549 Holland America Zaandam Cruise Reviews

Background:I consider myself an experienced cruiser, and have sailed most of the world. While my favorite line is Crystal, I like to cruise more than I can afford with them and have also sailed with Windstar, Silversea, RCI, Cunard, and ... Read More
Background:I consider myself an experienced cruiser, and have sailed most of the world. While my favorite line is Crystal, I like to cruise more than I can afford with them and have also sailed with Windstar, Silversea, RCI, Cunard, and HAL. Hotel Info: Pre-cruise I booked one of the hotels HAL uses in Singapore, the Fairmont, but booked it independently at a significantly lower price. It was a very nice hotel in a great location. One tip here: The Fairmont's internet access is quite pricy, but I joined their frequent stay group and on checking out found it is free for their members. Post-cruiseIn Hong Kong, I stayed post cruise at the Langham. It's a very nice hotel just 2 blocks from Ocean Terminal, and I would gladly recommend it (although others may be just as good). Ship: The Zaandam is one of HAL's 4 R-Class ships. Roughly 60,000 tons and 1,400 passengers it is a nice size. Built in 2000 it is actually the near the middle of the age range of their ships. I thought it was mechanically in excellent condition but did have some cosmetic issues which detracted somewhat from the feel of the ship. The most significant one was carpeting near the elevator landings which appeared to have suffered from unequal application of cleaning products and had large discolored sections. Activities: To me this is HAL's biggest weakness. They tend to cater to sophisticated travelers and other lines like Cunard offer extensive enrichment programs with a variety of speakers. HAL's program is are arranged around 4 areas (World,Food,Technology,and Wellbeing) Wellbeing is typically handled by the fitness center and is usually considered in addition to the activities. Technology is a bit too closely tied to their exclusive relationship with Microsoft and for me lacks depth. I am not really big on food as a topic. The World area had mostly offerings from the Travel Guide, Spencer Brown. Brown was excellent and unbiased but dealt mostly with what to see and do and did not go deeply into the history and background of the area. Service: Superb. Many staff I had previously encountered only briefly addressed me by name and were always ready to go the extra mile to help. Personal but unobtrusive. Port & Shore Excursions: One of the challenges of this area is that many of the key cities (Bangkok, Saigon, Hanoi) are quite distant from their nearest ports, making shore tours challenging and tiring. Excursions were generally pretty well done given the circumstances. They might better be seen by land, but independent travel in this region is a challenge I wouldn't tackle. Summary: A wonderful cruise to an unforgettable part of the world Travel To Port of Embarkation: While not staying in the hotel through HAL, their hospitality desk did sell me a transfer at a reasonable price. The transfer was smooth, although embarkation was slow. I think the problem was an immigration delay in getting guests disembarked from the previous cruise. Stateroom: My oceanview stateroom on the Lower Promenade (outdoor walking) deck was comfortable and well laid out. This class ship provides fridges only on verandah cabins but the ice bucket was kept filled (Fridges are available for rent). There was a bath tub but it was quite small. The cabin temperature was always comfortable. Dining: One of the dining rooms's levels was for traditional dining with early and late fixed seatings, while the other was "anytime". I was unable to get my request for traditional dining, and ended up in the anytime despite my wishes. I missed having the opportunity to get familiar with my waiters, but was alwas promptly seated when I arrived. The meals wouldn't be called gourmet but were more than satisfactory. The selection and quality of food in the Lido restaurant were generally quite good. I did not use the specialty restaurants on this voyage. Children's Clubs: There were only a small smattering of youth on this voyage. I seldom saw them while at sea, and have to assume they were occupied and engaged with the activities for them. Entertainment: The Zaandam singers and dancers performed 4 excellent shows. Most of the other nights we had headline acts (singer, instrumentalist, and so on). They ranged from good to excellent. Of the 4 bars, one had a latin dance band, one a classical string group, a third alternated between guitar (early) and piano (after 9PM), and finally the Crows Nest with a band or DJ. Disembarkation: Hong Kong authorities came on board by the last sea day and processed immigration in the background. There was a delay in their processing and we did not get our passports back until the final morning but from then everything went very smoothly and on schedule. There were no border formalities the final morning. I walked off the ship at 8:50, walked away from the terminal with my luggage, and was at my hotel at 9:10. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in ... Read More
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in immediately - on board - early lunch - room ready around 1pm. We were sent the wrong way around the deck as the entry to the ship was the same as our cabin, and when a steward let us through a doorway back to where we started, the security staff almost screamed at us that we shouldnt do that and "how did we get there !!" When I pointed to the steward, the guard lowered the volume of his voice to the steward and promptly ignored us - charming chap Information for our ROV was not in the cabin as specified and the knock on the cabin door was a steward standing there with the flowers for the ROV. With no info on when it was supposed to be and the fact the flowers for the ceremony had arrived, I hot-footed it to the front desk to enquire when the ROV will be taking place. I was told by the front desk that the flowers were for the room but when I pointed out there was a card with the flowers saying ROV gift he changed his mind and said they were sent in error and an invitation to the ROV will be sent to the cabin when they knew when it was scheduled to take place. Later that evening a letter arrived with the date set for later in the week and to expect an invitation on the day. DW on the day went to the obligatory hairdresser and we both started to preen ourselves for the event and realised there was still no invitation. Hot - footing it down to the front desk with letter, I asked if it was still going ahead and he confirmed that it was and the dept that dealt with the invitation had forgotten to send it out. We arrived in The Crows Nest and were joined by quite a few others with invitations in hand, captain present and chapagne flowing. After about half an hour we realised there was not alot happening regarding the ROV and spoke to another guest if she was waiting to have her vows renewed and replied that she was with a party of 26 there for the captains Dutch cocktail party. I collared a hotel manager, showed him the letter and he started to apologise and said the ROV had been moved to the following week. Uh..Oh, DW rather angry and disappointed at this point, promptly stormed down to front desk and told them how she felt. We had arranged the Pinnacle that evening anyway and thanks to Andrew the manager, he forwarded our distress to people and he certainly gave us a meal to remember. Two days later the front desk manager called and admitted it was all a mistake on their part and would like to make ammends and rebook. The moment had been spoilt but we were offered the ROV, dinners, wine, hairdresser free of charges and in the circumstances couldnt really do anymore so we accepted and she would rebook the Pinnacle for us. A couple of days later we returned there for another meal and thanked Andrew for what he had done but then said "its not over yet" - the restaurant was fully booked and he couldnt fit us in but managed to book Canaletto for us and would send some wine up to compensate. The day finally arrived, hairdresser - preen etc., invitation arrived - off we went. greeted with chapagne and wait..... another hiccup !! The printer for the photographs was broken !! We had a very nice photo album with the ROV certificates and words in there and a CD ROM. The ceremony no doubt was a very nice one and brought DW to tears so no complaints and when finished we went to Canaletto for our meal but guess what? No wine - that had been forgotten too. When we finished the was over half a bottle left so we had it sent to the MDR for the next day, and they even forgot that too. It finally arrived half way through the main course. As mentioned the main reason for our cruise was the CNY celebrations. We left the day free on the day itself as we were not sure of the crowds etc for the night parade that evening so kept things flexible. An announcement over the tannoy at 9.20 that morning saying that the muster drill was at 5pm and that HK immigration needed face to face passport checks meaning we could not leave the ship after the drill. We were disappointed that we would miss the night parade as this was one of the reasons we came. To our disgust it seemed that the excursions arranged by HAL were allowed to come back late and all those who left before the announcement came back after the parade finished too. Thanks HAL. We thought there was something peculiar happening as on embarkation they didnt take our passport as they usually do. The whole pre-cruise experience with HAL was mismanaged especially when in came to Visas - Sanya for instance. The night before Saigon after dinner about 10pm, there were 8, yes eight immigration forms to fill in with the message they had to be handed in by 5pm the following day. We were going to Saigon for the day at 7am therefore they had to be filled in that night or at the crack of dawn, yet the example of how to fill them in had a date of 3 days before. Last minute again. The MM grade cabin quite acceptable with the exception of banging in the night sometimes, sound like something was rolling around. Was informed it was the stabalisers flexing... hmmm. Motor noises quite loud about an hour before we docked and for about an hour after we sailed but we were the last but one cabin at the front on deck 2 and didnt disturb our sleep so was bearable THe food was mediocre and at times not cooked or kept correctly. The exaggerated descriptions tended to excite when reading and dissappoint on arrival , having said that Canaletto and the superb Pinnacle grill to a point compensated The wait staff and stewards we thought were very good indeed, its just a shame that on the questionaire at the end of the cruise, it seems to be geared to critisising them for the trivial of things yet the front desk and management who seem to be at the heart of any problems, dont get a mention. We cancelled our onboard tips in favour of giving to our steward/waiters directly once it was announced that only 70% of what we give, goes to the people it said, and that 30% goes to behind the scenes people. I know tipping is an immotive subject but I will only tip those that have served me in a deserving manner and the "behind the scenes people" who I cannot judge for myself should be paid appropriately by the cruise line. Even at 70% with the cabins our steward has to do, he would make over a $1000 a week. I dont believe HAL or anyone else paying a Phillipino that sort of money, so I pay him myself. Other than any involvement by the front office, the cruise was a nice one. We may go on HAL again but it would only be to the Alaska/Carribean/Americas as they obviously cant cope outside their bubble Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, ... Read More
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, tickets, credit card details etc etc is always a bit fraught, so when a handful of forms are added to the mix, it's not conducive to you remembering to read all the small print. It wasn't until much later in the cruise that we found out that by signing those documents without question, we were accepting an automatic on board charge for two Vietnamese visa's and a further visa for Cambodia -- regardless of whether we were getting off the ship or not. My annoyance is not in whether the laws of each land visited forced Zaandam to make these charges, it was that the first we knew of it was at embarkation. HAL seriously need to get their act together and provide customers with these details at time of booking. Our cabin was ready as soon as we got on board, and our luggage arrived very soon after. The overall impression of our cabin was one of refined elegance but you couldn't help noticing that the fabrics were in need of upgrading. The balcony was roomier than most I have had in the past with two chairs and a recliner along with a small table. The bed was the comfiest I have experienced on a cruise, and in the bathroom, the shower pressure was just right. I liked the large soap, shampoo and conditioning dispensers on the wall in the bathroom -- saves all that fumbling with small plastic bottles that invariably fall at your feet once opened. One niggle: I have never seen a cabin with so much drawer space -- at least 16 in ours! But not one of them was easy to open -- nail breaking stuff. And once you'd stored items away, it took an age to remember which drawer you'd put them in! That might be age related, but hopefully a re-fit will make the space more user friendly. The only other problem we had was shared by nearly all cabins on the starboard side of Deck 6 and also affected the toilets in public areas. On at least 3 occasions during our cruise, the toilets stopped flushing. Some cabins were even flooded. The problem was addressed and corrected quite quickly each time, but the accompanying smell wasn't nice whilst it lasted. Our first night on board was berthed in Hong Kong harbour. We were lucky enough to be there for Chinese New Year and particularly to enjoy the New Year Parade. On checking our cruise personaliser a couple of months prior to sailing, Zaandam were not offering any tours to the parade, so we (along with quite a large number of fellow Cruise Critic Roll Call members) decided to pre-book with a local HK agent for a tour which included Dinner & reserved seats for the parade which were in close proximity to Ocean Terminal where the ship was berthed and due to sale at 11.00 p.m. the same night. All was fine until we received in our cabin "Special Embarkation Arrangements" informing all passengers that HAL and the Hong Kong authorities required everyone to be on board by 5.00 p.m. on the night of the Parade, so that passports could be checked personally -- deck by deck -- and that once this had been done, nobody would be allowed off the ship. Did I say everyone? Well I should have said everyone EXCEPT all those passengers who had paid for a HAL arranged tour (including a Parade tour which had been organised at the last minute!!). They were allowed to return any time up to 10.00 p.m. !! You can imagine how busy the Front Desk became with irate guests who had similarly made their own plans for their last night in Hong Kong. It was well after midnight and during my fourth trip to the Front Desk that I received a glimmer of hope that our prior made independent arrangements would be honoured and dealt with in the same manner as the HAL trips. All it required was a list of names of the persons on our independent trip and a note of their cabin numbers -- job done. So common sense prevailed at the end of the day, but how many fellow passengers did HAL upset? I definitely got the impression that we were an annoyance to them -- how dare we -- as mere passengers -- interfere with their arrangements. In my opinion, the Zaandam is either being very badly advised, or else HAL as a cruise line feel they no longer need to put their passenger's enjoyment first. Zaandam's staff were great. We couldn't fault their willingness to help and friendliness when called for, but there was just something lacking, compared to staff on other ships we have enjoyed. Maybe HAL have cut back on numbers which means their willing staff have less time to pay attention to small detail and interact with passengers. We were "Anytime" dining in the Main Dining Room, but it soon became apparent that the ship isn't built to easily accommodate this system. As on other cruise lines, the system operated when a table is not available when you arrive is to be handed a "buzzer" which shrieks at you when a table of your required size does become free. Unless you are happy to stand around at the entrance to the Dining Room, the closest place to sit and enjoy a pre-dinner drink while you wait is one floor down -- and then it is only a Lounge which requires a further walk towards the Atrium of the ship to obtain drinks. Invariably, by the time we had walked to the Lounge, and then