549 Holland America Zaandam Cruise Reviews

I have never written a review related to my vacations, Be it cruises, or stays at hotels, etc. I have read reviews though, and found that in most cases they never represent experiences as accurately as they most likely unfolded. ... Read More
I have never written a review related to my vacations, Be it cruises, or stays at hotels, etc. I have read reviews though, and found that in most cases they never represent experiences as accurately as they most likely unfolded. Especially the cruise vacations. One must keep in mind that a review is based on the characteristics of the reviewer influenced by their values, formal and informal education, range of travel exposures, etc. etc. At the end of the day the cruiser establishes expectations that often are unrealistic relative to applying to everyone. As such the review reinforce every aspect of their voyage life from only one perspective. Too often it results in providing a negative outcome for the cruiser and a poor review. Thus their evaluation should be digested with great care. Similarly the review that gushes with perfection just might be a bit overboard as well. My wife and I are not cruisers with years of experience. We fall into the late sixties early seventies age range. We have been on two river cruises and three ocean cruises. Two of the ocean cruises were with Holland America and the most recent was on the Zaandam from Buenos Aires to Vancouver.We had a Vista suite compared to an outside ocean view cabin or inside cabin. For a long cruise (ours was 36 days) I encourage people to seriously consider the larger accommodation. There are times when one just needs to get away and enjoy the quiet and comfort of a larger room. By booking earlier the difference in cost is not that much. On the other hand taking an outside ocean view cabin fits the bill for many folks. Especially those people who are on a cruise of 7 days to 14 and are also individuals who love to socialize in the common areas. Inside cabin might also be ideal for folks who prefer spending most of their time away from their cabin. Simply -- know yourself and plan accordingly. I read a recent review submitted by a cruiser who was on the same ship as us at the same time, but for only part of the journey. The person did not have a good experience. However the examples of their concerns left me dumbfounded.To suggest there was limited leisure options for sea days based on Bingo or trivia caused me to review the daily schedule I brought home with me and to re-read my notes. I don't know how the cruiser missed the culinary shows, the guest lectures on either Global affairs or on the sea life related to places we were traveling to or seeing on sea days or the movie theatre and a host of other things that were on board.. I am amazed the cruiser did not hear the musicians who played in the lounges during the late afternoon or at night. I tried to imagine how one could not spend an hour or more observing the actions of people at the art auctions (even if you were not into art, the experience of watching others was fun). The evening entertainment was very diversified and of exceptional quality. Yes it might be that one comedian's sense of humor compared to another was not to one's liking but it was obviously appealing to others. Or perhaps one singer might not appeal to one group of folks but did to others. However, over the course of the voyage one would be hard pressed to say nothing in the way of entertainment was good. For me it was outstanding and exceeded expectations. Food seems to be a complaint most often heard from reviewers. Again what were the expectations when booking a cruise? My wife and I ate in the dining room 8 times over the 36 days. We ate in the Pinnacle dining room once and the Italian restaurant twice. We ate many meals in the Lido and enjoyed the casual hamburgers/hot dogs around the pool. The dining room service was very good. Not perhaps the same level of service one might experience in an extremely high end restaurant in a major North American or European city but I did not expect that level of service. What I received was terrific.The service was of a high quality in the other restaurants as well. Quality of food is a tough one to review. Again what are the expectations? The dining room and specialty restaurants provided food that was hot, well presented, and tasty. If one is on a long cruise and chose only to eat in the dining room it is possible the experience would prove monotonous, both in service and quality of food. But if one spreads their choice of food and venues each day or every couple of days the Zaandam offered value for money. If I offered any negative critical remark it would be for the Lido.The breakfast options were good and service was as expected for a buffet. Dinner entrees offered diversity but too often I found the food a bit on the cool side. On the other hand the temperature was just right for my wife. My recommendation when it comes to dining is be realistic about setting expectations. If you have made a great financial deal with an inside cabin and expect the cabin service and accommodation to be similar to a five star hotel you will undoubtedly be disappointed. If you expect the dining room and Lido restaurants to provide quality of food and service as if the servers were private butlers and each food item was prepared exactly as you wanted it you will be annoyed with that expectation not being achieved. Common areas are great on Zaandam. The library is well stocked. Only complaint would be with passengers who raid the shelves on the first day and take ten books and not return them until the end of their cruise. The Crows nest lounge is a great place to view the world as it slips slowly and quietly along. Other lounge areas are equally nice. Pool areas can be a bit noisy but isn't that what one should expect on a cruise ship? The Captain was very experienced and possessed a subtle sense of humor. Three cruise directors for three portions of the cruise provided us with different personalities and which one appeals to a person is anyone's best guess. All did their job well. The South America cruise from Buenos Aires to Vancouver met our expectations for exploring bits of the geography and being exposed to culture of many countries. We spent a few days in Buenos Aires before joining the ship and the city was fantastic. Many things to do and very cosmopolitan. I recommend spending at least a day and preferably more visiting the city before heading off on the Ocean waves. Montevideo was well worth touring. Due to the brief time in the city I would recommend taking either a planned Holland America cruise or local tour as there is much to see and too little time to see much of anything. Port Stanley was our first Tender port and the process was quick and easy. Don't plan a tour until you get ashore. The city is easy to walk around and there are many tour operators at dockside who will take you to any place you want to explore. A great little museum worth the visit. Punta Arenas, Chile and Ushuai Argentina are easy ports to walk around but we found the area limited for casual exploring. We did go out of the cities into the non urban places and loved the country side. Choices are many. The ship's location guide, (Ryan) was a wealth of knowledge and presented information each day on ports of call and was always at his desk. (I think he had a roll out bed in one of the drawers). Puerto Montt, Chile is another tender port and again the transfer went smoothly, (except for the periodic time when passengers chose to ignore the cruise staff directions because those passengers felt they deserved or where entitled to special considerations). I would recommend the Holland America excursion to Petrohue Falls and lake cruise. Yes, the tour is a bit touristy, but the country side is beautiful and the experience is very relaxing. Valparaiso, Chile is a city I first visited in 1964. It has changed a lot in the past fifty odd years. I am not sure what to recommend with this port. First, one needs to expect to see poverty throughout South and Central America. It can be unsettling and one needs to be prepared for it. Thus when you reach Valparaiso you will find the city, though rich in history, is also challenged with the conditions of poverty which can make the touring/visiting experience a difficult one. I encourage folks to consider taking a tour for this location. Or if one wants to see a bit of the country those people who went to Santiago, who I spoke with enjoyed the trip. Coquimbo is a small place and distance from the ship to the city requires a transfer (provided by the ship). My wife and I chose to go to the Elqui Valley and we did not regret it. Beautiful scenery and a great lunch/stop at Vicuna. Yes, it is a tourist tour but there were no other tourists, other than us, so it was not the type of rush and push one often associates with bus tours. General San Martin is one of those ports that you need to read up on to make a decision as to what you want to do. It is a desert area and not much to see unless you are into deserts. The tours that are offered by Holland America might be the best options for those who wish to go ashore. Callao/Lima is a longer stop. Most of the passengers I spoke with enjoyed this port. (Callao is a bit seedy and dangerous.and the recommendation to passengers is to not walk around the place). Interestingly, this was the same recommendation given to me and others way back in 1964 when I was in the Navy. How little things change. Some folks did the tour to Machu Pichu and loved it. We visited the area of Pachacamac and found the site quite interesting. You can walk around Lima without a concern. Salvaerry has many options and is worth trying to get a couple of other passengers to join you to arrange for a private car tour. It provides more flexibility and the cost spllt among four or six people is worth consideration. Manta, Ecuador is the home of "Panama" hats and buttons. This is another place you might want to check with the location advisor as to how best to tour the location. Puerto Caldero, Costa Rica is very limited with respect to walking around. Consider taking a tour and check with the location guide as to what is available dockside. Depending on the time of year you take the cruise the tour options might be more limited. Holland America offers many tours and perhaps folks who traveled on one of their excursions will write about them. In Puerto Chiapos we took a ship tour and went on the "Chiapas through the ages" tour. Again, for us it was an interesting tour and not too many other tourist were out and about in the town. Cabo Sans Lucas is well known to North Americans. It is very touristy and easy to walk around. It is a toss up for folks with respect to what to do. All kinds of tour operators are at dockside if one seeks a guided tour to surrounding areas. San Diego is a wonderful port. You can walk off the ship and take a Hop on Hop Off bus or arrange for guided tours or simply walk around the city. Victoria is also very easy to walk around. As soon as you walk off the ship you are in a nice neighborhood and it is an easy fifteen walk to the downtown area. There are also buses from dockside to downtown. A beautiful city, easy walking and lots to see and do in such a brief time in port. Vancouver is, in my mind, a city that cruise folks should research before making their transportation home arrangements. Spending a couple of days in this city is a great way to end their tour. A nice safe city with all kinds of areas to explore. Weather wise we hit the jack pot. Though the clouds came out in Stanley and the wind blew a bit in the Magellan Straits it never rained the entire time we were away. We were told that the ship was not able to dock at a couple of places we visited on its previous trip due to weather conditions. Also that the rain and clouds etc made some aspects of the South American cruise taken earlier in the season a bit problematic. For us the mid March to late April proved to be the best time for this cruise. Simply, this was a good introduction to people places and things associated with the "Americas". Just plan your trip with a good understanding of knowing you are and what you want out of a cruise. Oh yes, -- there was quite a range of ages on each portion of the cruise. A bit older for the first part. Mid sixties to late seventies from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, a little younger from Valparaiso to San Diego and a number of younger families from San Diego to Vancouver. Also, keep in mind that the ship will take your passport when you board so have another piece of photo ID with you for when you go ashore. As well, American dollars are widely accepted so don't worry about currency exchange. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
We prefer cruises that highlight nature. Even though the weather did not cooperate at times, the glaciers, mountains, penguins and natural beauty were outstanding. We chose to board the ship immediately upon arrival in Santiago Chile. Most ... Read More
