Zaandam Inside Passage Cruise 7 days 21 Sept to 28 Sept 2002 Vancouver to Vancouver (Round-trip). We just returned from a 7 day Alaska cruise, roundtrip from Vancouver. We experienced the good, the bad and the ugly or funky as ... Read More
Zaandam Inside Passage Cruise 7 days 21 Sept to 28 Sept 2002 Vancouver to Vancouver (Round-trip). We just returned from a 7 day Alaska cruise, roundtrip from Vancouver. We experienced the good, the bad and the ugly or funky as the case was on the Zaandam. Our previous 2 cruises were with Royal Caribbean, the last one in Spring 1999 transiting the Panama Canal. Nice relaxing 11 day trip in a veranda mini suite on the then nearly new, "Vision of the Seas". The food was not very well prepared & we felt that the food handling by waiters & assistants was not as sanitary and safe as it could & should be. The get up and boogie atmosphere coupled with constant loudspeaker announcements and drink sales pushes everywhere turned us off of RCI. We have been visiting the Cruise Critic cruise boards daily for the past few months reading the newest reviews, looking for a bit more elegant cruise line with better food (in regard to taste, presentation and proper sanitary handling) than RCI without paying nosebleed Seabourn prices. We chose Holland America. I had been a passenger on the Rotterdam NY to Europe when I was in the Air Force and I had memories of 2 nice Atlantic crossings with HAL. PRE-CRUISE DAYS IN VANCOUVER: We live in Santa Monica, CA but we have a seasonal apartment in North Vancouver with a view of the cruise ships going in and out of the harbor under Lion's gate bridge and docking at Canada Place. It whetted our appetite for cruising again. We spent some pre cruise days in beautiful, friendly, reasonably priced Vancouver. It's a great way to start a vacation. Translink, the public transit entity, sells a shirt pocket sized Greater Vancouver Transportation Map (2002 edition) for $2.50 CDN which also serves as a convenient city map. If you like to walk or bicycle, circling Stanley Park is a great workout with a fantastic view. We buy daily transit passes and ride easily around town on any bus, sky train or sea bus we wished for one daily fee. Take a sky train to get a nice view ride through the city. Take a mini-cruise, 12 minutes long on the sea bus from the Sea bus and Sky train terminal building next to Canada Place and wander through the Lonsdale Quay Marketplace, the North Vancouver terminus of the sea bus. Across the street and 100 yards east of the Quay is a superb Italian Restaurant, Quattro di Gusto. Fantastic gourmet lunch with reasonable prices. Great food inside the Quay Market too. We also went to Hon's Wun-tun House, a huge, delicious Hong Kong style Chinese restaurant on Robson St. (the 'Via Veneto' of Vancouver) within walking distance to Stanley Park. If you are coming in from Vancouver International Airport they have great New York style deli sandwiches (fantastic potato salad too) at Kaplans Star Deli on Oak St near the corner of 41 St. on the way into the downtown area. A few doors east of Hon's on Robson (corner of Jervis) is Cows, an old fashioned ice cream parlor where you can practice acquiring pre cruise calories. There are many bargains in Vancouver. Leave room in your luggage. EMBARKATION: We arrived at Canada Place by around 1 PM, received our boarding numbers and finally got on the ship @ 3:30 PM. We ate a late breakfast so we wouldn't get too hungry but by 3:30 we were definitely hungry. We dumped our carry on luggage in our Deck 7 veranda mini-suite and raced for the Lido Buffet on deck 8. We arrived about 3:45 and were informed that the buffet was closing. There would be bar snacks in the Crow's nest and other bars at 6PM. 24 hour room service was not up and running at this moment. We were second seating dining so we had to eat something soon. Next time I will bring protein bars or snack food in my carry on luggage. We sailed out of majestic Vancouver harbor under Lion's Gate Bridge with the party music playing and our stomachs growling; we were not in the mood for any "frozen thingies". We recognize how difficult embarkation/debarkation days are for the crew (and the newly boarded passengers) but at these prices maybe they could pre-make simple sandwiches and have them available or keep a small part of the buffet or grill open. We discovered that on most days the Grill in the pool area is open when the Lido isn't. That was not the case on embarkation day. PUBLIC AREAS: The Zaandam is an elegant looking, well laid out vessel. More like a ship than a floating resort supership. The elevators are plentiful and there is not much waiting like on the bigger ships. Most decks have 3 banks of 4 elevators. The Erasmus Library on Deck 5 is beautiful but they don't enforce the library silence rule. People just wander in and start loud conversations. It is the only quiet room on a ship full of great places to relax and talk. A lot of our fellow passengers were not conscious of what is or isn't going on around them. The Zaandam singers and dancers alternate as librarians. Shame on HAL for closing the library so early every night. There is an Internet center next door. They charge 75 cents a minute but they have a 250 minutes for $100. deal available. You can't word process on these computers only surf the net. Various attractive public rooms and lounges surround the Atrium on 5 and the Hotel Desk is on 4. CABIN: Our long but narrow mini suite was the farthest aft cabin on deck 7 (the Navigation Deck). The veranda was nice and had more room because it was the last one aft. We could see over the side of the ship as well as the ship's wake. We loved our veranda. We don't ever want to cruise again without a veranda. The bathroom was good sized with a large mirrored storage cabinet that easily held all of our stuff and the cabin storage was excellent. There was even room to put our luggage in the closets. Holland American gets a gold star for the bath and the closets. The lighting was good and the sitting area has a small couch and a curtain dividing it from the sleeping area so one can read while another sleeps. CLEANLINESS: I decided to use the bathroom and when I lifted the lid for the first time there was a large load of poop. A portent of things to come? Not an auspicious beginning! My wife enjoys giving herself beauty treatments in the privacy of her stateroom during cruises. However on this cruise she was unable to because the state of cleanliness of the room grossed her out. For example; the full length mirror inside the closet door seemed to be smeared here and there with something like Vaseline. She could not bring herself to do floor exercises in our mini-suite because as she said looking at the stained carpeting "Did they housebreak a puppy on this carpet?" I can't say I disagreed with her. The carpet was worn well beyond the time when it should have been replaced. The narrowness of the room dictates a narrow walking path to the sitting room and the veranda and it was well worn. I mentioned this to the front desk and they offered to clean the carpet; since this would curtail our use of the cabin for a day, we declined. We put towels down in the worst spots. The carpet was also worn through around the edge of the bed. Our friendly room steward tried to help but the carpet was beyond spot cleaning. Holland America should consider using vinyl on the high traffic paths in the room. The couch also required towels, and the nice little pillow collection was pretty funky. I suspect the cause was previous romance on the high seas. We're not going to talk about the bedspread; suffice to say we put the bedspread under the bed and asked our steward to leave it there. The HAL bathrobes that hung in our cabin helped us to remain relatively microbe free. The equivalent of putting a towel down before you sit at a nudist camp. Those of you familiar with the comedy routines of Howie Mandel know he carries a blacklight to look for germs. Our hard working steward was completely worn out. He had 14 rooms to clean and some people were paging him constantly trying to use him as their personal butler. He was paged twice during a short conversation I was trying to have with him. I noticed officious housekeeping staffers spiffy in their uniforms checking rooms but they were missing a lot considering the condition of our cabin. Or was it just part of keeping up appearances and making check marks on a list? Is anyone supervising the supervisors? Now we get to the sleeping part. The brochures say the beds are queen sized but they are not standard queens. They are 2 twin beds put together to make one. Their queen, 75 inches long, is 2 inches shorter than standard queen sized beds. I'm six feet two and a half inches tall and my heels hang over the end of the bed. I tried