken Groves and his "dummies" was good, The Amazing 88's were amazing. All of it was good. The Indonesian and Filipino shows were held very late. They were good shows. You cannot miss the midnight Chocolate Extravaganza ! All the carved fruits, chocolate, cakes, breads, ice carvings--everything was really something. Two positive things were, no announcements in the cabins (except emergency), only in the public rooms, and no photographers except on formal nights (there were 4 formal nights- days 3, 5, 11, 14). We didn't like the backdrops for the photos, and did not like the backdrop for the embarkation photos. We didn't think the photographers were all that skilled. Again, despite everything, this cruise was wonderful. I am sure everyone will find something they will like. We made new friends and new memories. Thanks HAL! Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Background Information: We are newly retired folks, aged 62 and 65, and relatively new to cruising. Our first cruise was on Royal Caribbean, followed by 4 more on Holland America. We have additional Holland America Cruises booked, as the ... Read More
Background Information: We are newly retired folks, aged 62 and 65, and relatively new to cruising. Our first cruise was on Royal Caribbean, followed by 4 more on Holland America. We have additional Holland America Cruises booked, as the line is a good fit for us. Travel to Port of Embarkation: We arranged our own air, flying American Airlines, O'Hare to San Diego, non-stop. The flight was uneventful, which is always good news. Hotel Information: We stayed one night pre-cruise at San Diego's Holiday Inn on the Bay. A free shuttle was provided from the airport. We think of this as the 2 star hotel with the 5 star view. It was pricey, at $279 for one night in a very ordinary room, but there is nothing like sitting on your balcony just before dawn to see your ship arrive at the pier. A couple hundred feel closer and the bow would have been in my lap. Embarkation: Smooth and easy. We walked across the street to the pier around noon, found little line, and were checked in and on the ship in less than 15 minutes. Even with 3 large suitcases and 2 carry-ons, the hotel was close enough to make the walk an easy one. We dropped our carry-on's off in our almost-ready cabin and went to the aft pool area to enjoy a cool soda and the view while we awaited the announcement that cabins were ready. Less than an hour later we were enjoying the view from our own balcony. Stateroom: We don't do guarantees, as it's important for us to know exactly what to expect. We booked an S-Suite on the Navigation Deck and were pleased with it. It was roomy, clean, comfortable, and well maintained. There was plenty of room under the bed for our empty suitcases, and the closet and drawer space would have accommodated twice our needs. Our room steward was relentless in his efforts to tidy things up, and we often wondered how he knew we were out of the room. We always returned to a full ice bucket, as well as other evidence that we were being cared for. The bed was by far the most comfortable we've ever slept in, and the cabin furnishings were in good condition. The furniture on the balcony was somewhat worn, and should probably be replaced sometime soon. Ship Information: The theme of the Zaandam is Music, and it was in evidence everywhere. Doors to several venues were glass etched like sheet music, lamps in the showroom featured tiny lighted instruments, antique instruments were framed and placed in hallways, and there was a sax signed by Bill Clinton. Between the music theme, the Egyptian Art, and the abundance of flowers, we felt surrounded by elegance. Dining: As suite guests, we were provided with a quiet area in the Kings Room for a full service breakfast. We ate there most every morning and enjoyed sharing a table with the same people on several occasions. Food was served promptly, properly cooked, and hot. There was also a full service breakfast in the dining room and a buffet breakfast in the midship Lido Restaurant. Room Service was very good. We used that a couple of times, and our food arrived in a timely manner - and hot. We especially appreciated this early morning access to a pot of coffee in our cabin. Dinner most nights was in the main dining room, and we found it to be a good experience. We were at table for 8, seated with people we didn't previously know. It was fun to get acquainted and to run into these folks around the ship. We found the food in the dining room to be at least as good as a high-end land based restaurant. It was well prepared, properly seasoned, attractively plated, and was served at the proper temperature. Hot was hot and cold was cold. The menu was divided into 3 basic sections: Starters, Soups & Salads, and Entrees. We were able to order as many items as we liked from each section, so a 5 or 6 course dinner was not unusual. On the one occasion a tablemate didn't care for her entree, a different one was cheerfully provided in less than 10 minutes time. The dessert menu was separate and always had a good selection of items, as well as sugar-free desserts. The extra cost dining venue, The Pinnacle Grill, is absolutely delightful. They have access to a quality of filet mignon that is beyond that of many restaurants. It was prepared exactly as ordered and could, literally, be cut with a fork. We could not find a single thing about this wonderful meal that wasn't right, including the excellent service. Cost was a flat $30 per person and well worth it. Lounges: We frequented two bars, and found them more than comfortable, with staff that seemed to care about us personally. Although we know we were low profit people in the bars (soda only), we were greeted by name from the first day, and found ourselves waving hello to "our" bartenders whenever we passed by - and they always seemed genuinely glad to see us. Activities: There were so many activities that choices had to be made every day. The ongoing things, like daily movies in the theater, a shipbuilding contest, team trivia, daily quizzes, game show games, evenings in the show lounge, and more, were always fun and well attended. Special events, like a joke contest, a pub crawl, talent show, dance lessons, educational lectures, and on and on, were always popular. The Cruise Director and Activity Staff were quite visible on the ship, and often stopped to chat with various cruisers - another personal touch that was much appreciated. Entertainment: I'd have to rate this as excellent. There was a lot of real talent presented at the evening shows in the showlounge. We didn't get to every show, but really enjoyed those we did see. Among those were a magician-comedian that kept us in hysterics, a classical violinist-comedian who was amazing, and the Zaandam's CAST of Singers and Dancers whose talent was much more than I'd expect to see on a cruise ship. Service: Holland America is well known for the excellent service provided by it's crew and staff, and our experience was that it's definitely still true. Our every need was met, many times before we could express it. We wanted for nothing. Our Captain did a daily shipwide announcement "Voice from the Bridge" to update us on navigation, ocean depth, air and water temperature, and various other things. This was just once a day, and we looked forward to it. Immediately following him was a brief summary of upcoming events by our Cruise Director. We were not interrupted during the day by any other announcements, which we appreciated. Disembarkation: This