549 Holland America Zaandam Cruise Reviews

32 days on the Zaandam from San Diego to Buenos Aires Overall the cruise was very enjoyable, even taking into account that 4 of the ports were cancelled, 1 due to unrepaired earthquake damage to the port and 3 because of adverse ... Read More
32 days on the Zaandam from San Diego to Buenos Aires Overall the cruise was very enjoyable, even taking into account that 4 of the ports were cancelled, 1 due to unrepaired earthquake damage to the port and 3 because of adverse weather. Holland America did arrange for visits to 3 alternative ports; however 2 of these were not very interesting. The crew were 50% Indonesian, 30% Filipino and 20% the rest of the world, overall my wife and I thought the crew were the best we had come across, they appeared to be really happy and friendly, well done Hal. There were some good and some not so good points about the ship these were as follows: - The Good Main restaurant and bar staff, they were brilliant. Brett the on-board location guide was excellent. Main restaurant food was very good but not quite as good as Oceania and Princess, but far better than P & O. The Lido breakfast food was better than Oceania, Princess and P & O.. There was a British style breakfast sausage available, this might be the best sausage available at sea, the crew call them ‘bangers’. Laundry Service, this was excellent, the laundry always came back well within the stated service times and it was well pressed. The not so Good Embarkation was very slow considering the ship was probably only two thirds full when it left San Diego. Announcements made by the Cruse Director were far too many and far too loud; you receive a printed daily information sheet, it does need to be repeated. Saying ‘too-da-loo for now’ after every announcement gets a little monotonous after 32 days, and was making the cruise sound like a 1960’s holiday camp. The air conditioning in our suite was not powerful enough, it was over hot until we got down South and the outside temperature dropped. Tendering, I feel sure the tendering crews most have had training but some of them appeared to lack experience and may need a little more practice of seamanship. Once when we hit the dock very hard I heard one crew member shout to his colleague in English ‘You’ve knocked a fender off’. I thought it might be a little bit worrying if the same tender crew are used in an emergency when the tenders become lifeboats. Overall the shore excursion department staff were not bad, but there did appear to be some lack of communication between the shore side staff and the on-board staff. There was nothing wrong with our cabin door but maintenance department decided to oil it, it appears that is something they do every 3 months, but unfortunately they didn’t bother to wipe off the surplus oil, it dripped from the top to the bottom of the door, and they just left it like that. The suite was clean but looked like it was ready for some refurbishment, the wash basin was cracked and the balcony furniture might have been ready for recycling. Conculsion Would be very happy to cruise again on the Zaandam, a very happy ship, made so by the excellent crew. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
We were on the Zaandam Sept 6 for 7 days. We then took a land tour for 4 nights in Denali. We drove to Seattle and spend the night heading to the air port the next day. Our HAL bus picked us up at the air port. This bus trip cost ... Read More
We were on the Zaandam Sept 6 for 7 days. We then took a land tour for 4 nights in Denali. We drove to Seattle and spend the night heading to the air port the next day. Our HAL bus picked us up at the air port. This bus trip cost us $65 each. We stayed in Seattle because returning the flights were direct and cheaper than trying to get to Vancouver from Anchorage. When leaving for the ship bus, we got to Sea-Tac early about, 9:30, so was put on the first bus out. The trip was enjoyable and bus comfortable. We arrive Vancouver early afternoon. It was about a 3.5 hour trip. We had no wait at the boat terminal. Just walked directly on with no lines. Our room, 1839, was on Dolphin Deck and had a window. The room was very clean and comfortable. Bed comfortable. The room had lots of closet space and more than enough hangers. Nothing lacking in that area. The carpet looked pretty new. The bathroom had a tub and shower combination and larger than Princess bathrooms. The tiles are not pink like some of the reviews said but a mauve color and in excellent condition. I have nothing bad to say about the bathroom. The room had a love seat size sofa. Lighting was good. The bath robes were plush. The stewards were excellent. We brought 2 bottles of wine with us but didn't feel like drinking the first two nights. On the third night, the steward left two wine glasses and cork screw and left them next to the wine bottles. How nice was that. Their names were Harry and Bahri. Just the best. The room was in an excellent location We always get balcony rooms but the last time we took the Alaska cruise it was too cold to use it so decided to get a window. It worked out well. No noise below or above us. Very quiet. I tend to get sea sick so I always get a mid center room on the ship and mid way down or lower. It works. I liked the ship especially the size. We always cruised on Princess and their large ships of 4000 plus guests. This ship was just a little over 1400. I really liked that. We always take any- time dinning and never had to wait. Always found tables where ever we went. The Zaandam had nice little touches like fresh orchids on the tables in the LIDO restaurant and live plants on the tables around the pool. I found the ship to be in excellent condition and very clean. Now for the food. Average. Nothing special. Did prefer the LIDO over the main restaurant. We ate at the speciality restaurants but they were average also. The taco/hamburger/hot dog restaurant on one of the outside decks was wonderful. One thing I did enjoy at the LIDO was the real ice cream. Waffle cones too. Plenty of toppings to use. I liked the sugar free ice cream. Since we took the ship to Alaska before, we did only one excursion through the ship. We took the 3.5 hour train trip. My husband liked it but I could have done without it. If your going on to Denali, skip this. You will see beautiful country on both ends of that trip. We did do a whale trip that we booked off the boat. It was outstanding as the whales were feeding for their south bound trip. We saw whales all over. Hundreds it seemed like. Get the boat where everyone could go out on the deck. That's a TIP. There is a boat where only a few at a time can go out on the deck. The HAL trip to Denali started with a 9 hour bus trip. Lunch was pretty good. We stopped at a restaurant mid way. HAL did a good job here. We were lucky to be put up in McKinley Canyon hotel. It is new and the room was outstanding. We were the last group using it as when we left they closed down for the winter. The shuttles that you use to get around the resort were always around. Never had to wait. It you want to go to the Princess resort, the Dinner Shuttle will bring you over (easy walk) and back. Shuttles free. At the McKinley we didn't like the buffet restaurant especially the breakfast. Found the sit down restaurant near the check-in was much better and breakfast same price. Can't remember the name. Heard the dinner was also good. Now I must say, food in Alaska is very expensive. Be warned. The Tundra trip was long but we did see lots of animals including the rare Dall Sheep and 5 grizzles. Denali Park is lovely. We did several hikes. If you don't want to pay to see the mushers, go to the park for their free demo. Free bus from hotel but need to sign up for it. The dome train back to Anchorage was wonderful. The food excellent also. We went to Denali to see Denali as we didn't the last tine. We stayed 3 nights but never did see Denali. My TIP would be to do the land part first especially if you are older. We were so tired of busses, shuttles, hiking, etc. It would have been nice to relax on the ship on the way back especially since we had to drive back to Colorado. We never went to any of the shows. We ordered breakfast in room the days we docked at ports as we had to get off ship early. It actually arrived on time and hot. TIP If the last day you are scheduled to get off ship early, it's nice to order in so you are not rushing. I also enjoy watching the ship docking. The hotel in Anchorage was good. Very comfortable. Nice rooms. In the main lobby there is a large scale where you can weigh you luggage. The hotel's restaurant was pretty good. I thought their fish and chips were excellent. We took the cab to the airport. HAL charged $14 a person for their bus trip but the cab was easier and only cost $20 plus tip per cab. For the two of us it was cheaper and more comfortable. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
After booking the 14-day round-trip cruise (first cruise, first time in Alaska) I became a little nervous after reading reviews on Cruise Critic and wondered if we'd made a mistake. Happily, we did not and will take HAL again for ... Read More
After booking the 14-day round-trip cruise (first cruise, first time in Alaska) I became a little nervous after reading reviews on Cruise Critic and wondered if we'd made a mistake. Happily, we did not and will take HAL again for another cruise. Our stateroom (Verandah deck with balcony) was much more spacious than some reviews had led me to believe--certainly larger than some "boutique" hotel rooms we've stayed in in NYC. Although I've heard that some of the bathrooms need remodeling, ours did not. It was in very good shape, clean and roomy, with countertop and a a shelf below the sink. The in-bathroom hairdryer was old, and I'd brought my own, but a newer model portable hairdryer was in a drawer in the sitting area desk. The sitting area was big enough for my husband and me to sit and read or watch closed-circuit tv without any discomfort. There is only one real outlet, located in the sitting area, but I'd brought a small extension cord and that suited us fine--could charge electronics and use hair dryer all at the same time if necessary. The service was excellent. Our cabin steward was attentive and available. On the first day, we'd asked for fresh fruit which was delivered quickly and everyday thereafter until we asked for deliveries to stop. Ketut was concerned that we would not get enough fruit and so we compromised with every other day deliveries. We alternated between the Rotterdam dining room, where we selected open seating, and the Lido deck, which we used for occasional breakfasts and lunches. We never had trouble being seated, even though we rarely reserved ahead of time, and usually were able to dine alone. Only once did we have to share a table (although we chose to do that some nights) rather than wait for twenty minutes or so. The food was excellent as was the service. Many choices on the MDR menu and we thought as good as the Pinnacle Grill (also excellent) where we ate only once. The waiters were attentive and friendly and we enjoyed talking with them about Indonesia, where most of them were from--even learning some Indonesian words. We alternated between HAL shore excursions and making out own way. Dave's DYEA in Skagway was a private tour that was excellent and, because the weather was not so good, Dave took us further into Canada than we'd originally planned. The HAL excursions were a little pricy, but fine. Whale watching in Haines was particularly exciting and the boat was comfortable and not too rocky. The trip to the Mendenhall Glacier was also fine, although the bus driver left without us to return to the ship, much to our dismay. We were at the stop on time, or a minute or two later--no more--and we saw the bus pulling away, with my wallet and purse on it. A second bus, also from a HAL sponsored tour was leaving a few minutes later and we were able to get on it and the driver radioed so that my purse was at the ship when we arrived. This was the only real down spot on the whole cruise. We loved playing trivia every night, met some great people to team up with and brought home lots of lapel pins to give our grandchildren. Although we had a beverage plan, we did add a little on to it, since my husband loves lemonade which, free in the Lido, had a charge in the dining room and in the bars. Things we weren't so happy with: lots of selling--diamonds, watches, jewelry, perfume. No announcements were made in our cabins and we could have had a lot of free champagne if we'd wanted to sit through a sales pitch. We didn't, but we still had enough free champagne in other venues (the Captain's meeting, for example). We weren't thrilled with the art and, once seeing it, we decided to forego the auction (even though champagne was available there) and buy native art one we were in port and out of the jewelry store/schlock shop atmosphere on the main streets of most towns. By walking a little, we found stores run by locals with much less of the "Made in China/Philippines" tags and were thus able to by souvenirs made by local artists, our preference when traveling. The entertainers were energetic, but I confess to being a little snobbish about entertainment, living near some of the best professionals in the world. So after the first introductory night, introducing us to all the entertainers on the ship, we didn't do the evening performances, preferring instead to sit in the bar. The average age of passengers was well above "senior" level, although there were younger people and a handful of children, but it's not a "party" boat by any means. We were planning to stay in Vancouver for a few days and chose a late disembarkation, which worked out fine, although I gather there was a little delay in Vancouver, which might have inconvenienced some passengers. The disembarkation was smooth--our luggage was waiting for us when we got off the ship and a porter came immediately to help us get our several suitcases through customs and to a cab. No problems there--although next time, I will take the advice of other cruisers and pack a lot less. Finally, in early September, the weather is bound to be wet--we were prepared for it and knew that it would be that way, but couldn't choose another date. So c'est la vie. Layers of clothing with rainproof light coats kept us reasonably dry and warm enough, and I'd recommend the same, no matter what the date. Alaska--beautiful, breathtaking, magnificent--is also wet. In short, it's a trip I'd recommend. We were thoroughly satisfied and will take another cruise (not something we'd planned) and will travel again with Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Overall, this was an excellent trip. Of course, we enjoyed some uncommonly phenomenal weather, so that set the tone for most of the trip. The pre-cruise hotel stay at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver was the perfect place to kick ... Read More