to scrunch up but my sleep was fitful. I mentally blamed it on being in the far aft cabin where it is noisier and bouncier than midships but we wanted the view. I slept the second night in the 2 inches shorter bed and realized that I needed to remedy the problem. I dropped by the front desk and talked about my bed and they said they could help me. They were very nice. I went on about my business heading to the gym. The gym was spacious with all the goodies but it was a bit grungy. Rubber handles had broken off various machines, the deck needed vacuuming, chrome and bright work was dirty and the huge picture windows were filthy. Loud CNN was on TV, and an instructor was shouting through an aerobics class with driving workout music playing. I asked a staff member to at least mute the TV sound but they kept it on along with the music. Not a very cruisey atmosphere. Went back to the cabin and the message light was on. They were checking to see if the bed had been fixed. It hadn't. I asked to speak to Judy Shepheard, the guest relations manager. Her hours were listed a 8A to early afternoon; maybe she could help. The Captain, Tore Lura, mentioned in his speech that the ship was a hotel with a propeller -- a line that they cut out of the cruise video they were offering. I liked that line. It fit. We both work in motion picture production and spend a lot of time on location and have stayed in all manner of hotels both first cabin and almost dives. I figured a bed change would be easy. It says queen sized in the brochure and that's what I wanted. Judy Shepheard never called. When I visited the desk again she was in a meeting. I went back to my cabin in the late afternoon and there was a wooden bench about 30 inches wide, with a pillow on it. I called the desk and they said to just put it on the end of the bed. That might have worked had the bench been long enough to stretch across the whole width of the bed. The bench and pillow were dirty also. I got madder. I called the desk and asked why the guest relations person was ducking me. She's in a meeting was the stock answer through 3 calls to the front desk, even though her hours are listed in the daily handout. I considered calling the hotel manager, Rene Tuinman, who had a card in the room telling me to have a perfect cruise and to contact him with any problems. I took the bench & its filthy pillow down to the hotel desk and asked again to see Judy Shepheard. It was dinner time but I didn't care. I wanted a hearing. I get testy from lack of sleep. After waiting awhile a desk person said Judy would call me and I might as well leave. I said that I wasn't leaving until I saw Judy. This is a high priced hotel, I expect reasonable hotel service, especially from a particularized guest relations department. Note to Rene Tuinman: Don't leave a nicely printed card in the cabin with your signature on it wishing me a good trip and inferring he and his staff are here to help with any situation that might arise (I'm paraphrasing-I forgot to bring the card)and leave it in the hands of a related guest relations department head who was practicing avoidance in dealing with short beds. Judy finally appeared, listened to my story and left for a minute. She came back with information on bed length and admitted to me that the 2 beds together had 2 inches less length than the standard queen. There were no standard queens on the ship. Why this info took all of the second cruise day to obtain is beyond me. They could have told me a hell of a lot earlier in the day. The little bench they sent looked used, so I'm not the first one with this problem. Judy was actually Judy Shepheard-Tuinman according to her business card. She is married to the Hotel Manager, Rene Tuinman. She is a most invisible Guest Relations person. She seems to prefer to let the harried front desk assistants handle the complaints. If Holland-America would just get some "long-twin beds" they could accommodate taller people. They could set aside a few rooms for these purposes and they would always sell out. I recognize the problem that then the cabins would be 2 inches narrower and look smaller but cruises are about comfort, not just non stop food and entertainment. We finally solved the bed problem by pulling the mattress out from the wall 6 inches, placing pillows in the gap between the wall and the beginning of the top mattress. The theme of the Zaandam is music and it plays everywhere...There are some interesting musical artifacts on display...I never thought I could get tired of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. but the play list was narrow. I mean I'm a baby boomer, no longer middle aged according to my daughter. She explained I stopped being middle-aged when I passed 60, and my wife and I were probably in that 25% of younger passengers. It's an older crowd. I love this kind of music but enough is enough...more variety please. No Vera Lynn songs. It can't all be nostalgia. Can it? The Wilson Palomo Trio played in the Explorers lounge...a great group playing Jazz and contemporary pop...then dinner ends and the 1st seating crowd is ready to dance and the music switches to a never ending waterfall of foxtrot and waltz music interspersed with ricky-tick Samba's and Cha Cha's. Same problem in the Crow's nest...The Sunshine band is great...they play excellent country, rock and pop but when 1st seating is over in come the dancers and that 4 beat foxtrot. I heard the cloying, saccharine "Anniversary Waltz" & "Tennessee Waltz" every night of the cruise. I don't wish to sound mean spirited but the formula drove us out. Please keep it eclectic. I'm HAL's new target demographic. I'll be getting my Medicare card in a couple of years. We retreated from the musical venues and relaxed more in our (funky) cabin or by strolling the decks. It never got as cold as we thought Alaska would be. We brought a big bag of parka & foul weather gear that we did not use. Note to Holland America. We had the lowest bar tab we have ever had on a cruise. Baby boomers are may be pushing 60 but we need to rock a bit. (My wife is still under 60.) Age is going to cause the current targeted Holland America demographic to disappear in the next few years. FOOD TASTE & RELATED SERVICE: It's hard pleasing all of the people all of the time to paraphrase an old maxim. The Rotterdam Dining Room was excellent service wise and spotty food wise. The filet mignon was not very filet or mignon. The vegetables were cooked to death. The meals got better as the cruise wore on getting much better near the end of the voyage. We preferred eating there to the Lido cafeteria. Its ambience gave us the feeling of cruising we wanted. We broke up the dining routine with room service served well and promptly. We didn't go to the Lido until the 4th day of the cruise in order not to be burned out by its sameness. This method works. When you finally go to the Lido cafeteria it's new to you. We enjoyed eating breakfast in the Rotterdam dining room and lunch too. We ate during the open seating at breakfast and lunch at our regularly assigned table with our favorite servers. I can't say enough for Enrico our waiter and Dadang his assistant along with dining room captain Muarif and 2nd maitre'd Helmi. They were professional and funny without being obsequious. They represented the best HAL had to offer us. We thank them! The person I saw checking his department the most was Jerry the Maitre d'. Early in the morning, later at night there he was; watching, talking to the troops, making sure. I would pass his office and the door was always open. The sign of a good manager. The Chef, Wolfgang Wasshausen, also was always on the scene. Food service was the best run part of the hotel side. Food taste versus food description is another matter. It's mostly rubber chicken level banquet food. The better Las Vegas hotels (Bally's, Mirage, Rio etc.)have buffets and cafes that meet my expectations on a regular basis. It can be done. The wait staff is tired. They always seem to be on duty. They should close the Rotterdam for breakfast and lunch a couple of days a week and the Lido at least one day for breakfast & lunch. ALTERNATE RESTAURANT: The Monte Carlo is a great little Italian change of pace. The food is very good. Maitre d' Hilman and Chef Lazlo have a created a welcome respite from the main room. The desserts were great too. We had a lunch and a dinner there. Very pleasant. HAL doesn't charge any extra for this place but I'm rethinking my previous resistance to paying for alternative cuising ala Celebrity or NCL. It allows you more variety in taste and cuising. One of the reasons we chose HAL was because of the alternative dining for free. If I can have more alternative dining I'm now ready to pay for it. CASINO: Las Vegas wins again. Don't they always? The slots were