was very well organized. We were able to use their special service that delivered our airline boarding passes and luggage tags to our cabin. We placed our tagged suitcases in the hallway the night before we disembarked and didn't see them again til we arrived at O'Hare. The cost was $15 per person, and worth every cent and more. Code Red: Sadly, three days into the 15 day sailing, that pesky Mr. Noro raised his ugly head. Because there was no illness when we boarded and it was a full three days before it hit, it's pretty much a certainty that a passenger brought it aboard. Although we did end up with a total of 101 persons, including crew, who had been ill with it - we pulled into port in San Diego with just 6 new cases that morning and fewer than 20 people still in their 3-day quarantine. Actually, given that the 101 cases occurred over 12 days, it's amazing that an average of only 8-1/2 people per day became ill on this 1400 plus passenger and 600 plus crew ship. I credit this incredible recovery to the sanitation steps taken by the crew, and their relentless pursuit of the germ. Summary: We consider this to have been one of our best cruises, even with the code red problem. We were treated like royalty the entire time and have nothing but good things to say about the experience. In addition to the wonderful Zaandam folks, we had the pleasure of meeting up with 25 Cruise Critic people from our roll call. A great addition to a terrific cruise! Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
We travelled to San Diego one day early to avoid any airline problems. Boarding went without problems and we met some wonderful people in the line waiting to board. Cabins were ready within one hour of boarding and luggage was in the room ... Read More
We travelled to San Diego one day early to avoid any airline problems. Boarding went without problems and we met some wonderful people in the line waiting to board. Cabins were ready within one hour of boarding and luggage was in the room well before the Fire Drill. The sail away party on the Lido deck aft was well worth attending and served as an introduction to the Event Staff (Jason, Andrew, Amanda, Cassie, and Drew) Lunch followed with Jason and Andrew and then our first day with the open dining. The ability to eat whenever one wanted was good, but we missed having a regular group of dining room staff at our table. The trip to Hawaii was good in spite of the cooler weather the first two days of the trip. My wife caught the virus on the first day we were in Hawaii and the staff of the Zaandam did everything for her except give her a tiara. The efforts of the crew to contain the virus were outstanding and the virus would have been contained quickly had passengers reported their illness in a more timely manner. There were about 112 passengers and crew ill on the ship and who knows how many more that went unreported. There was more than enough to do and we tried to do most of it (at least on sea days). We met a number of interesting people on the cruise including a few members of CC. Disembarkation was the quickest I have ever seen from a cruise ship. Kudos to the personnel at San Diego. The entertainment was good as usual and Chris Pendleton was exceptionally funny. Mike McCullough was great as a Niel Diamond impersonator. The shows were good although one of the female singers had a cruise from hell (Flu, caught the virus, knocked out during a performance). Some of the complaining passengers got a little old towards the end of the cruise but we were able to steer clear of most of them. The submarine dive in Maui provided great viewing of the reefs and a ship that had been sunk to create a new reef. Snorkeling in Kona provided even more beautiful views of the underwater life there. I would rate this as one of the better cruises we have been on, second only to the Alaska cruise. For those who find so much to complain about, try carnival next time. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
There have been several harsh reviews of Zaandam on the boards and I thought it was time for a current review that would give a "fair and balanced" review for this ship. About me: I have 141 days on Holland America ships. This ... Read More
There have been several harsh reviews of Zaandam on the boards and I thought it was time for a current review that would give a "fair and balanced" review for this ship. About me: I have 141 days on Holland America ships. This was my first on Zaandam. I have cruised Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian. I have other cruises from lines that are now bankrupt so I do have a wide and diverse cruise history. HAL is my favorite. Let us begin with embarkation. The dreaded news spread faster then the disease, "norovirus" was on board. Well, it must have disembarked at San Diego because I never heard anyone say that they knew someone who became ill, or heard of someone becoming ill. We were delayed approximately 2 hours on our boarding, while HAL went through the super cleaning they now do after the virus as appeared. I want you to know that HAL was so careful that they sent teams out into the waiting area and they sprayed all the bench seating with the anti-viral spray and wiped it all down to protect their passengers. We did not go "code red" although I did miss the salt and pepper shakers on the Lido for the first few days. We were issued packets of salt and pepper with our trays. There was no other visible signs of noro unless it was how scrupulous everyone was about using the hand sanitizer. Once on board, we discovered cabins were ready. So we went straight there and dropped our stuff. Met our steward and he asked how many pieces of luggage we had, we told him, and when we got back from lunch...our luggage was there. We were unpacked and settled before the lifeboat drill. San Diego was wickedly chilly, which meant lifeboat drill was also. They are having an abnormal winter in San Diego so check the weather and dress accordingly. This was the Zaandam's first voyage facing the challenge of "as you wish" dining. Let me tell everyone that they have a system in place that is remarkably efficient. I was able to make a reservation every night to get the table for two and the time I wanted. I called everyday precisely at 8 when the reservation line opened. Now if you are not so prompt, do not fear, there were days when I called as late as two in the afternoon and still got what I wanted give or take a half an hour. Try this system, you may like it. The food was up to HAL's expected standard. We did not have some dishes as often as I would have liked (rack of lamb) and we had some dishes more often then I like (prime rib 4 times), but those are the breaks. I am not letting it become an issue for me. If I did not care for something my waiter for that evening was right there asking if he could replace it. Anytime dining has done no harm to the gracious, attentive service of the dining staff. They have a new dinner show called the "Master chefs dinner" The stewards do all kinds of dances and singing with each course. No one was more surprised then I to see something "new" at dinner. I was expecting the baked Alaska parade. The baked Alaska parade is only done for the traditional seating guests on the last night at sea. That made me a little sad. Since the last time I cruised on HAL (a lapse of one year) some changes have occurred. We now have the "wine card", "cocktail card", "coffee card" I liked the wine card immensely. At last, access to a reasonably priced glass of wine to