Overall, this was an excellent trip. Of course, we enjoyed some uncommonly phenomenal weather, so that set the tone for most of the trip. The pre-cruise hotel stay at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver was the perfect place to kick things off. The hotel couldn't be in a better location (at Canada Place overlooking the pier), and the accommodations and service were wonderful. Having read some of the other reviews, I had some concerns about whether I had made the best choice of ship for our family group of 4 adults (2 in their early 50s and 2 in their early 70s). I chose the Zaandam because I was looking for a smaller, more elegant ship that would be easy to navigate and would hopefully allow us to avoid congestion and long lines. The ship is in very good condition, and I think it was a perfect choice for our group. For the most part, there were never lines, congestion or waiting for anything. The ship's common areas are tastefully decorate and spacious, and allow for easy traffic movement. We elected to upgrade to the Neptune Suites, and we had adjacent staterooms and adjoining balconies. There are certainly far less expensive stateroom options on the ship, but we definitely wanted access to balconies for this trip to Alaska, and the up charge from a balcony cabin to a suite was quite reasonable. In my opinion, the extra space of the stateroom (about 450 sq. ft.) and access to the Neptune Lounge alone justified the modest additional expense. With the Neptune Lounge, you have delicious food and beverages available all day (many days we ate breakfast and lunch in the lounge), and the services of a personal concierge. It is a terrific perk, among others that are afforded suites passengers (e.g., daily laundry and dry cleaning service). The stateroom itself was also tastefully decorated and quite spacious. My only criticism would be that the bathrooms, which are perfectly functional, are quite dated looking. I know the ship was christened in 2000, but I can't imagine when in the last 15 years the color palate in the bath areas was ever "in." The food onboard the ship was, for the most part, excellent. We particularly enjoyed The Pinnacle Grill, but we had several excellent meals in the Rotterdam Dining Room. Our experience at Le Cirque was very good, although we all agreed that we preferred our meals at The Pinnacle Grill, and we didn't feel the significant up charge for Le Cirque was justified. I think the real standout of this cruise with HAL, though, was the customer service we encountered while on the ship. The service was very warm and personal; in fact, it was not uncommon to be addressed by name if we encountered staff members outside of our cabins. They really seem to have a "whatever, whenever" philosophy about offering assistance in any way they can, and their enthusiasm and quick smiles and greetings really made us feel like special guests. We enjoyed excursions in every port (several of which I scheduled on my own before the cruise due to cost savings), and the disembarkation/embarkation process in every port was quick and hassle free. My two criticisms of the entire almost two-week trip concern the disembarkation process on the final day (Seward) and the post-cruise/post-Denali hotel stay in Anchorage. First, the land tour specialist on the boat completely mishandled the disembarkation process for those of us continuing on a land tour to Denali, and it resulted in a lot of hurry up and wait time at 7:00am. When we were finally cleared to leave the ship, it was a cluster to secure seats on the bus and our group was separated. It was unnecessary and frustrating, and set a bad tone for an all-day bus trip to Denali. Once in Denali, the McKinley Chalet was clean and comfortable, but it was the Wilderness Tour the following day that more than made up for the hassle of getting there. On an 8-hour tour, we saw dall sheep, moose, caribou, and 4 adult grizzlies and 4 grizzly cubs. It was phenomenal! The return trip to Anchorage the following day aboard the McKinley Explorer train was also a highlight. In addition to the amazing sight-seeing aboard the domed rail cars, the food and service onboard the train was top-notch. In fact, HAL impressed us with the caliber of the guides and drivers. They were all genuinely engaging, informative and entertaining. Now, back to the other criticism, and a big sore point of the trip: The post-cruise hotel stay at the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage. In a nutshell, it's a dump and really should be removed from the itinerary. After having kicked off the trip at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver and then spent a week in a suite onboard the ship, to end the trip at the Westmark was a real letdown. The Westmark enjoys a great location in Anchorage, but there was a Hilton and a Marriott within a stone's throw of our hotel, and I would insist on staying in one of those properties if I had it to do all over again. Fortunately, our time there amounted to less than 24 hours of entire trip, and it didn't kill us (at least nothing we've been diagnosed with yet), but it was sure a low-light of the trip and definitely a misstep on HAL's part. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This was our first cruise on HAL. I had pretty high expectations and was not disappointed. Embarkation was late starting due to Coast Guard not having cleared the ship. We learned it was just returning from dry dock and required Coast ... Read More
This was our first cruise on HAL. I had pretty high expectations and was not disappointed. Embarkation was late starting due to Coast Guard not having cleared the ship. We learned it was just returning from dry dock and required Coast Guard inspection. There was not too much of a delay and embarkation went smoothly. Dry dock refurbishment updated the ship with brand new carpets, upholstery, decking, beds, and decor features. It was beautiful. First thing we noticed were fresh flower bouquets everywhere and orchids on all the tables. There was an air of elegance throughout. There were a few glitches and some took a couple of days to get fixed, but the crew was "on it" and even some of the dry dock crew remained on board to complete the last details. The plumbing in our room did not work - toilet or shower. Sink worked with low water pressure. A talk to maintenence officer in the hallway got the water on almost immediately. Water pressure in sink resolved after two days, but not a real problem. Air conditioning was sporatic for a couple of days, but not unbearable and it, too, got fixed. At least in our room and public rooms. Nice touches were apparent throughout the cruise. The food in the MDR and Lido exceeded expectations. The service really stood out as superb. The crew seemed happy and eager to please. The itinerary was just what we wanted, second time through the canal with visits for four new ports for us: Cartegena Colombia, Corinto Nicaragua, Puerto Quetzal Guatemala, and Puerto Chiapas MX. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This cruise is a must for anyone who loves animals and nature Of course we had cultire in mappworld capitals Santiago,Montevideo, and Buenos Aires but the best was the stark beauty of the Antarctic. We were fortunate to come upon Orcas ... Read More
This cruise is a must for anyone who loves animals and nature Of course we had cultire in mappworld capitals Santiago,Montevideo, and Buenos Aires but the best was the stark beauty of the Antarctic. We were fortunate to come upon Orcas feeding and the Captain turned the ship around to ensure all guests saw this National Geographic moment He also stopped the ship for 20 minutes so we could watch The Falkland Islands were desolate and thrilling with the opportunity to get up close and personal with penguins The post cruise tour to Iguazu Falls is a must. These falls make Niagara look like a trickle and the monkeys, coatis and toucans among other animals are also amazingly close We had the opportunity to purchase handicrafts at each port And for carnivores the steak in Montevideo and Buenos Aires and the BBQ lamb in Chcabuco Chile is beyond compare Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Everyone on board agreed that this cruise was not only one of the most unusual cruises they have ever been on, it was also one of the best!! Having been to Alaska and cruised the Fjords of Norway/Iceland just 5 months ago, this cruise by ... Read More
Everyone on board agreed that this cruise was not only one of the most unusual cruises they have ever been on, it was also one of the best!! Having been to Alaska and cruised the Fjords of Norway/Iceland just 5 months ago, this cruise by my account and every other cruiser I spoke to, surpassed both of the aforementioned locations by a considerable margin!! It was a cruise of extremes. 90 degree weather in Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires ranging to 25 degrees in Antarctica. Glacier Alley and the Straits of Magellan have some of the most dramatic scenery with razor sharp steep mountains covered in snow and glaciers between peaks plunging into the ocean-like a continuous Grand Teton mountain range or continuous Dolomites/Alps on both sides of the ship. Antarctica was equally dramatic-ice bergs of all sizes and shapes, mountains and glaciers with penguins and surfacing whales everywhere. However, be aware that his is not an expedition-type of tour of Antarctica; this is a tour of large distances from shore to ship. As a result, the penguins tended to be "dots" on shore and having the right photographic equipment was mandatory if you want satisfactory or even acceptable photos of them. A minimum is a 250-300 mm telephoto lens on your DSLR. Even a 200 mm lens was not enough. A point and shoot is ok for recording "dots" of penguins but the telephoto lens was a must to actually see and identify them, except for the occasional penguin on an ice berg floating by close to the ship. In reality, I would say that less than 10% of my fellow passengers had them but the other 90% wish that they had brought one. In addition, it is extremely important to bring a good pair of binoculars, at least 10X to 12X. The lectures given both before and after arriving at Antarctica were great! Every day, the ship provided 3 lectures a day for about 6 days discussing everything you wanted to know about the history, geography, flora and fauna of Antarctica as well as the scientific research, info about the ozone layer, building the 3 US research stations, history of icebreakers, and interviews with 4 veteran Antarctica workers who each spent as much as 30 years working there. The best up close penguin shots are at Volunteer Point in the Falklands. Keep in mind that the odds of the weather allowing a landing at Stanley in the Falklands is about 80%. In the previous 17 cruises to the Falklands by the Zaandam, they were able to land 14 times according to the tour director. This is truly a trip of a lifetime unlike any other you have probably been on. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Words can not fully describe how wonderful this cruise was. The inclusion of the Antarctic experts enhanced this fabulous itinerary. As the previous reviewer noted they offered lectures on a wide variety of topics and having Chris Wilson, ... Read More
Words can not fully describe how wonderful this cruise was. The inclusion of the Antarctic experts enhanced this fabulous itinerary. As the previous reviewer noted they offered lectures on a wide variety of topics and having Chris Wilson, the naturalist, up on the bridge, along with spotters, while we were in Antarctica, pointing out the fauna, from the various kinds of whales--who ever heard of a sei whale?-- to a wide variety of birds made standing outside for hours ever better. On our first day down there, we lucked out and witnessed an "Orca Feast": initially 5, growing to a dozen, killer whales feasting on the carcass of another whale. I would agree with the previous reviewer about the need for a long lens: in my case I had a relatively new SLR but with 100 optical zoom: when seen on my computer screen, some truly amazing pictures of penguins, even taken from a distance. One added bonus of HAL is the digital workshops, which included sessions on editing pictures. Special kudos also to Dave, the Antarctic expedition team leader, whose 4 decades plus of experience in Antarctica provided much insight. He along with Guy and Chris were warm, affable and quite approachable. Also special kudos to Lance, the location specialist whose knowledge of our ports of call and narration on our scenic cruising through the Chilean fjords was outstanding. He was also readily available to answer questions. Given that in 2017 the rules and regulations for visiting Antarctica may change and become more restrictive, don't delay planning this trip. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
As a 4-Star Mariner of the HAL company, I have had the opportunity to sail on many of the ships in this fleet and can honestly say that I was completely pleased with this ship and her company on the sailing from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. ... Read More
