549 Holland America Zaandam Cruise Reviews

My wife and I were very impressed with our Alaska cruise and tour. Everything ran extremely smooth.We were met at the Seattle airport by a representive from Holland American. We were taken to the Hilton Hotel in Seattle. Received ... Read More
My wife and I were very impressed with our Alaska cruise and tour. Everything ran extremely smooth.We were met at the Seattle airport by a representive from Holland American. We were taken to the Hilton Hotel in Seattle. Received information regarding our departure for Vancouver the next morning. Had a great meal and was told to leave our luggage outside our room in the morning. We were give colored tags to attach. Our luggage was picked up in the morning and we boarded a bus for the trip to Vancouve. Our luggage was waiting for us when we arrived. After a rather slow trip through security and customes our luggage we taken to our cabin. . We spent 7 days cruising the inter-passage. We visited Ketchikan, Juneau,Skagway, and Glacier Bay Our final stop was Seward. We boarded a Bus for a very long trip to Denali. The Holland America lodge in Denali was a little dispointing, The ice machines on each floor did not work and we had to go outside and walk up a pretty steep hill to retrieve ice. I think everyone was a little distressed over that.The Lodge was just aross the highway from several places to eat. There was a great diner in the Lodge, but after several hour on the bus it felt good to move around. One thing though, when we left Seward they told us to only take enouge clothe for three days and leave the rest in Seward, they would make sure they were at our next destination.We did and renting a gator and riding arount the park, we were pretty dirty the rest of the tour.( Take bug spray). At the end of our time in Denali,e boarded a train andent to Anchorage. Spent a night in Anchorage . Our bags were there. Next morning boarded a plane to Chicago and home. This was our fourth cruise and we are planning another cruise on Holland American in January 2014. Holland America planned the entire cruise and tour for us. They did a fantastic job. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We booked this cruise with trepidation, as the reviews of the ship (and of Holland America in general) were, at best, mixed. But boy, were we pleasantly surprised! Having sailed 30+ times, we are not novices when it comes to judging ... Read More
We booked this cruise with trepidation, as the reviews of the ship (and of Holland America in general) were, at best, mixed. But boy, were we pleasantly surprised! Having sailed 30+ times, we are not novices when it comes to judging ships. We've been on so many types, to so many places, that we do tend to overlook certain things. But still, we hadn't heard great things about this ship, and that had us a little concerned about what we were getting ourselves into. However, the Zaandam far exceeded our expectations. The staff---especially the servers in all the restaurants---were wonderful. The food was better than most and reminded us of the kind of choices we used to get on all cruiselines. Food: yes, food matters. And in recent years, it seems this is the one area you can most feel the cutbacks. We fondly recall the bygone cruising era, when surf and turf meant filet mignon and lobster. Nowadays, cruises offer their version, which includes a sirloin and a piece of fish (or, if you're lucky, a crableg or two). So imagine our surprise when, upon ordering surf and turf onboard the Zaandam, we actually got a genuine filet and a lobster tail? Want additional lobsters? Just ask. They brought us six. No kidding...six. The Lido Restaurant is the ship's buffet. We'd definitely rate this higher than on other ships. In fact, many people onboard opted to eat all their dinners in there because it was just so good. Everything is very well-organized and well-labeled, and, instead of a bunch of strangers ladling heaping helpings onto their overladen plates, they actually serve you from behind the counter. Nice touch that we greatly appreciated. One night, crablegs were offered as one of the many dinner choices. There was virtually no line, and you could just walk up and get a huge plateful. The tables are quickly bussed and cleaned, and there are lots of helpers to get you coffee, water, tea, etc. I did read one poster's complaint about the lack of an ice cream machine. Having sailed on Royal Caribbean a couple of months ago, we can honestly say thank goodness the Zaandam DOES NOT have this! The ships we've sailed on, including the recent one on RCCL, had streams of gooey ice cream all over the deck area where the ice cream machines were located. Half the time they didn't work, or were out of ice cream or cones, and always had long lines. We much prefer the civilzed way of HAL, where a smiling female server doles it into a bowl or cone for you, adding your choice of topping. Service: by far the best we've had in ages! Everyone (well, except for the snooty maitre d' in the Rotterdam Restaurant. What a tool.) is smiling, exceptionally polite, remembers you by name, and is just wonderful. Imagine coming into a cruise's buffet and having a server there remember you by name and save you a table by the window---on the second day of the cruise, no less! What impressed us most was that everyone behaved this way not for an expected tip, but because it was just the way they do things on the Zaandam. The ship is older but charming. The staff is constantly cleaning and polishing, and they seem to take pride in their ship. The cabin size was larger than on similar ships. Lines onboard were quite manageable and moved quickly. The ship's overall size (on the small size) is actually preferred over the mega ships that require one to wait in line for elevators, wait in line flor food, fight crowds for deck space, etc. Holland America includes so many nice touches that have all but disappeared on many other lines: free 24 hour room service, bowls of fruit in your cabin, personalized notes from staff, clean towels AND blankets by the pool area (no need to show a room key. Just help yourself), etc. Take it from two people that have cruised for years and years: this one is much better than they say. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We are relatively-seasoned cruisers, having cruised eight times (three with HAL). We spent five days in Alaska prior to boarding; highlights included the stunning scenic rail journey from Anchorage to Seward as well as a 5-hour Kenai ... Read More
We are relatively-seasoned cruisers, having cruised eight times (three with HAL). We spent five days in Alaska prior to boarding; highlights included the stunning scenic rail journey from Anchorage to Seward as well as a 5-hour Kenai Fjords wildlife tour aboard Major Marines' Star of the Northwest. Our land portion was planned independently. We recommend the Hotel Seward, which was comfortable and friendly. Embarkation in Seward took about 45 minutes. We settled into our cabin and then celebrated on the Lido deck with our traditional sailaway bucket of beer. :-) The Zaandam felt like "home" to us, having sailed on other HAL ships. We like the Dutch maritime theme of HAL ships. It was spotless, and the staff was exceptionally friendly and pleasant. (A shout out to Komang and Marivic ~ second to none!) Also, the Internet expert in the Explorer's lounge was a big help. Cruising the Gulf of Alaska was not notable, as it was a grey day, and there was nothing to see. However, our day scenic cruising in Glacier Bay was outstanding! We were blessed with sunny, comfortable weather, and our ship was able to spend a lot of time at the glaciers. Superlatives fail me ~ suffice it to say that it was exceptional, memorable, and very very special. We will never forget seeing and hearing the glaciers. We did not book any shore