have with dinner. It was 67.50 for 20 glasses of wine. The pour was probably 4 ounces. The 15% gratuity was added on bringing final price to 78.00. Now let me say, if you are a wine enthusiast with a taste for high ticket bottles, do NOT buy a wine card. If you are a person who likes wine but doesn't spend a lot of time swirling and sniffing, this could be for you. I liked the red, disliked the white, and did not try the white Zin. My Mother, who likes white Zin, liked the house pour. The "cocktail card" 55.00 for 10 cocktails. (plus 15% for tip) I bought one of these because it saved me a buck on every Pina Colada. There is an extensive list of included cocktails. I believe Martini's were included. "The coffee card" 26.00 for ten coffees. This I did not buy. I drink espresso. I don't want shots of syrup and chocolate and whatever. So a grande size espresso was 1.70 Which would mean losing money on the coffee card. But if you want the 4 and five dollar "coffee of the day" buy this card and save yourself some money. I have read on past reviews that the Zaandam is old and worn. No it is not. There are some minor damaged spots, true. But I had to look hard for several days to find anything that might account for somebody to say Zaandam is worn out. My first impression was "wow". Polished brass and shined furnishings. She is every bit as beautiful as you would hope. I don't know if every sailing gets the entertainment we did. I think we got lucky because the entertainers on board were swapped out in Hawaii. Part one of the trip we had a classical violinist, an Australian singer, and a comedian who also played violin, only more country then classical. They were wonderful, unfortunately I have a rotten memory and forgot their names. However you can find out who they are because they have gone to join the world cruise and entertain on it for HAL. Then we got a second group of entertainers for the return trip. A comedian who does magic, an impressionist singer, and a Flautist. So we had lots and lots of great shows. These people are now on the Zaandam and I am sure if you post on the regular boards you can get their names quickly. There have been reports on the boards that the Zaandam is having trouble with her air conditioning. Those events seem to be localized to a room by room. My room had excellent a/c. I also had a small portable fan that I take to circulate the air. On this cruise there was a shipwide failure not just of the a/c but the electrical power. We had lights, but the a/c and Galleys were down for over two hours. Boy was I glad we ate early that night. I gather there was minimal hot food to be had at the late sitting. My cabin got to 82 degrees. The balconies and verandahs had the edge that night. The power was repaired around 11 p.m.. It took at least an hour for the temperature to come down. Hawaii itself is everything I imagined except for one thing, the water is not warm and inviting. It was chilly and I did not expect that. When I asked the locals if I was just there at the wrong time of year they said no it is usually that temperature. Now if you are from New England and are used to swimming in cold Atlantic waters, you will think Hawaii is great for swimming. If you are a person who wants to walk in and feel cozy in the water don't plan on swimming in Hawaii. On shore excursions there is something for everyone, be it adventure tours or a leisurely drive through a tropical garden. Ensenada was a useless stop that kept us legal under the Jones act. What amazed me is how many complaints I heard about not spending enough time there. There was nothing there. Why would you want to? The ship has a speaker of Hawaiian heritage that gives regular lectures on the history, culture and peoples who came to the islands and made their lives there. There was also a series of lectures on topics related to literature. In addition, they had presentations on cooking and food display in the culinary arts center(AKA Wajang theater) so there was at least one of these happening everyday. That concludes my review of the 2/3/2008 sailing of Zaandam. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Overall we very much enjoyed our recent cruise on the Zaandam. The food and service in general were extremely good, and we concluded that we received very fair value for our vacation dollar. Embarkation in San Diego is easy. We stayed ... Read More
Overall we very much enjoyed our recent cruise on the Zaandam. The food and service in general were extremely good, and we concluded that we received very fair value for our vacation dollar. Embarkation in San Diego is easy. We stayed overnight at a small hotel in La Jolla and, on November 5, arrived at the pier just after noon. Check-in was efficient as we had used HAL's on-line process (keeping a hard copy of the form to show the agent, as is required). Our time with the agent was just long enough for her to snap our photos, and then we boarded. Unfortunately, everyone was herded to the Lido buffet, and the lines were thus huge! We should have walked to the burger bar at the aft pool deck but instead went through the line and then shared a table with some folks--even though the room was crowded, the first meal was delicious! Off to a very good start. By the time we were through lunch, at about 1:15, the announcement was made that cabins were now available. So, we headed to our mid-ship Verandah cabin on deck 6. The cabin was clean, comfortable and well prepared for its new guests. Within five minutes of our getting to the cabin our steward knocked at the door and introduced himself. He asked how many bags we expected. We told him four. Within 30 minutes we had all the bags--this has never happened before on all our past cruises! We were fully unpacked before Lifeboat drill. There was ample closet and storage space, all our hanging goods and other items were put away and we did not even need to use the drawers at the end of the bed. The luggage went under the bed, forgotten for the next two weeks as we got used to our new "home". We like the "verandah suite" category--its not as lavish as are the deluxe suites, but the price is reasonable and the service is fine. We found the "at your service" concierge, which we presume is a dedicated line to the front office, also very helpful to supplement the excellent service from our cabin steward. The Zaandam is not a new ship, but the cabin was in very good shape: clean, carpeting fine, comfortable. The large bed, in particular, was very comfortable and we slept well most nights. The only problem was, for us, the a/c was not strong enough. Yet, we were aware that many of the passengers found the ship "too cold". It is not easy to please everyone! Still, the engineer came to our cabin and boosted the air-flow from the vent, which helped a lot. The bathroom was quite nice, a whirlpool tub, not huge, but nice for baths for my wife, and a hand-held shower. Occasional fluctuations in water temperature during a shower was noticed, but not too often and not to extreme temperatures. Food: the executive chef was a rather rolly-polly fellow whom we felt wanted us all to weigh about the same as he. In other words, the meals were generally excellent. We had room service many mornings, using the order card the prior night, and the meals arrived on time, as ordered, and were quite tasty. Occasional breakfast in the Lido was fine, and the line-ups were not too bad. Breakfast in the dining room was excellent, however, although on a vacation we did not always rouse ourselves to be there within the