As a 4-Star Mariner of the HAL company, I have had the opportunity to sail on many of the ships in this fleet and can honestly say that I was completely pleased with this ship and her company on the sailing from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. The informative lectures kept the days interesting and the Activities Director did a fabulous job of keeping things entertaining! The staff were very friendly and helpful and the stateroom was well appointed with great views of Antarctica and the Chilean Fjords. Food was amazing, as is the standard for all HAL sailings I have enjoyed. I have visited Alaska on two previous cruises and the views and wildlife sightings on this itinerary were significantly more breathtaking than what Alaska has offered. We were able to have staff from Palmer research station come aboard while in Antarctica and share their experiences with us which was very interesting. Given the strict rules governing the waters of Antarctica, there are many days of scenic cruising with no shore days but after marvelling to the spectacular scenery that is unmarred by our footsteps, I was appreciative of the protections that are in place for this most beautiful continent. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I have just completed the Christmas / New Year 20 day South America and Antarctica cruise aboard the Zaandam with my wife and two daughters ages 10 and 14. What a trip!! Firstly on board the Zaandam:- Excellent, friendly and attentive ... Read More
I have just completed the Christmas / New Year 20 day South America and Antarctica cruise aboard the Zaandam with my wife and two daughters ages 10 and 14. What a trip!! Firstly on board the Zaandam:- Excellent, friendly and attentive service. Special mention to Imbuh and Tatang (our Cabin Staff). Christina our Cruise Director was the absolute professional. Friendly and approachable. Jeremy our Show Host was a tonne of fun and a really likeable guy. Entertainment - Varied with some real hits and in my eyes only a couple of misses. The Tango Show at the end of our cruise was amazing.Latest release movies and some well chosen classics in the Cinema. Food - High quality. We didn't feel the need to go to any of the other restaurants as the Main Dining Room and Lido were great. The on deck BBQs were also yummy. Weather and seas - Lots of sun including 3 ripping days in Antarctica. Cape Horn and Drake passage were like a lake. Basically for the whole trip you wouldn't know we were on a ship. We got a bit of rain in Ushuia, Punta Del Este and The Falklands but got more than our fair share of great weather too. Ports - Varied and I will review some of them. Tips - Even though we had great weather, if you want to spend some time on deck (and you will), then you will need lots of layers. Apart from a wool hat and a hood on our wind proof jackets we found a neck roll that you could pull over your face really necessary. Sunnies, sunscreen, thermals and windproof pants also helped. I was surprised at the number of people ill equipped. Some could not last a minute outside because of the cold. - Have multiple photographic options. Our Canon SLR died in Ushuia but thankfully we had an I-Pad and waterproof camera too. Not the same but better than nothing. - Aim to arrive in South America by around the 10th / 11th December to avoid the ridiculous air fare prices after this time. We self organised Machu Picchu and Iguassu Falls before the cruise with the money we saved. We saw lots of wildlife and the team of Experts and Naturalists on board were fantastic. Their presentations were very interesting. Interestingly our ship went everywhere that the National Geographic and Quark Expedition ships went. The only difference appeared to be that they could launch their zodiacs for a one or two hour trip onto Antarctica land where we would just have the ship slowly rotating. We still saw lots of penguins on icebergs, seals, whales, heaps of birds and plenty of icebergs. In conclusion, it was a fantastic itinerary with magnificent scenery and interesting ports.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We chose this cruise for the destinations, we are not cruise experts and have only been on a few cruises prior to this one (in Central America, Australia, Egypt and the Med). The cruise was advertised as a 5 star ship visiting Chile, ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the destinations, we are not cruise experts and have only been on a few cruises prior to this one (in Central America, Australia, Egypt and the Med). The cruise was advertised as a 5 star ship visiting Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and The Falklands whilst incorporating Glacier Alley, The Beagle Channel and circumnavigating Cape Horn. The destinations were remote but great for people who love nature, mountains and penguins! This is a great way to visit these remote destinations that would otherwise be very difficult to travel to independently. We booked a Vista Suite which is an outside cabin with a separate seating area, bath and balcony. The stateroom was comfortable, but we did not use the balcony as the weather was not great for sitting outside. The housekeeping and room service were very good. This cruise incorporates a range of destinations with lots of different weather conditions - we had rain, sprinkles of snow, high winds, thunderstorms and sunshine, so be aware you will need a range of different clothes for this trip! The staff on the ship were friendly, attentive to passengers needs and deserve praising. Most of the restaurant, cabin and bar staff originate from The Philippines and Indonesia and they are excellent! We booked a table for two at the 8pm sitting in the main dining room which worked out well for us. The food in The Rotterdam dining room was of a good standard and consisted of three courses selected from a varied menu. We also ate at The Caneletto Italian restaurant one evening for a $10 upgrade and at The Pinnacle Restaurant on the 'Sommelier' evening for $99 dollars each which is pricey but really very good and well worth treating yourself too! The ship also has a self service dining room called The Lido which offered a variety of food, but as we preferred to be served our meals we did not frequent this restaurant. On shore days we ordered breakfast in our cabin - it always arrived on time, was hot and well presented. On sea days we ate breakfast in The Rotterdam dining room and were served breakfast from an extensive menu that included eggs benedict (my husbands favourite) and pancakes with maple syrup (my favourite) - so we were both happy! The entertainment and shops on the ship are limited - but that did not bother us as that was not an important part of the cruise for us. There was live singing in the piano bar which we enjoyed, classical music in The Explorers Lounge which was good and a range of live shows each evening in the main theatre which were not to our taste - but other cruisers appeared to enjoy these shows. Shows included the resident singers & dancers, a comical magician (which we thought was poor), a harpist and a clarinet player which were okay and a virtiosa piano player. We would have liked a comedian - but none were scheduled during our cruise! Other entertainment on the ship included trivia quizzes which we attended and liked, tango classes, cooking demonstrations and art auctions (none if which we attended). The ship also had a casino on board and a photographic studio. There were two pools - one outside which was not used due to the weather and one inside where passengers relaxed during the daytime. There was also a cinema showing fairly recent films a few times each day. We did book a range of shore excursions on board after attending presentations by the excursion team, these were expensive and in retrospect I would have booked some of these independently with local taxi drivers. The best tour we attended were the Rockhopper penguin tour on The Falklands which would be difficult to book independently if at all! We independently toured Montevideo and Ushuaia which were both very easy to explore on foot. I would recommend future passengers on this cruise did more research than we did and tried to book some excursions themselves locally. The embarkation in Chile and the disembarkation in Argentina were very well organised and trouble free. This is a quiet cruise for people interested in the destinations and did attract an older demographic. To summarise the ship was very clean, well presented and maintained. This is a midsize ship and does not offer the range of facilities larger ships offer, but the trade off is the ship visits remote destinations whilst offering quality accommodation.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I LOVED this cruise. The Chilean coast is like Alaska on steroids, and the ports of call are easy to enjoy on one’s own. This is one of my favorites of the several dozen cruises I have taken in recent years. It is an itinerary that I ... Read More
I LOVED this cruise. The Chilean coast is like Alaska on steroids, and the ports of call are easy to enjoy on one’s own. This is one of my favorites of the several dozen cruises I have taken in recent years. It is an itinerary that I had been postponing because I do not enjoy rough seas, but I finally tried it and am glad I did. The weather was kind and the scenery was great. HAL (Holland America) did a fine job on almost every aspect of the cruise. I have elite status on some other cruise lines and enjoy those perks (free drinks, free internet, free photos), but I did just fine with HAL’s mature, relatively sedate ambience. For 14 days we cruised from Santiago (Valparaiso port), Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the intervening days evenly split between ports of call and scenic cruising. My cruise did not include the Antarctic, which is available on the Zaandam’s 19 day itinerary during the austral summer. The Zaandam was not full, and this enabled me to book a good price relatively late and to upgrade (for an additional reasonable price) to a mid-ship outside cabin on deck 2 for smooth sailing. I chose a port-side (toward the mainland) cabin to get the most from the views, but spent most of the scenic cruising outdoors rather than in my cabin. Bring warm clothes, including a winter hat, gloves, good quality rain gear, and dress in layers. Also bring your favorite motion-sickness medication. I needed no pills or patches at any time even though I am a weak sailor, but you may want them for yourself if the weather turns rough. We had only a mild pitch and roll on a few days. Much of the itinerary is in protected channels. The ship itself is about 15 years old with traditional décor, but it is very well maintained. Public lounges on decks 4 and 5 have been nicely modernized; and a culinary demonstration center, computer classroom, and internet lounge have been added since my last cruise on this ship a decade ago. Because of the great scenery, I especially enjoyed the wrap-around promenade on deck 3, the public balcony on deck 6, and access to the bow on deck 4 during scenic cruising. The HAL crew was absolutely top notch in every area and in every respect. The front desk was the best ever, the dining room staff was as good as (sometimes better than) on Silversea, the cruise director and her activity staff made sea days a pleasure, and the entertainment was thoroughly enjoyable. My cabin stewards were new to their job but were pros from day one. HAL trains their crew very well, both on the hotel side and the navigation side. I have been impressed by their emergency drills on previous cruises, including crew life raft inflation and entry exercises. HAL’s attention to safety was especially important to me in this challenging part of the ocean with possible storms and several tender ports. HAL made a special effort to employ Latin entertainers, and they (and their American colleagues) did a fantastic job. I have become a bandoneon and tango addict, and now listen to that music daily. I especially liked the ship’s lounge musicians, including the classical duo, because they were all pitch-perfect and not over-amplified. Dining exceeded my expectations. I have enjoyed the surcharged Pinnacle restaurant on previous cruises but enjoyed the main dining room so much that I did not use the Pinnacle on this cruise. I had breakfasts in the Lido buffet (a nice variety), lunch at the poolside grill, and dinner in the main dining room. The grill, with its great fries and garnished burgers, was a guilty pleasure; and the main dining menu always offered something that I really like. The prime rib, filet mignon, and lamb were especially good, and the appetizers and desserts always offered something attractive and enjoyable. There were three formal nights and most men wore suits or tuxedos. I brought a rain suit rather than a business suit, but the maitre d’ helped me out with a complimentary loaner jacket when needed. On sea days the Zaandam offered more than enough activities, some were silly fun but most were educational or enriching. I appreciated that the spa stretch and abs classes, the computer/digital photo classes, and the culinary classes were all complimentary. Many cruise lines now surcharge for these. HAL has a no-nonsense approach to alcohol, and the amount of alcohol one can bring aboard is limited to two bottles per cabin at embarkation only. Most cruise lines now seem to push alcohol sales in their promotions. Alcohol and casinos subsidize cruises for the rest of us, so I have no problem with either. HAL on the other hand seems to rely more on their land tours for their extra income. The passengers on this cruise were a mix of nationalities -- about 50% English-speaking, 25% Spanish-speaking, and 20% German-speaking. This made for a nice social mix, although it limited entertainment and enrichment options for non-English speakers. There is a shipboard port and scenic cruise commentator who provides useful information in English every day, but I wish our itinerary also had a naturalist. The 19 day Antarctic itinerary may include one. I used the Lonely Planet Chile and Argentina guides for my port days and for my pre- and post-cruise apartment (airbnb.com) stays in Valparaiso and Buenos Aires. Using public transportation, I was able to enjoy every port on my own for about 10 USD pp per day. Local buses and minibuses are modern and cheap, and they go to many of the same places as the organized tours. Again, the weather was very kind to us on this cruise, although brisk winds were sometimes a challenge for the tender crews. Because of the tender ports, this is definitely not an ideal cruise for the mobility impaired, although the crew were very kind and helpful to those who were. One embarkation alert -- HAL mistakenly gave the Terminal Valparaiso Sur (port authority) office as the embarkation entry point, both on the boarding pass and in reply to my e-mail inquiry. The real embarkation entry point is on the opposite (east) side of town at the Muelle Baron terminal, with a free shuttle bus to the ship at Muelle Pratt (on the west side of town). I wish HAL had a 7/24 e-mail hotline to assist cruise passengers in transit. It took them three days (over a week-end) to answer my embarkation inquiry. Their reply arrived the day after embarkation, but their answer was wrong in any case. All in all, I highly recommend this cruise, especially for those who are adventuresome and have done the standard Alaskan and Caribbean cruises before. Some day I will post my port-on-your-own recommendations for this itinerary on this website. You can make similar plans using the Lonely Planet guides and a little bit of basic polite Spanish. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