waited for our partners to obtain drinks and return to the Lounge, the "buzzer" would sound! This noise then accompanied you (to the amusement of fellow passengers), whilst you collected your drinks, walked back through the Lounge, up two flights of stairs (or one stop in the lift), and arrived back at the entrance to the Dining Room. Larger and newer ships offering the "anytime" option invariably have bars on the same level and closer to the entrance to the Dining Room -- much better. Our normal practice on any cruise is to pre-purchase & pre-pay for a Wine Package. This we did with HAL -- but beware anyone thinking of doing the same thing. We have no complaints about the choice of wines, nor even the price, but there is a total lack of organisation in being able to obtain a bottle of your pre-paid for wine, and have it delivered to your table anytime sooner than half way through your main meal. Indeed, we were three days into our cruise before we even managed to get a bottle delivered to our table AT ALL ! Yes, we did complain -- in as polite a way as possible so as to not cause embarrassment to fellow diners. We eventually involved the Head Sommelier who personally took our order, and returned just a few minutes later to say that they had run out of our particular choice!!! His replacement recommendation was very good however, so not a real issue. Things were looking up, but because the wine was so late in arriving at our table, we were unable to finish the whole bottle. No problem, we were informed. They just write your cabin number on the bottle and keep it for the next night. Now this system works on every other ship we have been on, but yes you guessed it, it doesn't work to well on Zaandam. It may work on other HAL ships, but this one seems to lack any kind of organisational skills. The staff on the ground are only as good as the organisation behind them, and the food and beverage wait staff are being badly let down. After complaining again to a senior wine waiter on the eighth night of our cruise (and only 3 1/2 bottles into our package!!), we were told that our best course of action in future was to look for him personally each evening and ask him to find our wine. Otherwise, he informed us, you will keep encountering the same problem!! It was nice of him to try and personally avoid any further problems for us, but he shouldn't have to. Instead, we decided to avoid any further angst in the MDR and enjoyed a few evenings in the Buffet Restaurant where we encountered a wonderful wine steward who had no problem finding our wine and delivering it to our table in good time for us to fully enjoy it with our meal -- result! To be fair, the wine steward in the Buffet wasn't exactly overworked, so I put it to you HAL, give your employees sufficient time to do the job correctly and they will. In fact, we found the food served at Dinner in the Buffet Restaurant to be of excellent quality and beautifully presented. Our only complaint in this area was that half of it closed around 7.30 p.m. each evening, and the shutters came down on the remaining half at 8.00 p.m. prompt. I should also mention that we could find no fault with the food served in the MDR. Everything was well cooked and well presented. Having previously cruised on much larger ships than the Zaandam, I was concerned that I would find it too small. This was not the case. I loved the overall feel of the ship which gave an air of refined elegance, with lots of extremely comfortable areas to sit and enjoy a book or just relax looking out to sea. The entertainment wasn't as glitzy as RCI, but it was sufficient for this port intensive cruise. I'm not sure it would be sufficiently stimulating on a longer cruise. We enjoyed the Cinema on a couple of occasions, but beware of the "Popcorn Rush". We were new to HAL, so were not aware of this daily ritual where a tray of popcorn is delivered as the lights go down. Anyone standing in the way would be flattened!!! Our British reserve resulted in no popcorn for us, but we were ready for them on our second visit -- another result !! In summary, we actually enjoyed Zaandam. There are lots of things that could be improved, but we didn't let them spoil our holiday. I'm not sure I would take a lengthy voyage on this ship, and I think HAL is struggling in getting ASIA right. I am more inclined to look at HAL for an Alaska cruise which by all accounts is where they shine best.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We are long time HAL 4-star Mariners. We selected this cruise for the itinerary, since we had never been to any of these South Pacific ports. We sail HAL for it's consistency in product and experience, and this cruise met our ... Read More
We are long time HAL 4-star Mariners. We selected this cruise for the itinerary, since we had never been to any of these South Pacific ports. We sail HAL for it's consistency in product and experience, and this cruise met our expectations for HAL. We booked an "open reservation" for a future HAL cruise while onboard. Positives: 1. The staff and crew are fantastic. Endearing and always with a helpful smile. They truly make you feel at home. 2. There is no better way to cruise than in a suite on HAL. The amenities, service and access to the Neptune Lounge made this cruise very enjoyable. 3. Food and service in the Pinnacle Grille, especially for the two special themed dinners (Dining with the Chef and Cellar Master Dinner) were equal to any ship afloat and the finest restaurants ashore. 4. The guest entertainers were very professional, enjoyable, and a few were world-class and at the top of their skills. 5. Disembarkation very well organized and efficient. 6. The ship is spotless, albeit a bit worn around the edges (see below). The staff and crew are continuously cleaning, scrubbing, painting, etc. The teak decks are spotless! 7. We would return to Caneletto just for the cotton candy dessert! 8. The port lecturer was outstanding and offered many helpful tips and suggestions. He was available at his desk for several hours every afternoon and was at the gangway at every port for at least two hours to answer last minute questions and offer self-touring advice. 9. The mattresses and pillows are new and sooooooooo comfortable! 10. According to the staff, there were over 190 guests under the age of 17 onboard. The onboard coordinators (as well as their parents) did a fantastic job of keeping the younger cruisers entertained. We never even knew there were so many children and teens sailing until we asked one of the officers. Negatives: 1. There are very annoying a/c issues throughout the ship, in the upper level of the main dining room especially. Sometimes many public rooms are freezing cold. Often they are uncomfortably warm. After a sweltering formal night in the MDR, we ate in the Pinnacle Grille for the other formal nights (the Pinnacle never had a/c issues). Our cabin remained comfortable enough with the a/c set to the coldest setting, but we would have preferred the temperature a bit cooler. We understand that the crew quarters had no a/c for several days as all a/c capacity was being diverted to the passenger cabins and public rooms. The issues were never really reconciled during the entire cruise and we noticed that several very large pallets of equipment were loaded on the ship when we returned to Sydney; hopefully they are a/c parts. 2. Food quantity in the Lido buffet for breakfast and lunch was plentiful, but taste and variety were lacking. 3. The "Zaandam cast of singers and dancers" need to return to acting school. They are very young (ages 22-26), so maybe their skills will improve with more practice. 4. The ship is spotless, but in need of a refurbishing update. We sailed on the Zaandam's third cruise in 2000 and many of the carpets, upholstery, color schemes, etc. are original and a bit dated aesthetically. It appears as though corridor carpets have been updated on Decks 1-3, but the upper decks still have the original finishes. The Lido appears recently refurbished, but other public areas, as well as the cabins are not as up-to-date as the more recently refurbished HAL ships (i.e. Rotterdam and Veendam). 5. Embarkation was a bit better than the usual HAL disorganized mess, but can still use improvement. We arrived at the pier in Sydney about 11:15am and were onboard and in our cabin by noon. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
For us, this cruise was "A trip of a lifetime". The hints and suggestions that we received from other Cruise Critic participants were very helpful as we prepared for our cruise. Our cruise started from Sydney, Australia after ... Read More
For us, this cruise was "A trip of a lifetime". The hints and suggestions that we received from other Cruise Critic participants were very helpful as we prepared for our cruise. Our cruise started from Sydney, Australia after a long plane ride from Los Angeles, and a night spent at the Jolly Swagman's Backpacker Hotel. At 10am, on our day of departure, we were able to drop our bags at HAL's baggage drop tent at the Overseas Passenger Terminal on Circular Quay, and spend some time looking around the area. We boarded the Zaandam at 11:30am, went to our stateroom to freshen up, and proceeded to the MDR for the Mariner's lunch. After attending the mandatory safety drill, we returned to our stateroom to discover our bags and unpack. The Zaandam proved to meet our expectations in every way. We enjoyed the wide variety of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts that were available in the dinning rooms and the Lido. The Zaandam staff made us feel very welcome, and went out of their way to answer questions and meet our requests. During the 28 days that we spent on the Zaandam, we attended information sessions, visited the casino, discovered great observation decks, spent relaxing time in the lounge chairs on lower promenade deck, attended productions, watched performers, and frequented the Explorations Cafe where the jigsaw puzzles were kept. The great thing about the Zaandam is the fact that a person can always find a comfortable place to sit and relax. It was not economically possible for us to take all of the ship's excursions that were available, but we were able to go on a 7-hour excursion in Port Villa, Vanuatu, which was very informative. The cultural center we visited was quite similar to the one we went to on our own the day before, but did not include the "fire walker" or the "Water music" presentations. Unfortunately, the ship's tour to Ulva Island was canceled, and we had to arrange to go there on our own. It was wonderful! The best excursion we went on was the Elm Wildlife Tour on the Otago Peninsula. We saw Royal Albatross at the Royal Albatross Center, and were witness to the birth of a New Zealand fur seal at their private reserve. It was there that we also saw a yellow-eyed penguin up close. We opted for the late dining time, and thoroughly enjoyed our dining companions on both legs of our cruise. We found that meeting, and visiting, with other passengers while eating breakfast in the MDR was one of the better experiences of the cruise. Our overall assessment of our cruise experience is very positive, and we will be considering another cruise with HAL as time and finances allow. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This was a good way to get home and see some places I had never seen for less than a one way business airfare. I enjoyed the many sea days but didn't find any ports I wanted to go back to. Food and service was good, excellent most ... Read More
This was a good way to get home and see some places I had never seen for less than a one way business airfare. I enjoyed the many sea days but didn't find any ports I wanted to go back to. Food and service was good, excellent most of the time. The chef, Jock, was great, and so patient.His cooking demos were a highlight.I also enjoyed meeting the onboard florist.Fascinating and so modest. Some of the entertainment, [Xu Pingxin the dulcimer player,and Matilda and Patrick, the ventriloquist act,] was world class.We also had a good flautist, a violinist and a juggler who coped well with rough seas. The comedians were forgettable and the Zaandam dancers reminded me of high school musicals.Oh dear. I had a few problems with my cabin. It was a good size for a single but should have carried a 'beware of the noise' warning. I picked D6102 for the view and didn't realise that there would be a total lack of soundproofing from the theatre below. Hal handles solo cruisers well. I never booked for dinner in the Rotterdam, just turned up and was seated with various interesting fellow cruisers.I have to confess to a return visit to the Canaletto by myself so that I could eat all the candy floss they serve with coffee. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Long time fan of HAL, but will say have not cruised with HAL in five years..Food on this ship was the best we ever had on any cruise, service was great, and ship was very clean, bathroom was large and towels were large and fluffy. But, ... Read More
Long time fan of HAL, but will say have not cruised with HAL in five years..Food on this ship was the best we ever had on any cruise, service was great, and ship was very clean, bathroom was large and towels were large and fluffy. But, Zaadam is falling apart, carpet is old, stained, burned out lights all over ship, even the elevators direction(up/down) are burned out..Upholstery on chairs and benches in Main Show Room is old, worn, stained..Looks like new chairs and drapes in Lido. This ship needs a >>Fluff Job Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
My husband wanted to return to sailing the high seas as he had served in the U.S. Navy and missed the ocean. I had been a Navy dependent growing up in the Pacific region and wanted to return to the islands. In those days my girlfriends and ... Read More
My husband wanted to return to sailing the high seas as he had served in the U.S. Navy and missed the ocean. I had been a Navy dependent growing up in the Pacific region and wanted to return to the islands. In those days my girlfriends and I had greeted the P&O cruise ships when they came into port--we spent the afternoons giggling with the young British crew members and having high tea. I had also sailed aboard many military ships as a dependent traveling to and from the U.S. My husband found the HAL 17 day Circle Hawaii Cruise online on the ms Zaandam and we signed up. HAL itself provided excellent pre-cruise service from calming my jitters re. documentation, booking arrangements, and delivering us to the ship. As first time cruisers we were tremendously excited about our upcoming journey and for normally quite rational folks, we slowly discovered that our (fairy-tale) expectations of the cruise did not meet reality. My husband did enjoy being at sea once again--but his daily sunrise strolls around the decks were not my cup of tea. We didn't realize it was the last day of the cruise season when we departed Vancouver, B.C. Why was it the last day of the season--because of the weather. We spent the first three days of our cruise in true high seas with grey skies skirting a storm. Not a good start and unpleasant for us landlubbers. As a result of having to follow a different route at slower speeds, we missed our first port of call in Kona. We called at our second port instead, Honolulu. The next port of call was Nawiliwili, Kauai, where we rented a scooter from Kauai Mopeds (808.652.7407). We had a thrilling time zooming around the island, getting lost when we literally ran out of land and ended up on a small dock, being pelted by warm rain, and visiting the Kauai coffee plantation. Did we feel like kids again, discomfort and all? Yes! We missed our next port of call, Lahaina, Maui, apparently because of rough seas. The tenders or small boats that were to ferry us from the ship to Maui could not anchor/connect with the ship properly. The captain wasted no time in continuing on to the next port of call, Hilo, Hawaii. I was ready to lead a mutiny as a couple of people actually boarded the ship from a tender--why couldn't we volunteer to release HAL of any liability, board a tender to Maui and fly to the next port of call to join the ship. Maui was my symbolic return to the islands and all I could do was watch the land disappear from my sight. In Hilo we walked to an isolated black sand/rock beach where I finally swam in the ocean for a couple of hours. We meet a Hawaiian family and passed a very pleasant afternoon with them just talking and swimming. We were invited back for a family luau in March 2012 and we may return, but not by ship. The ship headed for our last port, San Diego, California. Because of unfortunate circumstances, an ill crew member, we forged ahead at top speeds through the tail-end of yet another storm. (I don't know whether the crew member recovered--I truly hope so.) At this point I felt like a prisoner and just wanted to get off the dam ship. The only place aboard ship where I felt at peace was lying in the kids' area hammock (negating the always present lateral and vertical movement) at night and watching the stars and satellites go by. On the downside, I found the captain and officers of the ship quite aloof and unfriendly. They did not return greetings nor interact with the general passenger population. I had the feeling that the passengers were secondary to the ship: I was cargo being transported from point A to point B. I really felt that the captain and crew would have been happier without passengers aboard. The highlight of being aboard ship was the courtesy and service of the Indonesian and Filipino crew members. I watched a significant number of the passengers treating the dining crew with disdain. The crew in general spoke English phrases but did not have a comprehension of the language. I saw that lead to discourteous passenger behavior. During my second day on the ship the man in front of me in the open serving line berated the dining crew member. All she did was continue smiling at him because she did not understand what he said. I did and I sailed into a cold argument with him until he left. In short, the pleasing ambiance of the cruise was highly diluted by the attitude of the captain and staff and the passengers themselves (median age was over 70 years of age). I spoke to many passengers aboard and we were the only first time cruisers I found. Most people averaged four to five cruises with one couple having completed 17 cruises! My husband and I concluded that we were not really cruisers. Both of us were distressed by the disconnect with the environment, including the ship itself. Personally, I wanted knowledge, not entertainment. Because of this experience, my next cruise will more than likely be through my college--where a professor is assigned to passengers to explain and discuss the environment. That type of cruise has value to me. Overall, I would recommend a HAL cruise. Now that I think I know what to expect--and do--I will probably return to the ms Zaandam for a short cruise as it has a home in my memories. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I didn't find much about teens on the Zaandam, so thought I would write my first review ever! We have sailed often, NCL, Disney, Carnival, Celebrity, and now HAL. I was concerned that HAL might not be teen-friendly, but booked this ... Read More