times. Lunch was also very good no matter which option one chose. We enjoyed occasional room service lunch on our verandah, and the sandwiches or wraps, or burgers, etc., were all very good indeed. Lunch in the dining room was nice, and so was the Lido. Dinners in the dining room were again excellent. HAL has changed its menu somewhat, but there remains lots of choice for dinner amongst various starters and main courses. Of course, for those who are more "gourmand" than "gourmet" (that would include me at times) one could have seconds of any dish--a treat when the jumbo shrimp cocktails were on the menu! For a change of pace we went to the Pinnacle on two occasions: one regular dinner to celebrate our anniversary, and for the special wine-tasting dinner with a variety of wines organized by the cellar master. Both dinners were first-rate and well worth the price. The Cellar Master's wine tasting dinner had a unique menu, and the Pinnacle chef took great care with the food--it was excellent. The wines were lovely, and the quantities were not limited, perhaps because there was not a huge attendance at the tasting dinner. That was unfortunate because a better value on land likely could not be found. A word on dress-code: HAL has "smart casual" most nights, and formal for four nights on this 15 day cruise. On formal nights I would estimate that at the 8:00 p.m. dinner sitting, a majority of the men made the effort and put on a tuxedo or dinner jacket. Others were dressed in dark suits, and the ladies matched their men-folk. No one stood out as ignoring the dress-code. On the smart-casual nights, given the elasticity of this category, people ran the gamut from navy blazer and tie, to neat khakis and a sports shirt. As a guy who likes the ladies but who is clueless as to the nature of a formal versus informal dress or skirt, I will stick to how the guys dressed. On sea days, many men wore a sports jacket or blazer in the evening, sans tie, and with khakis or slacks. Some men wore sweaters, very few wore ties except on formal night. Personally, I like a jacket when going out for dinner and opted for that many nights (except port nights when in Hawaii when everyone was more to the "casual" end of "smart"). Dress at the Pinnacle was up a notch. On our two occasions there all men had on jackets, some ties, and we were there not on formal nights. This is a longer cruise and, from recent past experience, I know that on a seven day cruise the spectrum tilts heavily to the casual end. This was also a somewhat older crowd (I am in my mid-40's and felt, comparatively, young--which is fine by me. We enjoy meeting and having a conversation with people a little older, who have had interesting life experiences). Services in general: The service on the Zaandam was at the overall excellent level that we have come to expect from HAL. Our cabin steward was great, and responsive to all our requests. Our cabin was done in the morning and at night we found a different towel animal awaiting us. The friendly staff in the Ocean Bar were particularly good at learning ones name, and drink preference, and delivering the order promptly and with a smile (and some snacks too!). The Piano bar was an equally pleasant hang-out for us, and Piano player Bob belted out the favorites and got us all singing along--many a night after dinner there was not a seat to be had at the Piano bar. Shore excursions were fine and offered reasonable value in our view. The port lectures were long on shopping and diamonds, but weak on practical information (the cost of a cab in Honolulu, what about public transit, etc.). Front office staff, whether by phone or in person, were always polite and helpful. Sometimes they had to get approval and could not answer right away, but they were ultimately helpful. Activities: Other than sales-type of activities where one sat through a sales-pitch or an activity at a cost (and the ubiquitous bingo!), there was not a lot else to do, which suited us fine as we caught up on our reading, snoozing, enjoying the ocean views, etc., on the way to and from Hawaii. Others may have liked a better range of guest lecturers, although the anthropologist was somewhat interesting, as was the astronomer. Trivia games at 9:00 a.m., however, were a tad early for us! This was not a cruise for young children--there were hardly any on board, and one young fellow seemed, when I saw him on the ship, quite bored. The showtime entertainment was pleasant. Some of the cast could actually sing well (they all could sing). Some of the other acts were quite good as a way to pass the time but nothing stands out as particularly memorable. The theatre ran good movies, a nice place to while away a sea day watching something current. TV's in the staterooms also showed the movies later that week after they played in the theatre. The library area is large and comfortable, and one could sink into an easy chair and "sleep a book" while the ship sailed along. Or, one could do any manner of things. There were many at the computers but, having to use one as part of work, I avoided the computers for the entire 15 days. Spa: The Steiner spa on this ship offered good quality services, as my wife and I each enjoyed a massage and other services. I had purchased a spa-pass for the length of the cruise--more on the spa itself later. When the ship unfortunately experienced a Norwalk outbreak at the last three days of the cruise and as a result all pools and the spa was closed, Steiner refused to refund the pro-rata amount of the spa-pass. All I was offered were additional services, which I did not need at that point near the end of the cruise. Moreover, my wife (who by then had purchased two manicures, a pedicure and a massage but not the spa pass) was told she could not receive the services in lieu of me, but only I could have a service. We felt the Steiner managers on the Zaandam was very inflexible, and that she delivered poor customer service. Happily, the ship's guest relations manager agreed that if, through no fault of ours, we could not use a facility for which we had paid we should get a pro-rata refund. So, she put a credit for that on my shipboard account. In my view this was an example of excellent customer service on the part of HAL, and puts Steiner to shame. The spa itself on the Zaandam is not huge. It is nice enough but the Vista ships' spa is like a pool--far more elaborate. Still, it was nice to have the use of the spa for most of the cruise. This is one example of life being a series of trade-offs. We like the smaller, and older, HAL ships in some respects, but also enjoy the expanded amenities of the newer Vista ships that, for reasons of size, are not available on the older ships. I guess we just have to keep cruising on both types! A note about Norwalk: this can happen in any confined space, not only on cruise ships. We have never contracted this, in over 13 cruises, probably because we wash our hands frequently, with hot water, and also use the hand-sanitizer that is around the ship. If everyone did that, outbreaks would become less frequent. While the ship was clean before, after the outbreak, the cleaning of the ship was even more visible! Ports: Hawaii is lovely and other than Kauai we had plenty of time to do the tours, including a snorkel tour in Kona that was a highlight, that we had booked before departure, using the internet. Booking tours by internet prior to departure makes things a lot simpler on board, and allows one to avoid lining up. Still, we made some changes to some tours, adding some, deleting others, while on board--the shore excursion office was helpful if at times understaffed, given the line ups of people to do this. We went at "off-peak" times and in the main avoided lining up, which one should try to avoid as much as possible when on holidays! We left Kauai at the early time of 2p.m., because the final port of the cruise on the last day was Ensenada, Mexico, arriving there at 8 p.m., just at dinner time, and after everyone has gone through the fuss of packing, etc. While a foreign flagged ship must call at a foreign port when traveling between two US ports, the ship need only stop for a short period. Very few people did get off but some fellow guests got off at Ensenada and reported that they were not impressed. In our view, rather than a four hour stop there, we could have enjoyed more time at Kauai. Overall, this was an excellent cruise holiday and we would continue to cruise with HAL--the food and service impressed and we wish we were still on board! Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