We prefer cruises that highlight nature. Even though the weather did not cooperate at times, the glaciers, mountains, penguins and natural beauty were outstanding. We chose to board the ship immediately upon arrival in Santiago Chile. Most on board had to travel long distances and boarding immediately was a mistake because you travel to the other side of the world. A do over would be to spend time in Santiago. However, there was no problem meeting HAL representatives and getting through immigration. We never saw Santiago. The trip to Valparaiso was longer than thought, an hour and a half. We did a guarantee cabin which turned out to be on the lowest deck (no problem), mid-ship, #1881 (great until our final stop in Buenos Aires). The first couple of nights at sea were a bit rocky but the ship handled it well and that was pretty much the worst of the bad ocean. Cape Horn was rocky but we were too excited to really notice it. We did Puerto Montt by public bus. It cost us a buck fifty to get to Puerto Varas. Of course, the overcast weather prevented us from seeing the snow capped volcano. A small cafe gave us excellent WIFI in Puerto Varas. Taking the public bus was easier when a nice couple from GB joined us (strength in numbers). There were many private hawkers trying to sign us up for private tours. In general, the nightly entertainment was pretty good, the food was high quality and consistent. We mostly ate in the dining room which is also helpful to discourage you from piling in the food. The lounge entertainment got a bit old after 2-weeks. The service was really excellent. The cruisers were mostly from Canada, Australia and the British isles with a German contingent to boot. We Americans were not a majority at all. The next stop was Puerto Chacabuco where we took a HAL tour to Coyhaique. This was a long bus trip that gave us a taste of Chilean life, natural beauty was interesting, Coyhaique was a hit and miss shopping option but what saved the excursion was an end of day stop at a pleasant farm like set up with snacks and wine and sour drink of Chile. Next was sailing through the fjords, which was amazing. This part of the world is not populated but is quite unique and starkly beautiful. Ship wrecks were seen along the way. We could not get into our next stop at Punta Arenas which was one of the penguin viewing options. The winds were said to be too high to dock but we circled in the bay (not all that rough) for a while until the captain (PJ) had to give up. Once we left Punta Arenas we traveled through the fjords and the glaciers. Wow and Wow, gorgeous. Many photo opportunities. We had excellent weather for our next stop in Ushuaia in Argentina. We signed up for a bus trip to Tierra Del Fuego national park. This is a lovely park bordering Argentina and Chile. Scenery was lovely but it did take up our time so we did not get to do much at this stop. All the guides we had were very good with English if not cute with some of their words. Then we headed for Cape Horn arriving at 7:30 am with choppy seas. This is one of those memories you cannot forget. We went back and forth with the Captain acknowledging the passing from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean with a ship horn sound off. Then we headed for the Falkland Islands with decent seas. The weather was chilly once we headed to Punta Arenas and in the Falklands, 50s then 40s Fahrenheit. We booked a tour with Patrick Watts in the Falklands and he was very good to meet us at the pier with our laid back Land Rover driver Hamish. We hooked up with another couple. We went quite a distance to see penguins out in the open at Bertha's beach and then to Gypsy Cove to see another kind of penguin. Comparing pictures afterwards, the HAL expensive tour option seemed to have better pictures. However, we got a good tour and excellent local flavor. We wound up at the Victory Pub where I was harassed (in jest) by Cathy the barmaid. Sailing from the Falklands to Montevideo was lovely. The temperature slowly rised and the sea was like glass. We decided to walk in Montevideo. We enjoyed a specialty coffee at a local cafe to catch up on WIFI. Internet on the ship is terrible and costly. We walked a distance from the ship, it was Sunday and much was closed. We got to a square and went to the Montevideo Leather Factory. It was a nice shop worth exploring. Outside we met Eduardo a cab driver. He offered us a tour for 20 bucks. How could we resist. He had spent time in America as a cook in New Jersey and once cooked for Frank Sinatra. It was refreshing to get a local's perspective of things. He did a nice job for us.When he dropped us back to the business area the city had awoken for Sunday and was quite busy. Then there was Buenos Aires. Bad start when we learned our cabin was situated right next to the passenger on/off ramp for Buenos Aires for two days. Oh My ! What a big city, what a big attitude ! In all, everyone we met in South America was gracious and kind but Argentina is a more feisty place. The shop keepers we dealt with were both honest and less than honest. Most money exchanges were fair, however, I preferred to do exchanges on the HAL ship. We took the HAL waterways excursion and it showed us a different part of Buenos Aires. It was a pretty good tour to saunter on the waterways and see how a community lives on the water. The last day we took the HAL tango show and transfer. The tour was ok, pointing to things out the windows, the stops were excellent. The Eva Peron burial site is unique and the Italian shopping area was good shopping but be wary of prices. The tango show at a city tango dance restaurant and bar was excellent. They treated us well and the show (from an uneducated perspective) was authentic and very good. The trip to the airport was uneventful, the process to check in was slow and tiring. The worst part of this trip was yet to come. The long trip home, consider an upgrade ! We took this trip at the end of season, summer for them. However, this made Santiago and Montevideo and Buenos Aires very bearable heat wise. Hats off to the Captain, PJ, to our cruise director, Jorge and to the local/nature expert Ryan. We are in our mid sixties and the people on the ship fit our profile. We have taken a few other cruises but this one was an adventure for us. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
When we sailed away from Antarctica in January 2010, aboard a Princess ship, it was with sadness that we would not be returning. However, while searching for a Canaries cruise in 2015, we came across a South America cruise, which sparked ... Read More
When we sailed away from Antarctica in January 2010, aboard a Princess ship, it was with sadness that we would not be returning. However, while searching for a Canaries cruise in 2015, we came across a South America cruise, which sparked the idea of visiting Antarctica once more. HAL provided the perfect itinerary for 2018, but just before we booked, offers too good to miss saw us join the 2017 sailing instead. This was our first cruise with HAL and we were very pleasantly impressed with the whole cruise. The only criticism would be the rather confusing and chaotic Life Boat drill, which involves a three-stage warning and then assembly at your designated life boat on deck, rather then the more comfortable gathering in a theatre or similar space. Luckily the weather was kind! After that, everything ran smoothly on board. We had chosen a port-side Vista "suite" on deck 6 at the stern, because this allowed easy access to the sheltered stern decks for better viewing of the scenery and which also provided a quick way up to deck 8 for the open deck and the Lido area. Port also was the best side for the views on this cruise from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. The outer door leading to this rear deck was extremely difficult to open, worryingly as it was an emergency exit. We did ask for it to be made easier, but nothing was done. We had selected Freedom dining but we always, with one exception, ate in the casual dining room in the Lido because of the relaxed atmosphere and the excellent views. I liked the Market style service, which was served rather than self-service and therefore more hygienic, plus the fact that much of the food was cooked to order. At the end of the cruise was a BBQ night in the Lido area, which was too busy for us and we did visit the Rotterdam dining room on that occasion, which was peaceful and which also offered large windows so no spectacle would be missed! On board were experts on Antarctica, including a Naturalist, who was out on deck 3 early on the mornings of sea days. We joined her and many passengers on several occasions and a list of birds and animals sighted was written up regularly. There were lectures from the experts and from Wallis, the lively Location Guide. We prefer to watch these on TV in the evenings because there is too much to see outside to be seated in the theatre in daylight. Unfortunately, the lectures were not given a scheduled slot and it was pot-luck to catch one you wanted to see. Lectures on ports gone by were also repeated unnecessarily. During scenic cruising, the experts gave a commentary over the outside speakers and the room TVs. These could not be heard in the Lido dining room, which was a disadvantage. We missed a pod of Orcas early on in the cruise because the announcement could not be heard during breakfast - annoyingly, we had only just left deck 3 when they were seen. More annoyingly, announcements on tender operations in the many tendered ports were made very loudly in the accommodation corridors, so sleeping in was not an option even if you did not need to be up early! Embarkation was very smooth, other than no signing to the luggage drop-off. The terminal at Valparaiso is large and modern, with some shopping opportunities, including a wine stall with free tasting. We bought the two bottles we were allowed to take on board. Later, we saw bottles of wine being spotted by the scanners at ports; they are either stored until disembarkation or a corkage fee is payable. We chose not to join any tours, partly because we had visited some ports before and partly because we prefer to walk in the towns instead. Previously we had sailed from Buenos Aires as far as the Chilean Glaciers and then back to Buenos Aires, so most of the Chilean side was new to us. We were not particularly interested in the ports for this cruise - the scenic cruising is everything. The first port was Puerto Montt. The terminal offered free Wifi which worked! (We did have 200 free minutes of Wifi on board, but eeked it out with internet access on shore where possible.) We walked to the craft market first and then back towards the town, where there are stray dogs lazing around everywhere, but made the mistake of giving in to fatigue to soon, so we missed the town, which would have been the better option for us. Casto was the next stop and we visited the town first, stopping at the Cathedral before walking down towards the stilted houses which are about a mile out of town. We missed the access to the raised footpath and followed a well-trodden path on the other side of the road. Walking a few steps behind my OH, with my head down to watch my steps, I noticed a shadow behind me and looked round to find a dog close at my heels. We looked at each other for a moment before it bit my lower leg through my jeans; my shout of protest brought assistance and it ran back to the shack set back from the road it was "guarding". The injury was not severe but started bleeding. We continued shakily towards the village where a tour bus from the ship gave us a lift back to the port. (To cut a long story short, Chile is a low-risk Rabies area; the ship's nurse cleaned and dressed the injury that day and on the next, I had an anti-Rabies vaccination but the remaining four did not fit in with port days and I am now continuing the course at home.) Disappointingly, the Wifi did not work easily enough to bother with in Castro. We had not intended to leave the ship at the next port of Chacabuco because there is nothing to see apart from guard dogs unless you take a tour! However, a taxi took us and an interpreter to the hospital for the vaccination, which was fine; the promised extra doses for administration on the ship did not happen. The taxi ride was quite scenic but again there was no Wifi working in the port - unless you were prepared to sit and sit just in case. All the scenic cruising was wonderful and worth getting up early for on some occasions! The ship moved very slowly through the calm waters and the atmosphere was wonderful. Needless to say, many photos were taken throughout the cruise, including spectacular sunsets on many occasions. The bow deck was opened on some occasions, but we mainly used the stern or deck 9, although the front area of that deck was enclosed by glass. Punta Arenas did offer working Wifi! We walked to the Cathedral, the rather strange cemetery and a high viewing point, following a walking tour route independently. That evening and the next day were taken up by wonderful scenic cruising. Glacier Alley is NOT to be missed! (Princess Cruises went by in the evening and some passengers thought dinner was more important!) Again, the ship cruised by very slowly with hardly a ripple on the calm water. In the afternoon of that day, we visited Ushuaia, docking this time rather than tendering. Anyone with mobility issues would struggle with the many tendered ports on this cruise. I don't think free Wifi I was available in this port. We walked round the small town, enjoying the mountain scenery behind it. Cape Horn and the Drake Passage followed the next day. Although the seas were completely calm (as in our first visit) we did not circumnavigate the Cape as previously, which seemed a missed opportunity. Good weather meant we reached Antarctic waters earlier than scheduled and we had an extra afternoon there as well as the scheduled three days. Throughout, the skies were overcast but fog-free and the experience of Antarctica is one to treasure. It was a different experience from our first time there too, with different conditions and different areas visited. An approaching storm had us racing away from Antarctica eventually but the Captain made time to sail past Elephant Island at a distance before we continued on towards Stanley. The next day, at sea, was foggy with the fog horn sounding - by evening the sun broke through. It is not uncommon for ships to be unable to drop anchor at Stanley because of adverse weather, but once again we were lucky. Wifi is good but costs £5 for 50 minutes because it is so expensive to have on the Island. We walked down to the Church and the War Memorial before buying the required fluffy penguins and sea lions for our Grandchildren, taking advantage of sterling prices! We returned to the ship for lunch and experienced a much rougher sea as waves crashed over the top of the tender and found their way inside, dramatically through a poor seal in an opening window and uncomfortably into the hood of a poor passenger seated underneath a hatch! Puerto Madryn is a little bit of Wales in South America and was settled by intrepid travellers in 1865, who made their first homes in sandstone caves on the shore. We walked along the sea front, but did not go as far as the original settlement, though the walk is possible. Free Wifi is to be found in the Shopping Mall next to the Tourist Office and was slow but functional. Montevideo on a Sunday morning was very hot and humid and rather quiet. Armed police stand on street corners and are helpful for directions. We found Independence Square and also visited the Cathedral. On the way back to the ship, which was in dock, we found a wonderful, air-conditioned Tourist Office with excellent free Wifi and we enjoyed a happy catch-up time there, returning after lunch for more! Finally we reached Buenos Aires for an overnight stop. We have been on tours there before and we consider the city unsafe for independent visitors, so we went no further than the terminal for very slow Wifi. In the evening, we enjoyed watching three other cruise ships sail away. Among the many shipping containers, one had appeared to be hiding while it was docked! Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation. We were allowed to use our room until departure at 9.30 am and our cases did not need to be put out until midnight the night before. We were at the airport earlier than necessary and could not check in our cases for a couple of hours, but the time passed quickly enough with the free Wifi! If you can, go on this cruise. It is an un-missable experience. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
This trip was on our bucket list. We wanted to see Patagonia, Chile, and of course, Antarctica. It was a wonderful experience and we would not trade it for the world. We would highly recommend this cruise to anyone who would like to visit ... Read More
This trip was on our bucket list. We wanted to see Patagonia, Chile, and of course, Antarctica. It was a wonderful experience and we would not trade it for the world. We would highly recommend this cruise to anyone who would like to visit that part of the world. We boarded the ship in Valparaiso. Valparaiso is a working harbor and we had to take a bus from the terminal to the ship. Boarding was easy. We got to our stateroom and were wowed. We had been offered an upgrade to a Neptune Suite and since this was a 21-day cruise, we jumped at the offer. The suite was so much larger than our previously booked ocean-view room. We really got used to the special attention given to us by the staff. We enjoyed every port and booked all our excursions through HAL even though they are more expensive. We have been on several cruises where passengers were left behind because their privately-arranged tour did not get them back to the ship at time. When you are sailing between isolated ports, it would be very difficult and expensive to travel between the ports if an embarkation was missed. If you want to see penguins, this is the cruise for you!! Book your Penguin Tours before getting on board the ship. We met several people who missed out because the tours to the various penguin reserves were fully booked before the ship left Valparaiso. The touring of the Antarctic Peninsula was unbelievable. Our captain guided us through unbelievable channels where we were sailing close to glaciers and ice bergs. Onboard the ship were naturalists and Antarctic experts who not only gave lectures on the area, but also gave a commentary as we sailed through the waters of Antarctica. We saw several different types of seals, penguins, and whales. It was amazing. Some of the best advice we got was to put down the camera and just take it all in. If you want to see this part of the world, without the enormous expense of a National Geographic Cruise, we would highly recommend this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
My wife and I flew from Sydney to Santiago. Our flights aboard Latam were excellent. We have travelled with them during our past two visits to South America. This is a good airline with a fixed menu per destination for economy ... Read More
My wife and I flew from Sydney to Santiago. Our flights aboard Latam were excellent. We have travelled with them during our past two visits to South America. This is a good airline with a fixed menu per destination for economy passengers. The food was tasty and satisfactory and the service was excellent. They served very good Chilean wines and Whisky ( indispensable for me to cope with turbulence!!)  generously, when requested. Maria and I had the quietest and turbulent free flights ever on the way to Auckland, to Santiago and then from Buenos Aires to Santiago over the Andes (even though the Captain warned us of a bumpy ride as we approached the mountain ranges) and back via Auckland to Sydney. So Whisky was an excuse and I admit, I am not comfortable flying). The only discomfort was the rather heavy landing at Kingsford Smith. The space between rows was good but when the passenger seated in front decided to recline, getting out was rather tricky and difficult. That is, however, the problem with economy seating aboard all airlines.The Flight Attendants were very nice courteous and spoke English. I always spoke to them in my broken Spanish which was much appreciated. We availed ourselves of public transport from Arturo Benetez Merino Airport to Pajaritos (a twenty minute drive from the Airport and then another TUR bus to Valparaiso (two and a half hour drive). It was so easy. The TUR bus is on the opposite side of Salida 6 on exiting the Airport. The trip from the airport to Valparaiso by taxi was $130. We spent about $15 for the entire journey. The bus was very comfortable with semi cama seats. We took a taxi from the Valparaiso Bus Station to the Hotel. We asked the same driver to meet us at the Hotel on the following day at 11 o'clock, which he did very punctually. The taxi was metered. The Ibis Hotel is in the Port Area. It was very sparse and if minimalism was ever a descriptive term, the Ibis was it. They provided one plastic cup per room, two small towels and two tiny bars of soap but the room was about 90% clean. That was important for us. Ibis Valparaiso was a far cry from Ibis Seoul and Bangkok. Nearby is a Supermarket where we bought a few food items and on the following day we had breakfast at the Melbourne Café, one block from the Hotel at the Plaza Sotomayor.We enjoyed our second visit to Valparaiso, concentrating mainly on the Piazza Sotomayor, the Port and the environs. We did not feel threatened at any moment and our whole experience was safe despite warnings from the Hotel, which we appreciated, to the contrary. We were unable to have a meal at Restoran Capri nearby as it was closed that Monday afternoon. It consistently receives good comments on tripadvisor We were driven to the Ship Terminal, just a short ride from the Hotel. The embarkation was smooth and very soon we found ourselves aboard the Zaandam. We had a beautiful lunch, offered to HAL Mariner members. The first day at sea was rough. The Chilean fjords were very beautiful and glaciers, as in Alaska and Antarctica, breathtaking. We had read many comments about the Zaandam. Sure it is a 17 year old ship but, to our eyes, it did not have any of the faults mentioned by some previous passengers. The ship was very well maintained and full of glitter but not kitsch,  spick and span without any rust. The carpets were tasteful and I did not notice any wear and tear (and believe me, I am a good sleuth especially when influenced by the Beverage Package which I took advantage of and thoroughly enjoyed on a daily basis). I searched for faults unsuccessfully. We lived in fantasyland for 21 days. The crew was excellent and the service was impeccable. Our Cabin-Small, functional clean and well presented. We did hear the noise of the stabilisers and whenever the anchor was dropped but they were not oppressive and did not prevent us from sleeping peacefully. We never felt cooped. The only negative was the infirmary two doors away from our Cabin but on the opposite side of the corridor. Most of the passengers succumbed to a viral infection (including myself), more than normal, we were told by the ship's medical practitioner. The infection did not prevent me from enjoying the cruise.The area near our Cabin was congested with patients coughing and sneezing most of the time. On another cruise, if it had not been to the cold regions of Antarctica, we would have definitely missed the balcony of a Stateroom. The food in the Lido was the same every day and perhaps monotonous. It was a good spread but lacked variety on a daily basis. The bacon was too crisp as it was prepared for American palates. As for the rest, we were not disappointed with the food but the service made the difference. It was just excellent and offered with courtesy and with a smile. The Rotterdam Dining Room-We used the fourth floor as we took advantage of Open Seating which is an excellent arrangement. We sat with Australians which is always a great pleasure as we are a friendly lot. We met many Americans. They were all anti Trump and on one occasion, I blurted my surprise to them about Trump's win when all the Americans we met had voted against Trump! Almost all the Americans we met were nice and capable of holding an interesting conversation which involved everyone at table bar one instance when two American couples talked of their military service experiences and deliberately excluded the other guests seated with them. We also sat with Germans and Dutch. They were always very gracious and our conversations with them were always pleasant. There were a few Italians and Spanish speaking people and a very small contingent of Indians and Chinese. The daily dinner menu was ample and varied. The dessert menu, however, was repetitious and  certain items like the Souffle just to mention one, uninteresting. The Crème Brule kept on appearing daily. The ice cream menu, much to my regret, lacked my favourite Rum and Raisin and Pistacchio. "tant pis pour moi"!  Ice Cream was also served at fixed times on a daily basis at the Lido. The wine, on the Beverage Package, permitted us to enjoy the excellent Chilean wines per glass. The after Theatre spread or midnight snack in the Lido was not as lavish as on the Dawn Princess but on the whole the Zaandam was far superior to the Dawn Princess which, regrettably, was a rust bucket. The Ports of call were mostly uninteresting except for Ushuia, the Falkland Islands and Montevideo but Maria and I always made it a point to disembark and enjoy the new experience. We were able to buy souvenirs, mostly  decorations for our Christmas Tree. We visited all the Ports of Call and missed none for inclement weather. That is how lucky we were. The postcards we sent from the Falkland Islands have already reached their destination. We were happily surprised. Apparently relations with Argentina have improved but Argentina is still claiming the Malvinas. We never entered the political debate but in our hearts we know that at least the British were not genocidal the way the Argentines were in 1982 during their demoniacal military dictatorship. We were told by a Falkland Islander that had Argentina waited patiently, they would have received the islands because most of the children in the Islands were sent to Argentina for their higher education. Today Britain supplies the islands with all their needs except for meat. Britan also provide higher education and health Services, if there is need, in Britain. All expenses are met by the Falkland Island authorities.   The Drake Strait was a Drake Lake for us to Antarctica and on the return journey, the Captain outran a very bad storm which yet managed to bite at our heel. We, unfortunately, were unable to sight Elephant Island because we were making a speedy retreat. We gained an extra half day thanks to the Drake Lake and thus enjoyed three and a half days of tranquil sailing through a Continent of exhilarating wonder, beauty, sacredness, pristineness, conducive to  contemplation and rapture. Australia administers 42% of Antarctica. We hope that Australia will strive to protect it and leave it the way it is for posterity. We wished to leave Antarctica  in its innocence and never felt the need to have to place our imprints upon it the way some people actually wish to set foot in some part of Antarctica. There was not need for that.Occasionally the ship came very close to mountains which we felt we could almost touch. We were mesmerized by snow capped mountains, majestic domes and spires of nature and myriads of glaciers. We witnessed chunks of ice crumble to a deafening cannonade and collapse into the waters. These caused large ripples which reached the ship. We saw dark patches in the snow, rookeries, where the male penguins held the egg tightly between their feet thus allowing it to hatch during the long, bleak wintry months.  I wore two  top and bottom thermals, trousers, a  shirt, a sweater, an Alaskan Jacket, thermal socks, boots and yet experienced the infernal cold, pardon the oxymoron. We saw towering ice bergs floating past us and were awe struck by their grandeur. We saw whales, seals and of course lots and lots of penguins. Maria and I were thoroughly prepared for our trip to Antarctica. We watched many videos on Utube. We read a lot including Douglas Mawson's "The Home of the Blizzard". However, we also attended the lectures aboard which were very informative. The ship provided a running commentary during the three and a half day cruise through Antarctica. The entertainment aboard the Zaandam was good and thoroughly enjoyable. It is with great pleasure that I wish to inform you that I leaned to dance the Tango! Even Maria was surprised. I wrote to the Hotel Director informing him of our late flights on arrival at Buenos Aires and requested that we be allowed to stay aboard until 1 pm. We were generously allowed to do so. We took a free shuttle to the Cruise Terminal in BA and then took an airport shuttle from the Cruise Terminal to the International Airport at a fraction of the price we would have paid for a taxi. Just 150 Argentine Pesos pp. This experience of ours can only be described in superlative terms. . Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
