5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
I chose this cruise because of the itinerary. I really wanted to do the east coast of Canada. And the departure from Montreal was very appealing. The destinations did not disappoint. I was totally charmed by the east coast, and will ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of the itinerary. I really wanted to do the east coast of Canada. And the departure from Montreal was very appealing. The destinations did not disappoint. I was totally charmed by the east coast, and will definitely return! The reason that I felt compelled to write the review was because of the outstanding service and dining on this ship. I have been on many different cruise lines and am an experienced cruiser. Up until this point my favorite cruise line was Celebrity. I have to admit that Holland American Lines lived up to it's hype. The food was amazing, and the service was impeccable! I especially want to give a shout out to our dining room staff, Mahendra, Subatra Smith our waiter, and Jonathan our wine steward! The cabins were larger than I have experienced on other cruise lines, which was a nice surprise. They were also kept spotless by our cabin stewards. The shower allowed enough room to shower and shave comfortably! The entertainment was geared more towards an older crowd and would probably be my only slight criticism. Although we enjoyed the trios, quartets, and piano man...people on the younger side may have found it boring. And the shows although well performed, were definitely a little dated. But that would be my only complaint. We took two ship excursions, one in Sydney and one in Bar Harbor. The Sydney one was the hiking tour to Ban Usige Falls, and was very picturesque. I fell in love with Baddeck. And the tour guide Wendell was a very spry 78 years old! The other excursion was the small group guided tour of Acadia National Park. Once again our tour guide was very knowledgeable. I did go to the gym once, and attended a body stretching class. The instructor was quite good and was constantly checking to see that everyone was doing the moves properly. Overall I would rate my experience on HAL as 5 stars, and I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
I was a little nervous after reading reviews here, but was very happy with the Zaandam. The ship is a little old, but is well kept and our group of 15 had very few problems. We had balcony rooms on the 6th and 7th deck which were nice, but ... Read More
I was a little nervous after reading reviews here, but was very happy with the Zaandam. The ship is a little old, but is well kept and our group of 15 had very few problems. We had balcony rooms on the 6th and 7th deck which were nice, but the TV's are tiny and nearly useless (some rooms had newer TVs). We had ports of call every day but one and enjoyed all of the stops. We were 40 minutes late to Halifax which put a wrench in my plans. And we were several hours late to Quebec which made us cancel a walking tour, but the weather, which was supposed to be half rainy turned out great just about every day. Even saw a whale on the day at sea. Service was always excellent and cheerful from the dining and room staff. HAL isn't overly pushy on shopping and excursions (unlike Carnival). The food in the dining room was good (not always great, but never bad) with good variety, but sort of random portions, sometimes huge, sometimes not much more than an appetizer for the main course. The Lido cafeteria had a lot of variety and the food was also good. Some in our party really enjoyed the shows, but that isn't really my thing. I did enjoy the live music by a piano and violin duo. Lots of room on board to hang out. Happy hour drink specials (buy 1 at full price get another for $2) made the drinks more reasonable and the hours weren't bad. I didn't do any HAL excursion due to the price, but had a great time at Bar Harbor using Acadia NP's free shuttles, rented cars in Halifax and Sydney for side trips (to Peggy's Cove and for a boat tour to see puffins), and enjoyed walking around Charlottetown, Quebec, and Montreal. Great trip and very thankful for the excellent weather. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
Like the maritime provinces and wanted to see more. Embarkation was somewhat disorganized; we arrived in Boston on a redeye at 7:30 am but couldn't board until 11:00 am. Spent most of this time on folding chairs. Enjoyed room ... Read More
Like the maritime provinces and wanted to see more. Embarkation was somewhat disorganized; we arrived in Boston on a redeye at 7:30 am but couldn't board until 11:00 am. Spent most of this time on folding chairs. Enjoyed room service breakfast EVERY MORNING! My husband went early to Lido Deck each morning for his favorite SMOKED SALMON! Puff pastry sweet rolls every morning, also! Lido Deck pool area was great, 2 hot tubs and pool 81 degrees F. Never too crowded. I sat at a table for lunch occasionally; taco bar/hamburger/french fries stand open until 5pm. Service was exemplary. Sometimes a bit too obsequious, but staff were very well trained. Magician show and ventriloquist shows were very, very funny. Disappointed that the organ recital was recorded; thought there would be an actual organist (was not made clear). Met some interesting Canadians on the cruise who were familiar with the area, but still enjoyed the cruise!! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
My review is written from this perspective: During our forty-two married years together my wife and I have previously cruised twenty-four times. We’ve been on Holland America four times already, plus multiple cruises on Royal Caribbean, ... Read More
My review is written from this perspective: During our forty-two married years together my wife and I have previously cruised twenty-four times. We’ve been on Holland America four times already, plus multiple cruises on Royal Caribbean, Windstar, Uniworld Europe River Cruises, and once on Oceania. We enjoy cruising, especially the at-sea days. We liked this itinerary for its two up-front at-sea northbound days from Fort Lauderdale as our opportunity to decompress from our everyday lives at home, plus the anticipated at-sea day towards the end of the cruise while watching the St. Lawrence shoreline glide past. Spoiler Alert: We had a really nice cruise! Embarkation & Disembarking: Getting on the ship in Fort Lauderdale was one of the most efficient and fast processes we’ve ever experienced. Even though we arrived a bit early for our posted boarding time, we were able to get right on the ship. A great start for our cruise. Disembarkation day was unusual. The St. Lawrence River was very high and overflowing its banks because of the combination of a late snow melt from the shoreline mountains together with recent heavy rains. That kept our ship from sailing from Quebec City to its final destination in Montreal because the ship couldn’t fit under a bridge between the two cities even at low tide. So we stayed moored in Quebec City overnight instead of moving on to Montreal. Holland America had to put all of us on coaches extra early on disembarkation day for the 3-hour ride to Montreal. We saw lots of flooding along the way to Montreal, but we arrived at the airport with minimal hassles. Good for Holland America, since they also had the nightmare of getting all of the incoming passengers transported from Montreal to meet the ship in Quebec City, too. The ship: ms Zaandam is looking terrific for being nineteen-years-old. I’m not sure when she had her last major refit/refurb, but there was hardly any rust anywhere on her exterior, and the interior and outside public spaces looked great. No worn-out seats, carpets, railings, decks, pools, etc. Well done Holland America. There was one surprise. On our first night, at 1:15 AM the ship’s emergency fire alarm blared loudly: “FIRE! Passengers remain in your cabins and await further instructions!”, which was given in that official loudspeaker voice we all heard at the mandatory lifeboats drill before we set sail. My wife and I could visualize all of the passengers and crew sitting bolt upright in their beds (like we did) waiting for the next announcement. Then there was a second announcement calling for the fire crew to report to a coded location. In another few minutes the captain came over the loudspeakers to announce the fire emergency was over. He said an unoccupied smoke-filled incinerator area had a detector that set off an alarm which was relayed to the ship’s bridge. The dispatched fire team discovered there was a fire in one of the incinerator’s “silos” (whatever that is), and the automatic steam fire extinguishers had quickly dealt with the problem. The captain apologized for the early morning “inconvenience”, said the crew had properly responded to the situation as they’d been trained, and then he said everyone could go back to sleep. He ended his speech by promising to give more information in his noon announcements later in the day (which he did). Passengers and crew had lots to talk about at breakfast, albeit sleepy-eyed. Our cabin: Excellent. We were fortunate to be able to book a Neptune suite on deck 7. It had lots of daylight from the wall-to-wall windows, with enough room for a sofa sitting area. There were plenty of closets and drawers, fresh/clean fabrics, carpets, and soft goods, a king bed, a vanity area, a fully-furnished mini bar, a big verandah with table/chairs and two lounge chairs, an efficient air conditioner/heater that we could set to our preference, and a nice bathroom with a brand-new-looking Jacuzzi-style tub and a toilet that flushed every single time. (Yay!). Our cabin stewards were excellent. We were never in need of anything for the whole cruise. The Neptune Lounge, reserved for Neptune and Pinnacle suites guests, was just down the corridor. It was a great place to get a snack, coffee, check email, read, socialize a bit with other passengers, have a drink from the honor bar before supper, or ask either one of the two excellent Concierges for assistance with anything simple or complex around the ship. We were definitely spoiled with our Neptune suite. Dining: Overall very good. The Pinnacle Grill (“PG”) was the single disappointment. Our incentive package included one PG supper which was to be scheduled at HAL’s discretion. At first we were surprised when we discovered our PG invitation/reservation was set for 7:00 PM on our departure/first day. After seeing “Pinnacle Grill 25% discount first night” coupons all over the ship when we boarded, though, we realized HAL must have a need to fill seats in the Pinnacle that first night, especially with those of us who had an incentive package visit. We’ve really enjoyed our Pinnacle Grill experiences as an upgrade/extra-cost treat on our prior HAL sailings, and that’s what we were anticipating this time, too. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. Although the room was nice, and the staff was friendly, the food wasn’t up to the “Wow!” quality we’d experienced before. Our filet mignon entrees were “okay”, but our side dishes weren’t served hot. That wouldn’t have been a problem if someone had come to check on us after our entrees were served, but nobody came back until our plates were being pulled at the end of our meal. It seemed as though the PG’s galley couldn’t keep up with what was required, which was surprising because the room was only half occupied when we were there. We politely thanked our servers as we left, but we never returned to the Pinnacle Grill for the remainder of our cruise for a supper (or for no-extra-charge breakfasts offered to suites guests). To be fair, the PG manager later heard of our experience that first night, and offered to comp us another supper to make up for it, but we chose not to return, mainly because we were more than happy with everything in the Main Dining Room. “Open seating” for supper in the Main Dining Room (“MDR”) initially seemed to be problematic when we first tried to phone in a 6:00 PM seating request for the night after our Pinnacle Grill supper. “Unavailable” we were told. When we showed up at the MDR check-in desk on deck 4 at 6:00 PM that evening, though, we were immediately seated at a 2-person table as requested. Our server, assistant, wine steward, floor manager, and food that evening were all excellent. On our way out of the MDR after this first supper we asked if we could be seated at the same table at approximately the same time every evening. “Absolutely” was the response. We enjoyed our suppers at the same table with the same staff every evening after that. What a terrific time we had. There seemed to be something on the changing daily menu for each of us, but even when there wasn’t, we always had the “available every day” alternatives. Our server, assistant, and wine steward were cordial, professional, conversational, and happy every single supper. They certainly made us feel special and welcome. Well done, MDR. The Lido Market was, well, a typical Lido. Always crowded, as anticipated on at-sea days, but even at breakfast and lunch on port days when we tried it. The food was good with a nice variety. There’s always the same passenger confusion on where to enter the buffet food service lines, but that’s to be expected. We enjoyed the made-to-order omelets and Belgian waffles at breakfast plus salads at lunch, and the soups and breads at lunch. The room seemed short-staffed for clearing tables and offering water/coffee/tea/lemonade/etc., but staff did their best. After a couple breakfasts here we decided to just awaken a bit earlier every morning, and we had really nice breakfasts served in the MDR. On this cruise we didn’t take advantage of any of the several other places around the ship to get food, or try around-the-clock in-cabin service. Maybe next time. Activities around the ship: We enjoyed most of the evening entertainment in the two-decks-high The Main Stage. Our MDR suppers were completed most nights in plenty of time for a leisurely stroll through the ship to the 8:00 PM shows. Get there before 7:30, though, if you want to easily find a pair of seats together. There was some of the usual, “These seats are saved” going on, with one person showing up to grab six or eight vacant seats together for their last-minute family/friends, but it wasn’t too bad. We didn’t make it to any of the well-attended lounges/clubs around the ship, although we did stop to enjoy the classical piano/violin duet one evening. Because we both brought our Kindles, after the evening entertainment in the main show room we instead read either in our cabin or in the Neptune lounge. The weather: We anticipated two seasons, a warm beginning at our embarkation in FL, and getting cooler as we sailed north. On our second at-sea day the huge sliding dome cover over the Lido pool was closed for the remainder of the cruise. Then it turned really cold, (upper 30s F to low 40s F) and windy (20-25 mph) beginning with our first port call in Boston, but every day had clear blue skies and