This was our fourth cruise. We are in our late 50's,retired and have booked 2 cruises with Carnival and one prior with Holland America. All were to Mexico. This was our first Alaskan cruise. As I previously mentioned in my review of ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise. We are in our late 50's,retired and have booked 2 cruises with Carnival and one prior with Holland America. All were to Mexico. This was our first Alaskan cruise. As I previously mentioned in my review of the Ryndam the most obvious difference between Carnival and Holland America is the age of the passengers. Carnival caters to a younger party crowd while Holland America specializes in a serene ambience for the elderly. The arrival at Vancouver airport was well organized and cruise passengers were immediately directed to specified waiting areas. We had pre-arranged transit to the ship which was booked as part of our cruise. The process included both waiting in line and sitting in designated areas. After appox. 35 minutes we were on our shuttle bus to the dock. The bus ride was through city streets and various ethnic and at times run down neighborhoods. The driver was knowledgeable and informative about the sections of the city we traveled through. Once on the dock the process included a document check and receiving a photo I.D. which served as our room key. We were delighted to know we had been upgraded to a higher deck. Why remains a mystery. This took appox. 20 minutes. In a short time we were on board eating lunch on the lido deck. Our cabins were ready at appox. 1:30p.m. Our cabin was an ocean view on the main deck. It was just roomy enough for two persons. However there was a tremendous amount of closet space.We put our suitcases and clothes away and discovered we had left one closet empty. In addition the lamp stand cabinet has storage space. There is an L.C.D. television however to activate the remote control you have to stand up and point it at shoulder level for it to work. You cannot change channels if you sit in the sofa which is at a lower level. The bath was just large enough. The medicine cabinet is corner located and had all the room we needed for our toiletries. Our meals consisted of breakfast and lunch in the lido restaurant and the early seating in the Rotterdam dining room. The lido is cafeteria style with only two lines for the main dishes. This results in log lines. I had to wait for soup in the longest line then proceed to the self serve salad station. Soup and salad should be in the same station. The breakfasts and lunches were fine and the Indonesian/Filipino staff were very attentive to the elderly individuals seeking tables. The Rotterdam Dining was a great experience. The menu was extensive and the food was very good especially the desserts. We dined on: king crab, salmon, fillet mignon, sole, lamb chops and other premium fair. We had lunch once at the Pinnacle Grill and it was disappointing. The food was mediocre and the portions were skimpy. It addition there was no greeter for a period of time leaving many inquiring guests unattended, most just left. Our first stop was Juneau. It was cloudy and cool which is great weather by Alaska standards. We are from southern California thus cloudy and cool is not our average "good" weather. We took the whale watch cruise which ended up being a once in a lifetime experience. We watched 14 yes 14 humpback whales hunting their prey. The next port was Skagway which is a small western style village. Lots of souvenir shops. The main attraction is the railroads. We chose the Chilkoot trail and river raft ride. The guide was very informative. It gets sweaty as you travel up a root and rock strewn trail so travel light and be in good shape. Also put on mosquito repellent especially if you were shorts like I did. You then board a rubber boat for a calm down stream ride through great scenery. The next day we were in Glacier Bay where the ship stopped in front of the Marjorie Glacier which had numerous calvings. Great sight but bundle up it's cold on deck. Next came Ketchikan which is a picturesque 1890's decor type town. We took in the Saxman Indian village tour and the lumberjack show. All were informative and fun. We caught locals fishing from a bridge on Creek St. and they actually hauled in big salmon. The Zaandam is a medium sized ship which has antiques and an elegant appearance. It's easy to walk through and the elevator landings all have a ships deck plan so you won't get lost. The gym and spa are in the front of the ship and have great views. The gym has free weights and numerous exercise machines which I took advantage of. My wife enrolled in Yoga. One bone of contention is that the two formal nights were both while in port. We came back from our hike sweaty and did not have enough time to clean up and dress up for dinner. The formal nights should only be scheduled while at sea. For the one early formal dinner we attended it seemed only a jacket and tie for the men was necessary. Dressy blouse and skirt for the ladies. Tuxedos were scarce. I wore a grey suit. Overall it was a great experience on an experienced cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Just returned from HAL's Zaandam 7 day cruise to Alaska and was quite pleased with the whole cruise. We were very lucky indeed to have beautiful weather---sunny skies and calm winds nearly the entire trip. There was plenty of snow on ... Read More
Just returned from HAL's Zaandam 7 day cruise to Alaska and was quite pleased with the whole cruise. We were very lucky indeed to have beautiful weather---sunny skies and calm winds nearly the entire trip. There was plenty of snow on the mountains after a heavy snowfall season. The Zaandam is easy to learn, especially if you have been aboard a similar Holland America size ship. The dining room/Rotterdam food was always top rate and I enjoy the two level rear facing room with its large windows as opposed to some other ships. it is a very smart size, not nearly as big as the 100,000+ ton ships that are becoming so popular. Yes, the average age is senior (ours was 70+), but a well rounded group and the majority were from Australia followed by Canada. The scenery on the inside passage route was fantastic, with Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and Ketchican all good or better ports. We were upset to have the additional $50 Alaska head tax added after our price reservation was made, but can't really fault the cruise line for that. It seems to have created some hard feelings and lower bookings so far this season as local BC residents finding good last minute fares because of it. Wish i had easy access to go again like I do in Florida. There was a naturalist aboard the entire cruise plus park rangers in Glacier Bay, which I appreciated. HAL has changed the Mariner perk of a cocktail party to a brunch and no longer has the traditional captain's party either. Is this just the Zaandam? Complaints? The small bath tub leaks around the shower curtain, no fridge in our basic outside room, shows not as good as the larger ships. Praises? Very little lines to go ashore or return, good service, and excellent seafood in the Rotterdam dining room. Lido was not as impressive. If you get nice weather like we did, you will really enjoy this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