excursions; in ports, we simply ventured out on our own. Our stateroom was disappointing. In an effort to save money, we booked a "no-view oceanview" cabin on the lower promenade deck. While it was clean, we kept the drapes drawn most of the time due to passersby. It seemed small to us, and it was located under a noisy galley. However, the worst part was that mid-cruise we endured a disconcerting mechanical malfunction: we were awakened at midnight when a pipe burst above our room, and water began pouring into our cabin through the sprinkler. Luckily, it soaked the carpet and not our belongings or the bed. The staff moved us to a (noisy) inside cabin for the night while they fixed the problem, and they also provided a token credit on our bill to compensate for the incident. Next time we would spend more and book a more comfortable cabin. I thought the food was good; however, my husband felt that it wasn't as good as usual. We both very much enjoyed the Mariner's lunch (braised short ribs) as well as our dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. The Zaandam Singers and Dancers performed three entertaining musical reviews with Broadway, love, and southern themes. They did a good job. We also thoroughly enjoyed Julie Barr, a stand-up comedienne. Chris Cruz was great on guitar (he even played a little Dave Matthews for us!) Bill "the piano guy" did a good job as well. Disembarkation in Vancouver was a snap. We enjoyed our Alaska cruise immensely and would cruise with HAL again in a heartbeat! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
My eyes open, I hold my breath and press the shutter. The Zaandam is approaching Ketchikan. Just like two years ago, on the Ryndam, the chief purpose to this cruise is to capture Alaska in 35mm film. But this year, I am only shooting ... Read More
My eyes open, I hold my breath and press the shutter. The Zaandam is approaching Ketchikan. Just like two years ago, on the Ryndam, the chief purpose to this cruise is to capture Alaska in 35mm film. But this year, I am only shooting Kodak. Portra as principal film, Ektar for back up and out on the towns. Embarkation in Vancouver, two days earlier had been flawless. My stateroom was ready by 11:45. The ship was familiar, so were the friendly smiles and the polite service. The Ryndam is a tough act to follow. The kitchen and waiting staff perform with military precision. The Alaskan cruise two years ago visited College Fjord, now it merely crosses the panhandle at a slower speed. The whole day is a sea day. Could the Zaandam measure up? Most critiques of this ship have been negative: a slight exaggeration perhaps. The ship is not new, a fact I forgive, for when I myself gaze into the mirror, I no longer look twenty. Standards have been slipping. If I were to compare the food and service to the Ryndam of two years ago, I would have to agree. However, on its own merit this is still a great cruise with great service. Still great bang for the buck. The voyage is smooth. We sail in Beaufort 8 and never feel uncomfortable. Glacier Bay is as breathtaking as always. I am happy with my pictures. I got over the fact we did not visit College Fjord. I redo my train ride in Skagway. The highlight of my trip is riding a Softail Deluxe in Ketchikan. Two ways in my mind to experience iconic Alaska: riding a Harley Davidson and shooting Kodak. The motorcycle ride was once an excursion and is no longer offered. This experience is a must. Panhandle Motorcycle Adventures can be contacted directly. The staff is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. Also, everything required is provided: helmet, rain suit, boots, and gloves. The weather is variable, can't complain. Every town has its own charm. I continue to click away. I skip the Canaletto but book the Pinnacle twice for dinner, once for lunch. The wine list continues to impress me. In the end, disembarkation is smooth, customs clearance a breeze. I am a two star Mariner going on three. Would I sail with Hal again? Yes, without a doubt. But I cannot help but notice that Hal is slowly losing its way. In its need to stay current and appeal to newer customers, it is loosing its identity and risks becoming less relevant to its core customers. But what do I know, anyway? I still shoot film. You can check my pictures on You Tube at: http://youtu.be/SbHejgbvX-0 Enjoy. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Arrived at Cruise Ship Centre at Canada Place May 27, 2012 at 10:40 A/M. Handed over two large suit cases to a longshoreman, next to be seen in my cabin 2579 around 1:30 P.M. Proceeded into the embarkation room and joined an already long ... Read More
Arrived at Cruise Ship Centre at Canada Place May 27, 2012 at 10:40 A/M. Handed over two large suit cases to a longshoreman, next to be seen in my cabin 2579 around 1:30 P.M. Proceeded into the embarkation room and joined an already long line for U.S. Customs & Immigration. Once done there was directed to a Holland America lounged and check-in. Received my room key and reminded about Lunch being served in MDR on Deck 4 for Mariners. Embarkation started at 11:30 A.M. and I was in my cabin at 11:40. Was delighted with the convenient location of this cabin and its spaciousness. Much prefer the Zaandam [R Class} to Vistas Class and S Class ships. The centre bank of elevators is a real bonus. Checked out the Crows Nest and Ocean Bar, then headed to the MDR for a very nice lunch. Was seated with other passengers at my request. After lunch went to cabin to check on status of luggage. Still not there but cabin steward, Mario came and introduced himself. Told him I had requested twin beds so window would not be blocked. He said no problem. Went up to Crows Nest to kill some time waiting for luggage. Met bar tender, Lauro -- very attentive. Went back to cabin after one drink & found bed had been made into twins and luggage was there. Proceeded to unpack. I had 2 large suit cases packed to the extreme and still had one cupboard unused. Also didn't need the cupboard in the table at one end of the sofa. There was no round stool to use at the desk. They have been discarded over the years. I like to sit at the desk to do my hair and make-up. Only fault I found with cabin 2579 was the lighting at the desk. Really would have appreciated a brighter higher wattage light bulb in the light fixture mounted on the mirror. Passenger safety drill was at 4:15 and was conducted without a hitch. After muster I headed up to Crows Nest for Sail-away. Can't stand the Sail-away party on Lido deck with the Hal Cats. Music is much too loud for me. We pushed away from the dock promptly at 5:00 P.M. The ship's horn did not sound at Canada Place. However she gave 4 good toots as we sailed under the Lions Gate Bridge. After hearing those toots, I really felt like I was on my way. Once on our way I went down to Ocean Bar and met a very attentive Nestor -- great guy & had my middle name down pat after first order. That ended up being my favourite bar on this cruise. Jerry also worked this bar and was a hoot. When I left the ship on June 10 he had 4 weeks to go to the end of his current contract. Then he was heading home to Manila. Had fixed Main Dining at 8:00 P.M. at MDR on Deck 5 at Table 42 in the right hand corner near the entrance of the dining room. There were 2 other couples at the table who were pleasant enough. However we did not have a lot in common. Three of the 4 of them were friends of Bill W and I'm not. Ate with them 4 nights until they stood me up the 5th night. The Assistant M.D. checked their whereabouts -- not in Pinnacle nor Canaletto. One couple was in their cabin but did not state why they were not in dining room. Meanwhile, I'm as embarrassed at hell and turning all shades of red. The table next to me had room and invited me to dine with them -- problem solved. After dinner I explained to