I didn't find much about teens on the Zaandam, so thought I would write my first review ever! We have sailed often, NCL, Disney, Carnival, Celebrity, and now HAL. I was concerned that HAL might not be teen-friendly, but booked this cruise as it fit with our dates and I liked the itinerary that included College Fjord and Glacier Bay. Stateroom: We were in a stateroom on the first floor, far aft. Our stateroom attendant was amazing and always kept our room clean and neat. The bathroom was large enough for all three teens to cram in at one time if necessary. As others have mentioned, the windows need to be cleaned, but we were able to at least note where we were to determine if we should go upstairs for a better view! Others have mentioned smells on the lower decks. On one day, there was a terrible sewer smell midship, but it didn't reach our cabin. On the same day, our toilet stopped working, but a stop at the front desk had that fixed within the hour. There was amazing storage in the stateroom. We managed to put everything away in drawers or closets, with the suitcases under the bed. The two beds were very comfortable, the sofa bed not so comfortable. Overall, we were happy with the stateroom. Ship: I thought the ship was in decent shape, though a bit tired. The promenade around deck 3 was a highlight. I spent many hours walking around and enjoying the beautiful scenery all around. The main thing that needs upgrading (as others have mentioned) is the terrible red carpet. It would be nice to have the windows cleaned as well. Teens: The teens loved the teen club, the Loft. They also enjoyed having the private outside teen area, the Oasis. However, it was really too cold to spend a lot of time at the Oasis. They would have preferred a warmer cruise to take full advantage of the teen area. My biggest concern before this cruise was that my three teens would be the only teens on the ship. Not to worry!! There were over 20 teens in the Loft on any given evening. My kids stayed up late each night at the Loft, coming back at midnight or even 1 am! The nice thing about the teen club is that the teens mainly seemed to hang out there. You didn't see a lot of teens running around pushing elevator buttons, for example. In fact, I felt like the teens were almost too invisible! Overall, my teens had a blast and are still in touch with their new friends on Facebook. Pros: Promenade on Deck 3. Great for long walks, 4 times around is a mile. Great place to spot wildlife. Saw a ton of whales, sea otters and seals. Food was outstanding, good variety. Loved our wait staff. We had anytime dining, but got the same table and servers every night by arriving early. Forward deck 6 for Glacier Bay was wonderful. Get there either by going through the theatre and up the stairs, or just going forward on deck 6. Very quiet, great views. Captain did an amazing job getting very close to glaciers. Naturalist in Glacier Bay was outstanding. Cruise director was very upbeat and friendly. Other passengers were friendly. Crew was amazing, probably the friendliest crew of any of our past cruises. Cons: There is one thing I found odd about this cruise. Not sure if it occurs on all HAL ships or just the Zaandam. I know there is always food available somewhere, but it was a nuisance that the Lido was closed between 8 and 11 pm. We usually eat dinner early (5:30 pm), skip dessert, and then have dessert in the buffet around 9 pm. We had to adjust this to have dessert at 11 pm. Not a big deal, but on all the other ships I have sailed, the buffet was open many more hours. Here room service was the only evening option. There was also a scheduling oddity. On the final night, the waiters put on a nice show and it seemed appropriate to be there to support your waiter for all the fine service they have provided all week. However, just during dinner we arrived at College Fjord. Thus most people missed the formal dinner. Entertainment on the ship was only so-so, far inferior to NCL, a bit inferior to Celebrity. But with all the beautiful scenery and long days of sunlight, you didn't really need great shows. The exception was the Piano Bar. As others have noted, this was a real gem. Overall: We enjoyed the HAL Zaandam and would sail on HAL again if the itinerary was right. Certainly I wouldn't hesitate to bring teens on a HAL Alaskan itinerary! Teen Friendly Excursions: Ketchikan: We fished with Ken from Northern Lights. So many fish in 3 hours we couldn't deal with them all! Ken is so funny, really enjoyed our morning with him. Ken has a three-hour special rate, three hours was plenty for us. Afternoon, geocaching around town. Juneau: Hiked West Glacier Train at Mendenhall Glacier on our own. We didn't see any bears, but were slightly nervous we might! We had empty soda cans filled with rocks to make noise just in case.... The hike was nice, we got way above the glacier looking down. We had meant to hike TO the glacier but took a wrong turn. It turns out you need to take the trail marked "Hazardous Unmaintained Trail", that is the correct trail to take! Hmmmm... It was raining and the trail did seem hazardous so we stayed on the main trail. It also got pretty hazardous! Overall, fun hike with lots of vertical (1200 ft at least) and nice downward view of the glacier. And....free. Well, I guess not totally free. We rented a car at Rent-a-Wreck for about $50. Skagway: Our best day. We started out the morning doing zip-lining at Mammoth waterfalls zipline. This is a new zipline, just opened this year. It was not offered through the ship, but probably will be by next year. Only other people on the excursion were a group of young adults who had a day off from their jobs at the White Pass RR. We have been on many ziplines, all over the world. Thus I didn't have high expectations for this one. However, it was really fun! The lines went over the river and waterfalls, very beautiful. The guides were hilarious, safe and fun. Highly recommend. Then, our best excursion of the entire cruise: Paintball in Skagway! If you have teens, this can't be beat! It is called Splat Paintball, the owner Josh picks you up right at the ship in his splat bus and takes you to his beautiful course right by the river. It is really two fields, both incredibly scenic. Western theme. $40 per person, and it lasted for several hours. It was so much fun! Josh provides complete jumpsuits to keep your clothes clean, my teens wore double suits for added protection. He provides all the safety gear and all the paint and everything you need. You just show up by your ship and he takes care of everything else. Because the other family didn't show up, Josh arranged for us to play with some locals who were awesome! This was the highlight of our excursions! Thanks Josh! And thanks Heath and Eric too for playing with us! Embarkation/Disembarkation: We usually arrive early for cruises and wait in endless lines. This trip we arrived around 2pm, walked right on the ship with all of our luggage, straight to our cabin and unpacked! Very easy, on the ship within minutes of arrival. We have also typically had long lines to get off the ship. HAL really has this down pat, at least in Seward. We did self debarkation, walked off the ship with all of our luggage at 9 am, absolutely nobody in front of us, just walked off, walked through customs, and got our ride to the rental car. Off the ship in maybe 5 minutes max. Amazing! Self Drive to Airport: We had a late flight so kept the fun coming! We first visited the Sea Life Center in Seward. Small, but very nice, took maybe an hour. Then drove to Portage Glacier. Took a really nice boat ride to the glacier front, definitely worthwhile! Then hiked to Byron Glacier where we could actually walk on ice. Byron Glacier trailhead is right at Portage Glacier, so it was easy to get to. Last stop was the Alaskan Wildlife Center. It was ok, not great. But it was fun to see bears close up! Finally to the airport to say goodbye to beautiful Alaska! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We decided to booked our first cruise to explore Alaska last July, 2011. After doing some research and talked with friends, we decided to go with Holland America (HAL). Zaandam did not disappoint us, we're very happy overall with the ... Read More
We decided to booked our first cruise to explore Alaska last July, 2011. After doing some research and talked with friends, we decided to go with Holland America (HAL). Zaandam did not disappoint us, we're very happy overall with the whole experience! Highly recommended it to everyone! The ship itself, Zaandam, is a bit outdated especially in the room interior. It probably needs some remodeling in the near future, but it is adequate for our needs. The bed is surprisingly very comfortable. The overall experience in the ship was great. Service was excellent, everyone was very friendly and helpful. The activities and entertainment was pretty good. While the entertainment was catered toward the older crowd, we were quite pleased with it. The food was really good, lots of variety, tasty and presentation was superb. The food is probably the best part of the whole thing. During the cruise, the view was amazing. We were able to see the glaciers and even multiple whales. The crew would explain in the detail as we're cruising so you will be informed throughout the whole excursion. We didn't book any shore excursion at the ports through the cruise line although we believe most people did. The port check-in/checkout process was a breeze. No long lines, everything was smooth and quick. Throughout the cruise, we felt spoiled and treated very nicely. We think it's worth every penny! We will surely book another cruise with HAL! :) Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was a trip to a) get on the water in a ship once again and b) see how HAL's Zaandam shaped up for a trip we are planning on later.Canada Place: Embarkation and get off went very smoothly. Nothing unusual. I tried my Nexus card ... Read More
This was a trip to a) get on the water in a ship once again and b) see how HAL's Zaandam shaped up for a trip we are planning on later.Canada Place: Embarkation and get off went very smoothly. Nothing unusual. I tried my Nexus card instead of passport and it worked. Bit more slowly cause number had to be entered on lap top at check-in and attendant completely unfamiliar with procedure and sought out help. (early in season and it likely will get better)Room/ship in good shape. Similar to the Volendam which we had sailed previously.Tried anytime dining and it was a complete failure. We were allowed to book times of 5:30 or 7:30 OR TAKE CHANCE. Did the later and it didn't work. Although we could see space in the room we waited with a buzzer first night 10 mins. after being sent to wait in lounge.(this was acceptable) 2nd night 1 hour plus. 3rd night we made arrangement to do the 5:30 and just allowed slow ordering to compensate for early hour. 3 night was no problem as we were docked in Victoria and along with the other restaurants being full and people who gave up for the main dining room all worked. There were no delays for walk ins at all.Breakfast in the main dining room too was unusual also. Long line and staff suggesting that we all eat in the Buffet. Lots of empty tables. (1st and 2nd day) 3rd day was disembarkation and was fine.Only other issue was the smoking. Odor in and near casino made it unusable for us. Also the piano bar. Crows nest was uncomfortable on several occasions also.Everything else was as I expected on HAL and had no issues with at all. GReat room staff.We have been to both Ports many times and didn't get off in Seattle except to check on the TerminalVictoria we took a $7.50 return shuttle to the inner harbourImmigration USA on embarkation and Canadian in Victoria and Vancouver...very professional and efficient. Victoria was just an eyeball check as we walked by.would cruise this class of ship again in a minute. Great size, easy to get around and has all the things I need for a cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
This was a family trip consisting of my sister and I (who are in our 30's) with our 60-something mom. We are Chinese Americans from California. We have all cruised before a few times on a Yangtze River cruise and to the Caribbean and ... Read More