tight. It was very smoky. There was no table game excitement being generated. No buzz. They would promote a special game of dealer's cards up blackjack all over the ship and then only run one table. They could loosen the slots to get the energy in the room up and maybe put some of these looser machines in the public room next door and make this area non smoking. The gaming staff was friendly and helpful. It was strange to walk through a casino in the morning and see all of the slots noise or flashing lights. Very bizarre. PUBLIC AREAS: The public areas were constantly being cleaned and vacuumed but it seemed more for show than cleanliness. They pick up and clean but not very well. There is less obvious mess but the surfaces haven't been cleaned well, just picked up. That part of the crew is tired. I've spent time in Holiday Inns or Days Inns with higher standards than the Zaandam. The only day that they seemed to be really cleaning was embarkation/debarkation day. The standard of cleanliness was higher outside on the decks and in the pool & grill areas than inside. I never saw the Hotel Manager (Rene Tuinman) walking the operation except when he was introduced by the Captain at the welcome party and at the never ending debarkation marathon talk by the cruise director. At the latter the Mr. Tuinman ducked the limelight. I checked the video footage and Mr. Tuinman is indeed a shadowy figure ducking into the wings of the showroom after his introduction. He certainly doesn't manage the public areas visibly or invisibly in my opinion. I suspect the management of thinking the balance sheet is most important and the hotel was full. Why change a thing? This hotel manager should take managing lessons from a Club Med Chef de Village. The captain's crew is invisible also. It's almost like 'we're running this ship...we'll be at our posts out of sight and out of mind. Don't talk to or bother us. Only the Captain is visible. Some of the time. I must say his team runs the ship part well. They maneuvered as closely and slowly as they could in Glacier Bay. Unfortunately, since Sept. 11 there are no more bridge tours; we had been looking forward to one. It is indeed a hotel with a propeller and a poorly managed one at that from my point of view as a customer. ALASKA: Juneau, the state capitol, was overcast on our day there. Not worth taking the aerial tram to the top in clouds. The aerial tours were cancelled too. You can't control the weather. We enjoyed wandering there. We spent Monday night in Juneau until an 11PM sailing. They have a local ABC affiliate there broadcasting over the air, not just cable. It would have been nice to see the Monday night football game in our cabin. Skagway is metaphorically just a wide place in the road. We ignored the 3 1/2 plus hour White Pass train trip. We stayed in town and wandered around and were hustled in our own language by our own countrymen imploring us to take this and that tour...We finally asked one of these hucksters where to get a good cup of coffee in town. He whispered a greasy, patronizing aside in my ear "Just ask a local," and sent us to Mabel's. The coffee was thin and awful. Made Micky D's breakfast coffee taste like Starbucks. Anecdotally, we heard there had been a Starbucks there but it closed. When is the last time a Starbucks closed? The Skagway locals' behavior reminded me of the arrogance of the locals in rural Hawaii. Ketchikan was the third city we visited. It was nice to look around. Great totem poles. A pleasant place. We prefer city meandering to being bused to sites of interest. My wife and I have scouted too many locations and we hate riding in maxi vans without being paid for it. I'd rather pay a knowledgeable taxi driver for a couple of hours of looking around and waiting while we shop. Glacier Bay was fogged in. The cold of the glacier causes the fog to rise enough to see the bottom of the glacier but not much else. The sailors did a great job for us that day getting us as close as they could. It was the best day of the cruise even with the foggy conditions. In the cruise video they cut in shots of the glacier on a clearer day. That's entertainment! HAL'S TIPPING NOT REQUIRED POLICY... is a bigger load than what we found when we first entered our cabin bathroom. The service people work hard and keep smiling. We left the tips recommended on most cruises and sometimes overtipped. We heard some folks talking about how nice it was not to tip. Shame on them. The cocktail servers seem to suffer the most, fiscally and physically doing the most running & smiling and getting stiffed on a regular basis. C'mon folks....we're talking less than $200 for the whole cruise. Give it up to those who have served you well. They deserve to be tipped when they take care of you. The unctuous cruise director (who sounded a lot like Merv Griffin) Jack Chambers, got into HAL's tipping not required policy briefly, skirting around the edge of it in his debarkation lecture. The subtext of his speech was tip 'em if they deserve it, but a lot of folks chose to ignore the subtlety of his message. Kudos to his assistant, Johnny I, the bingo guy & Gavin his cohort for keeping it as real as they could during the more inane moments. They did a good job with the bingo games. SUMMING UP: I want to thank the cruise critics and reviewers who have worked hard at informing us what's up on the ships. Tom Milano & Vincent Fanelli come to mind as well as the Cruise Diva and many others. We're hooked on the cruising part of cruising. We want better food (Vegas level) and more variety and choice of music. More interesting and exciting gaming and more relaxing days at sea. We have promised ourselves another cruise (with a veranda) in the not too distant future, of at least 10 days. It really does take a couple of days on board to really get relaxed. Then the real cruising begins. We also want some days before and after the cruise spent exploring the embarkation/debarkation cities. Europe or the South Pacific are looking good to us. Yo ho ho and a bottle of light beer. Shame on HAL for closing the library so early every night. December 2002 Read Less
We sailed the week of June 15. I will hit the highlights and you can contact me if more information is needed. Getting on the ship: This was done very quickly. One thing for Alumni, they do not let you on earlier anymore. If you want ... Read More
We sailed the week of June 15. I will hit the highlights and you can contact me if more information is needed. Getting on the ship: This was done very quickly. One thing for Alumni, they do not let you on earlier anymore. If you want someone to take you to your cabin, someone will. But it is not done automatically anymore. Room: We had a large outside Stateroom. They are the same size no matter what floor. It was very pretty in light wood tones and peach colors. The window was large. The bathroom had tub and shower, blow dryer, shampoo, soaps and lotion. There was a dresser and loveseat. The amount of closet space is enormous. And a music system in the ceiling allowed you to hear classical, easy listening or rock music via controls at the head of the bed. Food: One word-- excellent. the dining room menus were extensive, varied, fresh and very good. There is a lovely alternative Italian restaurant (no extra charge) and the Lido Buffet is open in the evenings with waiter service. The Lido Restaurant had so many choices for meals that we ate there a few times; on other cruises we have favored the dining room. Besides an extensive hot and cold regular buffet, for breakfast there was set up a continental buffet, and separate omelet bars. For lunch there were a deli sandwich bar, pasta bar, pizza, taco bar, ice cream bar, salad bar, hamburger bar and the regular Lido hot and cold buffet. Entertainment: Very good -- dancers, singers, comedy. They even had an adult comedy show. Much improved from past HAL cruises. Service: They have some obviously new people on this new ship, and that brings problems. Overall, staff were helpful and very nice. Casino: Stay away -- many complaints about the slots not paying off. Tours -- very popular. We went on the Rain Forest Bus tour in San Juan and enjoyed it very much. If you are interested in the walking tour sign up as soon as you get on -- it was sold out. Also all the tours on Half Moon Cay sold out quickly, too. Any Down Side? We had a few glitches. One was ceiling leaks in our room we could not get anybody to fix. We ended up with a bucket and towels on the floor. My husband dubbed the "Dripdam." My parents next door had the same problem. We are very unhappy about this. Also on the last day we were supposed to be given baggage tags and boarding passes for our flight home. Somehow they never made it to the ship. We were very disappointed and chalk that one up to someone's inexperience. Read Less