Assist. M.D. I did not want to go back to table 42 and he arranged to send me elsewhere in the back half of the dining room. There was room for me at a table for 8 and my first night there was the second formal night and the Chief Engineer and his wife were seated with us. That meant complimentary wine with the meal for which I was very thankful. They were an engaging and interesting couple. Since I was doing a back to back cruise I told the A.M.D. I didn't like the location of table 42 so he placed me at table 68 in the back half of the dining room. Ended up with 2 ladies from Australia and a grandmother and granddaughter. The first formal night of my second week, the Ship's Doctor was seated with us. Complimentary Wine again and Irish Coffee after dinner (YUM) -- now that is my kind of dessert. Had breakfast & lunch often in MDR. Met some interesting and very nice people. People don't tend to chat it up in the Lido. That's why I prefer the MDR. The new breakfast menu is interesting. I loved the build your own omelette. It is made to order and always came piping hot. A couple of days I ate Mexican from the taco bar -- just had to get my fattening Mexican fix. Never had dessert from menu for lunch -- instead I'd go to ice cream bar for a cone and cookie. Noticed lack of Fresh Plums and Nectarines. They were very skimpy with raspberries and strawberries. At Pinnacle (a pleasant gift from Pinnacle Manager, Alex because I was doing a B2B) I ordered a selection of berries with crème fraische for dessert. Was shocked with what I actually received -- one sliced strawberry, 3 slices of kiwi a couple of wedges of cantaloupe, pineapple, and watermelon. When I asked where are the berries, the server had no answer. There is no longer an entre consisting of King Crab Legs, fleet-wide. They only serve it in a small crab cake or a tiny 2 inch piece in a seafood cocktail one formal night. An executive chef I talked to said it is because the king crab fishery was very poor last year. That is a lot of bull in my imagination. It was selling for $16.99 a pound at Canada Safeway for Father's Day weekend. I think it's just another HAL cutback. Just like no grapes with the fresh fruit in the lido. Didn't care for the design of the Piano Bar on the Zaandam. There are no bar stools around the piano. Everyone is seated in front on the piano at least 6 feet from the piano. Was not as intimate as on S and Vista class ship. The Piano player (went simply by the name Bill) didn't like the set up either and said he would not entertain again on this ship. I gave up going there since it was impossible to get a drink without going up to the bar and ordering one from there. The bar is behind the piano and has stools. A young man called Chris Cruz sang and played his guitar there every evening between 7:00 & 9:00 P.M. He was OK but not really my cup of tea. Was very surprised to see the infamous Park West and their obnoxious art auctions back on HAL. I thought they were run-off the HAL ships with their tail between their legs a couple of years ago. For once the photographers were not in your face pushy. I'm a news hound and really missed a Canadian edition of the Daily News. No news from home kind of sucks when you are away for 2 weeks. The Daily News is no longer delivered to the cabins. You must now go to Lido, Front Office or Library to get a copy. Each week I attended a Cocktail Party hosted by Captain Andre van Schoonhoven and Hotel Manager Edwin Brunink. Loved Captain Andre. He is a no nonsense man. At the Passenger Safety Drill in Seward He gave everyone hell for talking so much. He said this drill is very important and in all the years he has been master of a ship, he never hears so much yapping during a safety drill and that this drill is serious and The Zaandam isn't an RCCL Ship. Bravo Captain van Schoonhoven. It was surprising how different Glacier Bay looked in just one week. The second week there was much more ice floating around. Dutch Green Pea Soup was served both weeks while viewing the glaciers. Week one it was a beautiful sunny day. Week two it was windy, cool and overcast but no rain. The complimentary hot chocolate with a shot or rum was yummy. One final observation from the Cruise Log -- the Northbound cruise is longer than Southbound (1597 vs 1547). I have saved all the Daily Explorers & will continue to do so until the Alaska season is over if any of you out there have any questions. All in all, it was a wonderful cruise and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. All I need is a money tree or win the lotto. I paid for an HH guarantee and received a wonderful upgrade to category D. A Big fat Thank you HAL! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
My husband and I have cruised many times, some with family and some on our own. Living in Miami, we covered the Caribbean pretty well. Now that we live in Hawaii, we looked to the East (well, to the west from here!) and decided to give ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised many times, some with family and some on our own. Living in Miami, we covered the Caribbean pretty well. Now that we live in Hawaii, we looked to the East (well, to the west from here!) and decided to give Holland America a try with their Asia cruise on the MS Zaandam. We started our voyage in Singapore. It was simple enough to reach the port on the MRT from our hotel, but signage neglected to point us to the baggage check-in on the lower floor so we dragged our bags all the way to our cabin. At least that meant we didn't have to wait to unpack! Our cabin steward Komang was right there to provide extra hangers and very helpful the entire cruise. The stateroom was a good size and we had a small bathtub which was unexpected. We were upgraded to an outside cabin with a partial view and really enjoyed having the window. The location of our cabin on Deck 3 was also great - not too much motion and close to everything. The ship is smaller than some we've sailed on and the atrium area is much less glitzy. Overall I would say the ship is nicely decorated and understated, something I appreciate. The tile in the bathroom and some of the carpet in the common areas needs replacing, but I understand that will happen later this year. Otherwise, I can't find much to fault about the decor. It was nice to find the cooking theatre and attend the demonstrations, even if they didn't provide samples to the audience on most occasions (take note Holland America - don't tantalize your guests with fabulous food and then not feed them!) Craft classes with Elizabeth were fun and I also enjoyed the trivia contests. Presentations on ports needed a lot of work - travel guide Wallis did her best, but it was obvious she didn't know a lot about the ports (new to the job?) and we could have used more detailed info. As travelers who do a lot of research before leaving home and steer clear of ship shore excursions, we were okay but maps of the port area and location of transportation would have been nice. We unexpectedly had a shuttle in Sanya that dropped us off at a shopping mall completely off the map provided by the ship. Thanks to a helpful passenger, we found out how to get to the beach. Otherwise we might have spent 15 minutes in the area and returned to the ship! I would give the ship a good rating when it came to dining. Except for a delay in seating the first night or two, we had no problem eating when we wanted to in the Rotterdam dining room. I don't know how they matched people up who were willing to share tables, but we always had interesting people at our table. The food was well above average and portions were just right. We also ate at the Lido buffet and found they had many of the same entrees as the dining room. Breakfast was always good, especially the omelet station. The Terrace Grill by the pool was nice for a quick snack and they made a great guacamole. We also dined in the Canaletto restaurant twice and really enjoyed the special attention. We didn't spend the extra money on the Pinnacle Grill, but others raved about the food. We attended most of the evening shows. For the most part I think the musical shows were well done, although the choreography was a little frenetic. We enjoyed the magician and the singer, but passed on the comedian. Only made it to one movie, but the selection was good and movies were almost all recent releases. Finally, service was uniformly excellent. The entire crew was always helpful, smiling and eager to please. This was our first time on Holland America and this cruise exceeded our expectations. It was an older crowd than previous cruises and that showed in the shore excursions offered (and was why we chose to book our own) but the few children we did see were well behaved. Another aspect we enjoyed was the international diversity in passengers. Instead of a mostly American crowd, we were pleased to meet people from all over the world. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We have taken several cruises, all in different parts of the world, as we like to cruise to enjoy different cultures. We arrived in Hong Kong a few days before the cruise and stayed in the very convenient Marco Polo Hotel right at the ... Read More
We have taken several cruises, all in different parts of the world, as we like to cruise to enjoy different cultures. We arrived in Hong Kong a few days before the cruise and stayed in the very convenient Marco Polo Hotel right at the cruise terminal. On the morning of embarkation, we arrived at the terminal at 10.30am to find they were already opening up. We were among the first passengers to embark and were on the ship before 11am, in our cabin by 11.30 and shortly afterwards in the dining room enjoying the Marine's Welcome back lunch. The ship sailed 30 minutes late at 11.30pm the following evening due to some Russsian guests not understanding the immigration announcements, but it was a spectacular sail out of the Harbour and the mist that had been around for the last few days cleared so that we could see the lights. The demographics of the passengers on this cruise was different to previous HAL cruises. On the whole, the age group was a lot younger than normal....We in our 60's felt we were some of the older passengers. There were also a lot less US passengers. I believe the makeup of the passengers was approx 500 from UK, 250 Australians, 200 Canadians, and 150 from US, a Russian group and the rest was made up of various nationalities. We chose a verandah stateroom this cruise on the Starboard side...so that land would be on our side most of the time. Our cabin was under the overhang of the Lido, which turned out well as the weather was very hot, so it provided some shade. However, we are not people to sit for long...there is always something interesting to see or do! We have previously cruised on several other HAL ships, and really enjoyed the Zaandam. It was immaculately clean...the crew work 24hours day to keep it that way. We loved the decor of the ship, felt it was very tasteful...the music theme continuing throughout the ship with many valuable relics. We felt that the food on this ship was up with the best we have had on a Holland America Line ship...it was always fresh and served hot in the Main Dining room where we had fixed late dining at a table for two, which we requested when booking. We always feel that if you are hungry on a cruise it is your own fault as there is always somewhere to eat, and plenty of variety!! The crew as always were amazing! Always smiling and helpful. Special mention this cruise to the Front Office staff who were incredibly busy, as there were always long lines of people waiting to change money for the many countries this cruise visited. There always seemed to be a few people there to complain too! I am really not sure what about because we certainly did not find anything to complain about. Our only slightly negative observation was that we didn't feel that the Travel guide on this cruise was as knowledgeable about the ports as she could have been. We did not attend many shows as we have late dinner and after a big day in port 10pm was just too late for us! However the group that was brought on in Saigon for the Vietnamese show were fantastic. We did attend Trivia most days, and did very well with our International team! We did enjoy the ports. However as we have travelled in Asia on land quite extensively before, we did not do any excursions other than the ship's transfers into Bangkok and Saigon. We enjoyed our time wandering, particularly in the local markets. One port that we especially enjoyed was Sanya in China. The shuttle dropped us at an exclusive shopping centre that we had no interest in. However on the way we had seen what looked like a fair or market with several large marquees and many red balloons. It was about 2 km back so we decided to walk back to it as we love seeing local events. It turned out to be some sort of Chinese expo and was great fun see all the demonstrations of products! We even bought a few!! Sihanoukville in Cambodia was another new place for us and after walking around the market, we negotiated with one of the very persistent Tuk tuk drivers who gave us a wonderful tour for over an hour into the countryside and to many of the main sites of the town. The other ports we visited were Halong Bay and Saigon in Vietnam, Bangkok and Koh Sanui in Thailand before arriving in Singapore. Disembarkation went as efficiently as the rest of the cruise, and we stayed in Singapore for a few days afterwards. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Background Information It was cruise no. 47. We went before on HAL's EURODAM and WESTERDAM and had some concerns. We made already the experience that you CAN make very good experiences with HAL but also few single items ended in a ... Read More
Background Information It was cruise no. 47. We went before on HAL's EURODAM and WESTERDAM and had some concerns. We made already the experience that you CAN make very good experiences with HAL but also few single items ended in a desaster. We loved the Signature-/Vista-Class Ships and had some concerns before because the price of the balconies was extremely high. Furthermore we booked originally Hong Kong - Kobe but they just changed the itinerary without notification. You learned about the changes in cruisecritic.com or when you were wondering where your booking dissappeared to. My parents (end 70s) went with us. So we know that HAL has a certain infra-structure for this range of ages. Hotel Info (if any) We booked the Inter-Continental in Singapore ourselves. Great hotel. We liked it. Ship Info Well - we really had concerns going on board since we already read some bad reviews on cruisecritic.com. But we were nicely surprised how good the ship's condition was. We had a great space ratio and we had only minor problems in our cabin which mostly were solved within hours. We loved the ship. When you are used to travel on Vista-/Signature-Class Ships you miss some options. But maybe it was only because of the length of the cruise. Activities/Entertainment I loved the musicians on the stage but also in the bars and lounges. Especially the bar pianist James Blackmon and the Adagio Strings. The shows were too old-fashioned for my flavour. Once the CD announced: "The music your parents and grandparents loved" - well I am mid 40s but it was more for my friend's parents and grandparents and he is mid 60s!!! We had no chance to participate other major activities but the M&G with the facebook and cruisecritic.com-members. Service 99% outstanding-fantastic-cordial-personal-wonderful etc. 1% idiots you always have on ships (like giving 4 pieces of candy for a table of 6) Three samples for outstanding service: 1. we