This was a family trip consisting of my sister and I (who are in our 30's) with our 60-something mom. We are Chinese Americans from California. We have all cruised before a few times on a Yangtze River cruise and to the Caribbean and Bahamas on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. This was our first time to Alaska and on Holland America. HAL Zaandam: May 15 - 22, 2011Vancouver, Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord, SewardPost Cruise:Kenai Fjord Cruise, Alaska Railroad from Seward to Anchorage, AnchorageTravel to VancouverWe flew to Vancouver from CA the day before embarkation. The airport was not very full and we passed through customs and baggage claim with ease. We used the ATM just as you exit baggage claim on the left to get CAD. We had initially planned to take the SkyTrain, but since it was raining we decided to take a taxi instead. It was about $35 CAD with tips. The cab driver was not very friendly and did not wear a seat belt and drove haphazardly weaving in and out of lane. He hesitantly helped us with the luggage. At one point the cab smelled like burnt plastic. He opened the window to clear the air. We were glad to make it to the hotel in one piece!Sheraton Wall Center VancouverI used Hotwire to get this hotel. I called the week before to ask for two beds and was pleasantly surprised to find that we were upgraded to the newly renovated North Tower. I had assumed we would be in the older South Tower because of the Hotwire booking. The room was not ready when we arrive at 11am but was ready by 1pm. It was clean and quiet on an upper floor. We had views of downtown and peek a boo views of False Creek. The lobby of the North Tower is very nice with a bar and lounge. The South Tower lobby is very small. Taxi stand is in front of the South Tower. The gym and pool is in a weird location in the conference area between the towers. It was at the bottom of a flight of stairs that were hard to find. I did not feel safe going back there by myself although I saw many people there.VancouverWe walked down to Granville Island after checking into the hotel. We walked around a bit and grabbed some food for lunch. The walk there was very nice on the Granville Bridge where we had wonderful views of the marinas, downtown, and the surrounding snow covered mountains. I wish I took pictures of the mountain because it was all foggy and covered the next day when we sailed off! We took the #51 bus back to downtown because it started to rain and it took us almost 45 mins to walk over. I had planned to go to Lynn Canal, but we were getting tired after lunch and the increasing rain did not encourage me either. Instead we took a long nap in our room before dinner time. We walked up to Robson St. to stroll the shops. I had to resist not buying anything as they had many cute items! I was heading towards Denman Ave. where I had eaten well on a previous trip. But we stumbled upon Hon's Noodle House on Robson where we had an excellent last meal of Chinese comfort food before our cruise.EmbarkationWe took a taxi to Canada Place without problems. The porters greeted us at the curb. We had printed and attached the luggage tags ahead of time so they took our checked bags right away on the carts. Customs was a breeze as well. Then we got to the HAL check in. The agent that checked us in seemed scattered brain. I had to correct her several times. The other agents sounded more put together. We then took seats in a staging area until they were ready for our group. Then it was a quick walk pass the photo area to the gangway. Our room was on Level 2, where the gangway was so it was very convenient. We dropped off our carryon bags in the room and went up to the Lido for lunch and then a tour of the ship.Public SpacesThe ship looked much better in person than online. The color and finishing are certainly bold but came across gaudy online. It was much more elegant in person.My favorite spot to hang out was on one of the Eames chairs by the window at the Explorations Cafe. I spent many hours with my iPad and a cup of coffee and watching the scenery go by. They had an excellent library with Alaska guides and books, plus other fiction and non fiction books of all subjects. There were also many games and puzzles to keep adults and kids busy. There were sufficient computers to accommodate everyone. I purchased an internet plan at $55 for 100 minutes. Wifi was available in all the public lounges, but I was able to get a signal in the cabin a few times, though it was not consistent. The satellite connection was very slow so the minutes ate up fast. They had 2 for 1 minutes on the last day. The NY Times website was free so we used that to read up on the days' news and to check the weather. The Explorer's Lounge and Seaview Lounge were also great spots to read and watch the scenery if the library was full. We passed through the casino but never played in it. The smoking bothered us.The Spa and Fitness Center were excellent! We purchased the Thermal Suite pass on the first day and used the heated loungers and mineral pool daily. There is a private deck right outside the thermal suite that was a great "cool down" when it got too warm. The fitness center had adequate equipment to keep the gym rat happy. It had absolutely awesome views as it was on the bow. There are seats at the bow windows in front of the treadmills and these are some of the best seats on the boat for scenic cruising days. A word of caution for the locker rooms: the keys are universal meaning your key can open any locker and vice versa. Do not put anything of value in the lockers. Leave it in your room safe. I found out one day when an older gentleman walked off with my robe by mistake and told me he was able to open his locker with my key. My sister used the hot tub and pool under the enclosed roof and said the temperature was fine. We saw a few people in the aft outdoor kiddie pool. They had the polar bear plunge there on Glacier Bay day and a teenager said that the pool was heated.We used the launderette quite a few times. You can get quarters from the front desk. Washer is $2, dryer $1. Sometimes it was full, other times empty. There were no posted times for the room and the door was open all night long though we tried to finish early. The dryers are high up and deep! We lost a few items but found them later. We also found other people's things which we returned to the room.DiningBefore the cruise, I wasn't sure I wanted to sit through 2 hours of dinner at the Main Dining Room each night. My last all inclusive resort's food was not worth the time. Well, the food on the Zaandam Rotterdam Dining Room was superb! We ate there all but one night. We chose Anytime Dining because I wasn't sure about our shore activities, but went at 7:45pm each night and were seated in the same general area though we had different servers and attendants. In hindsight, I would have chosen the late 8pm seating so we could get the same staff. We are used to excellent fresh cuisine in CA and the MDR did not disappoint. We enjoyed choosing the daily specials from the highlighted chef of the day from the Culinary Council. As for the Master Chef's Dinner, we enjoyed it and it appeared the staff did as well. The menu selection was adequate and the service was only slowed by a tad bit. We ate at the Lido for all meals and found it to be ok. Even though some menu items were the same as the MDR, we found the quality to be inferior though still good. They served us in the Lido the first 2 days to prevent any illnesses. We came to the Lido often to fill our travel mug/canteen with hot water/tea and coffee, especially on cold glacier days! The Lido got busy at times and trying a table can be challenging during those times. Some people ate out under the covered roof area by the pool. We didn't go to the Pinnacle Grill or Canaletto and ate the Terrace Grill only once.We ordered room service for breakfast for many days because we had such early start to our days. Breakfast was delivered warm and on time (usually the first 10 min of the 30 min window). The selection did get repetitive though. We tried to write in items and succeeded with hard boiled eggs but failed with French toast.There was afternoon tea in the MDR daily at 3pm. I only went to the Indonesian Tea day. The snacks were delicious! We were also tempted by the Cupcake day but decided our waistlines had enough.I found menus for all the venues on display in the Greenhouse Spa retreat room. It was great to preview them so I had an idea by dinner time. I think they are also on display at the Lido and outside the MDR too. ActivitiesSince our days were early and often long, we weren't looking for a party scene. I really enjoyed reading in the library the most. Given the age and interest of the average traveler on this particular cruise, the activities offered were pretty low key. The daily Explorer newsletter was delivered to the room nightly for the next day. But they should post the listings thorough the ship. We took a picture of the list with our camera so we can refer to it. You can also pick up extra copies by the librarian's desk.We didn't go to any of the travel guide talks, but we watched many of them on TV in the cabin. Our guide Kainoa was excellent. I enjoyed listening to his talks while I was folding clothes or doing other things around the cabin. They also broadcast other shows on TV as I watched the Filipino Crew show and the disembarkation assembly including the "Love in Any Language" performance on TV.We tried to go the kitchen galley tour but decided against it because it was VERY crowded. We went to one of the cooking demo with Chef Anand from the Pinnacle Grill where he prepared a salad and crème brulee. They had recipe cards for both dishes and small pots of crème brulee samples for the audience. One product I learned about was caramelized sugar. This product will caramelize on its own without a torch! Great for those without one and as Chef Anand said, they had to use it because the sample pots were plastic. These demos were very popular. Get there early for seats, otherwise you will have to stand or sit in the aisles.The jackpot bingos seem to be very popular as the lines were out the door at the theater before each event. I didn't set foot in the computer lab but some of the offerings looked interesting. My mom went to a tai chi class and my sister took a yoga class and both had positive feedback. Mom also went to a dance class and the flower arranging demo and she enjoyed them both. We wanted to do wine/liquor tasting but never got around to it. There were Friends of Bill W meetings and LGBT Gatherings daily.We really appreciated not being hawked to as we had been on previous cruises. There were no frequent public announcements about art or jewelry sales. The "sidewalk" sales in the hallways and Lido were not pushy. A big plus for class by HAL.EntertainmentWhat can I say? This was cruise ship level entertainment. Most of the theater production was cheesy to me but my mom and others seem to enjoy it. I watched the first few minutes of the Broadway review with Bob Mackie costumes and had to leave. The Crow's Nest is the "club" but it's a different type of club than I am used to. I am not sure I heard anything from the last 20 years the few times I was up there. Jenny and the HAL Cats was a good lounge act and Jenny tried to keep the room engaged. But most of the time, the dance floor was empty and people sat around drinking and talking. Singing with Jenny was a live Karaoke with the HAL Cats as the backup.... lots of Elvis and country songs. Karaoke with the DJ was also filled with the same tunes.The other live musicians on board were excellent. The chamber group played in the lounge each night and sometimes in the MDR. I played violin many moons ago so I appreciated their talents. I saw the violin player in the gym almost daily. He is a cordial young man from Eastern Europe who was having a good time traveling with the ship. The jazz group also sounded great in the Ocean Bar. We noticed that the pianist was reading her sheet music from an iPad!ServiceTop notch all around! It was a little unusual for us to see such a homogenous crew of mostly Indonesian and Filipinos. The Spa and other staff were more diverse. Our cabin stewards Setyo and Dwi were discreet yet friendly. Setyo was almost ALWAYS in the hall to greet us when we came back! He always asked about our day and if we needed anything. My sister was feeling a little left out with the towel animals the first two days so I told Setyo to make sure to give her one next. He didn't wait until the next day. She had one waiting for her the same night after dinner. Since we had Anytime Dining, we had different servers. We had great service with all of them and minor issues were taken care of immediately. The Lido staff was busy but we had a few attendants who made us feel special, joking with us about seeing whales and wildlife.Other passengersOk.... this is the one bad part of the review. A few rude passengers really clouded our experience of the cruise. I knew that with HAL and going early in the season, fellow passengers would fall in the older age range. But it was REALLY apparent we were in the minority both in terms of age and ethnicity. Most passengers were Caucasian in their golden years. We are Chinese but our skin tone and facial features are such that we are mistaken for Filipinas often. We thought we were paranoid and self conscious that we looked like the "hired help." But several personal experiences throughout the cruise really confirmed some passengers' bad attitudes. My mom was in the Greenhouse Spa retreat room in her street clothes drinking the juice before she changed into her robe to go into the Thermal Suite. A woman snobbishly said to her, "you know this is a special area for those who paid extra!" We had several more interactions like this in the spa/thermal suite and at the Lido and other public areas with other passengers who gave us the cold shoulder and did not seem interested in talking with us either as a group or individually. My mom commented that she felt like she was in a time warp in the pre-segregation era! We did not experience this on our previous cruises.I hope those rude passengers were just the exception and not the norm of typical HAL passengers. We certainly met many very friendly and interesting passengers of all backgrounds and had many interesting conversations. But those FEW rude people really spoiled the experience for us. I talked a gay couple who told us they did not feel comfortable holding hands in public, and I don't blame them. There were a handful of babies and a few school aged children. The mom of a couple of grade school boys said they were having a great time despite not having many children of their age around. They had a special junior ranger program on Glacier Bay day where the kids can get their badge. Extended day by day travelogue with photos on the Alaska forum:http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1421385 Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Just off the Zaandam in the Pacific SouthwestWanted to knock out a short review of this little 3-day cruise we just disembarked from this morning. Hadn't been on a ship in more than a year after disembarking in Hong Kong in March 2010 ... Read More
Just off the Zaandam in the Pacific SouthwestWanted to knock out a short review of this little 3-day cruise we just disembarked from this morning. Hadn't been on a ship in more than a year after disembarking in Hong Kong in March 2010 so we were desperate to get back aboard. Our best buddies Bob and Judy suggested this one with an overnight at their place the night before and we jumped at it. Sailing with them is always a barrel full of monkeys. Drove to Canada Place to board the Zaandam and arrived there at 11:00 am. Had to wait about an hour due to a Coast Guard inspection but when we finally got on at noon, our cabins were ready which was GREAT as we had elected to drag our luggage aboard as opposed to having it delivered to our room. Unpacked and eating lunch within 40 minutes flat. AMAZING! Every cruise line should do this. Make a commitment to have cabins ready by noon. OUTSTANDING and kudos to HAL and the entire staff for making it happen. We had read on the Cruise Critic boards that we could do lunch at half price in the Pinnacle Grille specialty restaurant on embarkation but found that this was not the case so don't expect to do that. We later found that there was a special brunch/lunch for members of the Mariner Society (past HAL cruisers of which we were four) in the main dining room but no one had told us this. So we are telling you now. If you have sailed with HAL before, head there once you board. Since we didn't know this we headed up to the buffet for lunch. HAL has a new policy that to prevent NORO outbreaks they do not allow you to serve yourself in the buffets until 48 hours after sailing. This was strictly adhered to. This meant that the poolside grille had no condiments for hot dogs or hamburgers or self-serve pizza until lunch on our last full day. Kind of drag on a 3 day but we understand. I think I will break the rest of this review up into the good and the bad and then a couple of extra notes. First the good. Food was good (not great). Everyone always wants to know that first. HAL cabins are outstanding. More storage than you could shake a stick at and maybe the most comfortable beds we have ever slept on in our 14 previous cruises. Our cabin steward Abdul was outstanding. He introduced himself as soon as we walked out of our cabin on our first day and gave us his card with his extension number and told us to call anytime we needed anything. That's the right attitude. Other PAX were outstanding. We did "Anytime Dining" (more about that later) and had wonderful table mates every night. We met tons of other great people through our Cruise Critic roll call and people who knew our buddy Judy (which we think was most of the ship). We also thought that the Zaandam herself for being more than 11 years old was in gorgeous condition. The ship is truly beautiful and very well taken care of. We saw very few cosmetic touches that needed fixing. Now the bad. We were on this cruise to kind of do a test run to see if we would enjoy the Zaandam on a longer trip. We are normally Celebrity cruisers but Bob is looking for a 14+ cruise from Vancouver to Hawaii and back and the Zaandam fits the bill. We wanted to see if we would enjoy her that much. We had three HUGE problems on this cruise. First was the smoking. Celebrity (our usual cruise line) has pretty much banished smoking from every ship other than two designated spots on each ship. If you are a non-smoker, you can easily avoid those. HAL on the other hand still allows smoking throughout the ship including many lounges, private cabins and verandahs. I am extremely allergic to cigarette smoke and even the slightest whiff gives me a sinus headache that puts me flat on my back for the rest of the day. HAL needs to catch up with the rest of the world. If entire countries (Ireland, Italy) and states (Washington, California) can ban smoking in public places then HAL can to. I am just not sure that I could put up with a ship where I had to go downstairs to go to the front of the ship because I couldn't