My husband and I honeymooned on the Zaandam over Thanksgiving. We knew that HAL is known as a cruise line for an older set but we were intrigued by the itinerary. We didn’t regret our choice for a moment. We had a large ocean view cabin ... Read More
My husband and I honeymooned on the Zaandam over Thanksgiving. We knew that HAL is known as a cruise line for an older set but we were intrigued by the itinerary. We didn’t regret our choice for a moment. We had a large ocean view cabin and honestly, it was perfect for us. It was large enough for us to unpack and the bed was extremely comfortable (we stayed in a very nice hotel in BA after the cruise and mourned the loss of the Zaandam bed). I guess we’re not very picky but everything the room was just right for us. Our amazing stewards, Dodt and Tsiot, did a fantastic job with two fairly untidy people and we so appreciated them for it. I’ve sailed on several cruises before and being kind of a foodie (even if that term is overused and silly), I wasn’t expecting much from the food on the cruise. I have to say, I was very impressed, especially with the food in the dining room. Formal night meals were also phenomenal, last night my husband and I were talking about the surf and turf dinner. It was that good. We also appreciated Sebastiano, the chef, making the rounds of the dining room and chatting with everyone. It’s a nice touch. We didn’t go to too many shows but we went to the Filipino crew show and it was spectacular. It’s lovely that HAL encourages their staff to show off their culture. They were clearly very proud and it made for an entertaining evening. Last but not least, we can’t say enough good things about the crew. Lance’s talks were informative and I never felt like he was hard selling the ship tours. Kara, the librarian, has the patience of a saint. Eka, our dining room server, was charming and remembered not just our names but our preferences. Sonny, the wine steward, was personable and always on top of things. Last, but certainly not least, Jeremy, the show host helped to make our honeymoon awesome. He got my husband (never really a joiner) to participate in activities, kept the dance parties going for us and is certainly a highlight of the Zaandam. He is cheerful, fun, energetic and everyone we spoke to loved him. We’re so glad we picked the Zaandam for our honeymoon.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
My husband and I had long-since sworn off sailing with larger, main-stream cruise lines. We had become enamoured with the cruise experiences on the likes of Regent, Crystal and Paul Gauguin, and found that when we attempted to go back to ... Read More
My husband and I had long-since sworn off sailing with larger, main-stream cruise lines. We had become enamoured with the cruise experiences on the likes of Regent, Crystal and Paul Gauguin, and found that when we attempted to go back to the cheaper cruise lines we truly hated the experience. It had been a few years since we had last sailed with one of the big lines (the last time we sailed on Princess in Tahiti we absolutely HATED every second of it, the food, the service, the lineups, the entertainment, the cabin, just everything), and then one evening after a bottle of wine on the patio just last month, my husband was sent a last minute deal on the Zaandam departing from our hometown for such a cheap price, that we thought we'd give it a whirl. I truly went aboard this ship expecting very little. We hadn't paid much at all, so I figured it would just be a means of getting out of town for a week. Well, lo and behold I was happily proven wrong and we had just a wonderful wonderful time. The staff were absolutely warm, friendly, and delightful. Our cabin, a Verandah Suite, was smaller than what we are used to but we found it very-well appointed with a decent sized deck. The bathroom is really my only complaint, it's fine for size but it reeeeally could use some updating to match the standard of the rest of the ship. The tacky peach and blue tiles and out of date fixtures were an eye-sore... But! The toilet never clogged (a regular problem on so many ships), the shower/tub combo was roomy and the water pressure was good. All in all I'd give the cabin a solid B+. The programming aboard ship was excellent in terms of variety, organization, and presentation. Kainoa the location lecturer is an incredible wealth of knowledge who speaks from the heart without notes. His talks were something we never missed. I participated in (and won!) the Dancing With the Stars at Sea competition, which I think is just a brilliant marketing concept. Bravo to HAL for partnering with this popular TV program so successfully. It truly appealed to all ages, walks of life, and dance abilities. While I can't speak to the experience from the audience point of view (since I was performing in it), I can say all the classes were very well attended, and everyone I dealt with from Christine the cruise director, the professional dancers, the judges, the back-stage crew, to my wonderful dance partner Gene Biscontini, this program was a hit. Not to mention the standing-room-only audience for the finale competition. Likewise the HAL culinary program is also fantastic. I participated in the group presentations as well as the individual one-on-one cooking class with Chef Mariza. Excellent all around. Thoroughly enjoyable. I would give the on-board programming and staff an A+ without hesitation. The food was a pleasant surprise for us. I can't say that it was consistent throughout the ship or sometimes even day to day, but for the price, I truly think they do a very good job. My meals in the Rotterdam Dining room ranged from fair to truly excellent. Meals in the Lido, which I did avoid as much as possible as I hate crowded common areas and am not generally a fan of buffet-style dining, were actually much better than I anticipated and offered more variety than I would have thought given what I'd read of the ship. I'd rate the food there, depending on the dish, from C+ to B+. One of the only areas that I felt service was lacking, was in the Lido. The cooks here are paaaaainfully slow and never seemed to care how long the line-up was... which was often very long... stretching the full length of the buffet in many instances. I never saw any staff move beyond a snails pace on the line. They were also the least friendly of all the crew on-board. Nobody was rude by any means, but it was polite to the point of perfunctory. We had made two reservations for the surcharge Pinnacle Grill in advance of sailing. After eating there once we cancelled our second reservation. Apparently the dinner of my companions was very good, but my cioppino was inedible. The seafood was so dreadfully overcooked that the shellfish had turned into rubber and the halibut incredibly dry and tough. That's not easy to do in a soup! The servers did not notice that I wasn't eating my main course (there were only two other occupied tables in the restaurant at the time, so it was not at all busy) until they removed everyone's plates. When they asked if I had not liked the dish, I politely told him that it was very much overcooked and that no, I did not enjoy the dish. I was not offered an alternative, and as everyone else had finished eating, I would not have wanted something else in any case, yet I was still charged the full dinner amount although I had only eaten a salad. Given how inexpensive the Pinnacle is as compared to dining on shore, and not wanting to make a fuss and ruin the dining experience of my companions, it wasn't worth my while to express my surprise. We simply cancelled our second reservation. By comparison, the Canaletto was truly WONDERFUL! My husband is Italian, and we travel to Italy often, and the food in this restaurant was a delightful surprise that more than made up for the disappointment in the Pinnacle Grill. My husband's Osso Bucco was fork-tender and flavourful, I enjoyed the Cod Piccata and the fish was cooked to moist and flaky perfection with a lovely crispy crust topped with a tapenade type sauce of capers, olives and dried tomatoes. It was so wonderful we went back twice. Room service was 'meh' but this is not a big deal for me in general. I can't speak to the shore excursions because we are already well-familiar with all the ports we visited, so we made our own way to see and do the things we wanted. We chose the express option for debarkation, and we were docked and off the ship exactly on time as promised. Very timely and well-organized. If I were to rate this cruise experience as compared to all cruises I've ever taken (more than 20... I've lost count), I would give it a B. If I were to rate this cruise experience in light of the price and value for money? A+. We will definitely cruise with HAL again and can only hope it will be as wonderful as the Zandaam and her crew during this past week! Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
We were a group of three, 2 daughters and their mother. This was my 8th cruise, my mother's second and my sister's first. None of us had ever been to Alaska before. We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Pan Pacific Hotel in ... Read More
We were a group of three, 2 daughters and their mother. This was my 8th cruise, my mother's second and my sister's first. None of us had ever been to Alaska before. We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, which we booked throught HAL. It was such a convenient location and a really nice hotel. One nice thing about it was that the hotel takes care of transferring your luggage to the ship, making it so much easier for us. We decided to treat ourselves to a Neptune suite and we loved everything about it. There was tons of space, lots of storage, a large balcony, wonderful cabin stewards and all the perks of a Neptune Suite including the Neptune Lounge. Our concierges were welcoming and friendly and took good care of us. The Zaandam was in great shape and we found the crew to be friendly and eager to please. The food was excellent. The service in the dining room was quick and attentive. We ate once in the Pinnacle Grill and quite enjoyed it. We only ate in the Lido a few times - it was good but we prefered the MDR. We booked 3 excursions through HAL and enjoyed them all. The weather in Juneau was awful - rainy and very foggy, but the whales we saw on our whale watching excursion didn't seem to mind the bad weather. The White Pass railway excursion in Skagway took us through beautiful scenery and the guide was full of knowledge about the area and it's history. In Ketchikan we went on the crab feast - first we saw how they fish for the Dungeness crabs. Then we got to eat as much as we liked. They were delicious. The best part of the cruise we all agree was Tracy Arm. The scenery was breathtaking, and when we were lucky enough to get all the way to the glacier we were in awe. It was a magical day with stunning scenery and beautiful weather. Embarkation and disembarkation were both organized and easy. I would recommend this itinerary, HAL and especialy the Zaandam to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We were on a Land/Sea tour that went to the Yukon and Denali so only spent 3 nights on the ship. I was initially unhappy with the cabin location, but it ended up being OK. It was a long walk from elevators to the very back of our deck and ... Read More
We were on a Land/Sea tour that went to the Yukon and Denali so only spent 3 nights on the ship. I was initially unhappy with the cabin location, but it ended up being OK. It was a long walk from elevators to the very back of our deck and we were always on the elevators to get to meals or coffee or Crows Nest. Noise was not terrible except for one morning we awoke to unusual engine noise for about 30 mins. The cabin was good sized for 2 people and the bed was comfortable. Our steward was efficient and invisible. The food at the Lido was varied. We had no problem finding something we liked. The ship seemed in good repair.We did not notice any shabby areas, though we were not looking for this. Only saw one show with Leon and Romy, Rock Illusionists. Enjoyed this very much. The Land portion of our trip was wonderful. All the Westmark hotels were fine. Each was different, but rooms were quite acceptable. Hectic schedule for each day, but we covered a lot of distance in a short time. Seeing Grizzly bears in Denali was a thrill and seeing Jeff King's presentation about Iditarod and his huskies was great. The history of the Gold Rush came alive in Whitehorse and Dawson City Yukon Territory. The biggest problem with our trip was that it needed to be longer. I would have loved to have more than one night in each place. Maybe after we retire we could take an extended trip. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
I was sceptical at first when we booked our Alaska cruise as we live "near Alaska" approx 90 miles from Ketchikan as the crow flies. We see eagles, bears, moose, whales, and snowcapped mountains on a regular basis. We wanted to ... Read More