full sun. At each port there was at least one local who told us it was the first time they’d seen the sun in weeks. Only our last port call in Quebec City was rainy. Our seas weren’t overly active, but the winds did blow pretty hard a couple of times, which gave the ship a gentle rocking motion which we enjoy. One overnight there was heavy fog, which meant the ship’s loud fog horn boomed every few minutes for hours on end, but only that one night. We were so lucky with the weather on this cruise. Ports and Shore Excursions: Holland America offered a good variety of (mostly-expensive) excursion choices in each port. We discovered beginning at our first port stop we were the very first cruise ship from any company sailing a US East Coast and Canada itinerary this “summer” season. That was both good and bad. The good: there were few crowds/tourists anywhere except for Boston, which is a busy city in any season, and in Bar Harbor it was really easy to find a warm jacket on winter clearance sale to wear on this cruise. The bad: everywhere other than Boston it was still “winter season”. That meant most store fronts and tourist/excursion sites were either still shuttered for the winter, were undergoing late-winter-delayed construction or just cleaning out the winter cobwebs and not ready for tourists, or they were significantly reduced to only a minimal operation compared to what was said to be available beginning in mid-May. For us, Boston was a fun day with lots to see and do on our own with hop-on-hop-off trolley tickets we’d purchased before the cruise. Our Bar Harbor excursion was cancelled by Holland America, but that was okay with us because we’d been there before, and we enjoyed just strolling around the Norman Rockwell-like streets while stopping in one of the local pubs for a delicious lobstah roll. Halifax was a very long day due to our choice of a 7-hour coach excursion to Peggy’s Cove (beautiful but mostly closed for our less-than-an-hour stop), Lunenberg (also a beautiful waterfront village but still mostly closed for the season during our hour-long stop), and Mahone Bay (beautiful, too, but really closed during our forty-minutes stop). In Sydney we went to the restored Louisbourg fortress which was historically interesting, but disappointing because only three of the many buildings were open, and only a small handful of reenactors were around. We absolutely loved the Charlottetown/Prince Edward Island excursion for its drive through rolling hills, expansive farmers’ fields, and the Anne of Green Gables House stop. Quebec City was interesting even in the rain. On our walking excursion around both the old and new parts of the city there was a constant drone of loud construction and traffic noise, along with competing noise from other early-season tourist groups. It was impossible to hear our excursion guide, but it was still an interesting port stop. Conclusion: If you’ve survived to the end of this too-long review, you’ve seen why overall we had another great cruise experience. Zaandam and her crew/staff were top notch, and this itinerary had interesting ports. Will we be more aware of the potential good and bad characteristics of a “shoulder season” cruise in the future? Yep. And we’ll certainly cruise with Holland America again. Cheers! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
I wanted to write this review because I saw a number of poor ratings for Holland America and since we had a good experience, I thought it would be fair to write a good one. This was our first cruise with HAL and we were on the Zaandam. ... Read More
I wanted to write this review because I saw a number of poor ratings for Holland America and since we had a good experience, I thought it would be fair to write a good one. This was our first cruise with HAL and we were on the Zaandam. This is a beautiful ship with a musical theme. We liked the baroque organ. We ran into two storms on the Pacific Ocean with 6.5 meter waves and the Captain changed our port of call from Ushuaia to Castro and also gave us the beautiful Brujo glacier. We were good with the decision since it was a bit of a rough ride that day. We had booked mostly private excursions since we like the smaller groups. Except for the tendering ports, all the ports of call on our cruise were well managed. We have travelled with at least 4 other cruise lines and we found the food selection to be good better than some of the others. We liked having less choices but better quality. Cabin crew were good. Enrichment activities were good. Entertainment were okay. Embarkation and Disembarkation were spot on. All in all, we liked Holland America and have already booked another cruise with them on the Westerdam. Hoping to be able to have the same level of service or better. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this cruise for the itinerary- leaving from the Santiago area (port of San Antonio) and cruising around Cape Horn to the Falkland Islands, ending in Buenos Aires. Originally we had booked a similar cruise with Celebrity but ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary- leaving from the Santiago area (port of San Antonio) and cruising around Cape Horn to the Falkland Islands, ending in Buenos Aires. Originally we had booked a similar cruise with Celebrity but realized that HAL went to the Falklands and switched for that reason. We booked 18 months in advance because we wanted a Vista Suite (with balcony) mid-ship, facing land (the port side in this case). The ports and general enjoyment of a cruise around Cape Horn is very dependent on the weather as we heard from the Captain and crew, who let us know that the previous cruise which went in the reverse did not had very good luck and missed three ports. Our weather was spectacular for the most part, even in Ushuaia, where they never see sun. We even made it to the Falklands, a long tender which was calm heading in during the morning but a bit rough coming back in the afternoon after penguin watching when the wind picked up. The ship took us through the Darwin Channel, Beagle Strait and Straits of Magellan, each early in the morning where we had close up views of glaciers and the sunrise. The balcony was worth the extra cost just for these amazing days as we didn't need to fight the crowd on deck for a good view. The ship had experts on board who gave excellent talks every sea day on wildlife, South American Culture and history, and the night sky. We also had a port expert who provided a lot of information on what to do each port day. They did not push shore excursions like some cruises, instead showed you what to see and how to do it if you wanted to do it yourself, hire a local guide, or use the ship resources which was very much appreciated. Entertainment was provided part of the time by the ships's group, but we also had excellent shows brought on locally including a Tango show and Bolo dancers which were amazing. Cabin was excellent, food and service top-notch, and the experience one we will never forget. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We selected this cruise because of the itinerary: South America (from Chile to Argentina), with sailing around Cape Horn and then along the Antarctic Peninsula. The itinerary did not disappoint us. Except for being unable to dock at Puerto ... Read More
We selected this cruise because of the itinerary: South America (from Chile to Argentina), with sailing around Cape Horn and then along the Antarctic Peninsula. The itinerary did not disappoint us. Except for being unable to dock at Puerto Montt (Chile) due to strong winds, everywhere else the weather was excellent and docking (if applicable) went without any issues. Even notorious Drake Passage felt more like a lake. Every port was different and we did not regret that actually we did not set foot on Antarctica (only sailing along). The scenery was magnificent and diverse, wildlife was plentiful to see and to enjoy. The enrichment lectures by the experts led by Scott were excellent; all of them had real Antarctic experience. We even had a visit by the members of the US team from the Palmer Station who boarded the ship for a few hours and gave us another dimension what it means to work as a researcher in Antarctica. The onboard experts were equally good who had skills in public speaking, did not trivialize subjects and were always available to answer additional queries. You appreciated the scenery even more with this background. Shore excursions: overall good but clearly overpriced. The excursion staff very nice and helpful. Nonetheless, you can do yourself a big favor booking ahead of time the same or better tours at 50% discount price via independent tour operators (we did this in the Falklands, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires)--you have more intimate experience at much lower cost. HA should also consider adding more active (strenuous) options on shore and in smaller groups. Some specifics about the tours: don't waste your money on the flight to Antarctica, most of the time flights are canceled and you will see more from the ship. Do not take an excursion in Puerto Madryn to Valdez Peninsula, unless you like to seat on the bus for 6 hours and see for 20 min (and from the distance) colonies of sea lions. Dinning experience/food: of course, HA experience is not the same as cruising with some boutique lines catering to culinary experiences. Nevertheless, we found food plentiful, very good selections at any time of day or night, and the service always pleasant. The dinning staff was above expectations, personal, attentive, and at your service. We dined couple of times in Canaletto, nice and more intimate experience, though you will not be tired of the Main Dinning Room. Overall ambiance/entertainment: HA cruises cater to mature customers. I found enjoyable not to see hordes of children running around the pool or in the Lido. Zaandam is tastefully arranged and easy to get around. If you like the glitz and phony party atmosphere, this will not be the cruise for you. The entertainment was good (except for comedian/magician), the selection of movies was well arranged, consistent with South American and Antarctic itinerary. The cruise director (Bruce) deserves thumbs up, tactful and understated, on the top of everything in his line of duty. Staff: overall, we had excellent impressions, comparing to past experiences on HA and other lines. From the captain to our cabin steward we felt being treated with courtesy and professionalism. Overall, this was one of the best cruising experiences. Those who are interested in this itinerary should invest in right clothing (layers, layers, layers) to enjoy the sights of Antarctica from the deck and the Falklands on land. Take advantage of every port, see natural beauty and appreciate culture. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We were keen to visit Antarctica but did not cherish the idea of being tossed around in the Drake passage aboard a small vessel. We therefore chose HAL Zaandam although it did mean no setting foot on Antarctica. It was the best decision ... Read More
We were keen to visit Antarctica but did not cherish the idea of being tossed around in the Drake passage aboard a small vessel. We therefore chose HAL Zaandam although it did mean no setting foot on Antarctica. It was the best decision that we made and right from the word go, the cruise was just great. The sights, especially during the 4 days in Antarctica were unforgettable. Living on board for 22 days was every bit comfortable with great food, service and stateroom no 3365. Talks by expedition team leaders were highly informative. Other entertainment activities were also good but perhaps not great.. Getting off the ship for shore excursions was very well managed with no one getting rushed even at the tender ports. Disembarkation and luggage handling was efficient. Only somewhat unsatisfactory experience was the late embarkation process at Buenos Aires. The HAL transfer person simply left us at the kerb outside the port building. We had to ask around for directions to get to the ship, carrying our bags and it was some distance away. Overall, it was a memorable holiday trip Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
The cruise exceeded my expectations in every way. The high point was the 4 days in the Antarctic. I will never forget the joy of watching an iceberg float by with penguins on it - with one every once in a while waving to you, or so it ... Read More
The cruise exceeded my expectations in every way. The high point was the 4 days in the Antarctic. I will never forget the joy of watching an iceberg float by with penguins on it - with one every once in a while waving to you, or so it appears. Than you watch some of them dive off and go porpoising across the waters. Later on, an iceberg goes by and they are jumping on. A little further an iceberg goes by with a solitary penguin on it. Your camera is your best friend at this point to help capture this unbelievable spectacle and all the Antarctic beauty ever present around you. And as if that wasn't enough there were the frequent whale spouts, some so close you could hear them, followed by their majestic arch and gigantic tail appearing as they take a deep dive. Than there was, for me, the beauty of the many variety of antarctic birds that followed the ship. One, the wandering albatross has the largest wing span of any bird, up to 10 feet (over 3 meters). The ever changing sea state, ocean color and sun angle made each soaring maneuver another art piece I had to capture. And haven't even mentioned the icebergs - a prime attraction to say the least. As for the ship, it has been maintained in excellent shape. You couldn't ask for a better crew. Very friendly and as one who can testify to their around the clock effort to keep the ship clean, I was often up at all hours to photograph the sun set at midnight or a sun rise at 3:00 AM. My wife and I had a balcony suite, room 7038, port side on deck 7. Perfect in location and size. We had no problem with motion sickness for the moderate sea states we were in. As I have learned from previous cruses, food can be a problematic. If something is too good, I have a hard time passing it up. I would give the food on this cruise a Goldilocks rating - just right. Except perhaps their soups, which I had to try every night, they were so good. The entertainment was all very well done, particularly the dance routines. My wife and I enjoyed dancing to The Ocean Quartet, whenever the sea state permitted. A cruise setting I will always remember is listening to the Adagio violinist and pianist play. Their music made you slow down and take in the moment. I am so thankful they had a CD, Duo Dolce, of their music for sale in the ship's store. Holland American also has to be given a lot of credit for the holiday decoration they had throughout the Zaandam. I knew it was going to be good when I saw 4 pallets of fresh poinsettias waiting to be loaded at San Antonio. Two shore excisions that were exceptional and you should not miss are, first the Volunteer Point King Penguin Rookery when dock at Stanley/Falkland Is/Islas Malvinas. We opted for the ship's excursion package here as this port requires a rather long tender, about 30 minutes, and a jeep ride to Volunteer Point is such you need to get on the first tenders. The Land Rover ride was half the enjoyment and truly a great King penguin experience. The second excursion was a city and tango show in Buenos Aires. We used LIZ ANDREA (liz2arg@yahoo.com. We were a small group and that gives you more flexibility. Liz is a native of the city so she really knows its story and tells it very well. Great command of English and she has very engaging dialog. Not like some recording or scripted speech. Her stories at the cemetery show she is very knowledgeable and passionate about the history like no other. She arranged a Tango show for us that was top notch. What a perfect way to end our cruise. We also used her for our trip to the airport and for a tour day ending at the airport for our flight out that evening. Very responsible guide and driver. You couldn't do better. Would I do it again - in a heart beat. Would I recommend it to a friend - already have. Truly a once in a life time experience for us. Read Less