walk from the front to the back on a public deck due to the smoke. And as Bob pointed out, the age of the ship makes Zaandam's air circulation system unable to keep up with the smoke where newer ships might not have that problem.Second was HAL's "Anytime Dining." This was a joke as was their dining room in general. Let's start with trying to make reservations for dinner. We stopped and asked on the first day at the reservations desk and asked for a 6:30 pm reservation. We were told that they were only taking reservations for "Anytime Dining" at 5:15 and 7:30. We felt that was both too early and too late for us. We were told that if we wanted to eat between those two times we would need to "walk up." So that night we went down at 6:30 and were told it would be about an hours wait. We took their buzzer and went to wait in the lounge. About 10 minutes later, it buzzed and we were seated. We almost gave up and went to the buffet but thankfully we didn't. We ended up eating around 7:00. The second night we went a little earlier (closer to 6:15) and were again told, it would be an hour. This time it was more than an hour. Finally around 7:15 I went down to see how things were going and ran into a couple from Redmond who were trying to ask the same thing. Every person who asked was told an hour. She and I both pushed a little and we were seated almost immediately. In the dining room were a bunch of empty tables but we felt they were understaffed so they were not able to seat everyone. The second night also had to wait quite a while to order or even get menus and finally were done with dinner pretty close to 10:00 pm.Both the first two nights there was a continuous line at the entrance to the dining room but the last night there wasn't. We had made 5:30 reservations, got there, got seated right away and had a very nice dinner. Part of this ease on the last night could have been because we were still docked in Victoria until 10:30 and some PAX were off the ship eating in Victoria or because many of the people who had stood in long lines the night before had just given up. I will say that in the dining room there seemed to be no systems in place. Busboys walked around looking at dirty dishes on tables and made no effort to remove them. Waiters appeared and disappeared sporadically. We had to ask to find a wine steward which is usually unheard of because that is a major profit center for them but each night we had to ask. Once we did get menus and order things usually went pretty well and the waiters we had weren't bad, they were just overworked and disorganized in general. And we tried to eat breakfast in the dining room every morning and each time we were told that it would be, "an hour wait." Ridiculous. Especially when later we found that people right behind us in line before we gave up got in within 15 minutes.Another HAL bad is the coffee. The coffee we had in the dining room or the buffet was HORRID! Worst coffee ever! Thankfully we were able to go to the Explorations Cafe on deck 5 and buy Torrefazioni coffee which is an outstanding Starbucks subsidiary. The problem with the Explorations though is that they have only one person working the counter and that person literally takes 7-10 minutes to make a single drink. Seriously. It took forever. I will also say that while we didn't see either of the two evening shows, we did hear many of the lounge acts and the classical violin trio was HORRIBLE! One of the members was beyond tone deaf. Sounded like you would imagine a child of five would sound while practicing their scales.Lastly, after experiencing Celebrity's service I just don't think that HAL is up to par. Even bad X service. Our first morning out I wanted to walk the lower promenade deck for the hour before we docked in Seattle. I passed about 15 different crew members and gave each a smile and a "good morning" but not a single one said a word back to me or even acknowledged me. That would NEVER happen on an X ship. Also that morning there were a number of people doing laps with me but about an hour before we docked, three crew members came out and roped off a section of the deck so we couldn't make a complete circuit. They then sat there and drank coffee for an hour while people came up to the rope, stopped, turned around and went completely around to the other side of their rope. Why they felt they had to rope it off so they could stand there and drink coffee and cut us off from a normal run is beyond me. Disembarkation was a piece of cake. We did breakfast in the dining room (first time we had ever been able to do that without an hour's wait) and then walked off the ship with our luggage in tow. Some PAX were a little upset that there was no luggage pickup the night before as there usually is on a cruise. They told everyone that they needed to get their own luggage off the ship themselves but if they needed help, they should just call. It seemed to work extremely well. We were called to leave the ship at 8:00 am and were in the car driving home by 8:30. Not too bad. All in all we enjoyed ourselves but we won't be able to do that longer cruise until HAL fixes their smoking policy and brings it more into line with the rest of the world. Once they do that, I will be able to treat them as secondary line in my life to X. Until then, Celebrity gets my money. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
were disappointed with our recent Zaandam cruise. Are now 3 star mariners and will sail with HAL again.There were quite a few issues on the Zaandam that added up to our disappointment. The big view windows in Crows'Nest, Lido ... Read More
were disappointed with our recent Zaandam cruise. Are now 3 star mariners and will sail with HAL again.There were quite a few issues on the Zaandam that added up to our disappointment. The big view windows in Crows'Nest, Lido restaurant, Rotterdam DR, and around the Lido pool that were so dirty and salt encrusted that it was quite difficult to catch the grand views. The crew responsible for the cleaning of these windows should be ashamed. Certainly not up to usual HAL standards at all. Tile around Lido pool cracked and chipped and dirty. Floor in same area were stained. Although I noticed new carpets in some areas, carpeting in high traffic areas worn and stained. The textiles (drapes, bedding) frayed and very dated. The Lido restaurant was noticably disorganized at lunch and dinner. The breakfast shift had it all together, however. Quite a few areas for improvement here.Food was good, and service up to usual high HAL standards.Did we have a good time? For sure! And plan to sail with HAL in the future. In fact, we put a deposit down during this cruise for next fall sailing. It seems as though poor Zaandam has not received her usual TLC lately. She needs a good refit and update. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Getting there: We left Dallas at 8:30 on Monday, January 22. Thanks to frequent flyer miles we were able to fly executive class, which makes it so much easier on long flights. We flew Dallas to Tokyo, had a layover in Tokyo, and then ... Read More
Getting there: We left Dallas at 8:30 on Monday, January 22. Thanks to frequent flyer miles we were able to fly executive class, which makes it so much easier on long flights. We flew Dallas to Tokyo, had a layover in Tokyo, and then continued to Hong Kong. We arrived in Hong Kong about midnight, caught a quick shuttle bus into town to the Holiday Inn Express Golden Mile, and nearly 24 hours after leaving home, we were in bed again. Embarkation: The next morning we walked around Hong Kong for a few hours, and then at 11:30, made the 15 minute walk to the ship, where we had the fastest embarkation we had ever experienced. As quickly as we could fill out a few forms, we went directly to a check in station, and were on the ship eating lunch in the Lido before noon. Just after noon they announced that the rooms were ready, and we went down, dropped off our carry on, and went off for a day of exploration that included the Chinese New Year's flower garden in Victoria Park, and a display of floats and illuminated laterns in the area near the Star Ferry. Since Chinese New Year is a week long celebration, we saw these decorations at every port we were visited, with the exception of Cambodia. We were back on the ship by 4:00, and went down for our open seating dinner. Only one show that night, at 7:30,a welcome aboard show, so one show and early to bed. We were fortunate to be in Hong Kong for Chinese New Years. We had obtained tickets by booking a tour through Gray Line, so after sleeping in and having breakfast in the MDR the next morning, we met the tour, and spent the day with them, culminating with grandstand viewing seats in the television taping area of the parade. This was HAL's first sailing from Hong Kong, and I don't think they realized that there would be a conflict between the passengers attending the Chinese New Year's parade , the lifeboat drill at 5:00 p.m.and a required face-to-face inspection by Chinese immigration prior to sailing. We sailed at 11:00, but and the all-aboard was at 7:00. Since the parade didn't start until 8:00, people with parade tickets had problems. I to the main desk,and was told not to worry about it, just to be back on board by 10:30 or so to go through immigration. Luckily the grandstand seats were just about 10 minutes from the ship, so we left just as the parade ended and rushed back aboard to meet with immigration. We got there about 10:15, and were no where near being the last on board. After clearing the face to face immigration, we found a note on our bed asking us to show up in the atrium for a mandatory lifeboat briefing the next morning. It was pretty crowded, as a large number of passengers had gone to the parade. Passengers took the briefing seriously, as did the crew, who at one point yelled at passengers who were laughing and talking during the safety drill. The ship: Yes, the ship certainly is ready for dry dock, but it certainly is not falling apart. Some stained carpeting, windows that seemed to be salt etched, rather than dirty, and a few rust stains here and there, did not detract from the fact that this is a beautiful ship. We were disappointed that the room did not contain a refrigerator. The biggest problem we had was with the room was a strange delay in the flushing of the toilet after you pushed the button. The first time it happened I called down and reported it, and then in a few minutes it flushed. The second time I called, I was told it was a ship-wide problem, and would be fixed shortly. This became a daily situation, and we finally stopped calling, because it seemed to fix itself in a few minutes. We also had a fire alarm go off due to a problem in the laundry, and a 24-hour red alert due to a 7 person outbreak of stomach virus. The ship seemed very empty, even though I know that this cruise was sold out. Both my husband and I commented on how empty the lounges and public rooms were. Food and Entertainment: The entertainment was as good as any I have seen on a ship. We especially enjoyed Preston Coe, a tenor from Texas with a beautiful voice. We also enjoyed the comedian, the Viet Namese cultural show, a classically trained hammer zither player and all of the shows done by the ships singers and dancers. There was a magician, but we did not go to that show. The passengers were a mix of north Americans, Brits, Aussies, Asians and Europeans. Americans actually seemed to be in the minority. The food seemed to be designed to meet the needs of the more eclectic passenger list, but over all was as good as you usually get on a cruise ship. I ate a lot of beef, all of which was prepared well. My husband was disappointed that the variety of fresh seafood, was not better, but did enjoy what he had. There were four formal nights, and it seemed to me that people were dressed less formally than usual. It actually seemed that there were more men in tuxes, but the wives were less formal, wearing more after-five outfits and dressy pants suits than long gowns. Excursions: We did a mixture of independent and HAL shore excursions. In every port we found people who spoke English, so going out on our own was never a problem. Our first stop was Ha Long Bay, a tendered port. We took the Red River Delta excursion which took us to Hai Phong, where we visited a pagoda, and a traditional Vietnamese home, and walked around the downtown area before a lunch buffet at a local hotel. At Sanya, we were not sure that we would even get off of the ship, as we were not sure that we could get off without a Chinese visa. The day before we got to Sanya, I went down to the excursion desk and talked to them about getting off. They said that HAL had obtained a group visa, and that everyone would be able to get off of the boat. In addition, HAL provided a free shuttle service to a shopping area in town. We rode the bus to the shopping area, and walked to 2 to 3 miles back to the boat, visiting shops and malls along the way. At Nha Trang we did the Nha Trang Highlights. We visited the Po Nagar Cham Towers, the Long Son Pagoda, an embroidery shop and a beach front cafe. Then on to Phu My, which is the port for Saigon. Those of us on the tour referred to it by the new name of Ho Chi Minh City, until we noticed that the tour guide was calling it Saigon. Someone asked if the name hadn't been changed, and he said that it had, but that the name was just too long and hard to say, so that the locals now call it Saigon again. HAL has an excursion that drives you the 2 hours into Saigon from the port, drops you off at the Rex Hotel downtown, and picks you up about 4 hours later. You are free to explore on your own, and there is plenty to see within walking distance. We visited the market and the reunification hall (the old presidential palace) and walked around the town seeing things such as the city hall, the opera house and the market. There are a number of buildings that show the French influence on the town, and in places the architecture reminded us of New Orleans. Then it was on to Sihanoukville, Cambodia. It is never a good sign when part of the shore talk deals with the fact that "you may see things that make you uncomfortable" as far as the level of living goes. This was by far the least economically developed area we visited. There were only 2 ship's excursions offered at this port, and they both involved beach time. Not being beach people, we took the ship's free transfer into the market area of the town. Before the bus stopped the guide gave us a warning about the aggressive tuk-tuk drivers and tour guides who would assail you as you got off of the bus, and he didn't exaggerate. We finally pushed our way through the crowd and made it to the main street, where we walked around just looking at the town. At the shore talk, Michael had mentioned that French wines were well priced in Cambodia, so we stopped at a grocery store and bought several bottles of wine to replenish our supply, and then found an unbelievably cheap internet cafe to supplement the time we had bought aboard ship. The town's market is well worth a visit to get a sense of how the people live, however it deals mostly in the day to day needs of the people, and is not much of a souvenir shopping area. I could hardly wait to reach Laem Chabang, as we had made independent arrangements to spend the night in Bangkok. We found that we could make our own arrangements for less money, and have more time to spend in Bangkok, if we did it ourselves. There was one small glitch in our plans. HAL takes your passport before you reach Laem Chabang, and Thai immigration officials come on board and process all of the visas on the sea day before you reach Thailand. You don't get your passport back for a couple of days, and we realized that we would need documentation to check into our hotel in Bangkok. I checked with the front desk, and they told us that we would not be able to access our passport until late in the day on the first day in Thailand. They did offer to get us a copy of our entry card early on the first port day, and we had the photocopy of our passport that HAL gives you. We checked with our hotel, and they were willing to accept these as documentation for check in. Our limo service was waiting in Laem Chabang when we left the boat at 9:00, and 2 hours later we checked into our hotel in Bangkok. We stayed in Chinatown, because of its proximity to the water taxis, which we utilized frequently as we toured the wats, temples and the Grand Palace. A dinner cruise on a restored antique rice barge, with wonderful Thai food, followed by an exhilarating tuk-tuk ride back to our hotel rounded out the evening. The next morning we spent a few more hours exploring the town, until our limo service picked us up and took us back to the ship. Koh Samui was our last Thailand port. It was a tendered port. None of the excursions interested us, so we walked around town, stopping at a waterside cafe for a local beer. As we were walking, we turned down a small road and walked out into the countryside. We came upon a coconut plantation, and stood and watched the trained monkeys climbing the trees to throw down the ripe coconuts. Disembarkation: Like embarkation, disembarkation was the best I have ever experienced. You turned in a card requesting a disembarkation group. We asked for and, received, group 1. Within 10 minutes of the captain's announcing that we could leave the ship, we had disembarked, claimed our luggage, and cleared customs. We took the metro to the airport, about a 25 minute ride, where we stayed at the Omni Hotel which is attached to the airport. We were there before 10:00 a.m., and they allowed us to check in and go to our room. We caught the metro back out, and spent the day exploring Singapore. We went to Raffles, and then to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, where we ate lunch, visited the Sky Tower, looked at the shops, and walked around the casino. Back at the hotel, we walked around the airport, a destination in itself with a full shopping center and numerous entertainment options. It was early to bed, and then up early to catch a flight back Tokyo, and then on to Dallas. It was really great to have only a 15 minute walk from our hotel to the gate area of the airport. Final Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this cruise. I felt that some of the ports, such as Sanya and Shinoukville had been put in just to give another port stop, but even though there were not a lot of touristy things, i.e. temples, palaces, etc., to see, you could still see the culture and observe how the people lived. To a person, the people at the ports in which we stopped seemed glad to have us there, and were friendly and welcoming. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