I was sceptical at first when we booked our Alaska cruise as we live "near Alaska" approx 90 miles from Ketchikan as the crow flies. We see eagles, bears, moose, whales, and snowcapped mountains on a regular basis. We wanted to go with friends from back east so decided on an Alaskan cruise, but right up until a month prior we were not that thrilled..we wanted to see palm trees and tiki huts on our vacation, not snow! We had cruised several times before on most of the other lines but this was our 1st time with H.A. and also Alaska. We boarded the Zaandam in Vancouver on a wet a dreary day and were pleasantly surprised once we got on board. It was a much smaller ship than we had sailed before but we found it very easy to navigate and never got lost! We had accepted an upsell a week prior to sailing and we were in a verandah suite midship, cabin 6154 and 6156...we asked our room steward to open the adding balconies up so we had more space to visit. By the time we departed Vancouver the weather had cleared up and we had 6.5 days of pure sun after that..I came home with a tan, wow! Our experience was total awe! Everything from the cabin, the beds, the room service, our steward ( Sandi ), the weather, even the scenery...totally impressed us! We didn't do any shore excursions, we just walked around each port and checked out the stores, had a beer at a local pub, took some photos and found a few geocaches. We like Ketchikan the best, Creek St was neat and we ride the funicular up and walked back down the married mans trail. Tracy Arm was the highlight for us all. We were in awe of the beauty, the fjords were so close to us and seeing the glacier and ice floats were very cool...I couldn't believe the serenity of it all...even with 1500 other tourists on board...it was serene! Needless to say we LOVED the cruise, H.A. was exceptional and we put down a deposit for a future cruise..we are hoping to do it again next year and make it an annual event!! It just goes to show that prior expectations don't really reflect reality! here is the link to my GoPro video I made of our trip :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHRW2XcRZBo   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
We flew from Vancouver through Dallas, flying first class for the first time on the international portion... That was a blessing, as the flight is long, and flat beds made a big difference to our ability to be chipper once we arrived in ... Read More
We flew from Vancouver through Dallas, flying first class for the first time on the international portion... That was a blessing, as the flight is long, and flat beds made a big difference to our ability to be chipper once we arrived in Buenos aires. Our stay at the Serena was perfect. It is not in the busy commercial district, but rather in the district where embassies and upper middle class people live. It is a lovely boutique hotel, with a wonderful wine cave. The staff was very friendly and helpful. I had arranged for a pick up from the airport by the hotel. They were on time and friendly. The cab ride to the cruise terminal was at the most 10 minutes and cost us the equivalent of five dollars. The hotel is helpful in giving good currency exchange. The embarkation was smooth, with suites having a separate stream. We embarked at 11:30am and our suite was ready. Cabin 6126 is well located, and pleasantly appointed. We hardly ever took the elevator. Our steward was all right. Ports were very interesting. It is not often that you get to see thbuenos aires,Falklands,penguins, and go to Macchu ! We enjoyed crossing the Drake passage and the equator. 33 days give you may ports of call... The staff on the Zaandam is friendly and helpful,without being obsequious. Customer service responds effectively and in a manner that appears caring. I am a foodie. All cruise lines have gone a bit down over the years, but that is to be expected with the cost of food arising! The lectures were absolutely top notch.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
Many cruisers have written reviews of Antarctica's spectacular, otherworldly beauty. I second those. It was incredible -- a cruise I'd gladly take again. Ditto you can get information about the food, entertainment, cabins ... Read More
Many cruisers have written reviews of Antarctica's spectacular, otherworldly beauty. I second those. It was incredible -- a cruise I'd gladly take again. Ditto you can get information about the food, entertainment, cabins elsewhere. So I'm going to write about some of the practicalities. First, Argentina charges citizens of some countries, including the U.S. and Canada, a "reciprocity fee." It's super-important to pay this fee online and get the printed confirmation before leaving on the trip because you can't enter the country otherwise. www.provinciapagos.com.ar. Our paperwork was checked half a dozen times. Chile also has an entry fee, but apparently you only have to pay it if you fly into Chile, which we obviously didn't as our cruise ended there. (I'd double-check to make sure Chile's rule hasn't changed.) We had our choice of early or late seating in the fancy Rotterdam Dining Room. Can't remember which we selected, but when we got on board, we decided we didn't want either. We just wanted to eat in the Rotterdam whenever. That was no problem. We don't like to dress up, so we skipped the Rotterdam's formal nights and ate in the informal Lido with lots of other casual folk. It seemed like the food was about the same as in the Rotterdam, and they put down white tablecloths and flowers. The photo opportunities are incredible, but a lot of them are onshore while you're on ship so they're far away. A camera phone won't do it. You need a telephoto to really capture those thousands and thousands of penguins. Also, shooting in cold weather saps batteries quickly. So bring extra + charger. The weather: It was 80F/26C in Buenos Aires on Jan. 29, the start of the trip. (And incredibly rainy; bring an umbrella.) The coldest day was 28F/-2C and snowing near Antarctica. To think, that's the height of summer at the end of the world. The crew even built a snowman on the deck, which caused a photo-taking frenzy. Great fun! Many, many days were in the 57F/12C range and windy so they felt colder. (Passengers get a "cruise log" at the end; that's how I know these temperatures, etc.) Besides a few summery pieces, I packed a lightweight windbreaker, a lightweight down vest for layering, a heavier jacket, hat, short boots (which worked great indoors, too) and a couple of scarves. Plus gloves and knee socks. They're really necessary. My favorite garment turned out to be my thick zip-front wool sweater because I really needed it. It was cold in the common rooms when we got near Antarctica. Think that was because there are lots of exterior doors, and people were constantly going outdoors to take photos. Women in formal-nights evening attire looked like they were freezing unless they had a jacket or wrap. Personally, I would have chosen a dressy pantsuit if I were going to do formal nights. One packing tip: if you're traveling as a couple and taking a couple of suitcases, pack half of your wardrobe in each suitcase and do the same for your traveling partner. That way if a suitcase is lost you'll -- hopefully -- still have at least one suitcase with some clothes for both of you. (A couple on our cruise had a suitcase go missing from the States and didn't get it until they were almost half way through the 21-day trip. The woman had little save the clothes on her back.) How much to pack: the Zaandam is one of the few ships with a self-service laundry. (Front desk has coins.) Much used and much appreciated! Staying in touch: lots of people brought tablets or laptops and bought Internet time. It wasn't cheap, and it wasn't always available, particularly the closer we were to Antarctica. Loved the fact that the library's computers offered free New York Times reading. Could stay reasonably in the know. The library, by the way, is very well stocked with both fiction and non-fiction books, which can be checked out. No need to bring your own. Lots of magazines too. Almost all are in English. Shore excursions: on previous cruises, I've saved significant $$ by booking local tours I found online. It's not a good idea here because the ports aren't guaranteed. We missed Puerto Madryn because of a dock strike there, and went to Stanley, Falkland Islands, instead. Another ship on our same route missed a Chilean port because the weather was too rough to dock. The ship's tour director gave us the usual rundown of ship-sponsored tours, and also told us which ports we could find independent (and cheaper) tour operators near the docks. There were lots of choices. My favorite was a ship-sponsored penguin colony tour out of Punta Arenas. They're hilarious up close! Who knew they practice thievery...stealing moss from each other. Worst tour: Hop on/Hop off bus in Buenos Aires. Read TripAdvisor reviews and you'll know why. Just awful in multiple ways. Best handicraft shopping/local market is in Chile, particularly Puerto Montt. Best leather shopping is in Buenos Aires. Most interesting town, to me anyway, is the slightly down-at-the-heels Valparaiso where the cruise ended (and some began). It's definitely worth a day or two. Great art galleries, museums, food and general funkiness. We stayed at The Grand House. I'd recommend it for fabulous views, welcoming owners and something definitely different than your usual generic hotel. Now for the really important issue: are you going to get seasick? Of course that depends on the weather. But the Southern Ocean, which we sailed through on the way down and back to Antarctica, is justifiably considered the roughest water in the world. And the Drake Passage, which we crossed twice, is the apex of that. Before we embarked, we met a couple in Buenos Aires who'd just gotten off the cruise before ours. They reported the Drake was almost glassy calm. For us it was fine going to Antarctica. Coming back up to Argentina we encountered a full-on gale with gusts of 90 mph and 30-40 foot seas. The spray was so heavy it looked like whipped foam; we never saw Cape Horn because the tumbling waves were so high. The trusty Zaandam shuddered and shook. Huge planters tipped over. Whole trays of food went flying. Thank goodness the captain had warned us to stow our cabins; would have been a royal mess of upturned everything otherwise. Now for the best part: this happened 13 days into our trip. By then the passengers had their sea legs -- augmented by the very effective sea-sickness pills the front desk handed out free to all comers. I'm very prone to seasickness (and felt queasy early on in the cruise until I took the pills), but weathered the gale just fine. Spent several hours of it with many, many other passengers in the Lido casual dining room. Outside, towering waves were crashing. Inside, we were eating. Not a problem! The storm was very dramatic, indeed it's quite something to experience the meanest ocean on the planet. If you're considering this cruise, please don't let my description of the weather frighten you. The Zaandam is a very safe and comfortable ship, and seeing Antarctica truly is the trip of a lifetime. Enjoy!   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Our trip to South America and Antarctica on the Zaandam was an excellent, educational voyage and in this review I’ll attempt to give you a feel of what to expect and some useful general information rather than a blow-by-blow account of ... Read More
Our trip to South America and Antarctica on the Zaandam was an excellent, educational voyage and in this review I’ll attempt to give you a feel of what to expect and some useful general information rather than a blow-by-blow account of every detail. The highlight was Antarctica, of course, but before we get there I’d like to talk just a bit about our stop to see the penguins at the Falkland Islands, which was added to the itinerary just a couple of weeks before embarkation. Bluff Cove was an amazing rookery on a beach where Gentoo and King Penguins could be seen and interacted with at close quarters. It was not too far from town, so we had plenty of time to walk around Stanley when we returned from the rookery. As others have pointed out, the 4x4 rides to the penguin rookeries at the Falklands can be a little rough and the weather was alternately cool, cold, rainy, sleety, and snowy, so be prepared for anything! After Stanley, we headed down to Antarctica. This may have been the roughest part of the voyage, where the ship rocked and rolled quite a bit as we steamed away from the Falklands. If you’ve looked over the itinerary, you may wonder what’s happening on all those sea days. Well, the activity list was very full each and every day. We decided to do what we called the “university at sea” track, attending pretty much all the lectures given by the Antarctic Expedition Team of experts that accompanied us throughout the voyage. The Team was comprised of two long-time (now retired) NSF Office of Polar Programs staffers, David Bresnahan and Guy Guthridge, the naturalist Chris Wilson (great nephew of Edward Wilson, who perished with Captain Scott on the way back from their trek to the South Pole), and ice pilot Dick Taylor. We learned all about the U.S. polar programs, sea birds, penguins, and whales, the history of exploration of Antarctica, the ozone hole, how climate change is affecting the poles, and more. Alternatively, we could have tried to learn the tango, as many others did. World Tango Champions Karla & Juan were amazing dancers and teachers. Overall, we were so busy, we barely got around to catching up on all the reading we planned to do! So, regarding Antarctica itself, we were very lucky to have had a couple of clear, sunny days there. Captain van Hoogdalem opened the bow to all passengers, which was great (this was done on most calm days when wind was low throughout the voyage). The sun was very intense, though, and many people came away with sunburned faces, so remember to use a lot of sunscreen in Antarctica. We had numerous close-up sightings of humpback whales on our first Antarctic day, but less after that. Many penguins were seen standing on, and jumping from, ice floes; sea lions were sunning themselves in various spots, and we encountered several dolphins here and there. Bird lovers were always entertained by the variety of species flying near the ship. The highlight, however, was the awe inspiring scenery. Huge mountains and glaciers, crystal clear mirror-like waters, and giant icebergs against bright blue skies. The temperature was right around 30 degrees (-1 C), but felt warmer when the ship was in the sun and moving slowly. Once we picked up speed it quickly got very chilly! The best bet for this voyage would be a