1st timers on HAL. So let's start at the beginning. Embarkation was a snap. Lines looked long at first but they moved so quickly, we were thru and heading up the gangway in no time. Staff is quick, friendly and knowledgeable. ... Read More
1st timers on HAL. So let's start at the beginning. Embarkation was a snap. Lines looked long at first but they moved so quickly, we were thru and heading up the gangway in no time. Staff is quick, friendly and knowledgeable. On-board you are greeted and escorted to your cabin, a pleasant throwback to the days of old! Luggage arrived about 1 hour after we boarded. The ship: Note, I HATE these new floating container ships with windows. The ZAANDAM is the perfect size! Whether you do it immediately when you get onboard or do it throughout the cruise, you must take time to look at the spectacular art collection throughout the ship..$4.3 million worth of painting, sculpture, objects, etc. The cabins are wonderful, ours was 198 sq ft..Dolphin Deck (swimming with the fishes) outside. Tons of closet space, storage space and just plain comfortable! The ship layout is absolutely super. It is a snap to go from any deck to any location on the ship. The Crow's Nest is dynamite. More on this later. There are two pools, one with a retractable roof and another on the Aft Lido Deck. There was never a time when we had to hunt for a deck chair..and every deck chair has a great cushion. The Mandarin Theatre offers something I had never encountered before: legroom! Lido dining has a wide array of selections for all meals. Hint: DO NOT miss the bread pudding and when you are done with that and begin to recover, try the cheese cake! The Rotterdam dining room (two floors) is superb. This was the very best meals we have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Period! That covers a span beginning back in 1973. Service: Impeccable. There is no decline or loss of the finer touches HAL is known for. From our Cabin Steward to the Dining Room to the Lido Deck to the Crow's Nest. Absolutely outstanding service. May we recommend: Second Seating. Begin your evening watching the sunset in the Crow's Nest, let Angel (he) and Richie (she) pamper you with adult beverages and canapEs! Now, for the Crow's Nest! Prior to departing we used Cruise Critic to touch base with a few folks that might be on the ship. Little did we know that those postings would lead to...... HAL'S DIRTY DOZEN! Yep, Mike and Wendy, joined Dave and Diane and Jim and Sue and a bunch of other great folks.....there were two no shows that promised to meet us..their loss! Did you know that is you stay in the Crow's Nest until 3am, the staff will stay with you..with a smile!! If you need to rearrange every chair in the room to accommodate the group, the staff will smile and make it happen? If you need to change the music in the room to accommodate the dance stylings of one of the DIRTY DOZEN (mikespike) they will do it? I am not saying that the age was older, but they used carbon dating to confirm the birth dates of many of the passengers. But those folks sure know how to live with style! They disappeared around 10pm leaving this massive wonderful ship to the party crowd. Note, the cruise was a 10 day post holiday trip and this ALWAYS means a much older crowd for HAL. The previous holiday sailings looked about "middle-aged' average...this from a few of the Cruise Director's staff that also hung out in the Crow's Nest. The HAL staff do one thing you rarely find on any other ship: If you have a problem or a question, they do not send you running around looking for answers..they take ownership of the problem or question and get it solved for you. Spectacular! Entertainment: The dance troupe is a cut below NCL's dancers, a cut above RCL and Carnival. The individual entertainers...singer...ventriloquist...magician/comedian: Don't miss the magician/comedian, he is Las Vegas quality. They also do a Philippino Folk Show, my wife gave me permission to go to the casino so I "missed" that show. The ship is in impeccable condition, the individual pride each staff member exhibited extended to their home, the ZAANDAM. Ports Note:, Isle de Margarita is a dog. St Lucia, Bonaire, Dominica, St John's and Half Moon Cay are great stops. Note: Had a problem with the St John Truk Bay tour, with no questions asked, no hesitation, HAL refunded 30% of our cost..a very, very fair arrangement (class shows). The Cruise Director staff is constantly available, ship's officers are always around! In an age where the mentality is.."we got their money, next!" is becoming more and more common, HAL completely understands that the cruise you are on, at that very moment, is the most important moment and they treat you accordingly! And finally, disembarking. Guaranteed, take it to the bank, happens every time! ONE VERY INCONSIDERATE COUPLE DIDN'T GO TO SEE CUSTOMS. ALL 1,400 PEOPLE WAIT UNTIL THEY FIND THEM, DRAG THEM IN, CLEAR AND THEN WE CAN ALL BEGIN DISEMBARKING. Come on guys, bring back KEELHAULING! There really are some butt stupid folks wondering around this world! (Only kidding) On a scale of 1 to 10, my wife, Suzan and I rated this a 9. We have never gone over a 7.5 in the past so this one blows away the competition! Note, we have been cruising since 1973. We will sail again soon, hopefully with the HAL DIRTY DOZEN...those guys made our vacation great. January 2002 Read Less
We have just returned from a 10 day southern Caribbean Seafarer cruise aboard HAL's Zaandam. It truly was a vacation to remember. Embarkation After a speedy shuttle from the Fort Lauderdale airport to the ship's port, we ... Read More
We have just returned from a 10 day southern Caribbean Seafarer cruise aboard HAL's Zaandam. It truly was a vacation to remember. Embarkation After a speedy shuttle from the Fort Lauderdale airport to the ship's port, we quickly reached the check-in counter. This proved to be the one negative aspect of our vacation. As we watched everyone speed through the check-in process, we were delayed by an employee who had difficulty with the procedures as well as the language. The information in our passports was questioned and we were given misinformation about the plastic room and charge card. Fortunately, another employee came to our rescue and graciously ushered us onto the ship with her apologies. As we looked behind us, we were the last ones to board. This was not a promising way to begin this long-awaited holiday. Our Mini SuiteOur suite was very spacious and beautifully appointed. The balcony was worth every penny, as we spent many an hour out there enjoying the fresh air and the scenic vistas. The bathroom had a full jacuzzi tub and shower, a vacuum toilet and full sink and vanity. Towels were replaced immediately upon use. There was plenty of closet and cupboard space and more than enough hangers for dresses and pants. Luggage was easily stored beneath the beds, which by the way, were very comfortable. Each day our fruit bowl was refilled with very tasty apples, pears and bananas. White cotton robes were there for our use throughout the voyage. We had a pull out couch , chair, table and vanity/desk as well with privacy curtains which gave privacy to the sleeping area. We were given personalized stationery, but that was highly unnecessary. The ShipThe Zaandam is a medium sized ship @63,000 tons and carried in excess of 1400 passengers. The theme of the ship is music and there are instruments on display throughout the ship, as well as live music almost everywhere. The valuable art display lent a subtle air of sophistication to the ship. Fresh flowers were everywhere...on all dining tables, along the corridors as well as in the public areas. The corridors were nicely carpeted with handrails along both walls, should anyone need support with the motion of the ship. On the 5th floor Lido Promenade deck, there were numerous lounges which were very comfortable and well appointed. On that floor as well were the Library with an excellent selection of books to lend ($25 fee was reimbursed with the return of the book), an Internet Cafe with numerous computers (Internet @50 cents a minute), a casino with numerous slot machines and tables, a sports bar with large screen TV's displaying ESPN events, a duty free shop, various boutiques. The 4th floor featured the movie theatre, the Mondriaan show theatre and the Rotterdam dining room , both of which extended to the 5th floor. The 8th floor boasted the Lido buffet dining room, the Lido pool area with hot tub, Grill and retractable roof. There was also an outdoor Lido aft pool. On this floor was the Spa( hair and esthetician treatments), Steam rooms and a fitness facility which had more than sufficient equipment for those who participated. The third floor boasted a full walk-around deck. It was