This was the first time we had sailed with Holland America. Cruising may be addictive and we were busy feeding our new found addiction. Recent empty-nesters we decided to try out our new "wings" and see what travel in the ... Read More
This was the first time we had sailed with Holland America. Cruising may be addictive and we were busy feeding our new found addiction. Recent empty-nesters we decided to try out our new "wings" and see what travel in the adult-only world feels like. We were thrilled at the prospect of having a cabin to ourselves and had heard HAL catered more to people at our stage of life than others so decided to try it out. Our last family cruise was on NCL's EPIC, which is a whole other review in itself... Embarkation was in San Diego. Trying to drop our bags off was confusing. Guys in the baggage drop area couldn't quite decide on where and how that should occur, shuffling customers from one point to another. When finally rid of our bags, we went to check in. Check in and embarkation went smoothly. Because we were early, rooms weren't ready but lunch on the Lido was. This was the first time I had ever been served at a buffet. It made for a pleasant experience. Because staff did the serving, there wasn't the usual spills and mess you usually find on most buffets. AND it seemed more hygienic. By day 3, people could more or less serve themselves but staff prepared and served most of the dishes as we went by. The food was always fresh and hot. My favorite was the Asian station. The sandwich line always had a wait as staff prepared food to order. Most times it was easier to get service on the hot meal lines. The dining rooms were elegant, the food was excellent and the service superb! We loved our waiter Ari and the maitre'd, Indra. They went over and above to insure our experiences were memorable. The ship was easily navigable. No blind turns that required us to go up then down to get where we were going. Signs were conveniently posted. The promenade deck was spacious. The only down side was the smell of sewer gases on the right hand side of the ship. The common areas were beautiful and comfortable. Our cabin was so, so, I've seen better but we were only there to shower and sleep. We had an outside cabin. Being on the promenade deck, people walked past our window at all hours and the deck got washed every morning about 6:00am. Most of the time, our curtain remained closed. We probably would have been better off in an inside cabin. It would have saved us some money and been quieter. Having recently been on the EPIC, we couldn't help but make certain comparisons. The art gallery and entertainment on Zaandam cannot measure up, however, the food and service were better. If you could have entertainment and decor from the EPIC, put it together with the food and service on the Zaandam, that would be perfect! When ready to go again, if the price is right, we wouldn't hesitate to book another trip with HAL. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
First let me state that most of my complaints about this cruise are not so much about the Zaandam and its crew as indictments of the cruise industry as a whole. Let's start with the feedback form, passed out on the ... Read More
First let me state that most of my complaints about this cruise are not so much about the Zaandam and its crew as indictments of the cruise industry as a whole. Let's start with the feedback form, passed out on the next-to-last day of the cruise. The purpose of such a process should be "Please tell us what we can do better to make for an improved cruise experience for our future customers." But when the cruise director instructed people how to complete the form he made it quite clear that he expected to receive 9's (the highest score) in all areas. In effect, he said "Anything less than a 9 represents a failure." On the surface this seems to represent great pride on his part and that of the company. But the net effect is to say "Please tell us how wonderful we are so that we don't have to change anything." The 1 to 9 scale becomes completely distorted and meaningless. The ship and it's personnel receive high scores for their performance but nothing changes for future passengers. Let me emphasize that this problem is not unique to HAL. A recent experience with NCL was the same—-the feedback form is a superficial gesture towards improving cruising but shows no real desire to do so. Let me take a specific example of something that can be improved but—-strangely enough--there was no place on the form to put it. The problems noted are nowhere near as harmful to the cruising experience as some I've seen noted by other critics but they are symbolic of how management tends to sweep little problems under the rug rather than make any meaningful changes. The in-cabin TV system was awful. For starters, the remote control only worked if you stood up to use it. (That was the only way to have a line-of-sight contact with the TV in my room). I'm no lazier than the next man but if I'm given a remote control I expect to be able to operate it while lying in bed. The content of the system was just as deficient. Two things I ask of an in-cabin system is to be able to see the correct time when I want and to know what is on each channel. I could only get the time about every ten minutes or so and to find out what movies or shows were playing was difficult to impossible. The reports from the bridge were good regarding the ship's position, course, etc. But much of the content of that channel (#40) was phony. I didn't ask for a system that provides the sunrise and sunset times for each day but it did seem like a nice feature to have. The problem was that the times never changed. Sunrise was always 7:05 and sunset was always 6:42, times that were as much as an hour off at some points in the trip. Similarly, I was impressed that the system would always be able to tell me the temperature of each Jacuzzi. Neat idea! Except that these never changed either, showing a temperature of 102.2F even when the Jacuzzis had been emptied! As a result of seeing all these inaccuracies, I could only pray that the navigation information was accurate and the captain really knew where we were. The point here is simple. Providing no information is better than providing inaccurate information. I was not impressed with the food on the Zaandam. In common with many cruise lines, I wish they would reduce the size of the menu and use the savings to upgrade the quality of the food. Taking a common cut of meat and giving it a fancy European name is like putting lipstick on a pig. Just give me some good, tasty food! To be fair to HAL and the Zaandam, there were many things about this cruise that were exemplary. The ship is well laid out (except for the level four entrance to the Rotterdam dining room). The staterooms are well planned. The maintenance of the public areas of the ship is very good and the crew is friendly, competent and has a great "team spirit." Embarkation and disembarkation were well planned and well executed. The overall plan for dining was good and had the right degree of flexibility. There were plenty of onboard activities and coffee was always available for us "early risers." Overall this was a pleasant cruise but I wish the management at HAL and the other cruise lines would become more responsive to customer concerns. Many of the problems I've seen cited in CC reviews are easy to fix and would improve the cruising experience of future customers. Management should listen to customer complaints rather than either their meaningless evaluation form data or only those complaints that rise to the level of asking for a refund or other redress. A good company doesn't try to substitute pizzazz for real quality and responsiveness to customer concerns. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We arrived in San Diego on November 6,2010 a day prior to sailing. HAL had reps at the airport to provide directions to transfer vehicles. Our pre and post nights were arraanged through HAL and the Hotel was excellent the Sheraton Marina ... Read More
We arrived in San Diego on November 6,2010 a day prior to sailing. HAL had reps at the airport to provide directions to transfer vehicles. Our pre and post nights were arraanged through HAL and the Hotel was excellent the Sheraton Marina Hotel. Embarkation and Disembarkation was well organized and went smoothly. We had one of the secret cabins 7083. A great location and plenty of room. Only drawback was that we had three different calls for toilet problems, and they were taken care of. Cabins were ready about two pm on date of sailing. We noticed a change in food since last cruising 30 years ago on HAL. The food was not as good as years ago. Service was slow and food was cold in the Rotterdam Dining Room. The Pinacle Grill was excellent and worth the extra $20pp for the steak. The Lido buffet is open for breakfast , lunch and dinner. Coffee is available 24/7. Beverages are the same price as you would pay on land in a bar.You can purchase a $100 beverage card for $90. Cruise photos are overpriced. The talks on board prior to arriving at the ports of call were excellent. The Water Fall Tour in Hilo was poor and they stopped at a local farm for half an hour to buy coffee and nuts. We advised the shore excursion office of this. The tour guide was not well informed. Other tours were excellent. We booked tours through HAL. Only disadvantage was that tours through HAL are expensive and I am sure you could get a better deal on the dock. The slot machines in the Casino are tight just a money grab. Most of the items in the shops on board cater to women and they have promo sales everyday. In light of other reviews the Zaandam was in good repair for a ten year old ship. Dont miss the 2 for 1 cocktail hour in the Crows Nest everyday and Harvey was the best. A daily program is delivered to your stateroom and there various activities throughout the day. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We flew to San Diego on Saturday morning the day before our Nov 7 round trip cruise to Hawaii on the Holland America Zaandam. We stayed at the Days Inn Harbor View because they offered shuttle service from the airport to the hotel, from ... Read More
We flew to San Diego on Saturday morning the day before our Nov 7 round trip cruise to Hawaii on the Holland America Zaandam. We stayed at the Days Inn Harbor View because they offered shuttle service from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the ship, and breakfast. We got to the hotel at 11:00 am and were able to check in. The type of room we reserved was not ready, so they gave us a deluxe queen room. We were satisfied with the hotel. Our room was clean, and the location was good. We were 2 or 3 blocks from Little Italy, so we walked there for lunch and had our choice of about 25 restaurants. There was a lot of activity, with a singing group and some of the street blocked off for booths of all kinds. On the way back to the hotel we were able to stop at a grocery store to pick up a couple of bottles of wine and some diet cokes to take with us on the ship. Breakfast was very limited, but we enjoyed eating at the outside tables and people watching. After breakfast we enjoyed a walk along the harbor to our ship and back to the hotel. Our shuttle got to the ship about 11:00 am and we went through security, check in and received our sign and sail card without any delay. Since we were a little early, we were given a group number and directed to sit in the waiting area. After about 20 minutes or so they started boarding the ship by groups. We probably were on board by 12:00, and had lunch. Our rooms were not ready until about 1:30. I had read some very negative reviews of this older ship, and our room was not a luxury hotel suite type, but it was very adequate. We always book a mid-ship ocean view stateroom on a lower deck. The room and bath were clean and everything worked. We unpacked our four suitcases, put them under the bed and had unused drawer, shelf and storage space. Our room steward was very good. He had an assistant but they had 30 cabins to see about. He brought our luggage into our room, instead of just leaving it outside our door. He always said hello when he saw us in the hall and if we walked by him he would spend a few minutes making small talk with us. During the cruise, one of the lights over our bed went out and the next day (without me reporting it) an electrician came to our room and took care of it. Our room had 4 pillows, but none of them were like my pillow at home. My wife liked her pillow and the bed, but I found my side of the bed too hard (you just can't please everyone). We had no problems with the layout or public areas of the ship. Entertainment is subjective, but we found the entertainment in the theater, bars and lounges to be just ok. The thing that we enjoyed the most was the Travel Guide. Kainoa is a native Hawaiian and his job was to see that we enjoyed the cruise, not to sell us something. Everyone that I heard talk was impressed with Kainoa. We also enjoyed the Culinary Arts Center on sea days when a chef would give a cooking demonstration. They would give us the recipe of what he had cooked and sometime a small serving to taste. We had early dining at a table for six. We ate dinner in the dinning room every night but one and thoroughly enjoyed dinner and our table mates. I enjoy eating almost anything as long as there is enough of it, but my wife has a more delicate taste. She was impressed with the food, both in the dining room and the Lido. We only had room service one time and it was OK. We also ate lunch in the Pinnacle one time and it was a good experience. This is our 14th cruise and we rarely take the ship land tours, and we did not use any ship land tours this trip. We prefer to be on our own or with a small group in a van instead of a bus load of 40+ people trying to see something or hear the guide. Out first port of call was Hilo where we had made reservations by e-mail with Ricky Banasan at rickystours @ yahoo.com. There was one other couple alone with my wife & I on the tour. This turned out to be a very good tour that cost us $60 each and took about 5 ½ to 6 hours. Among other places we went to Rainbow Falls, Volcano National Park, Thurston Lava Tube, a black sand beach, Liliuokalmi Gardens and of course stops where we could tour & buy Macadamia nuts, candy & orchids. Ricky talked the whole time discussing what we were seeing as we drove around the area. Our nest next port was Honolulu, where we had been to Pearl Harbor and Diamondhead Crater, etc on a previous cruise. This time we decided to just use the Waikiki Trolley, which is hop-on-hop-off with narration; however, depending on where you sit the speaker system is not that good. The Aloha Tower stop was just across the street from our ship terminal, so we walked across the street and bought our tickets. We accidentally picked a very good place to get off the first time at Punchbowl & King St. There was an old and interesting church & cemetery across the street from the stop and the Iolani Palace was just down the street. The back of the state capital is adjacent to the back of the Palace grounds. The tour of the Palace cost $20 and took about an hour. As we walked back to the trolley stop, we saw the trolley driving away. The trolleys come by every 35 to 40 minutes and our timing to catch them was bad all day. We only had time to ride the Red Line and did not have time to make all the stops we wanted. Our favorite port of call and island was Kauai. We rented a car at Nawiliwili and drove up to Waimea Canyon, and to the beaches, and Spouting Horn blowhole. The weather was great, even up at the canyon. We went on narrow gravel roads where a bus could not go, and stopped at overlooks whenever we wanted. We bought red dirt shirts and had a picnic of subway sandwiches. Our last and most disappointing port was on Maui. We had to tender in, but the process was stopped because of swells. The tendering process was moved from the port side to the starboard side of the ship and then continued. We had some things we wanted to buy, so we intended to go ashore, shop, find the post office and stop at a cafe for a leisure drink or some local food. We were successful in buying some stuff. However, it was hot walking around town and we ran out of energy, so we went back to the ship about 2:00 or 2:30. We had good weather most of the time and overall this was a very enjoyable cruise for both of us. The front office, the crew & staff were very friendly and gave very good service. Our Cruise Critic Roll call group and the M&G were great. We met some very enjoyable people on this cruise. The debarkation process was non stop and as good as any that I have seen. The first day and half or two days out there was a fair amount of ship movement even though the sea didn't look that rough. The rest of the time it was fairly smooth sailing. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