couple of sweaters and a mid-weight winter coat, with gloves and a hat that won’t blow off in the wind. Warm boots were also helpful on the rainy, overcast days (especially on shore excursions) and we made good use of water-resistant pants, which we put over our jeans when it got really cold and wet. Now some miscellaneous info. The clientele on this cruise was heavily weighted toward engineers and science buffs. Since it spanned Christmas and New Year’s, there were also quite a few families on board. There was plenty to do for the younger kids via HAL’s Kids Club and the teenagers seemed pretty happy being able to meet new friends. The Kids Club did not specifically interface with the members of the Antarctic Expedition Team, which was a little bit of a missed opportunity, but some young people did attend the lectures in addition to the hard-core science and nature types. The ship was clean and in good condition; most of the public areas had recently been refurbished. There was only one operational laundry room and there was plenty of competition for the machines! Washers are $2 in quarters, dryers are $1. The front desk was happy to make change. Soap is free. You push a button on the machine and the powder flows from a giant container directly into the machine. The rooms have a limited number of power outlets, some of which have European style plugs (two round prongs). We brought an adapter, so were able to use both the American and European style plugs to charge our iPhones, etc. Speaking of phones, they will work on board, but for a hefty price! Best to turn off roaming. The Zaandam’s Wi-Fi is slow and quirky, but it will do in a pinch. Only some of the ports had free Wi-Fi and it was not always easy to get a signal, so overall it’s best to be resigned to being a little cut off from the world while you’re on this trip. The bed was excellent. Better than most good hotels, actually. Our inside cabin was on the Lower Promenade Deck toward the rear and had a shower stall, which we prefer, rather than a bathtub. There is sometimes vibration in that area of the ship, particularly while maneuvering to get into port, but it didn’t bother us. What we loved was being so close to the doors to the wraparound outdoor promenade, where all the nature lovers with their giant camera lenses hung out. It was easy to get in and out for a quick bird or whale sighting! Most of the days at sea were smooth sailing, other than a stretch just south of the Falklands and the crossing through the famously treacherous Drake Passage on the way up to Cape Horn. We didn’t get too queasy at any point, but if you think you’ll be prone to seasickness, having some Dramamine on hand would not be a bad idea. Regarding the food, it was very good and often excellent in both the main dining room and the Lido buffet. The desserts and cakes were only OK, though. Iced tea and lemonade were complementary at the buffet and always available and hot chocolate made an appearance on several occasions. The “international buffet” on Christmas Eve was outstanding. Coffee was pretty awful throughout the ship, though; we knew to expect this beforehand and brought Starbucks Via packets with us. That was a lifesaver! If you’re interested in the holiday aspect of things, the ship was well-decorated and the crew was really in the holiday spirit. Christmas morning was lots of fun, as Santa Claus and Max Hoge, our cruise director, handed out gifts to the kids. Kids and adults alike took pictures with Santa and had cookies and cocoa. New Year’s Eve brought out Baby New Year, who rang in 2014 on the ship’s bell and partied all night in a diaper. There were some very good entertainers coming aboard throughout the trip, many of them local, like the incredible Uruguayan harpist, Shirley Dominguez. Old time comedian Marty Brill was hysterical and comic magician Jeff Peterson was excellent. Speaking of entertainment, the Tango show we saw in Buenos Aires (where we embarked) was outstanding. It was like going to the ballet; really professional. This was a HAL shore excursion and the venue was the Cafe de los Angelitos. I won’t spend much time here on the shore excursions, other than to point out that we were very impressed by how nice Montevideo was and that the trek at the Andean Club in Ushuaia turned out to be a challenging, interesting hike. Special thanks to Stevie, who scoured the ship from stem to stern in search of Greek yogurt; Yanto, a real pro in the dining room; and Sinta, who was always a positive presence in the Lido. Room stewards Niza & Sam were also excellent. To sum up our Zaandam voyage to Antarctica, we found the people on board to be very interesting, the educational program strong, the crew friendly and always willing to help out, and the wildlife and scenery unbeatable. Highly recommended!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This is our 5th HAL cruise and as always a great experience. You sometimes wonder what kind of travelers cruise the world because some of the reviews from past seasons spoke of untrained staff, tired looking ship, poor food etc. This was ... Read More
This is our 5th HAL cruise and as always a great experience. You sometimes wonder what kind of travelers cruise the world because some of the reviews from past seasons spoke of untrained staff, tired looking ship, poor food etc. This was NOT our experience. Staff was GREAT, helpful and polite even with difficult demanding passengers. The ship had been in dry dock in October so I will not comment on how it looked prior to that but in December 2013, the ship was looking clean and very well maintained. Hardly any visible rust spots on the exterior. EMBARKATION: Easy and hassle free. We were using our French passports so did not require visas. Luggage delivered promptly. MEALS: Food always excellent on HAL although I will say that on previous cruises on different HAL ships it was probably better. At times, especially at breakfast in the MDR food was often "lukewarm" rather than "hot". Food quality was however very good. Soups both hot and cold always EXCELLENT. Meat cooked to my requested doneness. Pinnacle Grill excellent as was the Caneletto except for our first evening there where my pasta was overcooked. STATEROOM: Large, roomy and tons of storage. This is a real "plus" that HAL offers. Room clean and in good condition. Bed super comfortable. Bathroom clean and working well but in need of upgrading. Patio furniture also looking tired. ENTERTAINMENT: We seldom go to shows every night and HAL is not the specialist in large Broadway like productions. I prefer the invited guest entertainers more than the HAL troupe but that is personal to me. Piano Bar player was very, very good and funny. Also the violin player in the Explorer's lounge was exquisite. We listened to her every single evening. STAFF: Many thanks to our terrific stateroom attendants: Made and Joe Neptune lounge concierge: Shirley Pinnacle Grill staff: Made and Elvira MDR: Tatang, Francisco Shore excursion specialist: Patrick Our Captain who kept us safe, informed and was very present throughout the cruise and did not hesitate to wake everyone at 7 am when a fire alarm sounded. Everything turned out OK but its nice knowing that HAL officers take safety seriously. This is why we keep cruising with them. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
South America/Antarctica - December 15- Jan. 9 on HAL’s Zaandam I just got back today from a fabulous cruise on the Zaandam. This truly was the trip of a lifetime. I got same great pictures of Antarctica. We avoided the deep freeze back ... Read More
South America/Antarctica - December 15- Jan. 9 on HAL’s Zaandam I just got back today from a fabulous cruise on the Zaandam. This truly was the trip of a lifetime. I got same great pictures of Antarctica. We avoided the deep freeze back at home and had almost 24 hours of daylight. We experienced some other cultures that we may never had experienced. We had wonderful tablemates and enjoyed dinner with them immensely. Our family consists of me, Cathy, semi-retired age 50, ds18, dd15, ds8. Everyone loved the cruise. DS8 cried on the last night and has been constantly bugging me for the past several days about when our next cruise is. He is also convinced that I should get a job on a cruise ship so that he can sail with me. We booked the cruise about 4 months in advance. We had sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam in July, 2012 for a 24 night Med cruise, so we were well prepared for the 21 night South America cruise. Originally, I was going to post this as a semi-live report, but the Zaandam’s internet was not up to the task. My apologies for the length of the review. Our ship’s itinerary Dec. 18-19 Rio de Janeiro Dec. 22-23 Buenos Aires Dec. 24 Montevideo Dec. 27 Stanley, Falkland Islands Dec. 28-Jan. 1 Cruising Antarctica Jan. 2 Ushuaia Jan. 3 Punta Arenas Jan. 6 Puerto Montt Jan. 8 Valparaiso (end of cruise) Pre- cruise Toronto to Iguassu Falls Our cruise left from Rio de Janeiro. We flew in 2 days ahead for a visit at Iguassu Falls. The journey was scheduled to last 21 hours from Toronto. Our flight from Toronto to Washington, DC was on time, but our flight from DC to Sao Paulo was delayed 2.5 hours which took up most of our connection time. Although the United flight attendants said that there would be a gate agent to help us with the connections, there wasn’t anyone in the jetway or gate area except for several people who looked like they were on break. At Sao Paulo, we had to go through immigration, collect our luggage,and recheck the luggage for a domestic flight to IGU. This was very quick, but we still missed our connecting flight with TAM. TAM had no clue what to do about our missed connection and said to talk to United. There was no one at the United desk, and I was told there wouldn’t be for another 4.5 hours. Uggh. We had already been travelling for almost 24 hours. My next strategy was to try to find the local number for United online. Good news - GRU has free internet. Bad news- it is abysmally slow, so I was doubtful that I would be able to connect. After 20 minutes of trying, I was able to connect to the airport’s wifi, bring up the United website and find the local phone number for the airline. Luckily, the local phone number had a selection for English and I was connected to a United agent who spoke English. She told me we were booked on a flight that left in 1.5 hours with GOL. Great! But it would have been better if the there had been someone at the airport to tell me this. Other people who flew out of Toronto on my flight, didn’t get their connection to Rio until midnight. Another lady I met from Vancouver, had her first flight from Toronto cancelled due to a snowstorm, then missed her connection in Sao Paulo. She was 2 days late getting into Rio. Luckily, she had planned for 4 days in Rio. Pre-cruise Iguassu Falls In Iguassu Falls, we stayed at Iguassu Resort. This was convenient to the airport and the National Park. The resort had a lovely main pool area, with live music that played in the evenings. The restaurants onsite were very expensive - 52 reals ($26 US) for the buffet. And no, the buffet was not all that great - it looked like a $10 buffet. We opted for the Asian restaurant and left hungry. I also left with with tummy trouble that lasted until I broke down and took the levaquin that my travel medicine doctor had prescribed, 5 days later. When we got back to the room, we discovered that the room service menu was significantly cheaper and ordered from there from then on. The National Park was very nice, very well run. Our taxi dropped us off and there was someone there to direct us to the cashier. After the cashier, we got on a very nice double decker bus that took us to the beginning of the main trail. This trail starts right in front of Hotel das Cataratas, the only hotel in the park. Since there were four of us, we would have needed 2 rooms at this hotel, instead of one at Iguassu Resort. If there had been two of us, I would definitely have stayed at Hotel das Cataratas which would have given us the opportunity to visit the falls whenever we liked. The main trail was 1.5 km long, along a boardwalk. There are quite a few stairs on this walk, it’s not handicapped friendly. It took us about 1.5 hours to do the entire walk at a slow pace. Boarding Our flight to Rio was uneventful. The IGU airport is very new and nice. It is also very small which was a good thing. We did not have any trouble speaking English - or my attempts at Portuguese in Foz do Iguacu. The taxi booths at Rio are right next to the baggage claim, and in case you miss those, there is one about 50 feet directly in front of the doors from baggage claim. They take reals or dollars or credit cards. They gave me a quote in USD that was better than the exchange rate my bank gave me, but because I had quite a few reals left over, I used those. Once we passed the booths, my son, who was 10 feet ahead of me, was approached by a gypsy cab person, but he quickly backed off when he saw my chit for the taxi. The English/Portuguese started to break down when we reached the actual taxi stand and in the taxi itself. The name for the cruiseport is Praca Maua. My first attempt at pronouncing this was bad. Correct pronounciation is prahssah mao-ah. Even then, the cab driver wanted to discuss exactly where we wanted to be left off. He finally used hand signals and we agreed that I was getting on a ship there. Baggage dropoff was very quick - too quick. They had taken two of our 5 bags before they understood that, yes, I did have the luggage tags on me, even though they weren’t attached. So, two bags got whisked away without luggage tags. Don’t worry, they said, they’ll use the name tags on the luggage, except they never actually verified that there were name tags on the luggage. I am a little paranoid about this as on my very first cruise (on a different cruise line) my one and only piece of luggage was given to ship’s personnel at the transfer to the ship and was not seen again for 7 days. I had taken pictures at the Rio airport of each piece of luggage, so I wasn’t tooo concerned. We entered the terminal. There are sundry shops in the terminal, so it would be a good place to pick up things you had forgotten to pack. They have us a number (14), the health questionnaire and asked us to sit. Two minutes later, they