28 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
INTRO This is a long report, because the voyage around Cape Horn includes so many different ports, environments, scenery and weather that it is impossible to describe it in just a few paragraphs: there is just so much to see, ... Read More
INTRO This is a long report, because the voyage around Cape Horn includes so many different ports, environments, scenery and weather that it is impossible to describe it in just a few paragraphs: there is just so much to see, experience, and enjoy. In all, we sailed a total of 4385 miles from San Antonio to Buenos Aires. OUR ITINERARY Our main objectives for this trip were to visit Ushuaia, Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands, so everything else we saw was a bonus – and what a bonus! This was a cruise par excellence and it delivered so many new vistas, day after day. ARRIVAL IN SANTIAGO After the seemingly endless lines of shuffling passengers at Santiago airport, we were finally able to connect with the excellent Sebastian, who organised our baggage, and then directed us to a minibus that transferred us to the Sheraton Hotel in San Antonio. TIP: at the Sheraton we sampled the local brew called Catafelte (named after a berry that resembles a blueberry) we can definitely recommend it. EMBARKATION Coaches transferred us to the port of San Antonio. Embarkation was very smooth and very well co-ordinated. As we were embarking, passengers from the previous cruise (westwards) were disembarking, but the HAL staff kept everything under control. TIP: this is a busy container port, so you have to wait after check-in until another coach can ferry you safely to the ship. After you check-in with Guest Services, your passport will be held on board the ship by HAL staff, and you will receive a Passport Reclaim slip that you can use to reclaim it when you reach the Falklands. Being separated from your passport is a bit unnerving, but rest assured your passport is safe. TIP: when you reclaim your passport from Guest Services, you will find it contains an Exit stamp for Chile, an Entry stamp for Argentina, and a 7-day Visitor Permit stamp for the Falklands! Note: we are not sure how this routine works when you sail in the opposite direction. THE SHIP The Zaandam seems to be the ideal sized cruise ship. Nothing is very far from anything else, and as you might expect, she is very clean and tidy above decks and below. We found the ship layout very easy to navigate, and really appreciated the unobstructed Promenade Deck (3 times around = 1.6 km). She is one of the smaller HAL ships, but never seems crowded (in our opinion). DÉCOR We found the décor on the Zaandam to be very interesting, with a strong emphasis on music (displays of musical instruments). There are a few good paintings of ships in the stairwells, and some amazing 3-D trompe l’oeil pictures at the entry to the Main Dining Room (MDR). The public rooms are bright and colourfully decorated. TIP: the Main Stage theatre is small and the sightlines are not always good from the balcony seats on deck 5 (except for those seated in the middle section). The seating is comfortable and the acoustics are great. THE CREW The crew of the Zaandam always manage to be upbeat and are very pleasant company. They are busy, but always seem able to find a few minutes to share a joke or a comment, and their hard work makes life as pleasant as possible for the passengers, so we want them to know how much we appreciate their efforts. Our cabin stewards (Putu and Made) were excellent. They kept our cabin neat and tidy and were always cheerful and friendly. FOOD We found no reasons to complain about the food in any of the restaurants onboard the Zaandam. The Lido Market serves a range of interesting dishes from all over the world including Asia and Italy. It tends to get a bit hectic at times, especially when people are lining up to get served at the buffet stations. We usually ate dinner in the Main Dining Room and never regretted any of our menu choices. The menu is always very inventive, and every day it lists some dishes that you might call standards for the less-adventurous diners (for example, salmon and strip-loin steak). We like to take one dinner in the Canaletto restaurant, and we were encouraged one lunch time to try the Italian Cellar Master’s Dinner. This event takes place only once per voyage, and it was scheduled for the evening that we set sail from Punta Arenas. For the princely sum of $49 per person, we enjoyed an outstanding 4-course dinner, where each course is paired with an appropriate wine! We don’t think you could buy 4 glasses of wine for that amount! Our first course was a Lobster and Shrimp salad, paired with Prosseco. After that we moved on to a Mushroom Risotto paired with Chianti. Next came a Chateaubriand (meltingly tender) paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon, and if you can manage to find space for dessert, you can enjoy a Mascarpone and Pistachio plate paired with Limoncello! Each dish is beautifully prepared and presented by the delightful Canaletto Team – catch it if you can! TIP: a quiet word with the maitre d’ can get you a table with delightful dinner companions – we were lucky every evening. MARINERS’ LUNCH This is a special event for members of the HAL Mariners Club (aka, repeat customers). The food was excellent (it’s a set menu) and you get an opportunity to meet the Captain and the Cruise Director in person. Mariners also receive a small Delft tile featuring the ship, as we have at other Mariner Lunches. ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT In the Main Stage we were entertained by a comedian (Martin Beaumont) and a Chilean flautist called Viviana. Song and dance shows featured on two nights, and these were very good indeed – we appreciated them because they added to the variety. There were no aerialists/acrobatics on this cruise, perhaps because of the many sea days or the stage wasn’t large enough to accommodate them. Crew members from the Philippines gave a very good cultural show one evening. Although it started at 11:00 p.m. (after their days work!), the show was very well attended. Guest speaker Al Trujillo presented entertaining lectures on oceanography and related topics, and Kevin from the EXC Tours group presented well well-researched talks on each of our destinations and the excursions on offer. America’s Test Kitchen, trivia and other games were available. The covered pool area and the pool water were warm and could be used every day. FELLOW PASSENGERS A much younger demographic (our opinion) than those we have met on other HAL voyages. The number of passengers using walking frames, wheelchairs, scooters, or sticks was minimal. Most passengers seemed to be experienced cruisers, and were prepared for the roughest seas at the bottom of the world (although some confessed to this being their first cruise!). There were large groups of travellers from France and Germany, a few Australians and New Zealanders, some Americans, but the largest group seemed to be from Britain. As most of the Europeans chose later dining times, there was no problem getting seats for early dining. SMOKING Smoking is restricted to the starboard side of the Lido deck aft (deck 8), allowing most of us to avoid the deadly cancer fumes. However, on certain days smokers are still allowed to poison themselves (and others) in the casino. We could detect the smell of smoke in the MIX bar, in the shops area, in the Ocean bar, and in the Atrium. We can always find a detour to avoid the fumes, but staff who work in these areas don’t have that option. Come on HAL, prohibit smoking throughout the inside areas! CLOTHING TIPS You need to carefully consider your clothing choices for this trip, because you will be sailing from a sub-tropical zone, through southern latitudes to the sub-Antarctic, and then back to sub-tropical again. Bring a hat, gloves and a waterproof jacket and dress in layers as required. It is often too windy for an umbrella to be useful. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
My wife and I are recently retired and have long wanted to cruise an "around the horn" itinerary. This Holland America cruise fit the bill the perfectly. Overall, an outstanding cruise, a decent value and a great itinerary. ... Read More
My wife and I are recently retired and have long wanted to cruise an "around the horn" itinerary. This Holland America cruise fit the bill the perfectly. Overall, an outstanding cruise, a decent value and a great itinerary. We departed from Rio de Janeiro. Our flight departed the east coast for Miami on Halloween. Many of the airport and airline employees were in costume and having a good time. We ended up,with a business class upgrade for the overnight flight from Miami to Rio. Since we have been to Rio before, we didn't do anything touristy other than stroll on Copacabana Beach. I paid for our Airbnb for the night of the 31st so we could check in immediately upon arrival the morning of the first. HAL emailed us the day before embarkation to warn us that check in was going to involve two security checks and to expect delays. Because of this, we left early for the pier. Our uber driver was completely unfamiliar with the cruise port but found it without too much difficulty. Other than confusion about where to drop our bags and where to line up for check in, things went relatively smoothly. There was almost no signage but following the heard and gentle inquiries had us on board in about 30 minutes. We were very pleased with the ship almost as soon as we boarded. Our cabin was ready for immediate occupancy and our bags all arrived shortly after lunch. We were expecting a small ship having recently cruised Carnival Horizon but the ship seemed plenty large with plenty of amenities. The public areas were all very tidy and clean and outside on the decks, conscientious maintenance was evident everywhere. We found the flow of the ship very easy to get around. As always, we selected an interior cabin for economy and for the dark cave sleeping experience. We were on the second deck so we felt almost no roll and the pitching was quite sleep inducing. The cabin could serve four passengers with two beds, a drop down bunk and a sofa bed. The beds were made up as twins, apparently our request for one bed was not received but this was fixed while we were at lunch. There was an astonishing amount of closet space for two people. The tile in the bathroom looked like a 1960s motel room but otherwise, we found the cabin spacious, comfortable and appropriately updated. Dining was very good to excellent. We tried the main dining room for breakfast once and the service was so slow, we never returned. The buffet on the Lido deck, however, had outstanding breakfast options so we went there every subsequent day. The omelette station rarely had more than three people in line, the eggs Benedict were fresher and better than the dining room and the waffles were hot and freshly made. It could get crowded around 9 am so we often ate outside by the pool. We never did try the dining room for lunch instead using the buffet every day. The salads were excellent and days we wanted to try sandwiches, soups, pasta or other offerings, everything was good except the pizza. The Dive In burgers could be a bit of a hot mess but good and the dogs were also nice. The fries were always hot and crispy. We enjoyed open seating dinners in the main dining room. The food was hit or miss but the service was usually good and we had a wonderful group of dining companions almost every night. A few nights, we did not feel up to a long dinner and ate at the buffet. We had some unbelievably tender and flavorful steaks at the buffet one evening. A friend had treated us to a dinner at the Pinnacle Grill and it was outstanding. The steaks were superb and the service perfect. There were three formal nights but we only attended one. My wife felt unwell the night of the first one and the second one was during our scenic cruising of the glacier channel. Because it was light so late and we enjoying the spectacular scenery, I think many people opted to skip that formal night and hit a buffet for late dinner. The entertainment was also hit or miss. The singers/dancers are, I'm sure, very talented and hardworking but the show was poor. I think the performers were saddled with repetitive choreography and uninspired music selection. On the other hand, it was great to see a real live band performing. A guest juggler was just so so and a guest flautist was unusual but extremely talented and a good show. The highlight of the entertainment was a spectacular combo of BBC cinematography with live music. High definition films of polar regions and animals were accompanied by the live band playing the original score. We caught a few of the other acts in the bars and lounges and all were very talented. The enrichment opportunities were one of the ship highlights for us. Guest speakers addressed topics of maritime history, ship construction, glaciers, environmental concerns and applied oceanography. The port lectures were outstanding also; real and practical information about the ports without a word about shopping. The ask the captain presentation was very informative and well done. Our absolute favorite offering was the America's Test Kitchen. Once or twice on sea days, the presenter, Allison, would demonstrate two to three recipes along with advice on kitchen techniques, cookware and gadgets. The set was completely professional, the production engineer was very slick and the entire program was perfectly executed and utterly enjoyable. We found service to be very good throughout. Our cabin steward, Edward, was fantastic. The servers in the buffet were very personable even when trying