First, I understand HawaiiLeo's frustrations. We also had a cabin a/c problem (did not work at all) and found the bathroom needed cleaning (mold/mildew on the floor, worn out shower mat, dirty shower curtain, toilet looked dirty from ... Read More
First, I understand HawaiiLeo's frustrations. We also had a cabin a/c problem (did not work at all) and found the bathroom needed cleaning (mold/mildew on the floor, worn out shower mat, dirty shower curtain, toilet looked dirty from many discolored scrapes and rough areas, and it smelled bad). Like HawaiiLeo, we tried to have these addressed at first by telling the regular contact crew. No luck. The hotel manager does all he can to avoid public contact and the customer relations person never made herself available either. That said, The cabin stewards did, the first day at sea, bleach the bathroom and replace the worn out items. A smell remained, but I found the problem could be controlled by closing the tub drain. The a/c problem continued for the entire cruise, but a work around was used to give us enough a/c to control temp and provide some airflow. First, they gave us a fan to use - it worked. Then, on the third day, the crew started monitoring the a/c system in our cabin and would reset it as needed. It wasn't until I talked with an officer in charge of a water leak repair down the hall that this process became invisible to us. Also had the worst shore experience ever. The Honolulu luau was terrible. Maybe they thought it was good to have Kentucky Fried Chicken there... Could not eat the food, long lines, long walks just for water, so-so entertainment. Lots of $$$ for nothing. There was a lot of apparently deferred maintenance visible. Lots of lights out (11 where we sat the first time in the extra cost restaurant and 12 the next time), a broken seat back in the Crows Nest, a broken sofa in the Crows Nest, and a 'moving' permanent sofa chair in the main show room. I found light fixtures missing, dirty carpet in places, holes in napkins, a hole in a towel, and more rust than I have seen on all of my previous cruises combined. It would have been nice had the windows been cleaned before departure and the same for the veranda see through panels. Even our veranda was gritty to walk on. Sounds terrible, but there was lots of good too. Our dinner with the chef was an outstanding experience. Personable and wow, can he cook! Our renewal of vows with the Captain was also a big hit. The Captain spent quite a bit of time with us and he is the opposite of the hotel manager when it comes to customer relations. Entertainment in the main show room was very good the first week and so-so the second week. We found the bar and small room entertainment very nice. Except for the Honolulu luau all shore trips were at least as good as expected and sometimes better. The luau was a zero minus. We arrived at the ship in San Diego about noon and found no lines. About five minutes later we were allowed to board. The room was almost finished and we dropped off our carry-on bags. We met the concierge in the Neptune Lounge and proceeded to the dining room for our welcome back lunch. We were denied the lunch, the excuse being there would be too many people. After a check with another location/manager type we went back and were seated. The Reuben sandwich was the best I have had on a ship. Shame it was available only that one time. The positives: Cabin was very comfortable once the a/c was working. I did miss the stand alone shower (in addition to the whirlpool tub) found on newer HAL ships, but the room was as I expected. Fair amount of noise on the veranda from moving chairs around the lido pool during the day. Our cabin stewards were very good. The concierge people (both) more than helped make up for the non caring hotel manager and absent customer service manager. The internet connection was spotty. There was a lot of pitching and rolling on the way to Hawaii and apparently that caused poor signal lock for internet and cell phone data. It actually cost us less to use cell phone data for internet than the slow ship internet. In port the ship internet service was available, but still slow. The return crossing was a a slower speed and the internet connection better. The ship itself gives the feeling of a warm cozy place. Except for the time we tried to see an early show in the main show room were saw no crowding and lines were usually none. We found the public contact crew very nice (internet manager an exception - and he wasn't awful). This was our second HAL cruise, both in suites. Sadly, both times the bathrooms were not clean when we departed. Given the apparent lack of up to date maintenance on what the passengers can see, the two water leaks on our floor, the partial electric failure on the way to Ensenada, the apparent fire (in the laundry according to the announcement) when we arrived back in San Diego, and taking into account other recent events, I wonder if cruise lines are starting a downward spiral... Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Background Information: My husband, two year old daughter, and I booked this cruise for three reasons 1) Visited glacier bay, a must, 2)Round trip out of Seattle (yes there are more scenic venues, but cost was a factor), and 3) Value for ... Read More
Background Information: My husband, two year old daughter, and I booked this cruise for three reasons 1) Visited glacier bay, a must, 2)Round trip out of Seattle (yes there are more scenic venues, but cost was a factor), and 3) Value for money. Holland America has a fairly good product and has a legacy in Alaska. Hotel Info (if any): Stayed at homewood suite s post cruise. Enjoyed the small kitchen and roomy suite with seperate bedroom. Ship Info: The Zaadam is still a servicable ship. Although she did have areas where she showed her age (slight rust, wear in elevators), she was fairly well maintained. This ship has a full promenade, which is missing in some newer ships, and has a covered pool area which is a must in Alaska. She does not have all the recent hype features (rock climbing, skating rink, flowrider, poolside screen), but the reality is that in Alaska the trip is port intensive and sea days are best spent recooperating or viewing glacier bay on deck. Very limited (NO) activities for toddler set, but staff was generally very friendly to young passengers. Self service laundry available, but beware that signs will point you to a phantom laundry room on deck one that does not exist. Activities: A wide variety of more sedate activities are available (bingo, movies, trivia, cooking demos, wine tastings), but there are some fitness options available with an occassional free workout class in the gym. The gym is functional. Avoid the port shopping talk, as this was 45 minutes of time I will never get back- I wanted to know what eash port's unique items were, not about diamonds international or other generic stores found in any port worldwide. The talks about destinations were somewhat interesting. Service: The service was typically excellent on an individual staff level, but I had to wonder if staff had been cut since we last sailed Holland America. They were eager to please but at times had problems with promptness or personalized service due to being overtasked. For example, while wondering while dinner was taking so long I noticed that our waiter was literally speed walking between tables. Room stewards do a typically good job, but do not seem to have the quirks of individuals passengers in mind as much as in the past.On the other hand, the ice cream lady Elly was very nice to my daughter and had her name memorized. They were too business oriented as a rule, although perhaps they had to be to complete the required tasks. Port & Shore Excursions- We did not book through the ship. We booked family air in Ketchican and for 200 less than the similar cruise ship excursion, had a small private float plane with a personable guide. Highly recommend them as a great way to see Mysty Fjords from the air. Travel To Port of Embarkation- By plane on Southwest. Highly recommend them as there are not as many fees and your luggage actually arrives. Used a towncar $45 for roughly the same price of a taxi, but with the benefit of being picked up by bag claim vs toting suitcases up stairs to wait for a taxi. Stateroom: Oceanview. In May it is typically too cold to fully enjoy a balcony and when cruising glacier bay the promenade is probably you best viewing spot as you can change sides based on view. My only complaint- Room 1958, was that at one point a strong diesel smell was in the room and we woke with major headaches. My concern was if diesel fumes can get into the room, can co as well? The front desk did deodorize the room but a quick check with a co gas monitor should have been performed for safety (this is coming from a firefighter). Room had two singles joined together and a couch that converted to a bed. The toddler actually enjoyed this as it was fairly close to the ground and was like a big girl bed. One feature we enjoyed was the bath tub- a must for young kids. We did miss the refridgerator (none in the room). Dining: Open, which is a mixed bag. Excellent for Alaska as port times are sometimes random, but a negative as the waiters do not learn your quirks. For example, with a toddler serving in a glass vs a goblet and removing extra silverware is a must. Typical fare at the Lido buffet, on par with just about every cruise line and nothing to write home about. In spite an occassional dud in main dining room, rumors of food quality going down seem to be only that. In general the food in main dining rooms seemed to be cooked well, with lobster and crab legs correct vs. rubbery on other lines. Lobster was actually a decent size. Ingredients were of a good quality. Do avoid the salmon- dry and overdone. Children's Clubs: Nothing for under threes or unpotty trained. For two year olds, I do like NCl's policy where they will page you if your child needs to be changed vs. no acess at all with Holland. They did offer to loan a book or toy, but in general was treated as if she had the plague and was not even allowed to play under adult supervision. In room sitting is offered, but we are somewhat hesitant to use strangers. Just a couple hours small group sitting would have been appreciated. Entertainment: Average stage shows. We did enjoy a few of the music groups that played dance music. Movies that were recently out on DVD were available. Disembarkation: Fairly smooth. Out in under 15 minutes after assigned disembarkation time. Summary: Excellent cruise for money that visited scenic ports. Ship was not a destination in itself, but still provided an enjoyable getaway. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We were prepared for things to go south, rather than north considering that we had such a diverse group going on this cruise. 2 very active seniors both quite hard of hearing and both very opinionated were with us, both truly believing ... Read More
We were prepared for things to go south, rather than north considering that we had such a diverse group going on this cruise. 2 very active seniors both quite hard of hearing and both very opinionated were with us, both truly believing that we would be walking through a foot of snow in ports because we were going so early in the season. Never cruised before, so we at least knew the ship would impress them. 1 semi senior, smoker, single, who injured herself 2 weeks before we left which made walking very difficult. Has cruised many years ago, but only Caribbean destinations. 2 mid thirties who have cruised twice before, honeymoon cruise to Alaska, and a 3 day quickie out of Miami. I have a gluten allergy, which makes eating tricky. Holland America was the only line that was reasonable for a single, I applaud them for that. They also made me believe that they would take care of me as far as my gluten allergy, I will give them a 3.5 out of 5 on that, but forms went back and forth prior to the cruise and I felt good about it prior to boarding. Embarkation was a zoo, it really would have been daunting to someone who didn't have a lot of time (we were quite early) or a complete newbie. There was not good instructions regarding tagging of luggage or where it went while you were outside the terminal in line. The lines did move surprisingly quickly, so don't get bent out of shape over the long lines, it moves along rapidly. It would be nice if the embarkation photo spot had a place to set down jackets and carry ons so you could get a nice picture...I would have like one that was good of us all. The first two days there were some rough seas, and Grandma did get sick. After that she was touchy, but not bad. Make sure you get scopolamine or whatever it is called, it works very well. The Lido buffet was, in my opinion, poorly set up as a buffet, but I don't know how else you could do it. Breakfast hours were extremely short in both the Lido and the Rotterdam dining so make sure you are an early bird... I chose for the family to eat sit down meals in the dining room. I just hate buffets, and I felt we all enjoyed the meals much better and had more control over the meals. No elbow football in the Lido line up, with vultures hovering over your table and kids screaming. Be prepared for about and 1.5 for lunch and breakfast in the Rotterdam, but hey, dining is half the experience. I was very disappointed to find that after the hours of paperwork I submitted to ensure they had gluten free breads on board, the bagels I requested never were to be found. I would have been pleased to simply have had the bread, except that I did all this extra paperwork to ensure what I wanted each day. The dining room servers for the most part were good, and after day two they were getting the hang of the gluten free. Don't be scared to tell them something was wrong or you can't eat something, but for goodness sakes, do it politely, I couldn't believe the treatment some people gave these poor servers. English was definitely a second language, which provided some difficulties at times, but overall, the meals were fantastic. One of our seniors partial broke on day one of the trip, making chewing difficult, and he couldn't believe that the meat was so tender he could still eat it. Even our fussiest eater was impressed with the food, and that says something. As you wish dining was all we could get by the time we booked our cruise. That is a bit of a pain in the butt with a group of 5 as there was limited tables for our group. We tried just showing up as they suggested only once, and they did accomodate us quickly, but if you have evening plans your plans might go out the door as there are no guarantees for seating. We had wanted the early seating...no such luck. So, if you get stuck with as you wish dining instead, CALL right away at 8:00 am and get a reservation, usually you will get 5:15 or 5:30, if you wait you likely will get 7:15. Shipboard activities were excellent, but a few of my favorites never appeared again, like the icecarving that would be done on deck for the evening display. There were ice molds I would say, not hand carved, for the chocolate extravaganza and a couple of