This was our 6th cruise--the first with Holland America, the first to Hawaii, and our first sailing without a balcony. If I was allowed only one word for this experience it would be TERRIFIC! That said, there were a couple of glitches that ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise--the first with Holland America, the first to Hawaii, and our first sailing without a balcony. If I was allowed only one word for this experience it would be TERRIFIC! That said, there were a couple of glitches that provided some consternation, but nothing could diminish an overall A+ experience. San Diego: We arrived on our own, one day prior to cruising. We highly recommend arriving one day prior for a cruise that begins with 4 days at sea. We stayed at the Hotel Solamar in the Gaslight district and loved the restaurant there. It was an easy $12.00 cab ride to the port and just slightly more from the airport. Embarkation: We arrived a little before noon. The embarkation procedure was well organized and completed in less than 45 minutes. The only hitch was when the tide shifted and they had to adjust the ramp. That event resulted in a little people shifting and brief wait. Since HAL allows departing passengers to remain in their staterooms prior to disembarking (so humane) we were not allowed in cabins before 1:00. Lunch was served on the Lido deck and there was plenty of room to sit and wait. Cabin: Our cabin was on the lower promenade deck. Since this was our first time sailing without a veranda/balcony we feared this would be an issue. Our cabin, 3364, was next to the mid-ship door leading out to the promenade deck. There were ample numbers of teak deck chairs on the deck and we felt like we just had a really BIG balcony for this trip! We were underneath the Pinnacle Restaurant and had a very quiet cabin. We did hear others on this deck complain that they were not so lucky. Be sure to look before you book any cabin on any ship for what might be above or below your cabin. Our cabin steward was quiet and extremely professional. The cabin provided ample storage space. There are even 2 drawers under the foot of the bed! We did have several problems with basic systems in the cabin. By the 2nd day we were sure that the air did not seem to be cooling the room adequately. A technician came about 1 hour after reporting the problem and he fixed the broken capacitor. We have complained about warm cabins on other ships and were told port days were different and that rooms would not be as cool. Now, we wished we had called the first day instead of waiting as there was a real problem and even on sea days the cabin remained comfortable! The second problem was with the toilet. For several days we experienced problems flushing. Sometimes it flushed with as much as a 30 minute delay and other times it just didn't flush at all. It took repeated phone calls to get this resolved. We heard there were others with a similar problem. Happily, this was resolved within 3 days. Two of the four elevators mid-ship did not work on a regular basis. One would open its doors and after the doors closed it would remain on the Lido deck until someone would push the elevator call button. My husband would report this daily and ask them to shut it down rather than continue to hold passengers in a closed elevator. Unfortunately, this was not done and we met one woman who became very anxious at the prospect of being trapped. This is the only complaint/problem that was not promptly addressed the entire cruise. Food: The dining room and bar staff/wine stewards were among the best we have ever had. The food was always hot or cold as appropriate and delicious. We looked forward to reading the menu earlier in the day and thinking about what our decision would be for the night. The Pinnacle Grill, an added fee venue, provided excellent food and service. We ate their twice, once on our 25th anniversary and they provided a special cake. The food on the Lido deck was varied and good, but a little bland at lunch time. The flow at breakfast was not well designed and often resulted in bottle necks at the hot stations. The staff there is top rate. The lido stewards are just the best ever. They quickly learn your name and what you like to drink. They anticipate your needs and act on them. Be sure to check the daily newspaper for its hours of operation. The hours varied daily by a half hour at the front and back end some days. They also did not always follow their printed times. This was the first cruise we have been on that did not have a variety of food available (outside of room service or the fruit in your room placed by the steward) in the early evening. There was a period of time, after five, when the only food available would be at the library café (the drinks were extra). They served a muffin with frosting, etc. Since we had dinner at 8:15 we had to plan ahead to have crackers or bread and cheese available if we got hungry before the Lido reopened at 6:30. (For most folks this is a silly complaint, but due to a medical problem I had to plan ahead for protein options.) We enjoyed the Royal Dutch High Tea and the Indonesian Tea. They were great fun. Entertainment: We only went to hear the Classical Strings/Piano Trio and the crew shows. The classical musicians were very good. We did have problems locating them as the ship's newspaper was often not correct. The staff was not able to help us find when they would play that evening. The crew shows were very dear. There was lots of pride and soul in each. We also went to see the local talent from Hilo, a group of 50yo+ women who performed the classic hula. They provided a lovely show. The onboard speakers were not as entertaining as some others we have heard. The timing of their talks (after the events) seemed odd. For a $15 donation, the ship offered a 5K Pink Ribbon walk for the Susan B. Komen Foundation. There was a good turn out. The Captain and Cruise Director walked with the group and they were always very accessible during the course of our whole cruise. Shore Excursions: We took 3 of HAL's offerings. On Oahu, we did the USS Arizona, the Mighty Mo and Punch Bowl/downtown Honolulu; on Hilo, we did Akka Falls, macadamia nut factory and a botanical garden; and on Maui the Atlantis Submarine. All three tours were well done and worth the charge. Our bus driver for the Oahu trip offered lots of insights as a native Hawaiian. The Falls were beautiful, but the walk was more challenging than described. My husband has severe arthritis in his hips and it was a little difficult. Overall impression: The best thing about HAL is their staff. It is truly just first rate. They are professional people who give the appearance of liking each other and their jobs. Every person we encountered made us feel welcome and special. The ship was beautifully appointed and very classic. We loved how the ship never felt overcrowded or too spread out. The library is a real library! It felt like a comfortable coffee shop with the Explorer's Café in the middle of the library. The average age of passenger was probably about 65, but there were lots of very vigorous 60+ year olds on board! My very favorite parts of the trip were seeing and hearing whales and going by an active volcano at night. It was truly a memorable vacation cruise. Give yourself a treat and be sure to consider HAL when looking for your next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