to keep up with clearing tables at busy times. The bar staffs were all excellent. No complaints about service. My wife and I treated ourselves to the Thermasuite package. For the two of us, it was $349 for the entire 16 day cruise. It gave us unlimited use of the Thermasuite in the spa area. Most of the time, we were only two there. Sometimes, there was another couple there. Only once was there more than four people. I thoroughly enjoyed the steamrooms and hot tub and we both enjoyed the heated loungers. The ports on this cruise were all great. In Punte del Este, we just did a short walkabout the port. We saw a few sights and enjoyed the sea lions but were back on board in time for a late breakfast. Buenos Aires was a first time visit for both of us and we walked several miles and thoroughly enjoyed the city. We had a scheduled tour in Montevideo which showed us the highlights but left plenty of time for lunch and exploring on our own. Our arrival to the Falkland Islands coincided with Armistice Day and we were privileged to be able to attend a church service and a military parade and memorial ceremony. In Ushuaia, we had a prearranged tour to the Tierra del Fuego National Park which was outstanding. Our third And final prearranged tour was in Punta Arenas and it was a bit disappointing. There is absolutely nothing at the port so you need to take a shuttle into town if you don't have anything set up. Our tour went to a scenic overlook, spent way too much time at a mediocre museum, then had a very brief stop in the downtown plaza. For Puerto Montt, I went ahead and paid for a cruise line tour of Petrohue Cataracts and Puerto Varas. We were very happy with this tour. At the end of the cruise, I purchased a cruise line tour/airport transfer. The tour to two wineries, lunch, a bus tour of Santiago and a shopping stop with airport drop off was very expensive at $200 per person but it was extremely well executed. In addition to the ports, the scenic cruising days were just a spectacular. We went around Cape Horn, the Straits of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, the Sarmiento Channel and the Chilean Fjords. We were privileged to see glaciers, fjords and even an iceberg. For us, this was the highlight of the cruise. As far as complaints, there were a few. During the scenic cruising, commentary was provided in the Crow's Nest, outside decks and on the cabin TV. The Crow's Nest got uncomfortably crowded and even then, the sound system was terrible and the commentary was inaudible. I think the commentary should be broadcast in all common areas so regardless of where you choose to observe the beauty, you can hear the details. Also, the ship seemed to be very poorly provisioned. We purchased an eight bottle wine program. By the fourth night, it seemed they never had anything on our wine list. To their credit, a substitute bottle was provided and usually a higher level wine but it seems silly to create a wine list, sell a program, and then be told almost every night, that your choice of wine is not available. Also, by about day three, there was no draft beer. By the end of the cruise, only a fraction of advertised bottled beers were available. I found alcohol prices extremely high. Overall, a great experience. We were reluctant to disembark and would have gladly sailed back to Buenos Aires. If you are interested in Patagonia and seeing some great scenery and exciting cities, this is a highly recommended cruise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
My first ever cruise - wanted to visit as many South American countries as possible. 14 hour flight from London direct to Santiago (spent 3 days there beforehand which was amazing). Cabin on Dolphin deck very adequate, if slightly dated. ... Read More
My first ever cruise - wanted to visit as many South American countries as possible. 14 hour flight from London direct to Santiago (spent 3 days there beforehand which was amazing). Cabin on Dolphin deck very adequate, if slightly dated. Had 16 nights on board and visited some amazing places including ports in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Chilean fjords were spectacular and weather on the whole cruise was gorgeous - blue skies, sun and calm seas everywhere. Only rained once in Buenos Aires! We went to every port - my favourite was Stanley in the Falkland Islands. As weather was so good, we were able to go on the bow when we rounded "The Horn" which was as calm as a mill pond! Ship's facilities all good. Food was very good - only downsize was not too much veggie fare and you had to book your lunch/evening food in the main restaurant the night before or at breakfast. We didn't do this much as we didn't want to have to plan where we ate every day. We took water bottles which were a bit of a trial to fill several times a day. We were told to refill them at the "Lido" (buffet style restaurant) from the jugs, but lots of the waiters told us we had to use the glasses to avoid contamination. After a while we asked at various bars throughout the ship. Mostly accommodating but we did get hot water a few times! Zaandam could really benefit from a water fountain somewhere on board. When we were on board they were charging $5 (plus surcharge) for Evian water bottle so beware of these extra charges. Staff mostly all lovely and polite, especially our stewards and serving staff at main restaurant. Captain very informative and enjoyed the 12.00 daily updates. Entertainment was fun and we particularly liked the Zaandam dancers. There was so much going on that you would never be bored - we enjoyed just chilling in the various bars, whale watching (we saw some tails!) and indulging in the odd cocktail - expensive so we bought them in happy hour. All in all, Zaandam is a lovely ship - walking round the deck every day was just a joy in the amazing weather. Loved my first cruise and hope to save up for another one next year. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
I have been to Alaska the last two years with my grandson on Holland America and loved it. The crew, the staff, the Chefs like Chef Kenny and Officer Marcus were so helpful. They were the dinamic duo making sure that everything was ready ... Read More
I have been to Alaska the last two years with my grandson on Holland America and loved it. The crew, the staff, the Chefs like Chef Kenny and Officer Marcus were so helpful. They were the dinamic duo making sure that everything was ready on time. In the dinning, Charlie, Marcus and our servers were happy, and very attentive. This is a happy ship, not sure what their secret is but the crew showed that they enjoyed their jobs, took great pride in all their challenges. Positivity flourished every where.! The excursion team was super. I think Derek from Amsterdam was tops. I would recommend this cruise so much that I am planning on repeating it again next year! The destinations were so different. The other guest on the ship were outgoing and friendly. The Zandam is a happy, clean, ship being staffed by some of the best crew I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Thank you Holland America. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
We had cruised to Alaska before but were unable to maximise our experience because of health issues towards the end of the experience. Having cruised HAL in 2017 after a break of about 10 years cruising with one of their main competitors ... Read More
We had cruised to Alaska before but were unable to maximise our experience because of health issues towards the end of the experience. Having cruised HAL in 2017 after a break of about 10 years cruising with one of their main competitors we were keen to return to Alaska and experience it with HAL. The 14 day itinerary sttod out as a must do option travelling further north than our previous cruise. Following Cruise Critic we were made aware of the upgraded bathrooms on many of the ocean view cabins so we upgraded. The new shower is really good and we were pleased with our decision. As we prefer set dining the first night on any cruise is a little worrying - how would we get on with our dinner companions. In all our cruises we have never had to ask to be moved and indeed again we got on really well with our new friends from Florida. On this sailing second sitting was relatively empty. This was great for us as we were able to build a great rapport with our wait staff, Oka, Arie and wine steward Florence. They were a great team and we really enjoyed our dinners throughout the cruise. Some of the ports of call we had visited 5 years ago but apart from in Juneau where we went whale watching again we were able to find different independent tours. Of course on this itinerary there were new ports and we enjoyed them all, that is Anchorage, Homer and Kodiak. Icy Strait Point was particularly interesting as a whole new cruise terminal complex had been built since we were last there. There is just a little concern that the Tinglit heritage could be devalued as more and more ships visit. Being an older ship Zaandam as yet hasn't got Billboard and BB KIng's. This meant that there was live music in the bars every evening for our pre dinner drink. This is much to our liking! All the musicians were very talented and Mike in the Mix/Piano Bar was very entertaining. We also very much enjoyed the Ocean Trio in the Ocean Bar. The evening shows in Mainstage were good and there was only one show we left as being Brits we couldn't cope with one of the American comedians accent and as his act was very intactive with the audience, nothing wrong with that, and we were on the balcony and of course he was interacting with those on the lower level we couldn't catch the conversation. The staff also need to think about closing the doors to the mainstage on Deck 5 so the music from Ocean Bar does not distract from the performers on stage. Tommy Proulx, the young saxophonist was particularly good, so much so that we bought his CD! Mention must also be made of Janette the EXC guide. As a native Alaskan her talks were most interesting and relevant with no pushing of the EXC excursions. So as independent travellers this was great for us. So we had a really great cruise. There were some minor irritations, like why do they charge so much for photographs, but nothing that spoilt our holiday. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
We have been on the Zaandam for the 14 day Alaska Explorer. I really like the size of the ship with 1400 passengers. The food was good overall. Not really a fan of cafeteria style service in the buffet but it does keep contamination at a ... Read More
We have been on the Zaandam for the 14 day Alaska Explorer. I really like the size of the ship with 1400 passengers. The food was good overall. Not really a fan of cafeteria style service in the buffet but it does keep contamination at a minimum. Breakfast had a nice selection of fruits, omelette station, Belgian waffles, and eggs cooked to order. Really everything imaginable was available. I wish the omelets could have been made with fresh eggs instead of pasteurized eggs but again they are going for food safety. The Taco Bar in the Solarium was open from 11:30-5 and had a good selection of Mexican food. The most popular place for fast food was the Dive shop in the Solarium serving excellent hamburgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken along with French fries. Dinner in the main dining room had a good selection of appetizers and main courses. Halibut was on the menu several times. Overall the food was very good with the exception of the desserts which were a little mediocre. We were disappointed at the lack of green vegetables at lunch and dinner. We find that to be true on most cruises. The tables were well spaced so it did not feel crowded and the large windows were great for viewing the beautiful scenery. The layout of the ship is excellent. A Favorite space was the Exploration Cafe on Deck 5 which was a library/lounge with lots of chairs and even recliners/tables with puzzles and games. Especially loved the big windows which let in lots of light. It was the most well stocked library I have seen on any ship. The promenade deck on Level 3 was perfect for walking since it went completely around the ship. Both pools were heated to a comfortable temperature. The Solarium on Deck 8 had plenty of tables and chairs for lounging. They opened the roof frequently to let in fresh air, although sometimes it was too breezy. One thing to be aware of is cabin selection. We had an Oceanview cabin on Deck 3. Cabins 3360-3394 are directly under the kitchen so we were awakened at 4:30am with the sound of pans banging and carts be rolled across the metal floor. Another thing to be aware of with any Oceanview cabins on Deck 3 is that the Windows look directly onto the promenade walking deck. The glass is coated so no one can see in but we felt we needed to close the curtains for privacy. In the future I will certainly pay more attention to the ship layout and location of cabins. I would definitely enjoy cruising on the Zaandam again and I enjoyed it more than cruising on a different Holland ship on my last Alaskan cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
Wanted a 2 week cruise to get out of the heat and this one had stops at places we haven't been to before. Like the smaller ship and getting an elevator was easy with no waiting. The crew and food were very good. The library was ... Read More
Wanted a 2 week cruise to get out of the heat and this one had stops at places we haven't been to before. Like the smaller ship and getting an elevator was easy with no waiting. The crew and food were very good. The library was excellent, stocked with books and games. We had an outside cabin with a newly renovated bathroom which was great. We are not fond of HAL's room setup and prefer Princess design better. HAL hallway into the room was cramped with the closet setup. Did not like having to stand up to turn the change on the tv. The bed was under the window and in Alaska you still get a lot of daylight coming in under the drapes.HAL is doing room steward care differently. There are no carts in the hallway and somehow your room would get taken care of. Saw very little of our room steward and miss talking to them during the day. You had to call guest services if you needed something and they would contact your steward. The portage glacier excursion was excellent in Anchorage. Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
Great Alaskan Explorer Cruise June 4 – 18, 2018 ~~~Embarkation Day~~~ Embarkation Day started early for me on June 4, 2018, rising at 4 am for my SuperShuttle pickup at 4:45 am. I was collected right on time and soon was ... Read More