here as well where we were initiated with the Life Jacket drill, an event which was taken very seriously. Not to forget, there was the top floor Crow's Nest lounge where passengers danced and enjoyed the music and refreshments. On the Dolphin Deck, the infirmary was kept busy with those of us who developed bad colds and sore throats! The Ports After the first 2 days at sea (a little windy on the 2nd day) we docked at the island of Bonaire. Much like Aruba, the countryside is filled with cactus. The town was very colourfully painted with several shops open (even though it was Sunday). We made our way to the supermarket where we stocked up on soda to bring back for our Happy Hours in the suite! Walking alongside the water's edge, there were spectacularly coloured fish right near shore. We then sailed to Margarita Island where we took the ship's excursion to Playa El Agua for $29. This was a most worthwhile excursion with a very hilarious guide to a lovely clean beach. Chaise lounges and umbrellas were reserved for us. Along the way, we stopped at two vendors to see their wares. Our next stop was St. Lucia where we docked by a duty free plaza. After walking through the numerous shops, we took a $1 water taxi ride to town (we could have walked, but it was too hot and humid). There we shopped in two huge factory-like buildings filled with vendors. Our next stop was at the tiny island of Dominica, where numerous side streets were filled with very friendly, helpful vendors. It was here that the best duty free prices could be found on most alcohol, even better than in St. Thomas. From here we sailed to St. Thomas, a very developed island known for its shopping. Here we took the ship's $64 excursion to St. John's Island via ferry boat. Because of the number of ships in port, the ferry stopped twice more to pick up passengers. From the dock we were bused to Trunk Bay beach, supposedly one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. But the 2 hour transportation there left us one short hour to enjoy the beach, then back on the bus and back on the ferry. We were given the option to be dropped at the ship or the shopping area. The shopping area was great. It had come to our attention that numerous passengers were very upset at the little actual time on the beach and we were grateful for the ship's 30% rebate on the excursion's cost. After another day at sea, our final port was Half Moon Cay, a property which HAL owns on an island in the Bahamas. This was a very beautiful beach with clean, clear calm water. After a BBQ lunch we boarded the ship to make our way back to Fort Lauderdale. There were plenty of chairs, even considering that another ship was in port as well. Security We were truly impressed with and appreciated the security which was ever present every time we returned to the ship from a port. Not only were passports checked each time, but all bags were searched and each passenger was checked with the "metal detector wand". Entertainment and Activities Of all of the entertainment, the singers and dancers had to get an "A+" for their talent and energy level. The shows appealed to all ages as the music spanned the decades. Our only criticism was that the volume was far too high! The ventriloquist was quite good as was the magician. Numerous activities were available from basketball, volleyball, trivial pursuit to bingo. If you wanted to do it, it was available. Religious services were available daily. Art auctions were held daily with tremendous values on most pieces. Three sail-away events were held on the aft deck (tacos & salsa on the first night, a chocolate fruit fondue a few nights later and a wine and cheese a few days later still). These were fun and encouraged passengers to meet and greet. Dining The meals in the Rotterdam dining room were excellent. There were always choices for every palate and dietary need. Four appetizers, 3 soups, 2 salads, 6 or 7 entrees and 5 or 6 desserts were there for the asking, all served beautifully. The Lido buffet sported just as many selections and was a nice alternative for lunch. The afternoon ice cream was a treat to behold. The Lido pool Grill always served hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and a variety of pizzas which were light and delicious. The Marco Polo dining room (and we were fortunate enough to dine there one evening) featured an Italian menu, although you could order a wonderful filet mignon from the menu. The service here was impeccable, the food delicious and the ambiance was wonderful. This cannot be missed. In summary, this was a wonderful cruise on a great ship. We would recommend the ship highly to all age groups. Of particular note, the ship is wheelchair accessible and it was reassuring to see that those who had mobility problems were assisted whenever needed. Thank you to the Zaandam's staff, officers and crew for a memorable holiday. patrkwia@interlynx.netJanuary 2002 Read Less
My husband & I loved sailing aboard the Zaandam! We're in our early 40s & decided in June to book this cruise. This was our first HAL cruise & not the last. However, we have 2 daughters (elderly children, 16 & 19) who ... Read More
My husband & I loved sailing aboard the Zaandam! We're in our early 40s & decided in June to book this cruise. This was our first HAL cruise & not the last. However, we have 2 daughters (elderly children, 16 & 19) who would enjoy Royal Caribbean more than HAL since HAL is marketed towards an older clientele & not so much for teens or kids. It was fine for us since we were just wanting private time sans teenagers...we never knew how laid-back & relaxing a cruise could be until settling in aboard Zaandam. Her appointments are elegant, with hundreds of antiques & artworks, many of Dutch origin. The ship's hostess, Lammy, offers a tour of the ship's antiques & artwork. Lammy's tour is well worth the time. HAL spares no expense on its collections. Fresh floral arrangements are throughout the ship, too. Zaandam is a work of art at sea. Our cabin on the lower promenade deck, outside cabin was spacious and comfortable. We had a large window; we did not want a verandah since so little time is spent in the cabin. The windows are tinted so that you cannot see inside from the deck but I could easily see my husband standing in our room when I checked. He could see me too when he checked the window's opaqueness. So keep your curtains drawn if you have a tinted window overlooking the prom. deck. I was able to peek inside some of the other cabins when we were first boarding. The inside doubles are VERY nice, even way down on the lowest deck. There are NO bad cramped cabins on Zaandam. This is the first ship I've cruised on that had very quiet cabins. We never heard our neighbors. The walls are well insulated. Bathrooms are gleaming & spacious and there is more than enough closet & drawer space for clothing. Two formal nights require a tux or dark suit for men. During this cruise I saw many men wearing tuxes, even the younger ones & a few of the teenage boys. Women wear everything from short cocktail dresses to long gowns. This is the type of ship that calls for your best formal attire on those 2 nights. The rest of the evenings are casual or elegant casual, which means "whatever" but by no means will you ever be correct in jeans or shorts in the dining room. Daytime clothing is very casual. My husband wore nothing but his knee-length swim trunks with a polo shirt and sandals except at night when he changed for dinner. Only in the 2 port cities did he wear walking shorts. Food is adequate in both Lido and the dining rooms. Book a table ASAP for dining in the Marco Polo. The food & service in MP is above average & not to be missed. This restaurant is an asset to the ship and not to be missed. The best bar on the ship, in my opinion is the Crow's Nest on the Sports Deck (9th. level). Sonny Samuel is the man in charge.....he will take care of you & remember your name & preferences from the time he meets you, all through your cruise. The view is spectacular, overlooking the bow as you cruise at sea. Hot, heavy hors d'ouvres are served in the Crow's Nest before 2nd. seating dinner. Sonny will keep you sated with them....the appetizers are delicious Filipino recipes. I could go on & on about this ship & cruise. If you want more info, please email me at I loved our vacation with HAL and look forward to more cruises with this line. Read Less
Just returned from the Zaandam--our 4th cruise, 1st on HAL--and would give it a B+, not an A. Positives: 1. The ship truly is beautiful--you feel very special just being on it. 2. (For me) A relaxed atmosphere, with plenty of quiet ... Read More