had so many vouchers for the Pinnacle Grill and asked instead for a beverage value card and they did. 2. we asked for a dragon fruit and someone walked up to the Lido and got it for us in the MDR. 3. a port call was cancelled due to weather conditions and so my birthday party which I paid was just gone. But they give me a table in the Pinnacle Grill for lunch and dinner so I had a wonderful day onboard. Port & Shore Excursions Because of the size of our group and the high prices we arranged all tours ourselves. Singapore - Singapore Flyer - Ducktours - honestly it was too hot and too humid to do anything. Just stayed at the hotel. Koh Somui - Half Day Tour on the island Laem Chabang - First day: Bangkok highlights with delivery to the airport We flew to Siem Reap to stay there two nights for Angkor Wat. For this arrangement we paid about 500 USD per person while the ship wanted more than 3,000 USD pp for their arrangement. We flew to Phnom Penh and had a small tour there before we returned to Sihanoukville to join the ship. Phu My - Tour to Saigon but with some desaster and stolen iPhone Nha Trang - was cancelled due to weather condition Sanya - We had a private tour as we had independent visa Halong Bay - I became my own Hotel and Cruise Director... We chartered a junk incl. two cabins so my parents could rest. So we could stay after sunset. Hong Kong - I did one day Macao and the 2nd day Ladies' Street, Aberdeen and tram ride and finally Victoria Peak. Here you find pictures of our tours and more detailed information in this cruisecritic.com-Thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1609426 Summary Excellent: so many things were 120%. So what was good was really good. But what was bad (especially outside SOP) it was really bad. Travel To Port of Embarkation We were lucky as Lufthansa sold for 1,111 EUR business class tickets on November 11, 2011. So it was a perfect way to travel to the port as it was an Airbus 380. Stateroom Wonderful - due to location easy access to promenade and larger than standard rooms. We loved it: 2715 - and it was so cheap as it was sold as obstructed view but we did not feel like in one. Dining It was good. Due to the length of cruise towards the end of the cruise I had the wish to have something different. Terrible the new "healthy" low fat cream they used. I loved their desserts before but with the new cream it was terrible. Best was the Pinnacle Grill - the lunch was wonderful. But I had only once chance to get access. Wondering how other get the tables as they never advertised for them for lunch. Two dinners: just outstanding - especially the service. Le Cirque: due to the high level of Pinnacle Grill it could not meet my expectations and was just a disappointment - although the food was good. But as said: due the performance you get in the Pinnacle Grill itself, Le Cirque is a big disappointment as the cover charge is 39.00 USD pp. Children's Clubs We did not used. Disembarkation Smooth - but very crowd due to fascilities. But anyhow we want to have the good things again that we accept all bad things: so the next HAL cruise is booked. Pictures of the cruise and detailed comments can be found in this thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1609426 Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Well, what a trip. Not sure that it's what a first cruise should have been, but I did have fun anyway. We arrived at the Vancouver airport from Phoenix on time and supposedly with plenty of time for the 5 PM sailing. The HAL ... Read More
Well, what a trip. Not sure that it's what a first cruise should have been, but I did have fun anyway. We arrived at the Vancouver airport from Phoenix on time and supposedly with plenty of time for the 5 PM sailing. The HAL greeter was there looking for us at baggage pick up and was rushing us along. We discovered that the Captain had hoped to leave port early and they were waiting on us and one other couple from the US. We hurried through the airport, met the other couple on the bus and off the 4 of us went. As it turned out, we didn't leave until 5:30 so actually were at the ship in plenty of time though it is a good lesson to try to get there early. Unfortunately, we took the earliest flight of the day from Phoenix as it was. Yes it did rain almost every day. Yes we had 92 mph winds one night (that ship pitched, rolled, and yawed). In retrospect it is a bit unsettling to remember the Captain mentioning that he felt like George Clooney the night that the barometer dropped further and faster than he had ever seen at sea. It's made a great conversation piece since our return. Our bad luck started in Juneau where we were told that our excursion to Taku Lodge was cancelled by, I assume, bad flying or landing conditions. Since that was the only excursion that we had planned on, it did put us in a bind, but I do understand and appreciate safety first. We quickly dashed off the ship and decided to take one of the impromptu whale watching trips and as it turned out, we actually did see whales which seemed to be almost playing with our boat. The weather was fairly miserable but you know, most were having fun. A word of advice here, absolutely do use the rest room before you depart. It was way too rocky and bouncy to do so while out on the water. At least in the small boat we were on. But you know, we were down on the water and could actual feel part of the action. Skagway was mostly for shopping, in the rain. Apparently we were supposed to be the only ship in port but the bad weather had forced three other ships to come to Skagway so it was definitely a hustling time. I am sure glad that we didn't take the eagle watching excursion because those people were stuck in Hanes when it was decided that it would have been unsafe for the ferry to return to Skagway. The plan was for us to wait in port until the next morning when it was anticipated that the ferry could run and get the people back. Best laid plans, that didn't happen. The weather worsened and a Princess ship that was sheltering us decided to leave that night so we had no choice but to follow her out to sea since would no longer have shelter from the winds. During the night, things got worse and unfortunately we didn't stop in Ketchikan. (Wonder what they ever did with those 6 passengers that were stuck in Hanes and missed the Skagway departure?) And to be "good neighbors of the sea" we only went part way into Tracy Arm so missed the glacier. But you know, I had a great time. Netted $175 from the casino. Ate a year's worth of salmon. Enjoyed dinner two times at the Pinnacle (their charge restaurant) where they truly treated us like valued guests. The staff and maitre'd kept plying us with extra appetizers and desserts and it served one of the best steaks I've had. Both times I had to waddle out of there. It was disappointing to miss out on some of the itinerary but that can happen this late in the season. The crew went out of their way to be accommodating under the circumstances. Everyone was cheerful and friendly and I don't think because they had to be. Would I go again, absolutely. And this time, now that I know where the gym is, I'll not feel so bad about the second chocolate volcano cake. Alex Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Airport arrangements, hotel transfers, baggage handling- all with precision. Embarkation took at most 30 minutes shuttle to on board. Land touring a week before cruise included Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage.Wildlife trip to Denali ... Read More