Great Alaskan Explorer Cruise June 4 – 18, 2018 ~~~Embarkation Day~~~ Embarkation Day started early for me on June 4, 2018, rising at 4 am for my SuperShuttle pickup at 4:45 am. I was collected right on time and soon was transferred to the Orange County Airport for the 6:50 am Alaska Airlines flight #519 for Seattle. Time was sufficient for a quick McDonald’s Egg McMuffin with sausage before boarding my flight which departed right on time. Of course, at John Wayne Airport, no flights are permitted to take off before 7 am, so there is always a long line of aircraft waiting their turn. The flight to Seattle took a little over a couple of hours and was quite smooth. My “Premium Seat” 7D worked out very well and I enjoyed a couple of Bloody Mary’s in route. Landing in Seattle and disembarking at Gate N12 the North Terminal required using the underground train to get to the main terminal and to Baggage Claim where, after retrieving my suitcase, I found several Holland America personnel directing me to their waiting bus for my prepaid transfer to the pier. First I had to open my suitcase to move the bottle of wine I had brought to my carry-on Princess bag and to put my headphones and Miralax back inside the suitcase, also attaching the Holland America baggage tag. Then it was off to Pier 91 and the ms Zaandam, about an hour’s ride, due to Interstate 5 construction, arriving about 11 am. Check in went very quickly and then there was a wait for boarding. I had been informed that for my cabin 2565 on Main Deck, boarding would not occur until 2 pm. Fortunately, this was not the case as my boarding group “E” was allowed to board around noontime; I quickly found my stateroom, just forward of amidships, a very good location as it is turning out to be. Of course, my suitcase would not be delivered for a while so I chose to have lunch in the Main Dining Room on Decks 4 and 5, at the rear of the ship. Only the bottom level of the dining room was open and I was seated at a table for two, enjoying a nice lunch. My suitcase was delivered shortly after returning to my cabin and I spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing until the mandatory safety drill at 3:30 pm, a real confusing mish-mash. Holland America has EVERYONE locate at his or her safety muster site outside on the Lower Promenade Deck 3 (mine was “5”), and stand quietly while listening to the Captain’s safety lecture. Princess Cruises does this procedure in a much more acceptable fashion, gathering everyone into one of their several large lounges with comfortable seats while listening to the safety lecture. Oh, well... Dinner was scheduled - for me on Late Dining, at 7:45pm at Table 37 on the second level of the Main Dining Room. But first, the ship departed Seattle for our 14-day Alaskan cruise at 4 pm and most passengers chose to appear on one of the outer decks for sail away. Dinner went well, joining my tablemates Gwen and Jerry from Clovis, CA. So went Embarkation Day for my wonderful cruise again to Alaska! ~~~Day 2 – At Sea Cruising Vancouver Island~~~ Today is an “at sea day” and we are cruising along in the Pacific Ocean just off shore of Vancouver Island. The seas have been a bit choppy today with rain on and off. Most probably tomorrow when we are in Ketchikan it will also be raining. You know the weather forecast for Ketchikan: it is either raining, has been raining, or is going to rain! With my suitcase finally unpacked and things put away, I am spending the day relaxing from my very full day yesterday, traveling to Seattle from Orange County. Tonight is the first of three formal nights or, as HAL says, “Gala Nights”, so I will have to drag out my coat and tie; the tuxedo was left at home! Television in my stateroom is on most of the time; besides the HAL channels, there are MSNBC, ESPN, CNBC, BBC and, of course, FOX (not my choice!) There will be a time change tonight to Alaska Time, one hour earlier than Pacific Time. Although “refurbished” earlier this year, the TV sets are still the older flat panel ones. The carpet all looks quite new and fresh, however, Many of Holland America’s old favorites are now long gone: the guy with the pillbox hat, ringing chimes to announce dinner; (others escape me right now.) The ship itself, built in 2000, is still in pristine condition with lots of beautiful public rooms, two-level dining room, and theatre... Clientele remains on the older side with very few children present, and the entertainment is definitely chosen with the more mature customer in mind. I feel right at home! At 7:45 pm, my dining time, the Captain was also hosting his welcome toast, so I was a few minutes late arriving at my Table 37, only to find that two other couples had taken my seat! When I demanded an explanation from the Maitre ‘d, I received an apology and seated at a nearby table for two. I was furious! Evidently my tardiness in arrival had been the reason the four other people being seated at MY table. I was assured that that would not happen again, and the Maitre ‘d knew that otherwise I would complain bitterly to Seattle, the head office for HAL! At 10 pm, the ship singers and dancers presented their first performance, and it was quite good. Most of the music was unfamiliar to me but the four singers - two guys and two gals, in addition to three male and two female dancers, gave us all a very entertaining show. Then it was off to bed; tomorrow will be in Ketchikan. ~~~Day 3 – Ketchikan~~~ As expected, our arrival in Ketchikan this morning at 8 am was greeted with scattered showers that persisted throughout the day, requiring my trusty umbrella to shield against the light rain. My plans were simple for the day: take the funicular up to the Cape Fox Lodge, which overlooks the city and harbor, and to dine at the restaurant there, enjoying their excellent halibut along with a pint of Alaskan Amber beer. Leaving the ship (which was docked conveniently directly at the center dock) at about 11 am, I used my umbrella and found my way to the entrance to the funicular, at the very end of Creek Street, another favorite tourist attraction of Ketchikan. Paying my $3 to the attendant, I had no wait at all for the next funicular and was soon on my way up the short distance to the Lodge, retaining my ticket stub for the return trip down. I was again in luck that the restaurant had just started their lunch service at 11:30 am and was seated at a choice window table overlooking the downtown and harbor where the ms Zaandam was docked. My menu selection was, of course, their three-piece halibut and chips for $21, and my Amber beer for $7. Happiness is knowing - and getting - what you want! After lunch - including a second Amber, I returned back down the funicular, again using my umbrella against the light rain. At the base of the funicular is one of the entrances to Creek Street and I decided to walk along. It was at this very location in 2009 while visiting on the Pacific Princess that I encountered - by chance - Bruce and Joy Winston, friends I had made on a Viking river cruise in 2007; they were on a Holland America ship docked in Ketchikan. What a coincidence! With my belly full of Alaskan halibut, the rest of the afternoon was spent napping and watching MSNBC. The day before I had changed my reservations at the Pinnacle Grill, a specialty restaurant aboard, so that tonight I would dine for the first of two times there. Patric, my good friend and travel agent, also sent me a reservation to the Pinnacle Grill which I will use on June 11th; thank you, Patric! My dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, which charges $35 surcharge, was at 7:30 pm and was superb! The shrimp cocktail I had to start with had huge shrimp the size of small lobsters! And the 10-ounce filet mignon was THE VERY BEST steak I have ever tasted! Cooked to perfection and absolutely tender! Yum yum! I slept very well! ~~~Day 4 – Cruising the Endicott Arm~~~ According to our published itinerary, today we were scheduled to cruise the Tracy Arm, viewing the Sawyer Glaciers at the far end of this lengthy fjord. However, the Captain announced that due to the over abundance and density of ice flows in the Tracy Arm, making navigation impossible, we would instead cruise up the nearby Endicott Arm, another lengthy fjord at the head of which was yet another sizable glacier, the Dawes Glacier. Traveling up the Endicott Arm, at first chunks of floating ice were infrequent but gradually increasing in both size and number as we approached the end of the Arm and the Dawes Glacier residing there. I watched from the rail on Deck 3 just above my cabin as we made the approach. The weather, unlike the previous day, was spectacularly clear with much sunshine. The ship’s staff had arranged for the ship’s bow to be open for all passengers as a viewing sight, so as we got closer to the Dawes Glacier, I decided to leave my perch on the rail of Deck 3 and proceed to the bow. With my earmuffs securely in place and wearing my warm leather jacket, I joined the throng on the bow fully expecting to be greeted with a cup of steaming hot pea soup, long a HAL tradition. NOT to be! I was informed that Holland America no longer does this - another thing to add to my previous list of things no longer done by HAL. Another thing to add to this list: the recent absence of self-service launderettes, one on each passenger deck. Now ALL GONE! Thanks to the last refurbishment. Things are NOT getting better with Holland America! Perhaps further negative influence by Carnival, HAL’s parent company? Watching the Dawes Glacier for quite a while and seeing no “calving” taking place, and with the ship rotating about to give good views from all sides, I decided to take my leave and return to my cozy stateroom for a nap. As has now become my routine, this morning I again ordered room service for my breakfast: ham and cheddar cheese omelet, coffee, English muffin, juices - cranberry and orange, along with a bowl of mixed fruit: watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes... I now do this each morning as it is a free service - save the $3 tip for the server. Much better than fighting the rude mob at the buffet upstairs, the “trough” as I call it! I am becoming very spoiled! Tonight I returned to the Main Dining Room, not knowing what to expect or where I would be seated. The Maitre ‘d directed me to my table #37 where I found ... NO ONE! I dined alone. Gwen and Jerry, as it turned out, had chosen to eat at the Canaletto Italian specialty restaurant. I will also be dining there on June 15, a Friday on which their featured menu item is Osso Bucco, which I dearly love. So ended Day 4. ~~~Day 5 –Juneau~~~ Having been to Juneau on numerous previous trips, there were really only two things on my agenda for the day. First, a ride up to the top of Mount Roberts on the gondola, an increase of 1800 feet above sea level, where I immediately went to the Timberline Restaurant, securing a table by the window overlooking Juneau and the harbor. My menu choice - of course - was halibut and chips with a pint of Alaskan Amber beer. Their halibut - all three pieces - was exceptionally good, better even than that which I had had in Ketchikan! All for $21.95 plus $7 for the beer. That done, it was back on the gondola and down to base. The gondola ride is spectacular, especially on such a perfect day with bright sunshine and puffy white clouds. Next on my list was a visit to the Red Dog Saloon, a very famous tourist landmark in Alaska. Being only early afternoon, I was able to find a seat at the otherwise crowded bar. A visit to Juneau would not be complete without a stop at the Red Dog Saloon. Finishing my second Amber beer, I was feeling quite happy - and ready for a nap! Fortunately, it was only a short walk back to the ship, again docked in the very center of town. Holland America must exert special privilege to secure such ideal docking locations. Just behind our ship, the ms Zaandam, was another HAL ship, the ms Volendam, which is the sister ship to ours. Jim and I were on the Volendam on a cruise from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia back in 2009. Dinner in the Main Dining Room saw the return of Gwen and Jerry at Table 37 so all was well in the world again. They are from Central California, a town called Clovis! Of course that name is familiar with me having grown up in Clovis, NEW MEXICO. Our ship did not depart Juneau until 10 pm, although I chose not to go back into town after dinner. Tomorrow we would be in Icy Strait Point, only a short distance from Juneau, so our ship would drop anchor midway before resuming the journey. ~~~Day 6 – Icy Strait Point~~~ After only a short trip from Juneau, including a period of remaining stationery at anchor for a few hours, our arrival in Icy Strait Point was right on schedule at 7 am, at a new dock. Previous visits here had involved ship to shore transfers by tender and this brand new dock was a pleasant surprise for me. It is located a ways down from the older docks, in the vicinity of the zip line terminus. My tour of the day was a repeat of the famous zip line here that, at over 5300 feet, is claimed to be the longest in the world. My report time was at 8:50 am inside the visitor’s center where I quickly filled out the required release form on a convenient computer screen. Then promptly at 9 am our group of 30 was called to follow along a path to the awaiting bus for a 45-minute ride to the mountaintop and the staging area for the zip line. The bus was a converted school bus, now painted green, and the trip up the mountain first proceeded through the small Tlingit village of Hoonah. Driving along the only paved road on the island, we climbed and climbed, soon running out of the paved road for a bumpy gravel one. Our driver spoke to us the entire journey, pointing out things to see and apologizing for the “back massage”. Several places he stopped for us to grasp the stunning views of the surrounding valleys and hillsides. Soon we reached the top and the end of our bus ride. Then it was a somewhat lengthy walk down a steep path to arrive at the staging area. Portable toilets were in plentiful supply and most people took advantage. We then lined up to be assigned, in groups of 6, our departure order. As it turned out, I was #1 in the second group of 6 - the number of zip lines. When my time came I was strapped into a harness, seated with my feet firmly planted on the exit gate. Then on the count of three, the gates opened and I began my trip down the 5300 feet of zip line at speeds up to 60 mph! What a rush! Struggling to keep myself headed straight by holding out my right hand, I partially succeeded, and then the enjoyment of the rest of this 90 second experience continued all the way down from a height of 1300 feet to sea level. Stopping was an experience in itself; giant coils at the end of the zip lines absorb and decelerate your travel - in a very few seconds! And then it is over! Although this was my third time, the fear and panic all came back anew, once those exit gates snapped open. It is quite an experience! Once unharnessed we entered their shed where, in addition to the many logo-ed merchandise items to be purchased, was displayed on large computer screens were photos taken of each of us on our trip down; I decided to forego the purchase of mine for $15.95! For the occasion I had worn the ZipRider