Just returned from the Zaandam--our 4th cruise, 1st on HAL--and would give it a B+, not an A. Positives: 1. The ship truly is beautiful--you feel very special just being on it. 2. (For me) A relaxed atmosphere, with plenty of quiet spaces to curl up with a good book 3. The Marco Polo restaurant--our most memorable meal, with excellent food and service. 4. The Lido restaurant--excellent food quality and variety in a very pleasant atmosphere. 5. Our stateroom was the largest we've ever had--four of us in one room, but we had plenty of storage space and could move around comfortably. Mixed: 1. Food was sometimes great (especially the baked goods, fresh squeezed OJ in the Lido, and bread pudding in the Lido), sometimes not (overdone chicken and scallops, shrimp cocktail made of tiny shrimp that belong in a bisque, crab soup with no visible crab) 2. Service was also mixed. HAL has great touches like the afternoon tea, movies with popcorn, and chocolates with the harpist in the evening. But we couldn't get a weather forecast on port days when the weather looked iffy, and the assistant cruise director couldn't give us any info on getting to Cayman's Seven Mile Beach (said he hadn't been ashore there in years)! 3. As many have noted on this list, HAL is trying but hasn't yet figured out how to serve boomers and their kids. Activities, entertainment, and even food leaned heavily towards seniors (we were hard pressed to hear a song written in the last 30 years, and the "name that tune" game had mostly songs written before we were born). As others have noted, Club HAL needs some work. 9-12-year-olds are too old for face painting or pajama parties and too young for dances. The children's menu was very limited. There were over 260 children on this cruise, and I would guess the average age of adults at about 45. HAL needs to recognize that summer Caribbean cruises attract a different clientele than its other cruises and provide different activities and entertainment. One negative: Two days before disembarkation, we went to the front desk to get cash to tip the staff on our last evening. Only then did we learn that HAL does not cash personal checks nor give cash advances on credit cards. We were told to get chips at the casino, hold them for half an hour, then cash them in! What a silly game to play. And even that didn't work--due to a staff glitch our cash draw was never authorized and we were never notified about that, so we had to end up giving the staff tips as checks--a very unsatisfactory solution. So bring on board enough cash for tips, as well as anything you might want to pay cash for ashore! This sounds basically negative, but it really wasn't. We loved the cruise, hated leaving, and immediately got out the HAL brochure when we returned to start planning our next cruise. Our teenage daughter met many other teens and had a blast. 08/18/00 Read Less
Having cruised on 20 other ships, I must include this Holland America Zaandam as one of the top 3. The detail to customer service was far superior to many other cruise liners. I booked less than 5 weeks prior to traveling and requested an ... Read More
Having cruised on 20 other ships, I must include this Holland America Zaandam as one of the top 3. The detail to customer service was far superior to many other cruise liners. I booked less than 5 weeks prior to traveling and requested an early seating. When I received the tickets, I was disappointed when I found that I had been placed on the late seating itinerary. Once on board, I voiced my objection to the seating and hoped for the best. Although I was not able to eat in the dinning room the first night, the ship's dinning director gave me an early seating in the Marco Polo Restaurant. The following day he had made arrangements for me to be seated in the Main Dinning Restaurant at my requested early seating. On the sixth night I was celebrating an anniversary and the dinning staff made a point to make it memorable without my reminding them. Exercise will now become a part of my life until I have lost the 5 extra pounds that I thoroughly enjoyed accumulating on my body as I dined on totally divine appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and deserts. Speaking of exercise, I managed to tire myself out as I hotfooted it around the 3rd deck (3.5 times around=1 mile) about every other day. There is ample room to walk but forget the jogging or running, it just isn't allowed on this particular deck. I decided that the spa might give me a change of pace so I attempted to cycle, lift a few additional pounds (weights), and workout with the aerobics instructor. Now this is where, if I have a complaint, I need to log it! This English gentleman instructor was as motivational as a flounder at the bottom of the sea. He mumbled his way through un-instructed aerobic exercises and left newbies wondering what the heck just happened. I'd like to mention that the shore excursions were well mixed for different likes and very well managed for safety and enjoyment. I felt the price was a little high for the goods received in a few instances. As an example: In Grand Cayman I took the Stingray City Tour (cost $49) and as the tender dropped me off at the dock, I found several outfits offering the same package for $30. Still, in all, it was probably worth the difference since the Zaandam was taking responsibility for my safe return. I did 3 snorkel trips and each time I wished I had brought my own mask and snorkel. I really didn't need my fins as their fins were adequate and it would have been troublesome to pack mine. Besides they would have taken up room that I needed to store the several bottles of scotch I purchased in Grand Cayman (cheapest prices of the islands visited). Getting onboard the first day was a snap and departing on the final day was a breeze as these folks have done their homework to keep the passengers flowing. The stability of this newer Zaandam ship was the best I'd traveled and I recommend that if you are prone to seasickness, consider staying on the deck closest to the bottom of the ship. There is always a smoother ride just above the bilge. The price was less than $600 for an outside room on deck one for this trip, and I assure you that it was well worth the investment. June 2003 Read Less
We've just returned from the MS Zaandam: Inside Passage July 27-Aug. 3, 2002. The best description I can offer those of you new to cruising is, we never wanted it to end! Since so many before me have already written wonderful reviews ... Read More
We've just returned from the MS Zaandam: Inside Passage July 27-Aug. 3, 2002. The best description I can offer those of you new to cruising is, we never wanted it to end! Since so many before me have already written wonderful reviews of this magnificent ship, it is my intention to instead address the special needs as met by HAL of our 3 generation family. Let me start by saying we are a family separated by time zones. Usually we visit with one end the host, and the rest the travelers. This was our first planned vacation event elsewhere ... it was the best plan we've ever implemented. Our reunion was not only a special family time, but a true vacation for all involved! No one was the driver, the feeder, the referee! We came together to celebrate being a family and share a special vacation... HAL does not disappoint! Our biggest treat was something in spite of all my research on this board I was unaware of it! We were in 3 side by side cabins on the Verandah. Sadly, none were to be adjoining ... we thought...I have never had an outside area before on a cruiseship. So if this is a standard please humor me for I was thrilled! All of the patio doors are adjoining and shortly after our arrival the cabin steward opened them for our entire journey. Now we had 3 side by side areas for our own private deck reunion! We spent hours relaxing, staring at the magnificent views the inside passage provides, and enjoying quality, hassle free family time! Also, the patio allowed the children to run between rooms in PJ's, and all of us to leave little gifts and notes for one another! It is my opinion that the patio was the center of our family visitation ... not the dining room. We were very please to have a small round table for 7 for dinner. Service was excellent, and we could exchange stories of our days. Still, the children were eager to get to Club HAL, and the patio was our meeting place! On Board with a Severe Shellfish Allergy... I am always very careful any time I am exposed to people enjoying shellfish. For me, it is not an inconvenience ... but a matter of breathing! HAL has NO PROBLEM meeting this challenge! All my meals were handled with kid gloves! The dining room director visited me each evening with the next nights menu and discussed my options. One night the chef created vegetarian spring roll appetizers for my husband and I when all others had shrimp! I never felt exposed or vulnerable in the dining room, Lido, or Marco