HAL--Zaandam 10-day Mexico riviera via San Diego 11 December 2006. Married couple, age 65 retired, 5th cruise. A fine experience on a moving shopping mall-- Very good service, clean room, beautiful ship, fine shows, nice bands, above ... Read More
HAL--Zaandam 10-day Mexico riviera via San Diego 11 December 2006. Married couple, age 65 retired, 5th cruise. A fine experience on a moving shopping mall-- Very good service, clean room, beautiful ship, fine shows, nice bands, above average food. 10 minute check-in, no bags lost, lunch buffet 1pm; Room ready 1:30pm--Main deck (2) with window. Some complaints about assigned: 8:15pm late seating. Used restaurant for most meals; breakfast in cafeteria. Excellent pay/upgrade restaurant. No shore excursions taken, but walked 5 towns, fine tender service and buses to towns. Light seas, no illness; full ship, mostly seniors--some disabled. stanmazor@sbcglobal.net Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
Zaandam Cruise, Circle Hawaii, Nov 1 - 16, 2006 (Overall Trip, Oct 31 - Nov 16, 2006) Route: San Diego - Hilo - Honolulu (2 nights) - Lahaina - Kona - San Diego. 1. General Comments: A great cruise. This was our fifth cruise with HAL. ... Read More
Zaandam Cruise, Circle Hawaii, Nov 1 - 16, 2006 (Overall Trip, Oct 31 - Nov 16, 2006) Route: San Diego - Hilo - Honolulu (2 nights) - Lahaina - Kona - San Diego. 1. General Comments: A great cruise. This was our fifth cruise with HAL. We booked a cabin with private verandah (7th deck). The important issue for this cruise is why do you want to take this particular cruise? There are four days going to Hawaii with nothing to see and five days returning with nothing to see. This is an ideal cruise for rest and recuperation; my wife and I needed this after a most stressful nine months of 2006. We could do as much or as little as we pleased during these travel days. We have been visiting the islands for literally decades, so touring the islands was not a consideration. If your intention is to see the islands, then fly there; do not spend 9 days travelling to and from Hawaii. The passengers on this cruise also fit the traditional description of HAL passengers: elderly. Of course! This cruise is 15 days during school days and no holidays. How many working families with school-age children could take this much time off? Yes, there were some young families with children (home schooled?), but electric scooters and walkers outnumbered baby strollers. Also, widows far outnumbered whatever single men on board. Weather is important. In November Hawaii has daily temperatures in the 80s. However, San Diego is in the low 60s, and the temperatures do not go up just because you are on a ship. temperatures did not hit the 70s until the third day out and returned to the 60s about two days from San Diego. We had no rain on this cruise; seas were moderate, but there often was a good wind (up to 20 knots) across the ship. HAL seems to have come to a reasonable solution on controlling the spread of illnesses spread by sick cruise passengers. They have placed automatic dispensers of alcohol-based cleansers at the entrance of the dining room as well as both lines of the Lido and the entrance to the Pinnacle Restaurant. Most passengers seemed to accept - and use - these cleansing machines. 2. Travel to San Diego: We took the HAL hotel option, travelling to San Diego the day before the cruise. We were met by a HAL rep at the airport, picked up our luggage, and were taken by shuttle to the near-by Sheraton Marina Hotel. Hotel bell boy tips are covered by HAL. On a previous cruise out of San Diego, we spent the morning before boarding taking a short tour of the city. No more; now you can now sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, and wait for a shuttle to take you directly to the pier at around 11:30. Hotel bell boys pick up your luggage, and you next see it in your cabin. Check-in at the pier is quick, especially if you have checked in on-line at the HAL website. You can board the ship at 11:30, but cannot get to your cabin until sometime around 1:00 - 1:30. Lunch is served at the Lido during this time, and it is a bit of a zoo. As people board they stake out tables on the Lido deck - with their carry on bags - and do not move until they can go to their cabins. A place to sit and eat becomes scarce. Those who do not want to eat settle in at the other public areas on board. The end result, though, is that things get a bit jammed until the all clear is given for moving to cabins. 3. The Zaandam: The ship was very attractive, and our cabin was comfortable for the two of us. There was plenty room for putting away clothes and suitcases. Suitcases fit under bed, nicely out of the way. There was even good shelf space in the bathroom. The cabin had a small safe in the closet, and a small refrigerator. The TV is set up for DVDs, and besides movies, also receives CNN and ESPN. We also received a daily 8 page NY Times Fax newspaper which includes the daily NYT crossword puzzle. The ship has an internet cafe (with coffee) and there are also WiFi arrangements if you bring your own computer. There is a full-service spa and gym, and four laps around the outside third deck equals one mile. The crew and staff were tops. Officers were Dutch, cabin and dining room stewards were Indonesian, and bar personnel were Filipino. Deck crew was also Indonesian. On our cruise we were full with 1,400 passengers. Temperatures inside the ship fluctuated between cold and cool. We quickly realized that no matter how high we set the thermostat in our cabin, it was still cold. Only when the sun was beating down on the ship in Hawaii did the inside temperatures become more comfortable (for us). If you prefer a warmer temperature, you may want to bring along at least an extra long-sleeve shirt, if not a sweater. Because of the length of the cruise, there are two lifeboat drills: the usual one before the cruise departs, and the second one after departing Hawaii on the return leg. 4. Meals: We join other travellers who say that HAL food is excellent. We gained minimal weight as we did not attempt to eat everything. Breakfast and lunch are open seating in the dining room or cafeteria style in the Lido restaurant. The Lido was quite popular for these two meals, probably because one could pick and choose more easily. We did try the alternative Pinnacle restaurant, and it was busy. There is a surcharge when eating in this fancier restaurant. Was it worth it? I think so; the service is a bit more relaxed than in the dining room, and the presentation is nicer. Wine list is better. We found it interesting that probably most customers had vouchers for the surcharge, meaning that someone else (their travel agents?) paid the charge. Dinner is the only meal with specified sittings in the dining room. There are two times with each