From Santiago Chile to Cape Horn, then across to Antarctica for a cruise of the coastal waters for 4 days, then the Falkland Islands, Madryn Argentina, Montevideo Uruguay and then finally Buenos Aires Argentina. Was in Antarctica for New ... Read More
From Santiago Chile to Cape Horn, then across to Antarctica for a cruise of the coastal waters for 4 days, then the Falkland Islands, Madryn Argentina, Montevideo Uruguay and then finally Buenos Aires Argentina. Was in Antarctica for New Years. Have to say this was the most spectacular cruise we've ever been on. It was perfect in every way. The most friendly crew we'd ever experienced. They were having as much fun as we were, which made the whole thing just that much more fun. Nice room, great food and excellent excursions. The views from the ship were just breathtaking. So many good photos, some of them almost surreal. We signed up for the departure day waterways tour with transfer to the airport at the end, and departure went unbelievably smooth. The last day was almost a full day of adventure, and it was easily as good as any other excursion day. The night before departure, we had dinner at "a closed door restaurant" in Buenos Aires, and THAT was really special too. The perfect last meal for a perfect cruise. Like our title says ... this trip was ... S P E C T A C U L A R. really. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Having done the same cruise last January and finding it excellent and Antarctica amazing we decided to treat ourselves again but in the reverse direction. This was the Zaandam's first Antarctic cruise of the season so we three ... Read More
Having done the same cruise last January and finding it excellent and Antarctica amazing we decided to treat ourselves again but in the reverse direction. This was the Zaandam's first Antarctic cruise of the season so we three weeks later then previous and not sure what would be different. At embarkation in Valparaiso we saw Scott D. one of the Antarctic specialist from last cruise and he said that this time we could expect less whales and more penguins and maybe less icebergs. He was right on all counts. Embarkation went smoothly and we were on board and having lunch in the Lido by 1pm. At the end disembarkation was just as smooth and on time. The ship felt a bit like coming home as we new where everything was and what and when things operated. Last year we had a verandah cabin which while it gave us a bit more space we hardly used the verandah at all and with all things on a boat there is a 50/50 chance that what you want to see will be on the other side of the ship. This year we went for a ocean view room on the lower promenade which was near perfect for sightseeing as the other side of the deck was only a few steps through the ship and not up or down a few floors. Apart from being slightly smaller the room facilities are basically the same. Only draw back was the 10pm tying up of the deck chairs and the 5am washing down of the deck outside our window. For dining we opted most days for the Lido and only dined in the main restaurant twice plus treat ourselves twice to the Canaletto. There was always a great variety of food and desserts available and one new thing was the salad station. As for entertainment we on ly went to the two very funny comedian shows but reports from fellow passengers said that the other shows where excellent. There are enough daily activities on board to fill out the few sea days that we had. Trivia every night with Alexis was popular. Wallis gave very informative and funny port talks and the Antarctic specialist team were the same team as previous and excellent. Jorge the cruise director plus the Daily Navigator flyer kept guests informed on what was happening each day. All the crew are friendly cheerful and the ship impresses as one big happy family. Captain PJ was our skipper again and kept us informed on navigational and nautical to use his own words and we got to go to all the itinerary places in the Antarctic Peninsular as planned. We were also blessed with near perfect sea condition throughout the entire cruise and sunshine and blue skies for the 4 days we were in the Peninsular. We undertook three excursions and found two of them excellent one less so but more on that later. The ship reached all the ports on schedule with exception of Punta Arenas where the port was closed for a brief time due to high winds. In fact due to the very favourable conditions crossing Drakes Passage we actually had an extra half day in the Antarctic. Which gave us more time to enjoy the experience that is the Antarctic. Penguins, seals, whales, sea lions, glaciers icebergs and just the serenity and majesty and scale of the place. Having done this trip twice in less then a year, would we do it again? Yes!. The only caveats being the long flights from Australia and this one being so near perfect it would be hard to better. If you get the chance GO! Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
The ms Zaandam is a wonderful ship for this route. It is comfortable with all the elements of what we had hoped for from Holland America, with outstanding food and service, elegant architecture, a true wrap around teak promenade deck, a ... Read More
The ms Zaandam is a wonderful ship for this route. It is comfortable with all the elements of what we had hoped for from Holland America, with outstanding food and service, elegant architecture, a true wrap around teak promenade deck, a double height dining experience, and a well-stocked Lido. The itinerary is second to none in the world I am sure. Holland America has had a relationship with the US Antarctic Program for 13 years and brings on board an experienced expedition team. The captain is not afraid of ice bergs and takes the ship carefully but boldly into what seem impassable channels, and even bring on board a full Antarctic team from Palmer Station (weather permitting). The antarctic experience is quite unlike any other area of the planet, and is unspoiled due to a highly co-operative global treaty. While there are options on smaller vessels to make zodiac landings, we surprisingly didnt really miss this at all in part due to the dramatic scenery of the Antarctic Peninsula, Deception Island and Shetlands. We saw more penguins, whales, seals etc. than we could ever dream of, and we didnt have to disinfect, get kitted up, and wait for small landing parties, but could use many of the uncrowded areas of the ship to be up close and personal to a large berg. The bow thrusters move the bergs away from the ship in a very efficient manner for safety, and HAL takes the treaty to the letter in disallowing any form of food or beverage consumption outside whilst in Antarctic waters, and switches the entire ship over to more expensive diesel for this part of the trip to reduce carbon footprint. We weren't sure what it would be like not to get off, or just seeing the Peninsula, but if you have any hesitation and this is on your bucket list, just do it. No one on board was disappointed, everyone was breathless at some point, and some had returned for the exact same itinerary and ship. The kids Club HAL was well organized and executed. Our other two preferred brands are Princess and Cunard, and HAL met or exceed expectations in many regards. The coffee on board is not great, even at the premium cafe, the shore excursions still a bit overpriced for what they are, and the non-expedition entertainment was below average compared to other cruise lines, but overall we would highly recommend the Zaandam for the South America and Antarctic itineraries, and we can attest that HAL is maintaining its standard of excellence in dining and service. For Alaska you have more choices so this may not be the best ship for that region. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
I had wanted to do the South America cruise but was not willing to fly all that distance and back. I loved the length of the cruise and the experience of traversing the entire pacific coast form San Diego south and around Cape Horn. ... Read More
I had wanted to do the South America cruise but was not willing to fly all that distance and back. I loved the length of the cruise and the experience of traversing the entire pacific coast form San Diego south and around Cape Horn. There are always things you can find to complain about if you want. I generally prefer to focus on what is good and then I am happier. There would have been little to complain about on this cruise. The Mexico ports were hot and steamy at this time of year but that was solved by planning swimming and snorkeling outings. Lima was better seen with a hotel room as it was an overnight and was sort of a pain to get into. The Indian Markets were well worth the trip. Much better than anything else similar I saw on the rest of the trip. Embarkation had glitches because of computer problems so there were lines. Activities are not extensive but I don't go on a cruise for those. Most people find plenty to do. I did the HAL beagle channel boat tour and it was wonderful. The Catamaran had loads of nice space with tables inside and lots of deck space outside for taking pictures. Food was of good quality. I have always found HAL food to be of good quality and varied. I got off the ship the night before disembarkation because the flights all go at 9pm and I didn't want to have to kill a day in Buenos Aires and then fly all night. They made it easy to do. About 100 passengers did this. You just need to let them know once you are onboard. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We have done European river cruises but have been nervous about a big "ship'. Our fear was long lines, small cabins, children running all over the place, etc. But to see Alaska, we did not have much of a choice. The simple review ... Read More
We have done European river cruises but have been nervous about a big "ship'. Our fear was long lines, small cabins, children running all over the place, etc. But to see Alaska, we did not have much of a choice. The simple review is this.....we'll do this trip again in a heartbeat. From the moment we walked on the ship (It was so easy with no long lines) and opened the door to our suite (we were in the Neptune Suite) we knew this ship was going to be special. These Neptune Suites are amazing.....over 500 sf, large lanais, the Neptune Lounge where you could eat a light breakfast or have snacks all day, and a concierge in the lounge from 7 AM to 8 PM to take care of ANYTHING for you. I also loved the free cleaning service. Meals on board were fabulous and offered a few venues for dinner. The menus in the main dinner room changed daily. If you are looking for rock climbing, surfing, and all the other amenities that a really big ship offers, this ship is NOT for you. The Zaandam holds approx. 1500 passengers. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We were looking for a land -cruise tour of Alaska and considered several lines. HA had the dates, stops and price we wanted. We took the D1 package with a view cabin. The cabin was adequate and the bed was comfortable. The couch was ... Read More
We were looking for a land -cruise tour of Alaska and considered several lines. HA had the dates, stops and price we wanted. We took the D1 package with a view cabin. The cabin was adequate and the bed was comfortable. The couch was comfy, but very little on TV but that was OK as we spent little time in it. We took advantage of the Windows, classes, the towel folding class, a cooking demo and more. We took the open seating dining option and ate most of meals in The Rotterdam, sometimes at our own table and sometimes with others. The food, service and presentation were awesome. The Lido buffet and Dive In were both good as well, but we enjoyed the unusual selection and the service in the dining room. Our cabin steward, Yudi, kept everything in great shape - and knew our names after meeting us briefly the first night. We especially enjoyed Phil the Piano Man in the Mix Lounge every evening. The embarkation and disembarkation at each port was well organized and fast. The land portion of the package was also excellent. We took the Glacier Safari in Haines, the whales and Mendenhall glacier in Juneau, the Mt Roberts Tram in Juneau - skip this, the lumberjack show and the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen in Ketchikan. All were great except the tram - car is too crowded to see out, views up above were obstructed by machinery and we had limited time - if you are a hiker there appeared to be some great rails at the top. My favorite was whale watching, my wife's favorite was the Bering Se Crab boat. Holland America did an awesome job with details - transfers were smooth, luggage was always where it should be, tour guides met us as promised - I would do it again! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