told us to get in line. The lines were not well marked, and we almost boarded a different ship. We finally joined the looong line for checkin. After a few minutes, I started musing about how I wished we had priority checkin. Our line hadn’t moved at all. Wait! We did have priority checkin! We were in a suite! Out of that line, and into another line, which was even less well signed. Here, there were agents who were twiddling their thumbs. The agent took our passports, and said we’d get them at the end of the cruise. They also took or checked our Argentinian reciprocity fee receipts. Pictures taken, we headed for the ship. The stateroom - Originally, I had booked an oceanview for the 4 of us. None of the balcony staterooms on the ship sleep 4. So, it was an oceanview or a suite for 3 1/2 times the price. Ummm, I’ll take the oceanview. Two weeks prior to the cruise, I was emailed with an upsell and I took it. This is our first time in a suite on any of our cruises. We are in cabin 7022 which is directly across the hall from the Neptune Lounge. Although the food selection at breakfast is not large in the lounge, it had some of my favourite foods including smoked salmon and bagels, fruit, pastries, tea, coffee, cappucino. Unfortunately the cabin was under the Lido, and I could never quite figure out why, but every morning, starting around 5 am, there was something being dragged or pushed above our cabin. It sounded like we were underneath a bowling alley. One of the very first nights, something was not secured and every time the ship rolled, something above us would roll, rumble, rumble, rumble and then BAAANG! when it reached a wall. As I said, just like a bowling alley. The ship - Zaandam came out of drydock about 6 weeks ago. The carpeting throughout the ship has been changed. The air conditioning works well as does the plumbing. In our suite, the upholstery on the chairs and sofa as well as the curtains all look new. Towards the end of the cruise, I noticed that some of the chair upholstery had detached from the rest of the chair. The bathtub, tiling, and counters in the bathroom look old. Everything is very clean. About halfway through the cruise, one of my dd’s friends balcony cabins was flooded. On our first day in Antarctica, the potable water was shut down for a few minutes because of a flood in the Lido restaurant. Our tablemates got a picture of the flooding - a water main had broken and there was a waterfall coming out of the ceiling through a light fixture. On one of the last sea days, the dreaded 7 short blasts followed by a long one sounded at 7:20 am. An electrical fire in a light fixture on deck 1 was detected just a few cabins down from our originally booked cabin. At 7:32 am, the captain announced the light fixture had been removed and ordered emergency response teams to stand down. Demographics. Most of the passengers are in their 50’s and 60’s. I have met more teachers - mostly retired- on this cruise. This includes the 4 other people at our dining table, people on our shore excursion and others. That’s fine with me - I’m a teacher too. Club HAL and the Loft At the beginning of the cruise, there were about 30 kids, including 20 teenagers. About 5 more teenagers and 4 more 8-12 year olds got on Buenos Aires. DD15 easily found 2 other 15 year old girls to pal around with. DS8 is happy to have a few other kids, a couple of counsellors and a Wii and an Xbox in the kids club. Like other ships he has been on, he wants to be there every minute that the kids club is open. Club HAL on the Zaandam is not particularly handicapped friendly. The aft elevator does not go up to deck 9 where Club HAL is. You either have to walk up the stairs outside the Lido on deck 8 or take different elevators, go outside, and skirt through the tennis or basketball court on the sports deck. Food One of the things I liked best about our first cruise on HAL, in 2012, on the Nieuw Amsterdam, was the food, especially the desserts. While the Zaandam has the same menu, the food was not quite the same. The descriptions on the menu often did not match what was served. For example, the lettuce wraps were not wrapped in lettuce. My favourite on Nieuw Amsterdam had been the fruit crisps. On Zaandam, they consisted of mostly crisp and hardly any fruit. The worst example was the Black Forest cake. It had neither chocolate nor cherries, nor was very cake like. It was a white gelatinous mousse. The fruit pies were equally bad - very very little fruit and lots of starch or gelatin to hold the jelly like filling together. On Christmas Day, my stomach was feeling bad, but Maine lobster was on the menu - can’t miss that. Well, I should have. It was “lobster thermidor”, which was a grey paste with a couple of miniscule pieces of lobster served in a lobster shell. Gross. There was a dessert extravaganza on one of the last sea days. None of the cakes were labelled. The chefs served DS8 two pieces of desserts. After he ate 80% of one of them, I tried it - it was dripping with rum! December 19 - 4x4 to Tijuca Forest Tijuca is pronounced tee-zhooo-ca. The 4x4’s were old army-style trucks which we boarded at the port. Ten of us sat in the back on 2 benches. I think the truck had a top speed of 40 mph. Unfortunately, we were on a highway with a 50 mph limit. This was not exactly the fresh air excursion we signed up for. It took 75 minutes to get to the forest. There were 2 stops within the forest for about 20 minutes each. We saw some beautiful waterfalls. There was a short walk through the forest. There were police stationed at the stops within the forest as there has been muggings of tourists recently. There was an additional stop on a beach where we watched the hang gliders land.We did drive past Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. In total, we spent 3 hours crammed in the 4x4. I’d give this shore excursion a 3/5. December 22 Buenos Aires - Shore Excursion - Markets of Buenos Aires We were in Buenos Aires for 2 nights. Some passengers got on and some got off. There was no noticeable difference in the numbers on the ship. Temperature was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Our shore excursion was Markets of Buenos Aires. This is a 4 hour excursion. The markets were flea markets. No thanks. The last stop was at Ricoleta cemetary which was much more interesting. DS18 wished we could have stayed longer, but given the temperature, it was way too hot for me. I would give this one a 2/5. December 24 - Montevideo We got off the ship, but did not do a shore excursion. None of the ship’s offerings appealed to us. There are shops across the street from the port, but many were closed because it was Christmas Eve. Montevideo has a tradition of spraying people with champagne or other liquids on Christams Eve. They also set off firecrackers in the streets. We attempted to go further into the shopping area, but some firecrackers were set off that prevented this. I saw one passenger that had been hit by liquid. The souvenirs were overpriced in the two shops we saw. December 27 - Stanley, Falklands Islands We prebooked a trip to Volunteer Point with Estancia Excursions. HAL let us know that we were going to the Falklands 5 days prior to sailing, although it was always on the itinerary as “weather permitting”. They opened up Falklands shore excursions at the same time. Volunteer Point was $349 pp and sold out before the second day of the cruise. The tenders started leaving around 7:45 am, but there was no announcement. We just decided to head down to see if we could get off, and we got on about the 4th tender. The ride was about 20 minutes. Estancia Excursions appeared to be the only private vendor at the dock. They were swamped by people trying to book last minute. They took out probably 12-16 4x4s. The trip out was an adventure in itself. Volunteer Point was excellent and would be well worth the price of admission on the ship’s excursion. The drive to Volunteer Point was incredible. The first 50 minutes or so were on paved and then gravel road. The last 70 minutes were on peat. At Volunteer Point, there were both King penguins and Magellan penguins. The King penguins were very handsome birds and outshone the Magellans. The scenery was great as well. I rate this excursion as a 5/5. December 28 Sea Day This was the day I wished I were home. The seas were quite bad - about 20 feet. I was terribly seasick. I took ginger plus meclizine which put me to sleep, but still left my stomach feeling awful. December 29-31 Antarctica Fabulous otherworldly scenery. This was the whole point of the cruise for me. There were 3 Antarctic experts on board and they did lectures on sea days throughout the cruise, which were fabulous. We were supposed to have workers from Palmer station come on board to give a talk as well, but the weather was not agreeable to boarding them. January 1 Drake Passage More heavy seas, but not as bad as the crossing to the south. We circumnavigated Hornus Island which is the island containing Cape Horn. It is part of Chile. I saw a Chilean naval vessel close by to starboard as we started our circumnavigation. The horn saluted them as they dropped off. IMO, it appears that HAL has solved the problem of how to get from Argentina to the Falklands and back to Argentina - they inserted Uruguay before the Falklands, and then got the Chilean government to admit them to Chile when they circumnavigated Hornus Island - before going to Ushuaia. Jan. 2 Ushuaia Drive to Tierra del Fuego national park It was rainy and cold in Ushuaia. There were about 8 large buses that did this excursion. You can do it yourself - if you are confident in your Spanish as the taxi drivers did not speak any English.The best scenery was right at the dock. After Antarctica, the scenery on the shore excursion was nothing great. Rating 3/5. Jan. 3 Punta Arenas Off the Beaten Track shore excursion Three of us went on this shore excursion. It involved a short bus ride to the ferry and a 2 hour ferry ride each way to Magdalena Island. A snack and lunch pack was provided with 2 sandwiches, chocolate bar, cereal bar, large bottle of water and a large juice pak. Magdalena Island was covered with Magellan penguins. We were told there were 200,000 penguins. Even on the ferry you were extremely close to the penguins. We had seen the Magellan penguins at Volunteer Point though. So, while I got some great pictures, having been to the Falklands, it would have been better to save the money. This shore excursion was also sold out. Rating 4/5. Jan. 5 Puerto Montt - Private excursion with GV Tours I have struggled with what to write about this one. This was a tender port. Nineteen people (including 3 of my family) had signed up for the excursion on our roll call. Three people did not show. This got us off to a bad start because with that large of a group, the pricing for the shore excursion was a fixed amount, not a per person rate. So, all of a sudden, I’m on the hook for the fare for 3 more people. Luckily Veronica found one person at the pier and put her on our bus. I still had to hit up everyone else for $10 more. Secondly, although I asked the Neptune concierge for early tender tickets, they kept putting me off and finally left a message at 9 pm the night before that they couldn’t do it. Most of my group showed up early and left to get tender tickets, 10 minutes after tickets were announced. I took them an hour and a half to get to shore. Even though I left half an hour after them (waiting for the no-shows), because I had priority tendering which meant I didn’t need tickets, I was waiting on the pier for at least half an hour. So, it was 9:30 by the time we all arrived and got going on the tour. Thirdly, we almost missed the ship as we arrived at the pier 10 minutes after the final tender time. I really didn’t want to write that last part, but I don’t feel that it would be fair to my fellow cruise critic members to leave that out. Luckily, some of the ship’s excursions were late and the final tender didn’t actually occur until about 90 minutes later. Lesson learned - if I ever feel that I want to organize a group shore excursion again, it would have to save me at least 50% above the ship’s shore excursion. I would also ask for payment in advance before the sailing. Ratings: 5/5 for lunch, tour guide’s commentary, the bus and Petrohue rapids. Timeliness back to the port, tendering experience, failure of participants to show up and concierge helpfulness were epic fails.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
My husband and I are in our 60s….typical HAL cruisers on our 19th cruise, but WOW, this 21 day holiday cruise broke the sedate HAL mold, with an exciting international mix of passengers from young to old! We enjoyed this vibrant group. ... Read More