hoody I had purchased on a previous visit, which drew considerable attention from the staff who had not seen this older version - in orange color - before! Then it was back to the ship for lunch in the Dining Room, followed by a nap. It had been quite a morning! Our departure of Icy Strait Point was at 2 pm; next stop, Anchorage - day after tomorrow! ~~~Day 7 – Cruising the Gulf of Alaska~~~ With our route of travel in the open Pacific, crossing the Gulf of Alaska, we have been experiencing considerable sea motion here on the ms Zaandam. Starting early this morning there have been large swells topped with white caps throughout the day. Consequently I have spent most of the day here in my stateroom 2565, catching up on emails and napping. As per our agreement, I did go up to the Main Dining Room at 12 n to meet Gwen and Jerry for lunch. I got to the Deck 4 entrance to the MDR a little early and there was no line at all, but shortly people began showing up and a lengthy line had developed before Gwen appeared, saying that Jerry was under the weather and would not be joining us. We soon were seated at a table already occupied by grandparents and their grandson - from Amarillo! Being Sunday morning, the menu was for Sunday Brunch, which probably explained the large lineup at the entrance, usually very scant. My choice was for a berry smoothie and Eggs Benedict that turned out to be quite delicious. Good coffee along with an apple crisp dessert with vanilla ice cream completed my enjoyable Sunday Brunch. The sea motion is still continuing but I have returned to my stateroom for the remainder of the afternoon. Tonight is our second formal, or “Gala” night so out will come my jacket and tie. According to the dinner menu displayed at the entrance to the MDR, one item of interest for me is Filet Mignon. It will be interesting to see how this steak compares with the magnificent one I had at the Pinnacle Grill! I will let you know later. So now I am caught up with my emails, the next of which will detail tomorrow’s activities in Anchorage. ~~~Day 8 – Anchorage~~~ Again this morning I enjoyed breakfast delivered to my stateroom promptly at 8am, the time of our arrival in Anchorage. My usual choice is a ham and cheddar omelet served with hash browns along with cranberry and orange juices, coffee and an English muffin. Lately I have also added a fruit cup with watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, and grapes. I routinely give Harun who delivers all this a $3 tip, which he seems to appreciate. I have become spoiled! Today’s excursion, “The Big Swig”, a tour of three breweries in Anchorage, wasn’t scheduled until the afternoon at 2:30 pm, so I spent most of the day here in my stateroom, watching TV and napping. I did go up to the Lido Market buffet for a bite of lunch, something I don’t really enjoy very much. The tides in Anchorage Harbor are tremendous and when the ship docks, the ramps are placed according to the current level. However, soon the level changes, requiring the ramps to be repositioned. This recurs several times during the day so one can never expect the same ramp arrangement on return to the ship from that when you left the ship. At 2:20 pm I went down to the dock to meet my excursion, scheduled to depart at 2:30 pm, joining the others in our 12-person group in a small van. We departed the ship and then drove out of the dock area, in which pedestrian traffic is prohibited. Soon we arrived at our first stop, the new headquarters of the King Street brewery, having passed the older and much smaller location. Although the day had been spectacularly clear with lots of sunshine, storm clouds were forming as we entered the brewery. Our tour guide turned out to be one of the two owners whose compassion and enthusiasm for his trade was quite evident. We were each given a board with holes holding four small glasses into which we chose which of the several beers available we wanted to taste. I chose an IPA (India Pale Ale), another called an AMA, a stout, and an amber - all very tasty! We were escorted through this enormous facility, still under development, observing the different stages of beer making accompanied by the owner’s expert and complete explanations, all the time sipping our samples. Lasting almost an hour we were finally called to go, exiting into a slight rainstorm. Fortunately, our van was conveniently located for our dash through the rain. The next brewery to be visited was the Midnight Sun Brewery, a more established brewery of over 23 years. We were ushered through a back door opening into one of the work rooms where canning was taking place. The noise made it difficult to hear the guide but his voice did carry well. Our first sample came out of a Red Sockeye Salmon figure on the wall; bending a gill produced the flow of beer into our waiting cups. Very ingenious! Following the guide into another workroom we saw the process of beer making taking place. Then we were lead upstairs into a visitor’s area already crowded with customers. Seated at our own table we were served a second and third sample, this time in larger glasses. A fourth sample was 12.7% alcohol and was VERY good! On the tables were provided different snacks for us: cheeses, ham, crackers, nuts, prosciutto, pepperoni, etc. By the time we departed everyone was beginning to feel really good. The last brewery visited was called Resolution and was considerably smaller than the first two. Again we were each given a choice of four different beers and these too were quite good! By this time, however, everything was tasting good! The rain had stopped while we were in the second brewery so our eventual return to the ship - after four hours - was again in sunshine with clear skies. We have been quite lucky so far with weather; only Ketchikan presented us with wet weather. Then it was time for dinner that was my second evening at the Pinnacle Grill. This time I again enjoyed the enormous shrimp cocktail followed by a huge chunk of delectable halibut - with three more shrimp on top! Dessert was a delicious soufflé to end another memorable dining experience. Sleep came easy and early! ~~~Day 9 – Homer~~~ Today’s stop was at Homer, or more accurately, the Homer Spit, a long peninsula extending several miles out into the Gulf of Alaska where deeper water permits cruise ships to dock. Again, the tide is so substantial that several different exit ramp configurations are required during the day. When we first docked, I looked out of my window and saw the dock about halfway up. A couple of hours later, my window was at dock level, and further on, I was looking down onto the dock. This is the base location for the famous fishing fleet featured in the TV series, “The Deadliest Catch”. Having been here before, there was only one thing I planned to do, a visit to the eclectic Salty Dawg Saloon. This bar is an institution in Homer and is reachable by a courtesy bus from the end of the pier around the spit to its prime location. So around 1 pm I left the ship and walked the lengthy distance to the end of the pier where I found a courtesy bus waiting for the short drive past many shops and restaurants to the Salty Dawg Saloon. This historic bar has been here since the late 1800s and is quite the tourist attraction. http://www.saltydawgsaloon.com/ The place resembles a lighthouse and isn’t that big inside, which is covered completely with dollar bills left by past customers. On my arrival I didn’t find the place as busy as on previous visits. Ordering an Alaska Amber beer I found a place to sit near the back and enjoyed myself observing the stream of tourists making their way through, most not ordering anything, just ogling the cluttered interior. It was getting more crowded when, after my third Amber, I decided to take my leave. Finding the courtesy bus I soon returned to the pier and the long walk back to the ship. Being another spectacular day with bright sunshine and clear skies, the walk was rather pleasant. Of course, a nap was in order on return to my stateroom! Dinner is now over and I decided to forego the 10 pm production show in the theatre to finish these two emails. The sun has yet to set and it is almost 11 pm! Tomorrow is their longest day of the year with over 20 hours of sunlight. But for me, it is now bedtime! ~~~Day 10 – Kodiak~~~ Another spectacular day in Alaska! With perfectly clear blue skies and bright warm sunshine, one would question the location where the daylight hours are up to 20 per day. Rather remarkable - even the locals are raving about the excellent weather we have enjoyed the past many days. Our time in Kodiak today was not that long - only until 2 pm, having arrived at 7 am. My tour for the day, “A Taste of Kodiak”, was scheduled from 10:45 am until 1:15 pm, with back-on-board time at 1:30 pm. I need to say a few things about my stateroom, #2565, here on Main Deck 2; the location is just the sixth room back from the outside entrance frequently used on Main Deck, and my window overlooks all of the boarding activity, being on the starboard (right) side of the ship. Normally I keep my curtains fully open, even at night, so I don’t miss anything. This stateroom was a paid upgrade offered for $258 that I have been quite happy to have made. Great location! At 10:30 am I left the ship to join the large number of passengers, some awaiting a tour, but most awaiting the free shuttle bus (actually a school bus!) into downtown Kodiak, a distance of about 2 miles. Bus after bus carried load after load of passengers continuously into town. Good luck on getting back by 1:30 pm! A couple of local tour gals announced our tour promptly at 10:40 am and each of the 15 of us were given a numbered tag to clip on for identification, after signing the requisite waiver. Being a walking tour, I was still somewhat dismayed to find out that we would be walking the 2 miles into town. On our schedule were 6 stops to sample the “Taste of Kodiak” and our first stop was at a busy coffee shop where, in addition to a cup of superb, freshly brewed coffee, we were given slices of bread lathered with a creamed salmon, as many as we wanted! Delectable! Continuing on, we arrived at a crafts shop where samples of local jams and jellies were presented, served on crackers. One choice of mine was a Strawberry Chipotle that was spicy and delicious; another was a Blueberry Barb, also quite tasty. Then it was off to our third stop, a restaurant where we were all seated at a long table and served a generous chunk of baked halibut topped with a mayonnaise-cheesy spread: absolutely wonderful! Halibut is my very favorite Alaskan fish and this was a special treat for me! Next we walked on to another restaurant on a second level where once again we were all seated at a long table and served delicious “Salmon Splash” sandwiches on incredibly good bread, along with a fresh spinach salad garnished with a tasty dressing. Also, very good! Crossing the street our next stop was a local brewery where we each were given two samples of the myriad of offerings; one of mine was a Hiefkessen, German style, and then a darker one I didn’t particularly care for. We were given a quick but informative tour of the back room that housed the brewing operation, a decided smaller operation than those we had visited in Anchorage. Our final stop was at the Best Western Hotel upstairs dining room where we were treated to chunks of deep-fried, breaded salmon with a delicious dipping sauce, as well as an amazing crab and artichoke dip, heated with cheese! Yummy! Then it was the return walk back to the ship that I found to be a real struggle, but I made it by 1:15 pm! Promptly at 1:30 pm the Captain came on the P.A. announcing that our departure would occur at 2 pm, headed overnight for the Hubbard Glacier tomorrow afternoon. He also said the weather report was continuing to be good, which was a relief to hear since our route back across the Gulf of Alaska can be rather rough riding. Then the gangway was lifted up and we were on our way. ~~~Day 11 – The Hubbard Glacier~~~ The highlight of this cruise, I believe, was our visit today of the Hubbard Glacier. Stretching over 7 miles across the face, this Glacier is immense! Our arrival at this giant chunk of ice was around 2:30 pm, under partially clouded skies, and the views were incredible! At first I went up to Deck 3, the Lower Promenade, to stand by the railing and await the slowing emerging vista, watching the increasing number of icebergs - big and small - pass by our ship. It was quite cool, standing there, and my earmuffs were a great help to shield from the frigid wind; protection behind one the vertical standards of the ship made my wait tolerable. As we approached closer and closer to the glacier’s face, the ship’s speed diminished greatly, as well as the wind, and it became very pleasant to view this behemoth in calm circumstances. The Captain slowly rotated the ship, giving excellent observation from all angles; at one point, my view was right on the full entirety of the glacier’s face. Spectacular! Of course, all viewers were waiting to see any “calving”, large chunks of the Glacier falling free, causing enormous splashes in the water below. And we were not disappointed! I personally saw at least 4 or 5 such calvings, most from areas of the glacial face least suspect to calve. My misinformation from a crew member on our first glacier viewing the previous week that Holland America no longer served hot Dutch pea soup, was rendered untrue with this viewing which saw crew members serving bowl after bowl of the hot soup to those of us on deck. My dining room waiter, Reza, came up to me and offered a bowl of this excellent pea soup with ham pieces, which certainly hit the spot! Remaining very near the glacier’s face - perhaps a half mile, the Captain continued moving the ship about, changing the views of all of us on deck. I don’t recall ever having been that close to the Hubbard Glacier! All of this under partly clouded skies - a perfect day! Finally, after over an hour, the ms Zaandam turned back down the fjord toward the open sea. It had been quite an experience! ~~~Day 12 – Sitka~~~ After a relatively calm night at sea last evening, our arrival this morning in Sitka came at 8 am on the dot. We were docked at a new facility - for me, having had to tender into port on previous visits here. About 5 miles from downtown Sitka, this was a real change from before, requiring a free shuttle bus to reach the city and our tour departure areas, near a large and new visitor’s center. Not knowing just how long it would take, using the well-used and crowded shuttle buses, I thought it best to leave the ship an hour early to assure my arrival at my tour location by it’s 11 am departure. Even as crowded as the shuttle buses were, I arrived with plenty of time to spare. I thought that surely there would be a nearby place to get a cup of coffee for my wait but there was none. I walked around to the old Russian Cathedral and to a coffee shop across the street to find my cup of coffee. Returning