To be honest, I was very skeptical about cruising on Zaandam based upon past reviews. I heard that the ship was "old and tired". In contrast, we were very pleasantly surprised about the service we got from HA and the cruise ... Read More
To be honest, I was very skeptical about cruising on Zaandam based upon past reviews. I heard that the ship was "old and tired". In contrast, we were very pleasantly surprised about the service we got from HA and the cruise itself. It was excellent. We did a Land-Sea cruise tour with HA, arriving in Anchorage, with three nights in Denali at the McKinley Chalet Lodge; motor coach drive from Denali to Seward, where we embarked. We had the Explore Four promotion, which included two dinners in the specialty restaurants, Pinnacle and Canaletto, the Signature Drink package and $400 each onboard credit. We were on the Navigation Deck, in a verandah suite, port side, 7040. The verandah suite was in excellent shape, served by two outstanding stewards. Verandah suites, had a good sized bathroom, with a tub/shower combination. The bed was comfortable, the sitting room and balcony were in fine shape. Fresh flowers and fruit were provided throughout the cruise. Binoculars and umbrellas were provided. The Navigation Deck (deck 7) had no inside cabins. This deck is right below the Lido deck which has the pool and the main Lido buffet restaurant. We were worried that there'd be noise from this deck but it wasn't a problem. It was quiet. No problems with this stateroom. For dining, we ate in the Pinnacle -- outstanding; the Canaletto -- again outstanding; and once in the Rotterdam dining room. All meals and service were excellent. We ate our breakfasts in the Lido buffet. As opposed to other cruises we've been on -- the buffet served food items. It was not just grab the food. Omelets, crepes, and fried eggs were all made fresh to order. The downside was that it created some waits. We ate many lunches at the Dive In hamburger, hotdog "stand" on the Lido Deck. Again, items were made fresh to order, so there was often a wait but they provided a "buzzer" that went off when the order was ready. The burgers and hotdogs were excellent. Also on the Lido deck was a taco/nacho bar open most of the afternoons. Food there was good. For drinks, we mainly sat by the pool and took advantage of the Lido bar. Good drinks, drink specials throughout the cruise, good service. We also used the Explorations Coffee Bar for specialty coffees/teas. The Explorations Café was the a quiet lounge with Wi-Fi, books, board games, and newspapers. The other activity we participated in was the Digital Workshops with Windows 10 -- very informative. Shows were sparse, we did go to a few shows but not terribly exciting; but we're not in to that. We played bingo, gambled a bit in the casino. No issues there. We bought a 30 minute Wi-Fi package (with 15 minutes added coupon) and had no problems with Wi-Fi. Ports of call were Haines, Juneau, and Ketchikan. In Haines, we ferried over to Skagway and did the White Pass and Yukon Railroad trip. This trip is worth it. In Juneau, we did a Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watch tour through Shore Excursions.com, not through the ship. In Skagway, we did the Allen Marine Misty Fjord boat tour -- absolutely breathtaking. The overall service was outstanding -- from cooks, to wait staff, to bartenders, to cabin stewards -- everyone tried very hard to please. Our cabin stewards learned our names and greeted us by name every single time. When we asked, they provided a power strip (there's really limited outlets in the cabin). Disembarkation in Vancouver was a bit slow. All-in-all we'd go back to Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
We have sailed before with Holland America and enjoyed previous cruises. They were our first choice for a cruise to Alaska. Used their shuttle service from the airport to the port and had excellent device from them. The driver was ... Read More
We have sailed before with Holland America and enjoyed previous cruises. They were our first choice for a cruise to Alaska. Used their shuttle service from the airport to the port and had excellent device from them. The driver was knowledgeable and entertaining. We found the Vancouver port terminal extremely busy due to the number of ships in port, and pretty inconvenient as they shuffled you from one floor to another. We ended up having excellent weather in Haines and Ketchikan. We went on the Mendenhall Glacier tour - good. The Haines Off the Beaten Path - Very good. Rented a van in Ketchikan - easy to get around in. We usually ate in the dining room - the wait staff was very good and we enjoyed meeting other people and learning about their cruise experiences. The cabin stewards were awesome. The staff and entertainers in the bars were very good as well. The front office staff tried their best to accommodate our needs due to travelling with a mobility scooter. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
My husband and I are seniors and sail with HAL or Royal Caribbean, over a dozen cruises. We live on Vancouver Island, a 6 hour journey to Vancouver, our embarkation port. I search previous review of the Zaandam with identical cruises ... Read More
My husband and I are seniors and sail with HAL or Royal Caribbean, over a dozen cruises. We live on Vancouver Island, a 6 hour journey to Vancouver, our embarkation port. I search previous review of the Zaandam with identical cruises (time of year, ports, excursions). I appreciate all the info I was able to scrounge and that the contributors as this contributed to the success of our cruise. I will try to not repeat what previous cruisers have detailed, except to emphasize. I will touch on the Zaandam, the dining, excursions, service and ports. Zaandam We did a Caribbean cruise at Christmas on this ship in 2003. It has since had several refurbishments. We have sailed on the Prinsendam ( 750 passengers) and the Allure (6,200 passengers) and we have come to prefer this size of ship. It is easy to get around and not too many decks to challenge your climbing abilities...this is a serious factor for seniors. The elevators are located in strategic spots throughout the ship. They are not on the exterior and are not glass. Boo hoo...so what? The balcony door opens out, does not slide, so it encroaches on the balcony space. And again, so what? It's just a bit old. For great views, even if you have a balcony or suite, go to the Crow's Nest. Dining We did have an unfortunate experience in the Lido where they undercooked ( it was red and raw) our steak. But put that in perspective, thousands of meals are eaten there. I discussed the shortcomings with the Lido Manager, very courteous person. He also explained a quaint but efficient practice in the Lido. They have no trays (great!) and if you want to save your place while your dining partner is off getting their food, then you can put your (cloth) napkin OVER THE BACK OF YOUR CHAIR. How smart is that? Other diners thus know that you are sitting there, but you are off scavenging. Let's hope that the Lido Manager finds a way to tell all the Lido diners so we can make this system work. The dining hit for this cruise was the Canaletto, the $10 treasure. This is the surcharge for dinner in this intimate Italian specialty dining room. We went twice on our 7 day cruise. The cuisine is memorable and so is the service. The veal was a hit with my husband who ordered the same entree both times. The Fish Soup (translate that into Italian) is better than what we had in Italy! The pasta is the real meal deal. I hesitate to recommend this dining experience too highly as it may result in a run on the Canaletto. Activities & Excursions This was a romantic get away for my husband and I and we also had health issues, so we kept our activity level to the minimum...but even a monkey can push a button on a slot machine. So my husband and I entered and HE WON the slot tournament in the casino. I thought the machines were tough...akin to throwing your money out the window. Juneau We watched from our balcony as other cruisers tramped the streets as they held up their umbrellas. On a previous cruise we did the whale watching and Mendenhall glacier. These were well worth the money and were memorable. These excursions were in September, and this most recent cruise was in May. Worth noting. Haines/Skagway This is a breathtaking setting in a port with a population of 800. From Haines we took the Fairweather Fast Ferry ( Honest to God that is the correct name!) to Skagway where we took the train trip. Others have described this trip. It is worth the extravagant amount that they charge. Do it, if you can! Ketchican We walked from the ship through the town attractions to the Totem Park. Great exhibit of totem poles, many ancient ones, both outdoors and in a museum setting. ( Museum charge is $5 per adult.) Other than gambling in the casino and taking the railway in Skagway, we saw two movies and gazed at the scenery. The setting, the scenery and wild life are the attractions on this weather dependent cruise. We spent hours looking at the mountains, a glacier and the snow and ice. If you are a nature lover, this is a cruise for you. Service As on most HAL ships you can drop your towel and your room steward, with a smile, will deal with it. They will also make your bed, vacuum your room and clean up after you. Help them by using your room preference: Service please or Privacy Please. I combed the previous reviews for a mention of weather and how people coped. Not much help... so here's the thing. We brought hats, gloves, scarves, layers of clothes...even an umbrella. Well, we wore shorts on deck to view the glacier. We wore regular clothes on our balcony to use our binoculars to view nature. They have cosy blankets to cover you if you get cold. There was a (BIG) umbrella in our stateroom. But I purred contentedly,knowing that we had hats, scarves, gloves, layers.... So pack with layers and shed them when you can. This is the second HAL Alaska cruise we have taken and I hope it is not our last. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
This was the last cruise of the season from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, and then continued on to San Diego for me and to Vancouver for many others. If you go to the community pages for Holland America and search for my blog, you should ... Read More
This was the last cruise of the season from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, and then continued on to San Diego for me and to Vancouver for many others. If you go to the community pages for Holland America and search for my blog, you should be able to read a rather in depth review of the Zaandam. The Zaandam, which is now 16, is a great sized ship for this itinarary. We had about 1300 guests aboard, 1400 is max with 2 to a room, and we had a number of singles. On a longer HAL cruise like this, you will find many well traveled, highly educated people, which makes for a better cruise for me. All though a senior crowd, not many did this cruise that needed a lot of assistance walking, etc., unlike short cruises. The lectures were well attended. On the gala nights, most were dressed well...ladies in evening gowns and men with jackets and ties. This cruise could be sold as a fire and ice venture; we had some very cool days near the Horn and some very warm ones after crossing the equator. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This cruise was given to us from our Son as a Christmas gift. We loved every minute of the cruise and after many, many cruises had nothing but praise for the entire staff. We stayed in Buenos Aires at the Mine Boutique hotel before the ... Read More