Airport arrangements, hotel transfers, baggage handling- all with precision. Embarkation took at most 30 minutes shuttle to on board. Land touring a week before cruise included Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage.Wildlife trip to Denali magnificent, breathtaking view of mountain that day. Land tour director was a pro, even assisted in crisis when wife packed ALL my clothes and sent ahead to the ship. Our group of 40 were all punctual cooperative and affable. One day flight to Anaktuvak Pass village was worh note. The flight up and visit into tundra very good. The village itself was difficult. The locals 'subsistence traditional life' is now all western supported, by importing everything-EVERYTHING- by air. Educate yourself before deciding to spend a large amount of money and full day. This was our 2nd HAL trip. Layout identical to previous Noordam. Odd to round a corner of a new place and know where you were and what you would see next. This means no adventure in exploring a new vessel. I am a physician, and visit to Med Facility and listening to shop talk stories from ship's Doc an extra treat. (unlike Cunard). Staff very attentive, but HAL needs to assist them with English skills-room service, bar. Table waiters and wine steward were absolutely top notch, no issues there. Dining room staff made us feel special. Pinnacle Grill evening another home run. Our Noordam had been just ok. Food varied and good. Portions smallish- but waiters would suggest double portions when needed, and brought extra 'tasting' dishes out. The liberal policy of allowing passengers to bring wine on board made our trip more fun and saved us money. Between us we had Cunard, Norwegian, Princess as well as HAL previous experiences and we agreed this was best to date. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
First, was it worth it? The answer is undeniably YES! First the flights. We arranged our cruise booking through our local TA and couldn't have been more pleased with our Representative. We booked in late February and got the ... Read More
First, was it worth it? The answer is undeniably YES! First the flights. We arranged our cruise booking through our local TA and couldn't have been more pleased with our Representative. We booked in late February and got the last two outside cabins (2 friends went with us). We booked the airfare as part of the cruise with Holland after reading other cruise critics advise that this might eliminate any issues with late arrival and catching up with the boat if your flight was delayed. (This was really unneeded as we did the Denali NP land portion first). If I had it to do over again, I would not have booked through Holland? Why? For some reason they booked us from Lexington, KY to Atlanta (1 hour), Atlanta to Minneapolis(2 hours), and then Minneapolis to Anchorage (7 miserable hours)via Delta. Why not route through Detroit or Chicago using another airline, cutting down the flight time? Coming back from Vancouver, BC, we were booked on United to Chicago (3 hours) and then to Lex (1 hour). The flight from Atlanta to Minneapolis was on an Airbus so there was plenty of room. The flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage was on a 757. Of course the rude lady in front of me, immediately leaned her seat back in my lap. I jiggled her seat hoping she would get the hint. Instead she turned around after 30 minutes and accused me of being rude. Finally after 30 more minutes of jiggling she lifted the seat back up... I would book my own flight and not use the cruise line in the future. Arriving Anchorage, (on Thursday 25th) the Holland staff met us and stayed with us while we gathered our luggage, got us to the right bus and had us at our hotel (Westmark) in about an hour. This was about 12 MN EST after we had left Lexington at 0630. The Westmark could certainly use some refreshing, as it is 1970's vintage hotel... All the recommended restaurants nearby the hotel were full with an hour or more waiting, so we had a late meal in the Westmark hotel restaurant. Nothing fancy but it probably was as good as we could have gotten at either of the overbooked breweries or pizza places nearby. The next morning (Friday)we were bused to the McKinley Explorer train. This was absolutely the highlight of the trip. Dome rail cars as comfortable as your home easy chair, unbelievable panoramic views, a great meal for a reasonable price on the train and a running tab for drinks (coffee, tea, liquor). The weather was perfect, we could see Mt. McKinley from Anchorage before we pulled out of the station. Everyone on the train and in Denali kept telling us how bad (rainy/cloudy) the weather had been all season and we had perfect day 1. The train ride is 8.5 hours (240 rail miles)and again was fabulous. We were met at the Denali train station and taken by bus to the McKinley lodge (which has a great breakfast buffet) and overall good food. I was expecting unbelievably expensive prices but considering we were in Alaska, I thought they were just right. The food service employed is Aramark and overall they did a good job. The McKinley lodge did not have air conditioning and the rooms were unbelievably warm. This coupled with the fact that our bodies were still on EST, going to bed at 8pm Alaska time (12 mn EST)with the sun still fully out and no ac did not lead to restful nights. The next day (Sat)we took the Denali Tundra tour (8 hours) by school bus to about 40 miles from Mt. McKinley. We saw and got pictures/video of Moose, Elk, Brown and Grizzly Bear, Dall Sheep and of course great pictures of Mt. McKinley. (We were told to have 2 days of back to back sunshine in the park occurs about 0.5% of the year). On Sunday, we had a 300 mile coach ride back through Anchorage on to the port at Seward. This followed 8 hours on the Denali school bus. It was nearly 12 hours to Seward with a stop for a lunch (that is forgettable)and stops at the Porter Glacier. Our bus driver Ron was very good and he made the long ride as interesting as possible. We arrived in Seward at 7 pm Alaska time and boarded the Zaandam after going through an embarkation process that took about 15 minutes, where they take your credit card and issue you a cruise card to charge everything on the boat. Our luggage (other than what we had taken to Denali) was already loaded on the ship. Our rooms were on the main deck (which most of the time is the boarding deck). We managed to grab some food on the Lido deck before the obligatory life boat drill which occurs about an hour after boarding. The rooms all have wonderful storage and more than enough space. The satelite TV could use some upgrading but they don't want you staying in your room anyway. Holland now has a magnetic stripe on your cruise card so you can use it to access the safe. The next day (Monday) we had sailed to College Fjord. We spent the day getting acclimated to the boat. I had read reviews that the Zaandam was a tired old ship. I did not see any unusual wear and tear, the carpets were magnificent and the boat was in fabulous condition. I was over the boat from stem to stern from the main deck (2) all the way to the sports deck (11) and found it in excellent condition. There are numerous areas to get away on the boat inside and out, I never felt it was overcrowded. A great dinner every night with early seating in the Rotterdam dining room. (Baked Alaska every night on the menu along with many other dessert choices, but make sure you go for the night it is made with butter pecan ice cream on top of a fudge cookie)! Fabulous! The one thing on the boat that sucked big time was the internet! (Holland does note that the MTN service is slow before your purchase). I bought the 250 min package for $100 and believe me as slow as it is you need it. I ended up purchasing additional minutes on Saturday to make sure I got checked in on my flight back. Why buy it? Because other than when you are in port, you had better keep your cell phone turned off or you will pay for exorbitant ship to shore phone charges ($16 min). On shore, we could use our cell phones just like in the lower 48 (we are AT&T). On Tuesday another day of beautiful sunshine as we hit Glacier Bay (I