My husband and I are in our 60s….typical HAL cruisers on our 19th cruise, but WOW, this 21 day holiday cruise broke the sedate HAL mold, with an exciting international mix of passengers from young to old! We enjoyed this vibrant group. We flew to Rio de Janeiro and back from Santiago on Delta with the expected winter weather delays, always tense, so make sure you have plenty of time before connecting to your international flight. We had sailed twice previously on the Zaandam, and she came out of the latest dry dock looking like a new lady! She was immaculate throughout. There were noticeable improvements around the ship in many venues, much more open and flowing, with new upholstery, carpeting and drapes. Beautiful flower arrangements and holiday decorations graced the ship. The crew appeared very upbeat and proud to be serving on the Zaandam. With the usual compliment of activities listed each day in a nicely designed daily program, one could do as much or as little as you wished. There were many quiet places to escape from the lively Lido crowd. A great addition was and Antarctic Exploration Team, who gave talks on sea days, covering everything you ever wanted to know about Antarctica, and maybe some things you never thought about! These talks continued after we left Antarctica, too. We prebooked all our shore excursions through the ship, and were very happy with our choices. I want to add that bringing local currency was not necessary, and vendors everywhere kept their calculators busy converting pesos to dollars. The front office had local currency if necessary. Excursions: Rio: Corcovado& Rio Highlights. It was rainy/ foggy so the legendary beaches were deserted and Christ the Redeemer drifted eerily in and out of the mist. The train ride up was fascinating. Good overview. Buenos Aires: two day Showcase of Buenos Aires. We had a great guide who didn't mince words about political opinions and life in her city. We saw it all from the Recoleta Cemetery to the Tango Show. It was hot and sunny. Lunch was on our own with a variety of dining choices, and I was amazed to see tour members head for TGIFriday's! This was the time to break out the credit card and enjoy Argentine cuisine. Montevideo: Montevideo and the Wine Trail. Time at the city square, then out of town along the condo studded coast to the Bouza Winery for tasting and a sumptuous lunch. Most enjoyable! The Falkland Islands: North Pond Penguin Colony. A longer tour in 4X4s across the island to see penguins on a white sand beach, and then a huge Gentoo colony on the top of the hill….thousands of penguins and chicks literally standing wing to wing. Got a history lesson with this tour, too! Ushuaia: Drive to Tierra del Fuego National Park. In spite of rainy day, the park held its own quiet beauty. Punta Arenas: Off the Beaten Track: Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve. A must! A long (but comfortable) ferry ride for the E-Ticket experience of a lifetime! Thousands of inquisitive penguins and chicks just feet away, looking at you, walking in front of you, posing for you! Fantastic! Puerto Montt: Petrohue Falls, lake cruise and Chilean countryside. Off and on rain, but relaxing. Beautiful countryside, great lunch, shopping and the volcano made a spectacular appearance for us. Valparaiso: Coastal cities and Chilean valley traditions with airport transfer. Perfect way to end the cruise. We loved the horse ranch demonstration, Pisco Sours and delicious lunch. We had an excellent guide. We were dropped off at the airport at 5 PM. The main event on this cruise was our time in Antarctica. We were blessed with two stunning, sunny days. The vistas were surreal and ethereal as the ship glided silently across water as smooth as glass! The abundant shades of blue took your breath away. Wildlife was everywhere. It was "another world" experience we will never forget! There is always much talk on roll calls about proper clothing. Temperatures were around 30 degrees and quite tolerable. We are from the desert in southern California and just layered our clothes, topped off with jackets spayed with a water repellant. Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must, too! I wore non thermal tights under slacks with nylon gym pants over that to break the wind. Most important gear were hats to cover ears, a scarf and gloves. The shop on the ship sold jackets, scarves hats and gloves. We were very comfortable. Hot chocolate, gluhwein and pea soup were served during scenic cruising. Our Vista cabin 6110 was spacious and very comfortable, and looked completely new, including the built in furniture, carpet drapes and bedding. We had plenty of storage. It was located over the showroom and you could hear noise, but we didn't consider it a problem. It was a short walk to the outside deck at the bow of the ship, which we used frequently. Our steward, Asep, took good care of us, making sure we had everything we needed. He amazed us with his towel animals! The water was hot and the toilet flushed…life was good in 6110! We requested a table for 2 at 5:30 open seating. We had #114, which was perfect, not close to other tables, yet offered a great view from the back windows. Apri and Ary were our personable, competent stewards. Ary impressed us with his magic tricks! Dinner offerings were overall good and consistent. Iggy was the As You Wish Dining Host and circulated the dining room making sure all was well. There was always an alternative menu. The Coho Salmon was very good. A favorite are always the chilled soups. On the last night there was an International Dinner, which offered lots of choices. We used room service for breakfast most mornings, and did dine in the Pinnacle Grill one night. Dinner and the service were excellent. On sea days there was always an international buffet on the Lido poolside featuring cuisine of different country each time. The Chilean and Peruvian meal was the best! There were several teas as well. Entertainment was varied. I had seen both shows before, and this show cast did not seem to have the charisma of past shows. The onboard enrichment lectures were informative. I appreciated the onboard Catholic Priest and daily Mass. Non denominational services were also available. Disembarkation went smoothly. Passengers were bused to the main terminal. Because we were on a HAL tour, our luggage was sent directly to the airport. Internet on the ship was the usual slow and frustrating. We were not able to check in for our flight the evening before (network overload), but did so the morning of disembarkation on our ipad with a different network. At the airport you must insert your passport in the machine to print out your boarding pass. The airline counters don't open until a few hours before departure, so we waited in line for 1 ½ hours. The Santiago Airport was chaotic, with no place to sit except in restaurants, which were filled to capacity. We surrendered our Chilean Landing Card (which was inserted in the passport when we entered Chilean waters) at passport control and went through security. At the airline gate we were given a table number and an agent looked through our bags once more before we boarded the plane. This was a near perfect cruise with a fantastic itinerary that I would heartily recommend, and we would love to repeat in the future.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
After having read some of the reviews for the Zaandam, We embarked with some trepidation. I kept looking for the wear and tear that was so prevalent in the reviews. Two weeks of drydock certainly did the ship well. All new carpeting, new ... Read More
After having read some of the reviews for the Zaandam, We embarked with some trepidation. I kept looking for the wear and tear that was so prevalent in the reviews. Two weeks of drydock certainly did the ship well. All new carpeting, new bar venues, new paint, new upholstery, new attitude! Our veranda suite was next to perfect. Of course the bath decor is a little dated but all the bedding and linens appeared to be new. Not a scratch or dent anywhere. The rejuvenation seemed to affect the the crew as well. The cabin stewards and our favorite bartenders and servers called us by name. Of course Mario at the Pinnacle treated us like royalty. The food was good, especially at the Pinnacle and Canaletto restaurants. Embarkation was smooth as was disembarkation in spite of the rather crude an antiquated facilities in Valparaiso. I thought the entertainment was good. I tried to get to every venue but just couldn't stay up for the late shows. Of course trivia night was popular in the Mix bar and we won the ship building contest. I thought is was a good value for the money and have booked another cruise with Holland America for next year.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We have about a dozen cruises...eight of which have been on Holland America...three of which have been 30-day cruises. We are inveterate researchers and try to get the most out of each port opportunity. We had not previously been through ... Read More
We have about a dozen cruises...eight of which have been on Holland America...three of which have been 30-day cruises. We are inveterate researchers and try to get the most out of each port opportunity. We had not previously been through the Panama Canal...but had been to about half of the South America ports we visited. We had not previously sailed on MS Zaandam and she had just come out of dry dock the day before our sail date. There was still a large group of dry dock workers who sailed with us on the first half of this "connector cruise" (from Ft Lauderdale to Valparaiso), continuing to work on the ship as we sailed. As one would (or should) expect...there were some "growing pains" as the first days of the trip were essentially a shakedown cruise for the repairs and also for the crew...many of whom were new on the ship. This condition was most noticeable in many air conditioning/heating glitches reported, plumbing difficulties, and service snafus. However, things smoothed out as the cruise continued and both the ship and the crew "got in the groove". The Zaandam is certainly starting to show her age, though still a pleasant enough décor and ambiance. We are particular fans of the Exploration Café/Lounge and the library on HAL ships. It is a great place to hangout, and the library is well-stocked for a long cruise. Like the ship, the demographics of the guests on board were also skewed dramatically toward the mature side...more so than we have experienced on previous cruises. This demographic tends to influence the feeling of all functions and activities on and off the ship. Activities on this cruise were very typical of those of all the Holland America cruises we have taken...they are focused toward a more mature crowd. This includes the HAL Cats, the Adagio Strings, the Neptunes, and the piano player. We are fans of the Culinary Arts Center feature of HAL ships. Most activities are low key...including the "Olympics". There are lots of participants in the variety of trivia contests that take place nearly daily. Service was sporadic at first (see comments about ramp up coming out of dry dock), but settled into a nice routine. The crew and staff were uniformly enthusiastic and friendly and committed to doing their best to satisfy the needs and desires of the guests. This was especially true of the Lido restaurant staff, which one of the best groups we have seen. Our room stewards did a good job, but they were SWAMPED!! Our pair had over thirty rooms to maintain. It is impossible to maintain the formerly experienced personalized service with this kind of work load. We always book cruises based upon itinerary...rather than cruise line or ship. This was no exception. We were amazed by the engineering feat of the Panama Canal and spent nearly the entire day on exterior decks trying to take in as much of passage as we could. As mentioned earlier, we are extensive researchers and tend to book independent excursions as we try as often as we can to book "private" tours--with just two people. We were a little surprised by the amount of grumbling at the South American ports...primarily because almost all of the ports were "closed" ports (usually dual use--cargo and passenger), so one could not "walk off" the pier--but rather had to take a shuttle bus to the pier entrance. This led to a lot of confusion and griping--and Holland America did not handle the situation well in the first few ports. However, the complaints got through and they did a better job on the last several ports. I was also surprised by the large number of guests who apparently had done NO prior research or investigation into the ports of call and therefore had no idea what to expect or do in any given port. Several of the ports we visited were particularly uninviting from the ship/pier...with little or nothing to do pier side and were uninviting visually (stark and deserted). However, we were able to find several options at each port that intrigued us...though it was necessary to make arrangements in advance, as in several of the ports it was virtually impossible to book any kind of an excursion pier side. We made highly unexpected discoveries in Manta, Ecuador; Trujillo, Peru, and Arica, Chile that were in many ways the high points of our cruise. Our cabin was 3353 on the Lower Promenade (walking deck). We enjoy walking on the promenade deck and often select cabins on this deck. Our cabin was typical of others, slightly smaller than some other ocean view cabins on other decks because of the promenade. However, it had plenty of space for us including ample closet and storage space. We always like having both a shower and a bathtub. Other than some initial air conditioning issues (apparently a factor from the dry dock), we had no problems or issues with our cabin. We elected "open dining" as we prefer to meet a variety of people on the cruise and this is a good way to do that. The dining room food was uniformly excellent and well presented. I am always amazed at how they can serve this quality of food on this scale under the extremely cramped conditions aboard ship. The dining room stewards did not seem to be up to the standards of our previous cruises and I am not sure if it was a product of lack or training/experience or also impacted by the dry dock layoff. We were disappointed by the service of the wine stewards and sommelier (as we enjoy wine). The service (and personality) of the stewards and sommelier were distinctly lower than previous experiences and made a noticeable impact on our enjoyment of the dining experience. Entertainment was about the standard we have experienced on previous cruises. We are ambivalent about attending the entertainment events (which could be a reflection on the quality). HOWEVER, the HAL Singer and Dancers that performed the Broadway style stage productions on board were without a doubt the best we have seen in any of our prior cruises. There were no weak links in the group and we looked forward to attending each of their productions. Good job. Disembarkation in Buenos Aires was a drawn out affair because of the need to bus passengers from the ship to the terminal building--and as "independent" travelers we were some of the last to debark. As in most cases, patience goes a long ways in these situations and everything went very smoothly once our group was called. In summary, we had a great cruise with only minor hiccups along the way. HAL maintained their steady performance of providing a somewhat upscale experience at a reasonable price. We were able to visit some remote and largely unknown ports of call, which added to the experience. If you want to do something a little out of the ordinary with unique experiences possible (if you take the initiative to arrange them)--this is the cruise for you. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
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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