Polo! Limited mobility and vision... My mother in law required the use of a wheelchair to get about this vast ship. We brought our own, and please take note, if borrowing a wheelchair from HAL. HAL wheelchairs cannot be taken off the ship in port! We were assisted on and off the ship by HAL staff at port ramps. Zaandam TENDERS in Ketchikan, an ongoing fact now for months that my HAL cruise consultant was not aware of, and I learned of through this board. Tenders are NOT accessible to a wheelchair! My MIL had to walk the 10 or so steps and step up into the tender. It was very calm seas that day and not a problem. However, if she could not stand, or the seas had been rough... leaving the ship would not have been an option. It can be hard to maneuver a wheelchair in the show lounge. She is visually impaired and required seating up front to view a show with her binoculars. We rarely had assistance shifting chairs about to get to the front. The Zaandam crew arranges the assorted chairs and sofa's in a pretty and zig zaggy type of design... a real problem in a WHEELCHAIR. I was disappointed to see no real WHEELCHAIR area left either at the start of our trip, or near the end after my daily rearrangement of furniture. A WHEELCHAIR maneuvering alone would have been stuck in the very back of the theater or off searching for assistance! Public rest rooms can also be a problem. HAL is very far behind on meeting the needs of a WHEELCHAIR bound individual. Without family assistance this ship would be very hard to get about. In the dining room and at port ramps, HAL crew were ready to assist, but not elsewhere. This was a real problem I noticed when 2 elderly people traveled together and both needed some sort of assistance. I believe HAL greatly needs to hire a full time director for assistance to the handicapped! Club HAL for Tweens... My 9 and 11 year olds loved Club HAL. At sea there are roughly 2 hours of scheduled activities in the AM, PM, and then a themed event in the evening. The directors were excellent with the 15 or so tweens our week, and HAL is very generous in providing prizes for games and activities. My kids favorite activities included a scavenger hunt, BINGO, Lip Sinc show, and all the evening theme parties! They snack, sing, dance, and have a KID sized vacation. My kids wore their room ID tags around their necks after I punched holes in them and put on "necklace". They enjoyed a great deal of freedom on board unavailable to them at home! They could go between the room and Club HAL on their own and were very excited with this bit of independence. Soda Card was a waste of money and my ONLY HAL frustration! Do not bother with the soda cards for the kids! At $27.50, they cannot use it anywhere food is served! They cannot hang out in the bar, and do not understand it is not usable most places. My 9 yo son signed for soda at the Lido twice before I figured out he was paying an additional $1.75 per can! At 2 can's a day, that is still cheaper than $27.50! They offer fountain soda in the bars and that is the only place a soda card can be used! Every where's else it is by the can! Excursions... We did excursions booked through recommendations on this board, and booked on ship with HAL. I have no regrets, and am grateful for all my excursions ... but there is a difference I wish to take note of at this time. Activities booked through HAL are more expensive, and in exchange they offer you dock side pick ups, ship board refunds if canceled, and activities times around your port day. They guarantee the ship will not leave port without you! Our specifics Transport between Seattle and Vancouver - We used Emerald City Limo.Emerald City Limo. Eric was prompt both ways and it was very relaxing. We pursued a Limo after being told HAL does not offer transport any day but departure or arrival. Incidentally, HAL charges $50 each way by bus. With 5 people our Limo was $60 PP plus tip, and well worth its ease at the border! Juneau We went Whale watching with Captain Larry of course! Orca Tours They arranged a helicopter and Glacier Landing for us through Coastal Coastal Helicopters. Please note our pilot from Coastal was also our guide on the glacier! We were the only family on the Herbert Glacier at this time... Our pilot Aaron,toured us, taught us, found exotic rocks for the kids, and personalized this adventure for us! An experience we would not have had otherwise! As for Captain Larry, I cannot prove it but I am convinced those whales get a cut, because they come right up to the ship to perform and the microphone he drops into the water greatly adds to the excitement as the whales sing and you know the jump is near! We were on the Sunset Whale watch tour, just beautiful, However, by not booking with HAL I was concerned about returning late to our ship if anything altered our schedule. We were fine however and had dinner in the Lido around ten pm. Please note when booking your own shore excursions you must be back on ship half an hour before scheduled departure! Skagway We booked the Crazy Streetcar tour through HAL at 8:30AM. They deliver your confirmation in a bright Pink envelope to your stateroom. It is charged to your room, and you are picked up at the end of the dock. Also, as a special treat, we took the kids dog sledding! Temsco Helicopters They wanted snow and dogs as their #1 choice and we were very relieved the weather was great and it was not canceled. This trip became the family favorite, but was perhaps the biggest difference between booking HAL and not! Temsco charged $329 per adult, but kids were $165. HAL did not publish any kid price! This was far more than just a $50 helicopter tour savings by booking direct! Now the flip side, by not booking through HAL, we had to walk 15 minutes to the airport. (HAL picks up dockside ALL its tours). I fell on route, road was rough and rocky. Very hard pushing WHEELCHAIR! After our trip I was very relieved to get a ride back to the ship, however! In Glacier Bay I found our patio to be our own private oasis. My husband however, went up top for pictures with a 360* view. Nearly every inch of space was spoken for, but it allowed viewing of all events. We were limited to what was before us. However, aside from missing a bear sighting on the opposite side of the ship, I'd swap room service and family time any day! Club Hal incidentally was way up top, and kids became Junior Park Rangers! In Ketchikan we toured the Misty Fiiords with Jeff Carlin of Island Wings. Island wings Jeff's daughter picked us up and dropped us back off at the dock. However, this was complicated by the Zaandam tendering to shore and us not knowing if the WHEELCHAIR could make it to shore. Booking direct with HAL would have spared us this added stress, but then we would have missed our personal tour with Jeff. Incidentally, all our tours were participated in by my mother in law! Regardless of whether you use the local private sector and book through board recommendations or book through HAL... DO BOOK SOMETHING! These ports are very commercial and depend on the cruise industry for their survival. There is little to do if you don't take advantage of their magnificent natural resources! Once you have shopped in one of these ports ... you have done it. I was very disappointed by the lack of individual craftsmanship and noncommercial shopping available. Do participate in the Zaandam Rock-n-Roldies guest show... You'll have a blast! Enjoy every moment ... it goes by way too fast! Write me if you want more specifics on kids, WHEELCHAIR, shellfish, or our tours! Don't be afraid to share with the family... It was the best family time our 3 generations have ever shared!!! RJL417@aol.comSeptember 2002 Read Less