to our tour site I was greeted by our guide for the tour I had selected for the day, “A Pedal Pub Crawl”. Consisting of a bicycle “built for 15” there were 11 of us on this day, and we were on our way promptly at 11 am. Fortunately - for me - the seat I chose had in-operational pedals, so I had a free ride! A partial relief from my “walking tour” in Kodiak. We presented quite the sight, pedaling along the streets of Sitka, on our bicycle built for 15! Greeting the onlookers with waves and shouts, we proceeded to our first stop, Ernie’s Old Pub, where we were first treated to a complimentary shot consisting of Baileys, Kahlua, and Crown Royal whiskey; delicious! Their name for this special shot is a “Duck’s Fart”. Strong but good! We were then given the opportunity to order another drink; mine was an Alaskan Amber beer. A great start to an enjoyable, unique tour! Our next stop, after wowing everyone on the streets, was another bar called the Pioneer, a place popular with fishermen from the nearby docks. Again, my choice was an Amber, consumed while observing the myriad of fishing photos lining the walls. I struck up a conversation with two girls, Patty and Karen, also from Southern California, who were traveling together. People on this cruise have really been friendly, I think; I have become acquainted with many during our two-week time together. The last place to visit was a brewery, local in Sitka, where we were given three samples of Alaskan beers. The first was a Red Sockeye that I had had at the brewery in Anchorage and the second was a “Blonde” - both quite good. The third sample was from the Midnight Sun Brewery, also visited in Anchorage, a darker beer that I found tasty. Food was also available for order although I chose not to partake. By this time I was feeling no pain! This concluded our “Pedal Pub Crawl”, a unique and enjoyable tour to say the least! Then it was back to the long line of passengers, cued up for the shuttle bus back to the ship. The wait was not too long and the 15 minute ride back around to the new dock and our ship soon brought us back to the ms Zaandam, our floating home for only two more days. Tonight I am dining at the specialty restaurant, Canaletto, this evening chosen because of their daily special for Friday being Osso Bucco. I am looking forward to this my favorite dish with anticipation. ~~~Day 13 - At Sea~~~ Now on our last leg of travel to Victoria, Canada, and then Seattle on Monday morning, the day was quite relaxing and restful after our busy day in Sitka, and the main thing to do was the Mariner’s Lunch to which I was invited at 1 pm. An earlier Lunch was also held at 11:30 am and if the number of attendees at ours was any clue, it is evident that a great majority of the ship’s passengers are “Mariners”, previous cruisers on Holland America. After entering the lower level of the Main Dining Room on Deck 4, along with the throng of others, I found a table for two that already had glasses of champagne poured. As it turned out I enjoyed my own glass and the other glass on my table, plus a glass from the lady at the next table! The Captain spoke briefly, offering a toast to all of us in celebration of a great cruise. My menu choice was Yankee Pot Roast, preceded by a delicious salad dressed with balsamic vinegar. The pot roast was tasty although a bit over cooked. Dessert was a chocolate tart of some kind. As we departed the Dining Room we were given one of Holland America’s famous Delft tiles, this one with a photo of our ship, the ms Zaandam. I have quite a collection of these! The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing and watching TV with nothing more to do until it was time to get ready for our final Gala Dinner, requiring coat and tie. We were FINALLY given the choice of LOBSTER and filet mignon, preceded by a Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, and it was delicious! The lobster tail was of a good size and the steak in our “Surf and Turf” was very tender and cooked to desired specification of medium-rare. Dessert was a delectable tiramisu. After dinner I stopped by the Ocean Bar, my favorite watering hole, where I finished off the last bottle of wine I had purchased, and waited until a few minutes before 10 pm before going to the theater for the final performance of the ship’s singers and dancers. An earlier performance at 8 pm usually gets the majority of attendees and I easily found a good seat on the first row of the balcony on Deck 5. The theme for the show was that of a Western Saloon and the performance was the best I think of the four for this cruise. Afterwards members of the cast were located at the exits to greet the customers. Then it was time for bed; tomorrow we will be arriving in Victoria at 1 pm. Our Great Alaskan Explorer Cruise is near its end! ~~~Day 14 – Victoria, Canada~~~ Our last day of cruising between Sitka and the last port of call, Victoria, Canada, has been unbelievably smooth! With absolutely clear blue skies the weather has been remarkably good and it is a pleasure looking out of my stateroom window at the passing calm seas. Arrival at Victoria today was not until 1 pm and I was concerned that the long line of passengers disembarking might delay my meeting my tour at 1:50 pm for a 2 pm departure to the Butchart Gardens and the Butterfly Garden. So I guessed where on the ship that disembarkation would most probably take place, on Deck A, forward, and went down to Deck 1 from which stairs lead down to Deck A shortly before 1 pm. I was right, of course, although the door down to Deck A was not yet open, so I waited. Soon other early-bird passengers began showing up with the same intention as mine, until there was a crowd gathered awaiting our docking and the placement of the gangway. Due to the tide level at Ogden Point Dock in Victoria, there was a delay placing the correct gangway to the ship but soon it was done and we were permitted to depart the ship. Walking down the lengthy distance down the pier to the visitor’s center, it was evident that the day would be warm with temperatures in the 70s. Finding the departure area for shore excursions with the assistance of a ship’s crew, I was one of the first on our bus to the Butchart Gardens. The coolness of the bus was welcome to me, dressed in my one and only short-sleeve shirt, an unanticipated good move with my packing that generally included only cold weather clothes. There were several other tours that also included the Butchart Gardens but the one I had chosen also included a visit to the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. Our first stop after traveling from Ogden Point Dock through the center of Victoria and out through the suburbs was to the Butterfly Gardens where were given 45 minutes to enjoy this climate controlled enclosure of a tropical paradise where butterflies flew freely amid the lush vegetation. Also present were exotic birds including parrots and flamingos right at home around a pool filled with beautiful koi fish. Two large iguanas were also in residence, the larger one high in the trees and the smaller one down where it could be petted. Turtles had their special enclosure, and the entire setting was warm and moist, just like the tropical environment it replicated. A wonderful experience to say the least! The guide was an older gentleman, well versed in absolutely everything of importance and interest concerning Victoria, its history, culture and life. His narration continued non-stop throughout our time on the bus and his stories of different local personalities were uniquely interesting. The next stop was the nearby Butchart Gardens where we were allowed over an hour and a half. Entering at the Waterwheel Plaza, we were advised to first visit the Sunken Gardens, the highlight. I took the steps down to the bottom level where the path was surrounded by beautiful flowers in full bloom, and the centerpiece pool with its fountain of dancing waters. Breathtaking! A curving path lead the way up out of the Sunken Gardens and my next stop was at a snack stand next to the carrousel where I enjoyed a lemonade. Next was on into the Rose Garden, filled with thousands of stunning beds of numerous varieties of roses in full bloom; the aroma was intoxicating! Having visited the Japanese Gardens on a previous visit, I chose not to repeat this attraction, due to limited time given to us. Instead I stopped at the Blue Poppy Restaurant, on the way back towards the entrance, for a glass of wine - of course! Back on the bus with only a few minutes to spare until our departure, the coolness and comfort of my seat was a welcome relief from the extensive walk through the Gardens. On the way back to the ship we were again treated to stories from our knowledgeable guide about the original construction of the British Columbia Parliament Building as well as the Empress Hotel, designed by a non-architect (as it turned out), Francis Rattenbury, whose personal life was quite scandalous. Our guide knew all of the raunchy details! Our return to the ms Zaandam was right at 6 pm, giving me only a short rest before dressing for dinner at 7:45 pm. We would not be leaving Victoria until 11 pm, the distance to our final destination of Seattle not being very long, but I had to pack my luggage to be placed in the hallway before midnight. A free option was given, “Port Valet”, in which one’s airline check in was performed in conjunction with the airline by the ship’s crew, including tagging and transfer of luggage to the airport, which I accepted - new to me. The day before our last we were given a Disembarkation Package including our airline-boarding pass with seat assignment and airline luggage tag to put on luggage to be placed in the hallway before midnight. The next time we would see our luggage was on arrival at one’s destination airport. Luggage charges were added to our shipboard account, mine $25 to Alaska Airlines. At first somewhat skeptical, I was pleased with the result; everything went exactly according to plan! At 11:30 pm I was all packed with my luggage placed outside my stateroom door, so it was only left to go to bed for the final night aboard the ms Zaandam. ~~~Day 15 – Seattle~~~ As mentioned before, the distance between Victoria and Seattle is not that far, so our remaining cruise before disembarkation in Seattle took only a few hours, arriving right on schedule at Pier 91 at 7 am. Since my departure from the ship was to be at 8 am, there was little time for any breakfast, certainly not my usual in-cabin ham and cheddar omelet! My flight back to Orange County from Seattle on Alaska Airlines was not until 4:50 pm, so I had chosen a shore excursion, ”Best of Seattle”, which left the ship at 8:30 am, lasting until 12:30 pm, ending with transfer to the Sea-Tac Airport. Included were to be a visit to the Space Needle as well as one to Pike’s Place Market, as well as a tour around other sights of interest in downtown such as the two huge sports stadiums and Pioneer Plaza. About a quarter till 8 am I left my stateroom #2565 for the last time and went to Deck 5 where I encountered a huge crowd awaiting the beginning of our disembarkation, delayed for some reason until well after 8 am. After asking a crewmember about meeting my shore excursion that was scheduled to leave at 8:30 am, I was told to go ahead and join the exiting passengers, which had already begun. Without any luggage to worry about I quickly passed through passport control and was outside the terminal and in my tour bus by 8:30 am, ready to go. Unfortunately, there were passengers not as prompt as myself so our departure was delayed until almost 9 am; in fact, the bus had to return to its parking space to collect the final two passengers! THEN we were on our way, first stop - the Space Needle. Of course, the late start didn’t concern me since my flight wasn’t until 4:50 pm and the later we finished the tour and got to the airport, the better - less waiting time there. Parking on a street next to the Seattle Science Park in which the Space Needle is located, our bus let us out with instructions to be picked up there after an hour and a half, and we all walked up towards the entrance only to find out that it was not yet open! Back on the bus, our driver/guide, Lisa, was told by phone that the Needle wouldn’t be open for another hour or so. Lisa then decided that we would tour downtown Seattle and go to the Pike’s Place Market. However, there were two ladies that hadn’t returned to the bus so after our tour of downtown Seattle, we had to return back to the parking place near the Needle where they were found, waiting. The Space Needle still had not opened! THEN we were off to Pike’s Place where we were given an hour and forty-five minutes to tour the Market and choose among the many eating establishments for lunch. A short walk from where we were let off the bus, we arrived at this large complex on several levels hosted a myriad of shops selling any and everything, as well as many restaurants. The famous fish market is here where the fishermen toss the fish back and forth to each other. Fun to watch! The Place was SO crowded one could hardly walk and I quickly tired of all the people, so I chose one of the restaurants, Lowell’s, where I just ordered breakfast, “Joe’s Egg and Sausage Scramble”, with coffee, for $20! Not cheap, here! It was a huge dish, however, loaded with sausage and mushrooms as well as spinach, with a side of hash brown potatoes. I found an open table near a window overlooking Seattle’s Harbor and thoroughly enjoyed my very large breakfast and wonderful coffee. Then it was time to fight my way back through the crowds towards where our bus pickup would occur. I had changed levels at one point so I wasn’t exactly sure where that would be, but my instincts were correct and I was soon back to the required spot with only a few minutes to spare before our bus arrived and collected us - all of us, this time! Next we were finally informed that the Space Needle had opened so, back to the parking space to which we had now been twice! While those of us with flights after 3 pm were allowed an hour and a half at the Needle, Lisa took those with earlier flights to the airport so they would not miss their flights. She would be back for us later. Approaching the entrance to the Space Needle is confusing to say the least; the possibilities are complicated by the fact that all sides of the circular base are available for entrance. Once this was figured out, we were directed to a waiting line which wound around and up inside the structure, finally arriving at yet another waiting line for entrance to one of the several elevators to the visitor level, a speedy ride of 49 seconds. The view is incredible, especially on such a bright sunny day! The Needle is undergoing renovations, the first in over 60 years - not quite complete, and it was not possible to walk all the way around the visitor level. New thick glass panels now form the walls of the visitor level with thick glass benches scattered around. It was possible to get