This cruise was given to us from our Son as a Christmas gift. We loved every minute of the cruise and after many, many cruises had nothing but praise for the entire staff. We stayed in Buenos Aires at the Mine Boutique hotel before the trip for 3 days and were treated like Royalty there also. Once onboard, the easier ever entry to a ship ever, we were amazed at the luxury of our Vista Suite. Our room stewards were always available to us and most polite. We used room service every morning and the server was excellent. So many activities to choose from onboard. I love to gamble and loved meeting at the casino with new found friends. My husband loved all the lectures and I also loved the cooking shows. We are Catholic and were able to go to Mass almost every day. We did take several shore excursions and the only one we were displeased with was the tour in Costa Rica. We did the Machu Picchu climb and loved every minute of that experience. Cusco was one of the cleanest cities out side of Monte Carlo we have even experienced. The Pinnacle Grill was really nice for dinner alone or with another couple. We were always greeted by name and welcomed back. The dining room gave us the same service. I'd say a "boy named Sue" was over and above in his politeness and in finding us a great table with other great guests. One of the highlights of the cruise for us was the music. We especially enjoyed the versatility of Darlene Carnahan in the Crows Nest and the fun atmosphere of Roy at the Martini Bar. Two of our favorite people on this ship. We never had difficulty in finding a place to sit by the pool. We were on this ship for 58 days all the way to Vancouver, then Hawaii and back to Vancouver, starting in Argentina. I'd go again in a heartbeat!! We are about to leave on Feb 23rd for the cruise on the Volendam out of Hong Kong for 30 days and then back to Hong Kong for 3 days before we board the Cunard Queen Mary 2 for 6 weeks. This is also a gift from our Son. Our Son is the primary owner of the Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix Arizona and we are also owners, we pride ourselves on our service and I am particularly fussy about good no I should say excellent service. Only one negative remark. I think supervisors of waitstaff should not be critical of the workers they supervise in front of the passengers. A bad reflection on Holland Americas treatment of employees. I heard one cruiser say they would not return to Holland American because of the way they saw supervisors treating those that were under them in front of guests of the ship. I have to agree with that but then those supervisors need to be trained in their behavior. We love Holland American and will continue to cruise. We like the smaller more intimate ships and how it is easy to get to know people on these ships. Also I must commend you on having a great library at sea. I would love to see a separate room for those who just want to play games where the bridge players cannot boldly chase others out when they have the room for their exclusive use. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We flew overnight from Miami to Santiago, arriving 8:30 a.m. We had an interesting 3-hour Turis (Pauline and driver Juan) led tour of Santiago. A very thorough introduction to the historical and cultural highlights of Santiago. Five bus ... Read More
We flew overnight from Miami to Santiago, arriving 8:30 a.m. We had an interesting 3-hour Turis (Pauline and driver Juan) led tour of Santiago. A very thorough introduction to the historical and cultural highlights of Santiago. Five bus loads of Zaandam passengers stayed at the Sheraton Santiago Hotel which made the transfer Sunday morning to the port city of Valparaiso very convenient. Sunday morning’s 1.5 hr. bus ride with one potty break transfer from Sheraton to Valparaiso terminal. Lilianna was our bus #4 guide who narrated the entire trip. Very informative. As you walk through terminal shops be sure to sample the Veremonte Reserva Sauvignon Blanc from the Villa de Casablanca vineyards, Chile. HAL registration very smooth, taking barely 25 minutes in queue and processing. Sea Days provided good opportunities to look back to reflect on activities done, classes or upcoming port expectations. Our Location Guide Ryan was inspirational and a really positive influence as we looked forward to seeing and hearing his presentations. EVENING ENTERTAINMENT: The Zaandam entertainers and the HALCat band were consistently good. Classique starred the Singers and Dancers was wonderful. Wife even commented she would have paid a fee to see; it was that good of a cruise ship show. Monday SHOWTIME WAS Jaz Danion who entertained us with world class juggling and feats of strength and balance. Tuesday SHOWTIME featured International renowned Harpist Shirley Dominguez performing "When the Harp goes Latin." Backed by the HALcats and superb theatrical smoke and lighting, we few who attended Shirley's passionate performance were really entertained. Truth be told, we went expecting to listen to her first song. We happily stayed her entire 45 minute show. Wednesday’s SHOTIME performer was British operatic Tenor Lee Brantley. We opted for March Madness. Our loss! On Friday we were entertained by both Shirley and Lee…fast paced and powerful. A very good show. Monday’s SHOWTIME was highlighted by Salvatore Hasard, singer and multi-instrumentalist performing "Life is Music." Moving effortlessly from his "Bride," his pearl white electric guitar, performing several songs with Harmonica, Piano, from which he performed several 'solo-duets,' Saxophone, and Drums from which he performed a tribute to his favorite multi-instrumentalists...Stevie Wonder. His between-song stories and solid playing and vocals made this a fun show. Tuesday’s SHOWTIME entertainer was Comedian Andrew Kennedy. Reality (family) Comedy. From his 83 year old Mister McGoo, proper Brit father to his 5'0" Columbian Latina mother, lily white Andrew looks at life (never judging a book by its cover) through the multi-cultural eyes of a bilingual boy who was born to the interpreter to his father and mother. Showtime entertainment Thursday featured PAMPAS DEVILS GAUCHOS: a traditional South American gaucho show including the Argentinean Tango, Bolas, and Argentinean tap dancing as well as a little comedy featuring show man, Juan Pablo Vino. Showtime entertainment Friday featured the HAL singers and dancers who performed a really professional program entitled simply, "DANCE." We closed each evening with Piano Man Van, a very versatile club piano man / show man. PORTS OF CALL: Tender ports—Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacabuco, and Stanley…tender operations went very smoothly. In Puerto Montt we had an easy transfer from ship to comfortable bus. I enjoyed the ride as our guide was easy to understand and very informative. First stop, after a short drive, the rushing cascades of Petrohue Falls. We spent 45 mins. there with plenty time to shop a bit at a handicraft market. Our tour took us next up the steep and winding roads to the near peak of Osorno Volcano. Unforttnately, cloud cover blocked our view of the volcano all day. Stopping for lunch at a German Restaurant was a highlight. The food was delicious, lovely atmosphere and beautiful flowers in the gardens. Lastly, we spent an hour shopping in Puerto Varas. The 7 1/2 hour excursion made for a wonderful day. In Puerto Chacabuco we took the HAL led Northern Patagonia and Coyhaique City tour, an enjoyable day exactly as the brochure describes. Not mentioned was the ‘snack’ we had halfway through the trip…awesome. In Punta Arenas we scheduled the Off the Beaten Path: Magdalena (Island) Penguin Reserve (as a Plan B in case Stanley didn’t permit entry.) There were still 20,000 to 25,000 pairs of Magelanic Penguins in residence. We had the ultimate in good fortune. The previous day’s tour was cancelled as was our afternoon’s trip. We had smooth sailing (2-4’ seas) for the 2.5 hour ferry ride to the island. Returning though seas built to 8-11’ seas and building. What a magnificent encounter with these burrowing creatures. Our dockage at Ushuaia was delayed by 1.5 hours due to high crosswinds and very choppy seas. We had an interesting excursion. Our 6:30 departure was adjusted to 7:30 so we were able to do our entire Drive to Tierra del Fuego National Park excursion during which we stopped at a lake across which was an Argentine mountain range which was lovely. We then backtracked to a visitors center / restaurant for a bite to eat / photo op. Another view of the same lake and similar mountain views. In this lake we saw five ducks bobbing in the growing swells. Then we made a stop at crazy Carlos, keeper of the End of the World Post Office in a shack on a wooden pier. Despite getting near 6:30 on Sunday afternoon, he was still open, quite happy to sell post cards, hawking some that bore images of himself in a number of different poses and designs taken over his 30 year tenure. The absolute pinnacle of our South American journey was the Patrick Watts led Bertha’s Beach / Gypsy Cove excursion which we had booked and hawked to our Cruise Critic Roll Call Family. We wound up with 26 on this excursion. We arrived Prince William Bay / Sound a little ahead of schedule. The trip to Stanley was smooth as silk. In fact, the largest swells occurred when we encountered the wake of oncoming tenders retuning to the Zaandam from Stanley. Excellent boarding of tender, really calm bay to and from Stanley pier. Patrick and his team were right where we expected him to be.. With driver Sara we were in a 7-9 SUV caravan. Tremendous colony of Gentoo penguins. A comical juvenile kept Gypsy Cove , a mine strew beach, a remnant of the Falklands war. Despite there only being 7 Magellanic penguins this late in the season, the elevated walkway around the cove provided beautiful views of the Zaandam and Stanley city in the distance. In Montevideo we ventured out into town on the suggestion of our location guide Ryan. Armed with a “Circuitous Turistico Walking Tour” map, rain suits and umbrellas, we walked the 15 blocks effortlessly to independence Square. On the way we scoped out the stores we wanted to walk through on the return to the ship. Despite the morning rains, and the persistent threat throughout the afternoon, we got to see and do everything we had set out to do. Due to our 9:50 flight home on Sunday, we had two full days in Buenos Aires. Saturday we did the HAL led Gaucho Life on the Pampas: great fun—gaucho horse ballet, trick riding, nice walk around estancia, terrific meal of b-b-q steak, chicken, sausage after which guitarists played / sang, and Tango dancers performed. Local wines were very good and, like at every other port, flowed like (excuse me) wine. And oh, those all you can eat empanadas. Sun. Mar. 20 BUENOS AIRES disembarkation was smooth as silk. Highlights & Tango Show w/airport transfer for those with flights later than 8pm. Buenos Aires tour was very interesting, esp. Recoleta cemetery (Eva Peron (Duarte) story. The Pink Palace from which she addressed her people, Pope Francis's municipal cathedral, the famous La Boca neighborhood, Camalita Street, the soccer stadium. The highlight was the luncheon Tango Show at Cafe de los Angelitos before heading to the Airport. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
My wife and I had a wonderful cruise on board Zaandam. The ship, despite being 16 years old, is still in very top condition. The cabin washroom is equipped well and looks quite modern. All common areas are well maintained. This is our 12th ... Read More
My wife and I had a wonderful cruise on board Zaandam. The ship, despite being 16 years old, is still in very top condition. The cabin washroom is equipped well and looks quite modern. All common areas are well maintained. This is our 12th cruise and second with HAL. The previous HAL cruise was on Westerdam. Service is no doubt ahead of the other cruise lines that are of similar pricing structures. Cruise director arranged very good shows and none disappointed us. The Gala night that replaced Formal benefited many passengers, although a few tuxedos could be seen in the dining area as well as in the theatre. I played tennis with a front desk staff while off duty. That is service beyond call of duty. Food was great, especially the lobster night at one of the gala attire evenings. Tender boat arrangements of three ports were very well managed. We had enjoyed the great weather every time we went ashore. I felt so lucky that we were being toured around at Falkland Islands to see Penguins by an independent agent Patrick Watt on Tuesday, March 15th. Patrick organized about 8-10 4X4 and we travelled to Bertha’s Beach as well as other places. Bertha’s Beach is the home of a large colony of Gentoo penguins who have the freedom of a beautiful long white sand beach. We also saw two King penguins, a bonus. In addition, we also saw many Magellanic penguins. Great experience for us. Patrick is the third generation in Falklands and he knows the place, history extremely well. His expertise and actual experience of the Falkland War gave us more in-depth understanding of the historical event. On that gorgeous day of March 15th, both my wife and I really enjoyed every moment of the excursion. If you are thinking of seeing penguins in your South America cruise, you owe it to yourself not to contact Patrick Watt - pwatts@horizon.co.fk. He responded to email very promptly, and in great details. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Excellent service. All activities inside the ship where excellent also the food. I went with my family and we joined friends from the cruise to do a tour. We did part of the tour with the cruiseship line in the South of Patagonia by a ... Read More
Excellent service. All activities inside the ship where excellent also the food. I went with my family and we joined friends from the cruise to do a tour. We did part of the tour with the cruiseship line in the South of Patagonia by a company Tango Tour around Beagle Channel. And we did a lovely stop in Buenos Aires with a local lady that helps entrepreneurs so we experience the huge city of Buenos Aires in a very professional way and more out of the commercial issues. Private Groups done by LIZ Andrea. Our nights were fantastic ans they also have shows at night. They also explained all history before our getting off each port in order to know what we will going to watch and to learn. That was very intersting! Good report: Tango Tour-Patagonia Liz Andrea-Buenos Aires (liz2arg@yahoo.com or www.lizflor2.blogspot.com Certificated of excellence in Trip Advisor for many years!) Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
For a number of years I've wanted to travel to Antarctica and have heard the warnings that access to this part of the world would be reduced if not eliminated to cruise ships of the HAL size. So I booked us on the Zaandam sailing out ... Read More