My husband and I recently returned from a cruise on the Zaandam along the Inner Passage. This was my 5th cruise (3rd with Holland America) and my husband's 2nd cruise. It was our first trip to Alaska. The ship is beautifully ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from a cruise on the Zaandam along the Inner Passage. This was my 5th cruise (3rd with Holland America) and my husband's 2nd cruise. It was our first trip to Alaska. The ship is beautifully maintained with spacious staterooms. We had booked one of the outside cabins on the lower promenade deck with an obstructed view which qualifies for the inside cabin rate. Although obstructed, you could easily see outside. We found that the biggest problem with any outside cabin on the lower promenade deck isn't that people outside can peer in to your cabin (because it's the walking and deck chair deck) but that the outside lights are left on all night long so you have to keep your curtains closed if you want to sleep! I was disappointed because I like to be awakened by the light rather than an alarm clock while on vacation. This is more of an FYI to other cruisers than a complaint. We found the public areas to be much nicer than we'd expected from reading other reviews. There were plenty of comfortable seating areas where you could quietly read in front of large windows. The Crows Nest, at the bow above the bridge, provided an awesome panorama although it was frequently the most crowded of all the lounges. We also found that you were more frequently approached to order drinks here than the other lounges (although they would bring a glass of water with a smile). The Java Bar was a big disappointment to these former Seattle-ites. Since it's staffed by a barista we expected a real espresso machine, not a "push a button" machine which was the same as the self-service one we'd experienced in the Lido Restaurant on the Westerdam! One of the nicest touches was the constant supply of hot chocolate and coffee available at several stations on deck while we were in Glacier Bay. For the hardy of us who chose to stay outside, it was greatly appreciated! As we'd read in another review, passengers have full access to the bow of this ship if you bother to go through the special doors at the bow of the lower promenade deck. The first day, leaving Vancouver, we were 2 of only 4 people out there! Eventually others called down to us to find out how to get there. By the time we got to Glacier Bay, the bow was actually quite crowded. The passengers were more diverse than we had encountered on our 2/00 Caribbean cruise on the Westerdam. Although probably 60-70% of the passengers were over 60, several countries were well represented, including Canada, France, England, Australia and Holland. We did a couple of the ship sponsored tours. I had researched the prices on the internet and was finding comparable prices so we decided to use the convenience and assurance of the ship-sponsored trips. In Juneau we took a helicopter glacier tour that stopped on 2 glaciers (the Herbert and the Mendenhall) for us to get out and walk. It was pricey but worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Skagway we did the White Pass Railroad and bike tour (where we biked down from White Pass). The railroad is not to be missed - expensive but worthwhile. Since we biked down the bus route, I can verify that it's nowhere near as spectacular as the railroad. The railway is apparently what Disney's Thunder Mountain Railway is modeled after and when you take it you'll see why. I'm not crazy about heights but stood between the cars the entire trip to take pictures and never had a problem, even looking straight down! The bike ride down from the pass was disappointing - it was so windy my eyes kept watering up and you're going so fast you're spending most of the time watching the person in front of you so you don't hit them instead of being able to enjoy the scenery. Fortunately they stopped for several breaks and photo ops but I didn't enjoy it very much. Also, everyone in our group was 30's-40's until a couple in their 60's showed up and there was almost an audible expression of disappointment. I don't think they ended up making that much of a difference but they refused to listen to the directions of our leader which was very frustrating to the rest of us. Our weather was disappointing. We made our selection based on price and weather as we knew it in Seattle. Unfortunately it was rainy and in the low 50s for most of our trip. Even when it wasn't rainy the clouds were very low and we weren't able to see any of the spectacular vistas we had hoped for. People who had done the land tour of the interior before joining our ship in Skagway had much better weather - temps in Anchorage were in the 70's. We had rough seas about 3 a.m. our second night out and the captain changed our itinerary after Glacier Bay (electing to take the Inside Passage instead of going out into the Gulf) to avoid rough seas. We encountered the most rain in Ketchikan (which tends to be rainy). The salmon were running and the creek was black with them. We did Dolly's bear viewing tour (for $20/pp). Don't. We stood across from a rusting saw mill in foot-deep woodchips in the rain with the stench of rotting salmon permeating the air for an hour in case any bear decided to go down to a stream several hundred yards away to go fishing. Obviously this is not a ship-sponsored tour! Even if we the bears had been out, they would have been hard to see because of the distance. My husband, who was the one who wanted to see the bears, called it a day and returned to the relative dryness of the trolly after about half an hour. Overall I found the cruise very relaxing. The food was very good to excellent. We ate at the Marco Polo restaurant one night, which was truly superb. I was surprised at the lines in the Lido Restaurant because we had not encountered them on the Westerdam. I tended to skip the long lines and go to the continental breakfast area at one end then go back for any individual item I had missed. They have an excellent individual omelet station that's well worth a visit. The singers/dancers were disappointing - the focus seemed to be on costume changes instead of the numbers themselves. We heard a very funny comedian and saw an excellent magician. The ship was very stable and I appreciated all of the large windows in the public rooms. The lower promenade deck seemed wider than on other ships and there were no doors to contend with while walking the full deck. Everything gleamed and glistened. I agree with other cruisers that the chandelier in the dining room is very ugly and the "organ" looks more like a calliope - very overblown, very large, a real waste of what could be a beautiful space. We only heard it play once. astokke@optonline.netSeptember 2001 Read Less
This was the first cruise for my wife and I in 20 years. Our last cruise was our honeymoon onboard the SS Emerald Seas. Boy have cruise ships changed! This time we were with our 2 boys age 11 and 14. The Zaandam is a beautiful ship and ... Read More
This was the first cruise for my wife and I in 20 years. Our last cruise was our honeymoon onboard the SS Emerald Seas. Boy have cruise ships changed! This time we were with our 2 boys age 11 and 14. The Zaandam is a beautiful ship and immaculate inside and out. Someone in another review said the ship was older but in fact this ship sailed for the first time in 2000. Although my wife and I were among the younger couples onboard (both in our early 40's) never did we feel out of place. There was no problem finding people our age. Our boys loved the Club HAL group - Tig, Jen and Ryan the Sports Director were all great with the kids. The only negative on the Club Hal group was that they scheduled the Tweens (9-12) main activity at night during the early show. Our children looked as forward to the shows as we did. I would recommend that anyone traveling with teens bring walkie talkies. Ours had no problem working in any spot on the ship. The shows were great. We had a magic act that was fantastic, comedy juggler, impressionist that did not need to imitate anyone...his voice was fantastic as well as the HAL singers and dancers. There is a nice variety of lounge entertainment as well. The Ocean Bar had a trio that we danced to every night. Another bar had a pianist that was great. The Explorers Lounge had a classical strings group and then there was live music and a DJ in the Crows nest till the wee hours. The nice part was being able to sit in a bar and not drink nor feel obligated to drink if we did not want to. A glass a water was fine if we asked for it and we still received the same courteous service. The food was outstanding. There is always food someplace on the ship. The Lido pool services all day and the Lido dinning room serves buffet as well. But for most meals we opted for the Rotterdam dinning room. We rather be served and have portion control instead of the lines and buffet. The Rotterdam is only open limited ours so for snacks and ice cream we hit the Lido. At dinner time our waiter brought what ever we wanted. No problem getting 4 lobster tails on the last formal night and mixing and matching items. I would suggest though that you always ask to see the next night's menu. If you can't find anything you like they want 24 hrs notice to special order something not on the menu. The first 2 days on the ship my young son had ice cream 6 times. The ice cream bar is open just about all day and again at 11;15 pm. Don't miss the High Tea dessert extravaganza. The chocolate covered strawberries were to die for. My wife and I are already trying to figure out when we can go on another DAM ship. You won't be disappointed with this one. July 2003 Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.0 0.0
Service 3.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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