a great view of downtown Seattle and of the Harbor, but I could not see Mount Rainier - possibly on the inaccessible side. I found a bar where I purchased a Sauvignon Blanc wine - for $10. Couldn’t be atop the Space Needle without having a glass of wine! So I continued to view while I sipped! Then it was back in a long line awaiting an elevator down. If Seattle is this busy on a Monday, I can’t imagine how crowded it must be on a weekend! Shortly we were ushered into a downward elevator, about a dozen at a time, and soon returned to a level requiring two long stairways to get back on ground level. It had been quite warm on top and it was a relief to return to the bus pickup area and sit down on a bench in the shade of a tree. Lisa and her bus arrived right on schedule and, with the remainder of us back aboard, comfortable in the coolness and soft seats, it was finally time to depart to the airport. Our travel time would be about 30 minutes, arriving at about 2 pm; the lateness of our start and the confusion of opening time for the Needle had reduced our wait time at the airport about an hour and a half. It had been a good day despite the complications. Arrival at the Sea-Tac Airport was in the bus loading zone, a short walk into the parking structure, an elevator ride to level 4, and another walk across the pedestrian bridge into the terminal, and then an escalator ride down to departure level. Since we were already checked in, there was only the security checkpoint to face. Having a TSA Pre-check on my boarding pass, the trip through security was rather routine with only my carry-on to be X-rayed; no need to unpackage my laptop or remove shoes. Then it was down two levels to the train to transfer to the N Gates in the North Terminal; mine was Gate N4, contrary to the N3 printed on my boarding pass. Finding my gate and a place to sit, I finally relaxed and worked on my iPad while waiting the remaining hour until aircraft loading at 4:10 pm; free Wi-Fi was available in Sea-Tac Airport so I did some updating and played a few games of Solitaire. When pre-loading was called, without hesitation I went forward as a person needing additional time; being 80 has its advantages! My Premium Economy seat 8C was quickly found and I was somewhat amazed at how quickly and methodically the plane loaded to its full capacity; we were fully loaded by 4:40 pm. Of course, there were a few stragglers but several minutes early, the door was closed and we were off to Orange County. The two hour, 10 minute flight was a little bumpy to start but eventually smoothed out for an enjoyable trip, further enhanced by a couple glasses of white wine - complimentary for Premium Economy. The arrival at John Wayne Airport was right on schedule at 7:08 pm and, being near the front of the plane, I was soon off and on my way to baggage claim, with a side trip to the bathroom. It was a short wait until luggage began appearing on the carrousel and I was really nervous whether my luggage had made the trip from outside my stateroom door and onto the aircraft safely. It HAD, as mine was soon making the round on the carrousel, and retrieved with a struggle - it was heavy! Then out of the terminal, across the street and on to the SuperShuttle dispatcher I went, dragging my luggage. The dispatcher only needed my name to identify me as a paid passenger and he said there would be about a 5-minute wait for my van to arrive. As it turned out, I was put on an ExpressCar van, part of SuperShuttle and ExecuCar, and my ride home was direct with only me as a customer. Upon arrival, my driver even rolled my heavy luggage up the driveway; he received a good tip from me! So, home at last! It has been a wonderful trip but it is good to be home! ~Ron Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
I booked this cruise through a local travel agent. All the connections went smoothly to and from the ship. Our staterooms were cozy and cleaned daily by friendly staff. There were many places to eat onboard and the early dining was the ... Read More
I booked this cruise through a local travel agent. All the connections went smoothly to and from the ship. Our staterooms were cozy and cleaned daily by friendly staff. There were many places to eat onboard and the early dining was the best! We enjoyed all the excursions and the staff made sure we all found our activities after the ship docked. Had a terrific 2 week cruise we’ll never forget!! We also had a person using a walker and the handicapped room proved spacious enough to store it. The hot tubs and pools were very much enjoyed. Very clean and provided many towels. We also enjoyed the many ports with free shuttles to and from the activities right from the pier. While we were enjoying the glaciers the captain spent at least an hour at the scene so we could take many pictures and enjoy the wildlife while he turned the boat around. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2018
My first cruise!...And the first question asked by almost every other passenger we visited with was “How do you like cruising so far?” My honest answer each time was “What’s not to love?” ...Start every day with coffee delivered ... Read More
My first cruise!...And the first question asked by almost every other passenger we visited with was “How do you like cruising so far?” My honest answer each time was “What’s not to love?” ...Start every day with coffee delivered to your room; go up a couple of decks to find a huge selection of breakfast items; return to your room to find your bed made; check your newsletter for what you’d like to do today; stay onboard or disembark depending on where you are but at lunchtime onboard there is always a ton of food choices; enjoy a lecture or movie, go in the pool, spa, etc.; dinner is another huge selection of food options and venues, too; and after some entertainment and maybe a cocktail in one of the many lounges you return to your room to find a turned down bed with a mint on your pillow! “What’s not to love!?” Read Less
Sail Date: March 2018
Couldn’t ask for a better first time cruise! Ship is beautiful (a couple of issues from being right out of dry dock, though) and each and every crew member was helpful, friendly and willing to go above and beyond. The food was ... Read More
Couldn’t ask for a better first time cruise! Ship is beautiful (a couple of issues from being right out of dry dock, though) and each and every crew member was helpful, friendly and willing to go above and beyond. The food was dependably delicious with a large variety from which to choose. The one problem we had was there weren’t enough people working the buffet...this caused long waits for some of the stations. Sometimes it seemed we were getting nickel and dimed to death...bottled water isn’t that big a deal when you figure HAL could raise the cost of a cruise by $25 and hand out bottles of water as people leave for an excursion...not leaving a bad taste in passengers mouths. The entertainment was good mostly but the shows put on by the HAL group of entertainers was so amateurish we had to leave...we gave it a try the second time they were on and did the same thing. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
We chose this cruise after narrowing down the date range and what we wanted to do. I was happy to sail with Holland America again. I had a great experience with them many years ago. We were looking for a cruise and land package and ... Read More
We chose this cruise after narrowing down the date range and what we wanted to do. I was happy to sail with Holland America again. I had a great experience with them many years ago. We were looking for a cruise and land package and Holland America had just what we wanted. We booked a vista suite and it was spacious and comfortable. We enjoyed the balcony quite a bit. The food was excellent, we ate in the main dining room, the Lido market, the Dive In and Pinnacle Grill. We never had a bad meal. The entertainers onboard were fun and engaging. We enjoyed all of our excursions; fishing, gold panning, whale watching, northern lights, dog mushing. The ports were very safe and charming. The staff onboard were all professional, knowledgeable and friendly. The spa was wonderful, I took advantage of one of their specials while my husband did our laundry. It was so convenient to have a self-serve laundry room on a 12 day vacation. All transfers were handled smoothly. I have never experienced such a speedy embarkation or debarkation from a cruise ship. The land portion of our trip included train rides, Denali and seeing the northern lights, which was a highlight of the trip. Sadly, we did not see any bears, caribou or moose, but we saw plenty of sea life and eagles. It was a great and memorable way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
Seeing Alaska was on our bucket list and the Zaandam fit our schedule and budget. We loved everything: the ports, size of the ship, nice size of stateroom, good food, wonderful staff. They also offered $20 laundry service for anything fit ... Read More
Seeing Alaska was on our bucket list and the Zaandam fit our schedule and budget. We loved everything: the ports, size of the ship, nice size of stateroom, good food, wonderful staff. They also offered $20 laundry service for anything fit in one fairly good-sized bag. Self-service laundry was available too. We were surprised to see a priest on board. He informed us that Mass was offered every day and would be noted on the daily itinerary. He said all Holland America ships have a priest on-board. Jewish service was also offered on Friday. Other thoughts - delicious sugar-free desserts, smooth handling of people and passports in and out of Canada, easy transition of passengers and luggage to "land" portion of trip into Denali. We would definitely go again! Things I might like to see improved: More availability in reservation times for open dining Completion of "virtual tour presentation" on workings of ship Crab legs one evening were pretty subpar (I was looking forward to this!) All pretty minor stuff! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We did the northern Vancouver to Seward cruise that included Glacier Bay and then a land tour to Denali. We went to Vancouver early and walked around some, took the train into town from our hotel by airport. Other family went on ... Read More
We did the northern Vancouver to Seward cruise that included Glacier Bay and then a land tour to Denali. We went to Vancouver early and walked around some, took the train into town from our hotel by airport. Other family went on hop-on, hop-off trolley and enjoyed that. The ship was beautiful but could use some updates in bathroom in cabin and a second power outlet. The lido deck buffet food was good and plentiful. The dining room food was better. The burgers and fries at poolside were pretty good. Lines could be long at times. Casino was small but nice and winning was better than the other cruise I took. They had some card tournaments,but I did not do those. They had a good piano bar entertainer, Andy. Cabin service and room service were awesome. Drinks were delicious, we got the drink pkg. I think we missed out some by not going to the Crow's Nest more often. They had live music up there, I think we would've enjoyed that too. We did love Alaska and it's beauty. We stopped in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. All with their own beauty. We traveled with adult kids and had fun zip-lining, salmon fishing, trains, trams, flying misty fjords, glacier viewing, hiking and kayaking. The land tour was stunning. Bus from Seward to Denali was long but ok. We stayed in cabins at McKinley Chalet Resort which is a beautiful property. Across street from shopping, excursions available on property or across street. We hiked around property some and did a bus tour 60 miles into Denali. Saw plenty of caribou, Dallas sheep and some moose, and one bear. Got a great video of momma and baby moose walking down the road. Otherwise just stunning views. Traveled back to Anchorage by McKinley Explorer train. This is an awesome way to travel! Dining car on bottom and observation dome with our seats on top, with a bar. The hotel in Anchorage was an older building and needed renovations, particularly, elevators and lobby. The rooms were fine, with balcony and nice view. All in all it was a great trip and I highly recommend it. Holland America owns and gets you everywhere Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We had already done the inside passage but knew we wanted to do the Alaska land portion as well. We really lucked out with the weather - we may have felt differently about our experience if the weather had been bad. As it was we had some ... Read More
We had already done the inside passage but knew we wanted to do the Alaska land portion as well. We really lucked out with the weather - we may have felt differently about our experience if the weather had been bad. As it was we had some beautiful sunshine on the land portion and only one really rainy day in port at Ketchikan. The organization of the land portion of the cruise was very well done and the experience was great. Onboard the Zaandam was good too. Have to admit we like HAL - not everyone's favourite but suits us well. The cooking and computer workshops are worthwhile attending. Food very good as was the entertainment. We chose a window cabin this time as the balcony a bit more than we could afford. Weren't really keen on being on deck one but it was absolutely fine - accept for a bit of an odour in the hallway which I hope they deal with. Found the movement of the ship on this deck especially aft very limited. Felt more motion on the upper decks on previous trips. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
The service was very good and the food was great! Some of the ports were not very nice but it was interesting to see other parts of the world. Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. The staff was friendly and well ... Read More
The service was very good and the food was great! Some of the ports were not very nice but it was interesting to see other parts of the world. Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. The staff was friendly and well trained.There were great lecturers and also a chaplain for religious services. Shore excursions were well organized and there was a variety of them to choose from. We would definitely go on this cruise again. Really liked the port and sea days being spaced out so well. Would like to have had more time in San Diego, Cabo san Lucas and Victoria, BC. The stops at these ports were not long enough. The weather was great except for the days between San Diego and Victoria. We traveled on the longer cruise of 22 days from Valparaiso (Santiago) to Victoria. Overall the trip was an exceptional balance of city and nature, ports and sea days. :) Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.7
Service 3.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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