got the Margerie glacier calving on video). We saw several other glaciers including the Johns Hopkins. Then it was on to Haines (a small fishing type village)arriving on Wednesday. From there we took a ferry to Skagway to ride the White Pass & Yukon RR. This is an original gold rush narrow gauge railroad that ascends 3300 feet in 20 miles. My wife thought this was the highlight of the trip. It took about 3 hours and the views are fabulous! Spend time in Skagway and shop. The remainder of the cruise is the usual stopping in Cruise ports. (Thursday) Juneau, if not the capital of Alaska, would not be much larger than a fishing town. (Friday)Ketchikan is a fishing town invaded by cruise based business. Overall, I felt the cruise was two days two long. They should cut one of the ports out (either Juneau or Ketchikan) and sail into port at Vancouver or Seattle and allow a day there. I know that won't help the Alaskan economy but once you've done one port, you're repeating the process just like on the Caribbean cruises. Finally, On an Alaskan cruise, I would say don't waste the money on a Veranda. Most days at sea are 55-60 degrees with lots of wind, so I don't believe it's a good investment. I can't say enough about Holland America, their staff, their taking care of you every step on both the land and cruise portion. Again the McKinley Explorer is a must! They meet you at every step in the process. The embarkation and debarkation processes were run as smooth as clockwork. I will definitely sail Holland if I ever do another cruise! Spend some time in Seattle or Vancouver if you get the chance. If we hadn't done Denali and seen the heart of Alaska, the cruise portion would have been a real disappointment. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
My partner and I did the HAL E2S cruisetour from August 23 thru Sept. 4. This cruisetour allowed us to stay in Denali National Park at the end of the park road at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. I can't say how happy we were that we ... Read More
My partner and I did the HAL E2S cruisetour from August 23 thru Sept. 4. This cruisetour allowed us to stay in Denali National Park at the end of the park road at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. I can't say how happy we were that we selected this option, as staying in the park was exceptional. The Denali Backcountry Lodge was clean and comfortable. The food was quite good and the staff was very accommodating and helpful. We saw lots of wildlife on the way in and on the way out; got to see the big 5 (yes even a wolf). The highlight of the land tour was being able to hike inside Denali. We did guided hikes each morning with staff from the Backcountry Lodge, and hikes on our own each afternoon. We had exceptional weather that allowed us to see Mt. McKinley out in full view on two separate days! To get to the Denali Backcountry Lodge, we took the train from Fairbanks and then a bus (just like the park buses) into the Lodge. The train was very comfortable and the food (which you buy) was very good. The bus ride was long, but because you're looking for wildlife, and because the scenery is breathtaking, the time passes quickly. The bus ride in is very similar to the Tundra Wilderness tour, except it goes further into the park (right to the end) and you don't pay extra for it. The driver stops for all wildlife sightings and makes extra stops for bathroom and snack breaks. Again, I would highly recommend doing the land portion of your cruisetour this way if you're booking through HAL. Leaving the Backcountry Lodge, you take the bus out (which gives you another chance to view wildlife) and then we took the train to Anchorage. Again, train was comfortable and food was good. Stayed overnight at the Anchorage in Hilton which was fine. Next day took a bus to Seward and did the Kenai Fjord cruise as an excursion. This was a fun excursion. The weather was good and we saw whales, puffins, sea lions, porpoises and calving glaciers. The excursion ended and we were bussed less than a mile to the Zaandam. Boarding the Zaandam was quick and easy. We were on board in less than ten minutes. Went to our room, a veranda room and our bags were waiting for us. Because it was after 6:00 pm, we went up to the Lido deck for dinner. We set sail at 8:00 pm. Our cabin was quite clean and comfortable. The bathroom was a bit worn, but very clean and serviceable. The toilet and shower worked perfectly every day and really, what more do you need from your bathroom. The bed was very comfortable. As a matter of fact, the entire ship was clean and showed minimal signs of wear and tear. Imam, our cabin steward, was a sweetheart who took excellent care of our cabin and made it a point to try and meet our every need. First day of the cruise was a sea day. My partner and I had a couples massage in the spa. I'm sorry to say I can't recommend getting a message. Both of us felt as though the massages we received were probably the worst we've ever had. That, combined with the constant hard sell of products and spa services combined to make this a less than ideal experience. No matter, it didn't bother us in the least. We had purchased the well-being package prior to embarking on the cruise. The massages were included in the package, as was the thermal suite. After our massages, we went into the thermal suite to lounge on the heated chaises and soak in the mineral hot tub. It was quite relaxing. Had dinner at the Pinnacle Grill that night, which was formal night. The food and service in the Pinnacle Grill were both outstanding. Attended the singer/dancer show after dinner which was delightfully cruise shippy. It was a lot of fun! Day 2, Glacier Bay. We spent most of the day out on the deck or on our veranda, watching the scenery and glaciers. Got to see Margery (sp?) Glacier calve. It was a peaceful, relaxing day. Dinner in the MDR food and service both very good. The show was a magician who was quite good. Day 3, Haines. Disembarked after breakfast and walked around Haines for a couple of hours and did a little shopping. Haines is a quaint little town that seems more authentic (less touristy) than the bigger ports. Back onto the ship for lunch and then did the Wilderness Safari tour in the afternoon. This consisted of a boat ride to a small island or peninsula, a short hike to canoes and then a canoe trip to a glacier. It was amazing to see a glacier so close. The guides for this trip were top notch and it was a fun excursion. Day 4, Juneau. Breakfast than off for our Photo Safari by Land and Sea excursion. This was a great excursion. First we hiked (really more like a walk)to the visitor center at the Mendenhall Glacier. The view of the glacier was spectacular. The hike was pretty and the guide gave lots of photo tips and lots of info about the area. Then we went on a whale watch. Saw some whales and again, the scenery was spectacular. More photo tips from the guide and more info about the whales and their habits. I would highly recommend this excursion. After the excursion we had lunch at a local restaurant - halibut and chips - excellent! Did some shopping and back on the ship. Dinner in MDR - formal night. Day 5, Ketchikan. Breakfast and then off ship to do a little shopping in Ketchikan. Back to ship for lunch and then off on Snorkeling excursion. This was also a great excursion! You are outfitted with wetsuit, hood, booties and gloves and snorkeling gear. Yes, the water is cold, but the wetsuit keeps you pretty warm. I was fine and my partner, who is always cold, was one of the last ones out of the water. We saw brilliantly colored starfish and sea urchins and sea cucumbers and some fish - it was great. Back to the dock, a little more shopping and then back to the ship. Dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, excellent again, show was comedian who is a ventriloquist -- very funny! Day 6, Sea Day. Day 7, Disembark in Vancouver. All in all, this was a great ship and a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We are in our early forties and found that HAL fit our needs perfectly. The ship was a bit outdated but clean. We loved our balcony room and although it wasn't cheap, it was worth every penny. Food: We are foodies and the ... Read More