For a number of years I've wanted to travel to Antarctica and have heard the warnings that access to this part of the world would be reduced if not eliminated to cruise ships of the HAL size. So I booked us on the Zaandam sailing out of Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. I will note that we are experience 4 star Mariners on HAL. We departed the US from Atlanta on Delta on a direct flight to Santiago which is located inland from the port city of Valparaiso about 60 miles. After the overnight flight we arrived in the mid morning in Santiago but couldn't check in to our hotel until 3pm. While waiting in a local cafe, my backpack was cleverly stolen from right next to me. It contained my meds, cameras, other electronic items, some cash, and personal effects. It was a bummer of a way to start the trip. Fortunately it's just "stuff". Surprisingly, I was able to replace my meds at a local pharmacy with no prescription! Replacing a camera was a bit more difficult and took several days in another city near Valparaiso. The takeaway from the theft was to always put one's foot through the arm straps of a backpack to reduce the chances of it being stolen. In Santiago, we rented an apartment for two days located on the top floor of a high rise. We took two walking tours of the city with Tours by Locals and met a few people who were also going to be on the cruise and that was pretty cool. Santiago is a very modern city with lots of hustle and bustle. To get to Valparaiso, we hired a car, driver, and a guide who met us promptly and delivered us to our destination in Santiago via a couple vineyard stops and a lovely seaside restaurant. In Valparaiso, we rented a room in a hostel near what I thought would be the departure point for the ship. While it was cheap, the music and crowd noise at night blared from the street below until 5am and was beyond annoying. If I were to stay in the area next time, I'd go to the IBIS which has a nice quiet location nearby. In Valparaiso, we also did a couple walking tours with the same company as in Santiago and they were very interesting. We were located right at Plaza Sotomajor which is a main monument location and the local light rail station was there which took us directly to the cruise terminal at a very inexpensive fare. There's a nice food court on the second level of the train station. For this cruise we were assigned an ocean view cabin located low and mid ship on the starboard side which we really liked. Normally we sail using inside cabins, but waking up to daylight is nice. As 4 star Mariners it was nice to be able to board early and without a line. After having sailed on a number of HAL ships, it felt so comfortable boarding the Zaandam. We really liked the look and feel of the ship and everything seemed so familiar even though we'd never been on the ship. It appeared to be in good repair and had all of the typical HAL decor and accompaniments. Captain PJ was a delight to listen to and Bruce, the Cruise Director, was wonderful in that role. He didn't make too many announcements, and was very easy to understand over the PA system. The evening entertainment was very good and consistent with other HAL ships. We really appreciated the new cast shows (we'd seen them on previous cruises) and the audio levels were dialed in perfectly. There was a wide range of outside entertainers. Also, we were able to get some replacement American dollars for the money that was stolen before we boarded the trip. This was the first time I used Cruise Critic to book shore excursions, and we found it a total delight to meet other CC passengers at the Meet & Greet on the first sea day and then share various shore excursions with them. For several of the ports, we had to use HAL Shore Excursions (Ushuaia and Punta Arenas particularly) and those were fine. At Ushuaia my goal was to get a picture at the end of the road sign in the National Park, and the shore excursion met that objective. The best of the CC member arranged shore excursions was going to the penguin reserve at Punta Tombo out of Puerto Madryn. It's a colony of 1,000,000 Magellan penguins and the small bus got us out there before the large tour buses. It's a must do stop in my opinion. In the Falkland Islands, we elected to walk the city visiting the museum, finding some British Fish & Chips, and just taking in some of the local culture. The scenic cruising was simply off the chart excellent. Pictures of the glaciers and other scenic natural wonders don't do it justice. While traveling through the Fjords and bays of Chile, Argentina, and then Antarctica, our location guide, Ryan, was simply excellent. These sights fulfilled my every expectation about Antarctica and the related sights. I've got thousands of pictures of glaciers, shipwrecks, icebergs, penguins, seals, sea lions, birds. Additionally there was an Antarctica expedition team on board composed of men and women who had worked and lived in Antarctica for years. Their experience and tips were invaluable (Scott particularly) in providing details about the local flora and fauna. Capt PJ would also interject nautical and navigational commentary as appropriate throughout the voyage. We always at breakfast in the LIDO before attending the Good Morning Zaandam taping session with the CD Bruce and the Culinary Arts Hostess who was from near where we live in the Puget Sound region of the US. Lunch on the ship was also always at the LIDO, and we found the meals to be good. We're careful eaters (we don't gain weight on cruises!), and the selection was good. I tended to eat the Asian fare as that's a strong preference for my palette, while my wife leans to the salad side of the menu. Most dinners were taken in the Main Dining Room (MDR). We always choose open seating and eat dinner as early as the dining room opens. On days when we are returning from a long day ashore, we would choose to eat in the LIDO so we could be more casual. We also took the opportunity to eat in the Pinnacle Grill and the Canaletto. Both of those were very good and we are now tending to eat in them at least once on all of our cruises. At Buenos Aires, we had an overnight stay on the ship. For the first day, we used a Tours by Locals guide to do a fully city tour. Alex was terrific. The second day, after a very smooth but delayed disembarkation), we used another tour through Tours by Locals to take us to an Estancia (ranch) directly from the ship and then take us to our BA hotel the NH Buenos Aires Latino. It was a fun day out in the countryside which a chance see totally different scenery than the glaciers and fjords we had just experienced. The horseback ride was cool and the barbeque lunch was good. A few days later we used another Tours by Locals guide to give us a tour themed around Evita and it was quite good also. We also did a lot of self-guided walking tours from our hotel as well as riding the Hop On Hop Off bus. We felt totally safe doing that, but we didn't venture out at night. I highly recommend the NH Buenos Aires Latino hotel for lodging in BA. It's located centrally near the main Obelisk monument. While the rooms are plain, they are spacious and there's a safe in the room. We ate all of our meals outside the hotel at local cafes, and they were good. ATM's abound at the many banks. The hotel arranged for a car and driver to take us to the international airport which is located quite a distance out of town and there is no support service infrastructure out there. While our flight was delayed for 3 hours, DELTA provided food for the waiting passengers and all too soon our flight headed us off to Atlanta . In summary, the trip met all of our expectations. It was so wonderful that I'd like to do it again. For the second trip, however, I would travel in the reverse direction in order to change up the fjord cruising in Argentina and Chile. I highly recommend that travellers who have any desire to see Antarctica, book a cruise on this route. The Zaandam would be my strong recommendation. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
My wife and I began our cruise in Buenos Aires on January 10, 2016; we are four star Mariners, and this cruise is our 14th on this line. Embarkation went smoothly; our stateroom was ready for us right away, and the welcoming lunch was ... Read More
My wife and I began our cruise in Buenos Aires on January 10, 2016; we are four star Mariners, and this cruise is our 14th on this line. Embarkation went smoothly; our stateroom was ready for us right away, and the welcoming lunch was available immediately. We had been in Buenos Aires for several days before boarding, so we were rested and eager to enjoy this "bucket list" cruise! We were pleased that the majority of our fellow guests were of our age--retired and well-educated, and well-traveled. Dinner conversations and excursions are always animated, especially when the port lectures and the historical and scientific presentations were thorough and informative, pleasing and entertaining! Holland American prides itself on the high quality of the services provided on board, and the housekeeping and wait staff were outstandingly solicitious in every way. We take breakfast in the suite, and Stevie delivered our meal on time and was eager to confirm the quality of the food! Our cabin stewart (Buddy) anticipated our every need, including collecting our laundry and making sure that all the items were accounted for! The Zaandam is a manageable ship because one can reach almost every venue quickly and conveniently. The Rotterdam Dining Room and the Theatre, the stern and the bow, are easily navigated. The Explorer's Lounge is without a doubt the most comfortable library-cafe-computer center on the ship, and the Crows Nest offers a relaxing space for reading and viewing the outstanding scenery of South America and Antarctica. (One could shoot a cannon through the casino and hit no one! This is NOT a criticism.) Our suite 7008 was large and well-appointed. The towels and the bedding were of highest quality. Closet space outstanding. ONe does not take an Antartica cruise expecting Las Vegas shows, indeed. The various entertainers offered music, magic, dance, etc., but the outstanding "entertainment" was the the presentations by the scientists and scholars, whose lectures and discussions enriched the experience of the cruise and stimulated discussions among the guests and the presenters! I think this program rivals what we have enjoyed on the QM2, whose enrichment program rivals the one on the Zaandam. Port and shore excursions, which Holland America offers, are well-organized and efficient. The ports, often not exciting in themselves, do require a bus ride to a national park, a wine-tasting, and local color, and one can take away a good memory. If there is a slightly negative aspect of the cruise it is is the food. I, of course, remember when caviar and exotic game were on the menu, and tastes have changed over the 45 years or so of our cruising experience, but the food lacks imagination, so to speak, and there is a certain sameness to the offerings. However, and this is important, the specialty restaurant does maintain the quality and variety of yore, and the experience is not that expensive at all. The move towards healthful foods is evident, and one must move with the times! Holland America is predictable and of high quality in most areas. A good measure of our appreciation of this line is the sadness we feel days after the cruise has ended. Watching the ship leave after we have disembarked is like watching a good friend leaving on a journey without us! Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
I am just beginning to put together the scrapbook for our holiday trip aboard HAL’s ms Zaandam around the tip of South American and on to the Antarctic Peninsula, and it dawned on me that I never got around to writing my review of this ... Read More
I am just beginning to put together the scrapbook for our holiday trip aboard HAL’s ms Zaandam around the tip of South American and on to the Antarctic Peninsula, and it dawned on me that I never got around to writing my review of this amazing journey. This was a bucket trip for my husband, and I frankly wasn’t that wild about the idea due to the specter of crossing the notoriously rough Drake Passage. As luck would have it (and now facing a life time of “I told you so”) our Drake experience was more lake than shake and we were blessed with spectacular weather throughout most of our travels. We’re frequent cruisers on HAL, and have enjoyed all of our experiences with them. The in-processing has had occasional blips here and there, but nothing to fuss about. This go ‘round, we arrived at the port in Valparaiso a bit early and they weren’t quite ready. That said, they did have hot chocolate and Christmas cookies waiting for us in the staging area and there are certainly worse ways to while away a ½ hour or so. Our shore excursions in the various ports were excellent. Some guides better than others, of course, but such is life. No really bad ones, and a couple who were extraordinary – like Cesar in Chaccabuco. Our cabin stewards were wonderful – always cheerful and keeping everything tidy and well supplied. Our experience with the dining room and bar staff was also excellent. We don’t do the assigned seating thing, so we had different servers and wine stewards just about every night, but all did a commendable job. Spending the holidays shipboard was an experience in itself. We’ve celebrated a number of New Year’s Eves afloat, but this was our first Christmas at sea, and HAL did a bang-up job of it, with caroling, tree lighting, a visit from Santa, worship services and fabulous food. They also did their usual terrific NYE celebration as well, although the main venue was almost too crowded to move (never been one for crowds, myself – others clearly enjoyed it.) The highlight of the trip, however, was the time we spent cruising around the Antarctic – the weather was far better than expected and I got some spectacular photographs. HAL does a great job of education on this trip, too – with a team that included a naturalist, research scientists and others aboard to give lectures on the wildlife and the projects that are underway on the continent. They were also out and about the ship to answer questions and were - as the rest of the crew – very personable. We also spent a lot of time just sitting on our verandah, soaking in the indescribable peace and beauty. The food on ms Zaandam was excellent. We enjoy the dining room for our evening meal and the food there was excellent – lots of choices, including the standard options of steak, chicken or salmon if the specials didn’t suit. The Lido buffet was excellent for breakfast and lunch, and we also found the Dive Bar “fast food” stand quite good. They also hosted an Argentine barbecue one night, poolside. One thing I do find challenging in our travels is the amount of whinging and complaining from other passengers…on everything and nothing. I guess some people get satisfaction from it, but it baffles (and annoys!) me. Usually seems to come from less experienced travelers – with clearly unrealistic expectations. Or maybe I’m just a glass-half-full kind of person. And HAL has always managed to fill my glass to near overflowing! Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