meals, but not the carvings of old. I enjoyed the three ports and glacier bay, but beware of the 7.50 park tax that has "suddenly" been imposed and will be charged to your room for going into glacier bay. No one informed us of this. This particular cruise was a nice mix of port time and ship time. Sitka, in my opinion, was a poor port, and should have been a half day excursion, rather than taking Ketchikan down to a half day. Sitka was nice, but not much to see on land. I understand the need to stop for 3 hours in Victoria because of the foreign port rules, but they sure don't do anything for ship tourism like the other ports do LOL! The shore excursions people really push Butchart gardens as a fabulous evening tour...by the time you manage to get off the ship as they don't give any preference to excursion people, get to your bus get loaded, it is almost dark. Unless you want to see plant lit up, I can't say it is worth your money and the rush. It was cold rainy and miserable and then our bus broke down. At that point I was proactive and asked for our money back as it would have been 9 in the evening before we even got there. They were accommodating...so maybe try to find someone who has done the evening tour before booking it to ensure you get what you think you are paying for. My husband was taking care of the room bills for the group, and while we were struggling to figure out whether we were going to Butchart gardens, he was making sure our bills were in order for departure. He asked for a gratuity adjustment so we could tip cash to some of the people we wanted to. 3 times he tried to adjust, 3 times they screwed it up. We ended up still in our room at 9:30 the next morning as he tried to fix it, as they now had over charged. In frustration he finally removed all gratuities and scrambled over the ship finding the people we had wanted to tip and got off just before they were going to yell. I will say I accidentally left behind 2 cameras in our cabin, realizing after we disembarked. I had all the pictures off of them, so at least the memories were intact, my pocket book was squealing a bit as I waited heart in my throat to see if they would find them. 15 minutes later they were safe and sound in my hands, so kudos to the staff for that. Overall ship decor and shape 7 out of 10, I had a little higher expectations of the music ship, the piano was a big music box, nothing exciting, played 3 times a day, I thought it was a pipe organ...don't pick this ship for that reason. Smoking is still allowed on the ship and in the rooms, there was a lot of grumbling about this, and a survey on ship too. I am disappointed in this day and age that there was indoor and outdoor smoking wherever on this ship...theatres and dining rooms excepted. I hope this policy changes as it will certainly influence my decision next time around. Food was an 8.5 out of 10, only because of my difficulties with food, which is to be expected, but not after all the pre travel legwork I did. Everyone else would rate the food 10 out of 10 for the dining room, 7.5 for the Lido. Ports of call 7 out of 10 as I was disappointed with Victoria timing and would want to switch the half day to Sitka rather than Ketchikan, or just do both a full days and simply stop in Victoria later and do an evening tour of something else to fulfill the port rules. At the end of the day, we loved Alaska, we enjoyed the Zaandam, the rooms and beds were fabulous as we had been told on Cruise Critic, and we would do it again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
My husband and I are "young" seniors who like to cruise. We booked this cruise in November of 2009. Having had a bad experience with tight seating in airplanes, my husband refuses to fly anymore. We left Seattle, Wa. by Amtrak, ... Read More
My husband and I are "young" seniors who like to cruise. We booked this cruise in November of 2009. Having had a bad experience with tight seating in airplanes, my husband refuses to fly anymore. We left Seattle, Wa. by Amtrak, on Saturday morning, we had a roomette for the trip. we boarded the train and were shown to our quarters, given 2 small bottles of champagne and offered orange juice. the roomette was small and private and we enjoyed the train very much, all dining was included in the price of the tickets, which were about comparable to a flight for 2. We arrived in San Diego at 1am on Monday morning. We had reservations at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, which was very convenient, being as it was just through the parking lot from the train depot. Our Cruise Critic group had a pre cruise dinner at Anthony's across the street from the hotel, where there were others staying pre-cruise. Tuesday morning our ship, Holland America's Zaandam arrived, and this also was very convenient, just across the street from the hotel.Our room in the Hotel was large and very clean, we had a balcony, which was a pleasant surprise! We waited too long to get our luggage on the ship by 11:30am by hotel shuttle, so decided to just walk it across the street. Check in was very simple, we had our pre boarding passes, and all went very smoothly. We went to the Lido to have some lunch, the food was being served to us and there was no "serving ourselves", which also was fine with us, I understand that this kind of service was used for 3 days, until the ship is sure there is no H1N1 virus aboard, then things are put out to serve ourselves, for instance, salad dressing, condiments, etc. I didn't remember that Mariners had a luncheon being served in the Main Dining Room, and there was no mention of it to us as we boarded. We didn't get an invitation to the Captain's lunch, and we also missed the Captain's Welcome aboard! While having lunch in the lido, it was announced that we could go to our cabins, and there would be a lifeboat drill before we left port. We went to our cabin, and found a gift from our travel agent, 2 bottles of wine, a bottle of champagne, 2 spa value booklets, which were a welcomed surprise for us. Our cabin was just around the corner from the forward elevators and across from the housekeeping office,we found this location to be very convenient! Our lifeboat station was easy to get to, and only one flight up. Another advantage of having our cabin on the dolphin deck, was that it was one flight of stairs down to the tenders, and one flight up to the disembark ramp. The housekeeping office was easily accessible, when I needed a pair of scissors, and when I needed some scotch tape! The first few days, were rough sailing, and many cruisers took to their cabins, the rough seas didn't bother my husband, an ex Navy man, nor did they bother me. We had open seating for dinner, the only choice available to me at the time of booking. I had never had open seating before, always having first seating, in the past. I found open seating to be really "freeing", we could go to dinner when we were hungry, we never made a reservation for dinner, just walked up to the desk and were usually asked if we minded sitting with others, which we preferred. We never had more than a minute or so to wait, and found that sitting with different people each night was a nice way of meeting other cruisers. We sat with a few of our table mates a couple of times, we just planned ahead, and that worked out well. There was music and ice sculptures in the fixed seating, I understand. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill, which also was a gift from the travel agent, my husband ordered the steak, and it was very large and thick, he said it was really good! I ordered the lobster, the experience was ok, however, I think the MDR is perfectly fine. The canaletto restaurant is new on board, and needs reservations, we ate there twice, it was very nice, and the food was very good. The first time, I ordered spaghetti and meatballs, my husband had lasagna, it was delicious!! there is not an extra charge for the canaletto. One of the nights that we were in Hawaii, we had bought matching Hawaiian shirts, and wanted to have our pictures taken, we went to the photo desk and asked about having our photo done, they said they usually do them on formal nights. They didn't seem interested in doing our photos on that particular night, so we went to dinner, and never did get our photos in our matching shirts. This particular cruise had a lot of seniors on board, we were the "kids" on board, and we are what I now call, "young" seniors", We are over 62! We estimate this particular Cruise's average age was about 80 yrs old. I had read on the cruise critic boards that the forward elevator was out the cruise before ours, and it remained out during our cruise. Someone said they were waiting for parts from Italy. The Zaandam is an older ship, and it does show some wear and tear. I noticed that in many places the carpet looked wet, although it was not!, the windows needed cleaning badly, especially on the Lido deck. The pools were usually emptied while we were underway, and I never got into a pool or spa. The Restaurant had a varied menu, and one of the nights there was a Chef's dinner. The tables were set with chef hats and a special menu. The waiters did a "ballet" with the napkins and delivered them to us at our tables. I did miss the baked Alaska parade, and the "whirling of the napkins". We were on a 21 day cruise, and some were on a 15 day cruise,I didn't know this was a combined cruise at the time of booking. I found that after the initial 15 day cruise,which was circle Hawaii,that the 6 day coastal cruise was a repeat of the same movies, and the menu repeated also. I think that was unfair to us that had booked a 21 day cruise. Our Maui port was cancelled because of rough seas, so the Captain took us cruising the cliffs of Molokai, which was interesting. The captain said this was something rarely done. One of the most disappointing thing about this particular cruise was the weather, it was not warm, and many ports were overcast, the sunsets I had hoped for, never materialized. I wonder if this was Hawaii's winter??? The cruise up the west coast to Vancouver was also kind of rough seas, we stopped at Avalon, Catalina Island, CA. this town looked like a caribbean island, I imagine it would be a great place to spend a week or so,if it were hot and sunny. The Casino was not open, as it was being repaired, and had scaffolding around it. Astoria, Oregon was much like I expected, not much there, and the weather was overcast and dreary. Victoria, Canada, we stayed aboard, the weather was windy,and cold. Vancouver, we arrived in the am, had breakfast in the Lido and disembarked the vessel around 9:30am. picked up our luggage and took a taxi to the Amtrak station to go back to Seattle. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
My wife and I chose this cruise as a chance to take a longer cruise part of which was travel through open ocean. We boarded what might be considered a separate cruise from Vancouver. The cruise consisted of 4 days Vancouver-San Diego, then ... Read More
My wife and I chose this cruise as a chance to take a longer cruise part of which was travel through open ocean. We boarded what might be considered a separate cruise from Vancouver. The cruise consisted of 4 days Vancouver-San Diego, then followed by 15 day cruise San Diego-Hawaii-San Diego. Our ship M.V.Zaandam was comfortable and provided various features of a cruise experience. We took an outside cabin since it met our needs, and was small enough for my wife to find her way around easily as she is blind. Service by our cabin stewards was excellent. The ship is well laid out. Only the fourth deck, we found somewhat confusing because one cannot walk from one end to the other. Entertainment on the ship was varied in content and quality. A piano concerto by Chio was outstanding and would command a high ticket price ashore. Another presentation by Hanna Starska, a violinist who played her instrument in innovative ways was also very good. Show presentations by the Zaandam Singers (cruise troupe) was less impressive with presentation ranging from somewhat good to quite ordinary. We abstained from the stand-up comedians. There was also considerable supplementary entertainment including Neptunes (jazz combo) in the Ocean Bar and the Adagio Strings (string quartet)in Explorers Cafe which were quite good. The spa provides a wide range of treatments and activities, but travellers of lesser means need to keep their eyes on the bill which can quickly run away. To us the best features of the cruise were food and service. We tried three restaurants/food services leaving the extra-fare Pinnacle for those of greater means who need to discharge surplus resoutces. The Rotterdam Restaurant (main dining room) has impeccable service and excellent food but in somewhat limited quantities. While it is theoretically possible to order extra food there, it is not expected and somewhat unwieldy. The Rotterdam Restaurant is the place for meals with excellent presentation (particularly special nights) but for somewhat limited appetites. The Terrace Grille provides daytime food service in the Lido swimming pool area. The food is simple, delicious, and abundant. Perhaps differing from many cruise patrons, we preferred the Lido Restaurant. We found thid buffet restaurant to be almost a food fantasyland. All manner of food is available for every meal of the 4 meals per day. Various dishes including almost unimaginable dishes e.g. "baked potato soup" are available in whatever quantity one wants. Many times we ate until we could barely move but there were still dishes we would have liked to try. The restaurants/food sevices also highlighted the outstandi Even though this is a self-service buffet, workers could not do enough for passengers. One only needed to mention a food item and the worker went to bring it to you even before you requested it. Some workers could remember your regular dishes e.g. for breakfast, without one even needing you to request them. How they can provide this quality of service when one considers that they are dealing with 1000 new people every 2 weeks is beyond us. Despite their very long work day, no worker could provide better service. There are only two points where we would mildly caution. Other passengers seem to be somewhat reserved. As many passengers are older they seem a bit less willing to engage in free conversation with strangers. The other point is that workers seem to be kept at an unnecessary distance below the employer. Despite the fact, that their work makes the cruise possible, they seem to be regarded more like functionaries rather than partners in the cruise. On our previous cruise wirh Norwegian line, the workers seem to be given greater respect by the employer. Overall this cruise fills a need for some travellers of providing a longer cruise for people who like an ocean journey somewhat less port intensive. Few cruise line provide such cruises today. On this basis we would recommend this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Background: We're primarily Cancun resort vacationers, but have taken couple cruises recently. Spent 15 days on Zaandam to Hawaii out of San Diego, our home city. Encountered a long line at embarkation but it moved quickly. Ship ... Read More
Background: We're primarily Cancun resort vacationers, but have taken couple cruises recently. Spent 15 days on Zaandam to Hawaii out of San Diego, our home city. Encountered a long line at embarkation but it moved quickly. Ship Info: Mid-sized ship, 1500 passengers. Activities: Although we did not participate there was always something going on: bridge lessons and playing. for example. Service: Excellent. Room stewards were superb, room service (ordered coffee every morning at 6 AM) was perfect. Dining room staff were always friendly, helpful, etc. We used HAL's suggested $11/day/person gratuity charge, plus extra for the room service. Port/Shore Excursion: While we went ashore at each port, we purchased only 1 excursion: AZ Memorial at Pearl Harbor. At Maui we tendered in to Lahaina and walked around a while. At Hilo, Nawiliwi, and Kona we rode free shuttles to shopping. Folks we talked to said the helicopter rides were great; all said the excursions were expensive. Stateroom: Large ocean-view on Main deck (2) was fine. Dining: Food was very good to excellent. Entertainment: (5 star scale) We enjoyed all the entertainment. Pool quartet: 3.25; HAL singers/dancers: 3.5; the other entertainers: (2) 5s, (2) 4s, and (2) 3.5s.Disembarkation: Used "expedited," which was perfect. Summary: Our next cruise is probably 3 years away. We will consider HAL. Oh, average age aboard was probably high 70s; lots of walkers, canes, wheel chairs. They all got around fine. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.5 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 3.5 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 3.5 3.7
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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