sitting, ie, 5:30 upper floor, 6:00 main floor and again, 7:45 upper and 8:15 main. My impression is that this eases the crush in the kitchen at each sitting. The wine list is respectable; there are package deals for bottles. Wine by the glass is also available. Food portions are of respectable size, and if you don't try to eat all the courses everyday, you should not do bad weight-wise. The kitchen is quite prepared to handle special dietary requests (take the kitchen tour, if offered; it is amazing). The Lido Deck at poolside also runs a hamburger/pizza line for those who can't survive from lunch to dinner. The Dutch dinner that used to be served one night is now a Master Chef's Dinner. The Chocolate Dessert that used to be held at midnight is now the Dessert Extravaganza at a more respectable 10:30PM. The last formal night is now called a Black and White Dinner with the traditional Baked Alaska parade through the dining room. 5. Dressing for Meals: For this 15 day trip it was three formal, three informal, and nine casual/Hawaiian meals. The ladies on board were all dressed well for the formal evening meals. It was about a 50-50 split between dark suits and tuxes for men. 6. Shore Excursions: HAL sent a booklet listing all their shore tours with details and prices, so you have a good idea what you want to do before ever arriving at the ship. Avoid the lines on board and make your shore excursion reservations on-line. The billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you don't need the ship's tour office. HAL's tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ship's staff, you have support when there is a problem. Go to your local AAA office and get their tour book for Hawaii as well as maps for the islands and Honolulu. The Honolulu bus system (called The Bus - $2 to go anywhere) is on-line. The Maui bus system is also on-line ($1 to go anywhere). There is a ton of information available on-line to help you decide what to see on the islands. The ship docked in Hilo and Honolulu; tenders had to be used at Lahaina and Kona. The pier at Hilo is a bit out of the way; you need a cab to get into the downtown area. Caution about the docking at Honolulu; while the literature says that the ship docks at the Aloha Tower, we docked at Pier 2 which is about a 10 - 15 minute walk from the Tower. We were at Kona at the same time as the Pride of Hawaii; this made for some crowds in the small community. An interesting sight comes around 11PM after departing Kona. The ship stops about 700 meters off shore from where the Kilauea Volcano lava flows are pouring into the ocean. The scene is pitch dark with only the red glows from the vents on the mountain side as well as the entry points into the sea. The ship does a 360 degree spin so that all passengers can view this sight. About two days out from Hawaii on the return leg, the ship developed some engine problem and had to slow down to work on it. It was fixed and speed was resumed. However, the time lost cancelled the stop in Ensenada (scheduled for 8PM - midnight). In order to meet the US law requirements the ship still stopped at the Ensenada roads at midnight, processed with the Mexican authorities, and continued on its way only thirty minutes later. We arrived in San Diego on time. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, cards, bridge, bingo, cooking classes and demonstrations, movies, etc, etc. The evening shows were pleasant and worth seeing, even if all of them were not of Las Vegas caliber. The three performances by the ship's song and dance troupe were well done. Headliners included a violinist, singer, juggler/comedian, comedian, etc. I would say the singer (a girl from Sydney) was the most popular with the audience. An issue with the shows is seating. Many people from the early dinner seatings go straight to the theater and camp out there the 45 minutes or so until the show starts. Add in the numerous people who don't observe their "assigned" times for attending the show, and you get a full house very early. Several times my wife and I went to the theater about 15 minutes before show time and no seats were left. The casino was of good size and the payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. Duty-free liquor on board was reasonable, but limited in variety. There was not much business, though, as you cannot carry the liquor onto an airplane. You can, though, pack it in your checked baggage (if you dare). You'll have plenty of pictures taken of yourselves by the ship's photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. The library is well-stocked; there are plenty of nooks around for quiet reading. Those into the disco scene will enjoy the Crow's Nest on the 9th deck which runs into the wee hours. Note that the ship's stores and casino are closed almost continuously during the six days the ship is in Hawaii. The printed daily program details all the day's activities. This helped reduce the often obnoxious broadcast announcements by a cruise director of the latest upcoming events. This ship's director only came on once daily, right after the captain's report from the bridge. Occasionally there was some other activities announcement, but normally there was peace and quiet. The Pinnacle held a tasting of six premium wines that was excellent. We were 16 participants of whom only 4 were women. We presumed that some people may have balked at the $35 tasting fee, but we all agreed it was worth it to taste wines that would usually be outside our price ranges. 8. Tipping: The present HAL system was the easiest we've run into. You are charged $10 per person per day on your shipboard bill. This covers all your tips, period. The $10 is broken down by the ship: $3.50 for your cabin steward, $3.50 for your dining room steward, and the remaining $3 goes into a pool and is divided among all others who support you. The bar personnel and wine stewards receive 15 percent on your bar/wine bill as you go. You do not have to give anything to anybody; it is done for you. Some people still gave something extra to a favorite person, but that was the exception. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. The day before the end of the cruise you receive a preliminary statement of your account. This gives you time to clear up any problems. At the beginning of the cruise you give the ship's front office an imprint of your credit card. In the morning before disembarking you receive a final statement. Very painless. 10. Disembarking: One reviewer described this procedure as hurry-up and wait . Very true. Your bags have to be out by midnight, breakfast is early, but you can remain in your cabin until it is time to disembark. Your bags are color coded by the type and time of your onward transportation. Disembarking started around 8:30, and we were in the first group (our flight left at 11:50). Even with a delay with the bus to take us to the airport, we were checked in, through airport security, and at the gate by 9:40. 11. Conclusion: Despite some hiccups along the way, this was a great trip. You have to study beforehand how you want to spend your travel days as well as what you want to do in Hawaii. This cruise certainly met our needs and expectations. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@satx.rr.com Fred Groth San Antonio, TX Read Less
Sail Date November 2006
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.8
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 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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