This cruise on the MS Zaandam was a year in planning for us, and included arranging a long vacation window from work. We enjoy scenic cruising and knew this cruise would suit our tastes. We'd talked with other travelers who compared ... Read More
This cruise on the MS Zaandam was a year in planning for us, and included arranging a long vacation window from work. We enjoy scenic cruising and knew this cruise would suit our tastes. We'd talked with other travelers who compared Patagonia with the Southern Island of New Zealand and Alaska, so we knew we were in for a treat. We flew Boston-Panama-Santiago on COPA Airlines and were very pleased with them. We had a lot of conversation with Holland America regarding our hotel and transfer because we arrived after midnight and booking a room for the same day as check out didn't work with their system. Had to climb several layers of customer service to get it figured out. We arrived right on time, had a Holland America rep waiting for us and arrived at the Sheridan Santiago at 1:00AM the day of departure. Had a nice sleep and upon awakening and getting ready for the transfer to the ship realized we had missed the notice to put bags out for collection the night before. Finally found a representative to help us sort that out and get our bags to the loading point collection and were pleased nothing got lost along the way. Easy transfer to Valparaiso and boarding. Would have liked an extra day to explore Valparaiso, but no time available in vacation window. MS Zaandam. I had thought we'd sailed on her before, but had never seen the organ in the atrium before so this was the first time. We'd done our research and had booked early (calling in for fare adjustment anytime there was a sale) and had chosen a port side, verandah room, that happened to have handicapped access, but was located exactly where we wanted it. If there was a shortage of handicapped availability we'd have been moved down the hall. Stateroom 7088 was perfect for us, with a few minor flaws. You gain width and space around the bed and closets, but you lose space in the seating area to a wheelchair ramp to the verandah. Couch is terribly old and uncomfortable and the desk chair has limited areas where it can be placed flat for seating. The verandah is extra large and allows a partial view to the aft. Port side is where you want to be for Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. Everything happens to the port, aside from occasional spins and wildlife viewing. We opted in to the Thermal Spa membership, which is smaller on this ship than on the Zuiderdam, but still nice for warming up and relaxing in an exclusive area of the ship. We wanted to attend Pilates regularly, even though it was scheduled at an inconvenient time (45 minutes before our dinner seating) but the Gym Director cancelled the first class due to high seas and took it off the menu soon thereafter. I don't think he was much of a mat exercise guy. The only times we thought about the gym after that were on sea days with high seas and we weren't the only ones - the gym was too packed to work out. I had one massage and remembered to never waste my time or money again until they change contractors away from Elemis. I missed my hometown massage therapist who gives 20x better massages at 1/3rd the price. Also, just to note, I dislike the Elemis shampoo, and next time will pack my own shampoo. Glad to see an acupuncturist on board, but wasn't willing to open my purse strings to experiment with his services. I was initially excited to see the ship had a movie theater, but were totally disappointed by the layout of the room which has three televisions instead of one large screen. We hopped in to watch The Martian, and promptly left because we have a better viewing experience at home. Best shore excursions: 34020 Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve by Speedboat and 70014 King Penguins 4x4 Adventure. Anything penguin is worthwhile, but Magdalena Island shined for the ease of the commute and the relatively small groups of people you share the penguins with, since the park only allows 36 people on the island at a time. The 4x4 adventure, which is part of the World Wonders collection, was memorable, but it is really, really, really, a bouncy ride for 4 hours, like being inside a tumble dryer to get to penguins. Once there you share the penguin colonies with 100-200 people, but you get to photograph King and Gentoo penguins. You can instead opt for Rockhoppers in the Falklands and maybe get tumbled a bit less. Scenic Cruising: The Patagonia fjords were mostly socked in and rainy this trip. El Brujo glacier, Glacier Alley and ice floes are beautiful, but nothing compares to a clear day on the Antarctic Peninsula! Holy Moly, people! It is serenity on Earth! And seeing the research stations is like visiting moon outposts. Riveting! Holland America's Antarctic Expedition Team are incredibly linked to these stations and have lived the history of the Antarctic. Having them onboard was fantastic. Wildlife spotted at sea: Adelle, gentoo, chinstrap, and Magellan penguins (plus you can see King and Rockhoppers on shore excursions), Albatross, Sheathbill, Petrels, Fulmar, Skua, Shags (and Antarctic Terns ashore) for bird watchers, Fin, Humpback, Sperm, Killer and Minke whales (we were surrounded for an hour by 40 fin whales!) , and Crab eater, Weddell and Leopard Seals. But you have to get outside to see them and it's cold, so bundle up, bring a DSLR camera and binoculars to get the best views. Best Walking Ports: Castro, Ushuaia, Port Stanley, Montevideo. Best Ports to use as jumping off points for Scenic Areas: Puerto Arenas (Magdalena Island), Puerto Chacabuco (Patagonia), Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego), Puerto Madryn (Valdes Peninsula) Early Seating Dining at a Table for Eight: Great group of people, good food, and we asked for Indian menus twice during the cruise and half the table ate family style, delicious ethnic food! Lots of good wines for the flights since South American wines are added to the list. Special Dining: le Cirque. Delicious. Entertainment onboard still isn't our cuppa tea, being a bit too tame and groomed for our liking. Stage production was solid. I was impressed with the musical skills of the HAL Cats, and we had a good acoustic guitarist on board. The Adagio classical players improved the general ambience. The tango show onboard was good, but touristy. Kill me before I sit down to any ventriloquist, flutist, or magician, okay? I seek out current, upcoming, experimental and edgy talent and that has never been what HA wants to provide, nor what their audience is generally seeking. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Great cruise with zaandam, we started in Valparaiso. The embarkation was well organized. We cruised mostly with celebrity, princess and rcl, it was our first cruise with hal. We reed many critics about the zaandam. Our impression was very ... Read More
Great cruise with zaandam, we started in Valparaiso. The embarkation was well organized. We cruised mostly with celebrity, princess and rcl, it was our first cruise with hal. We reed many critics about the zaandam. Our impression was very good. Yes the ship is 15 years old, we saw the age, but it is very well maintained. The service was very helpful, friendly and customer oriented. The reason why we cruised with hal was the route around cap horn. Because the bad weather and the rough sea the captain decided to cancel the ports Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Port Stanley. We were disappointed about this. After all we heard, that another cruise ships used the ports, but we can’t change this. So we were relaxing on the ship. We visited mostly the fitness studio, it was well equipped. The food was mediocre. The mdr was some time hectic and loud. We used 4x the pinnacle and Canaletto, both were a little bit better, especially the atmosphere. The disembarkation was unorganized and chaotic. We had to wait 1 hour and more in the theater. The reason they had problems with the luggage to bring this from the ship. I can’t understand this, they need such a long time do this. In summery it was a good cruise, we would cruise with hal again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
My friend & I have cruised on Holland America around 155 days. We found the Zaandam to be updated since our previous voyage on the ship. The rooms, services, meals and activities were all we expected. We enjoyed the Culinary ... Read More
My friend & I have cruised on Holland America around 155 days. We found the Zaandam to be updated since our previous voyage on the ship. The rooms, services, meals and activities were all we expected. We enjoyed the Culinary classes and demonstrations. Especially the hands-on cooking class for $29.95. One of the chefs, Sander, taught us how to make 3 different dishes. Afterwords we went to the Pinnacle for lunch where they served the same menu we had just learned. Lively conversation between classmates as we shared our foodie & cruising adventures. The lunch included your choice of a very nice chardonnay or red wine, which I heard was also good. This cooking class is not advertised, you need to go to the front desk and ask for the "hands-on" cooking class. We did on own tour in Trujillo, Peru of the Moon Temple, Museum, city center, ChanChan, and the reed boats. It was absolutely excellent & much cheaper than HAL ship tours. Air conditioned bus, fluent english speaking guide & we were returned to the ship with time left to shop at the pier. We found out about it on our CC roll call, TRUJILLODELPERU.COM TOURS. We took the ship tour called "Antigua on your own" and hired a local guide for 3 of us at $10/pp. Jerson was working on his english but was still easy to understand. We saw a few of the sites & visited a pharmacy, coffee shop, and had time for some shopping. Jerson helped us with the price negotiations. The only problem with this tour was that there was not enough time in Antigua. The trip took about about 1 1/2 hours each was. I wish the ship had stayed longer in this port. In Callao, we took 2 tours. "Walking around Plaza des Armes" was excellent at $59.95, but did not provide any time on our own for shopping or people watching. The other tour "Shopping in Miraflores" was actually a shuttle at $29.95. The drive took over an hour each way and only allowed 2 hours for shopping in the bazaar area. There was not enough time to visit Lacamar, the shopping center on the cliff, or walk along a beautiful pathways along the tops of the cliffs. I would only recommend it because the port area in Callao is very dangerous for tourists. We were supposed to stop in Coquimbo, Chile, but the port was closed because of the September earthquake and tsunami. HAL rerouted us to a Peruvian port called General San Martin, near a town called Paracas (South of Pisco). HAL provided a free 20 minute shuttle between the ship and Paracas. A lovely little seaside town situated in the middle of a desert. A new friend and I hired a tour for $35 in Paracas of the State Park by quads (4 wheel motorcycles). There was some joking by the locals because of my gray hair and I was much older then their normal clients. We wore helmets and had a great time riding over dunes, enjoying the vastness of this wilderness and visiting the Red beach (playa rioja). Our dinner mates, Mary & Mike and Bur & Jane were delightful. We had late fixed seating and we were often the last to leave the dining room...much to the chagrin of a great waiters. Lastly, we ended our cruise by staying in Valparaiso for 2 nights at Puerta Escondida Hostal. A lovely B&B ran by Andrew & Violetta. The showed us on the maps what to visit, and provided a train card & instructions for the train system to get to Vina del Mar. We hired a local tour company called MyWayChile.com for the 100 mile transfer from our hotel in Valpo to the Santiago Airport. It included stops at 2 wineries for tours and tastings and lunch at a typical Chilean roadside cafe. Pablo, from MyWayChile, arrived at the hotel on time, spoke fluent english and provided a delightful trip. We arrived at the airport 10 minutes earlier than planned and paid about $120pp. Pablo took what was left of our Chilean pesos and we paid the rest by credit card with a receipt. I highly recommend him for any tours around Valparaiso & Santiago, Wine tours, and airport transfers. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
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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