We are in our early forties and found that HAL fit our needs perfectly. The ship was a bit outdated but clean. We loved our balcony room and although it wasn't cheap, it was worth every penny. Food: We are foodies and the food in the main dining room was what you would expect on a cruise, decent but not up to the par of our favorite premium restaurants in southern California. The pool side grill looked like bad cafeteria food and we never ate there. The Lido was fine for breakfast and our friends loved breakfast room service. Lido for lunch was okay if you wanted salads and some light simple meals. Main dining room lunch was better and service was okay, allow 1 hour for lunch. Pinnacle grill food,service and manager were all excellent! We ate several lunches and dinners there and will continue to do so in the future. The lunch wasn't quite as outstanding as the dinner, such as shoestring potatoes listed on the menu but regular fries served, but still worth the $10 charge. Pinnacle dinners were fabulous, bone in ribeye filet, lobster, lamb chops, lobster Mac n cheese were all great,plus you can pick your own side dishes which I really appreciated so I could order two veggies and no starch, asparagus, mushrooms and creamed spinach all great. Le Cirque night was also excellent with Lobster salad but considering the $40pp charge, we will probably skip that and do the formal night in the MDR next time to get lobster there. MDR listed King crab legs on menu but they were dungeoness. I was able to eat salmon every day and could have had it at every meal which was good, salmon eggs benedict in Lido were outstanding. We will definitely continue to cruise with HAL and have already booked an Eastern Caribbean 7 day cruise on the westerdam for Nov 2011. Service: Porter excellent, MDR dinner staff terrible, very slow, wine guy rarely seen even though we wanted a drink. Good thing we had taken advantage of HAL's policy of allowing you to bring wine on board and had a drink before dinner. It took two hours for dinner every evening and we were trying to make it to the 10pm show. Luckily there was still seating for the 10 pm show if you arrived at 10. Cruise director, Party planner and captain all wonderful. Activities: Dance classes fun, shows all very good, cooking demos fun but crowded so get there early to get a seat. dancing in e Crows nest in the evening very fun. The best thing we waver did was spend the $114 for our vows renewal!!! It includes a night at Pinnacle, flowers in room, champagne at renewal, chocolate strawberries and appetizers in room before and basically your own private party with the captain and party planner. We will do this every year. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We began our vacation on July 24, 2011 with a 2 night pre tour to the Brooks Range. Upon our arrival in Fairbanks, we were a little disappointed to find there was no packet waiting for us with tour instructions. The HAL rep at the Westmark ... Read More
We began our vacation on July 24, 2011 with a 2 night pre tour to the Brooks Range. Upon our arrival in Fairbanks, we were a little disappointed to find there was no packet waiting for us with tour instructions. The HAL rep at the Westmark was quick to take care of this and had the information for us within an hour. After a short nap (we arrived at approx 830pm Alaska time and had to be up and ready for a 415am departure), we began our pre tour. It was a 9 hour ride up the Dalton Highway to Coldfoot, Alaska. Our tour guide was very informative and the company that HAL uses for this tour made sure everything was taken care of. Upon our arrival in Coldfoot, we stayed at the Shell Creek Inn, which at first glance is extremely rustic. Twin beds, sink, small shower, and toilet. Thats about it. But it was very clean and well maintained. There is also a restaurant and saloon on the property. The restaurant had great food and we got to meet a lot of nice people; other travellers and some truck drivers. The next day we continued our trek up the Dalton Highway to the Brooks Range and across the Attigun Pass to the Continental Divide. Breathtaking is how I can describe the scenery and the beauty of that part of Alaska. Our guide was again very informative and made stops whenever we wanted to take pictures or a break. We got to see a moose, wolf, and 2 blonde grizzly bears. Then we turned around and made our way back toward Coldfoot ending with a 2 hour rafting trip down the Koyokuk River. The weather was beautiful and the scenery was again spectacular. Arriving in Coldfoot, we took an 8 seat Piper Cub to Fairbanks (1 hour and 10 minute flight). Again with an excellent pilot/guide who pointed out points of interest to us throughout the flight. We began the tour portion on the 26th and met with our HAL tour director, Justin, who gave us our packets and explained everything that we would need to know. Justin was again well informed in his job, and took care of all the needs of the approximately 50 people in his group with ease. He kept us well informed throughout the tour and handled everything. With approximately 4 or 5 groups/tour directors, you would expect chaos, but everything seemed to run very smoothly. We toured Fairbanks, the took the train to Denali, then Anchorage, and motor coach to Seward. The train rides were fun and with the domed cars, you can really see everything. They were very comfortable and the guides were again very informative and pointed out great picture opportunities along the way. We took the motor coach that was included in the price from Seward to the Ship and were glad we did. They offer an upgrade to the train, but it gets you to the ship later, and with the motor coach, we left at 830 in the morning and arrived at the ship by 1230pm and got checked in and boarded the ship in 10 minutes, then spent the remaining of the day walking around Seward which is a nice little town to walk around. About the Zaandam: I read some troublesome comments before we left and was concerned, but I can honestly say that the ship is very well kept up. She is beautiful!! The crew always had a smile and a hello every time we passed them and stopped to chat when they could. The food was very good. We ate in the Pinnacle Grille one night and it was fantastic, as was the service. We also ate in the Canelatto (which is on the Lido Deck), and the food there was also delicious. The shows were ok as far as I was concerned. It is a matter of preference as to what type of entertainment people like, and I prefer comedy and magic. The magic and comedy shows were ok. I think they need to upgrade them a bit, I heard the Broadway show was really good, and the Indonesian show could have been better, but I didn't get to go to those shows, so I have no first hand experience. We stopped in Haines, Juneau, and Ketchikan and had excursions in all ports. In Haines we booked the Takshunuk Mountain 4X4 mule tour, and were extremely pleased. Haines is a very cute little town and we found the best deals in shopping there for tee shirts and caps and that kind of stuff. In Juneau we booked on our own through Harv and Marv for whale watching and were not disappointed. Captain Sean made sure to go to all the good spots and we got to see lots of whales. We had a blast! We had a helicopter tour booked too, but they cancelled due to weather. In Ketchikan we booked the Bering Boat Tour on the Aleutian Ballad (which was the boat used in the first season of the Deadliest Catch), and it was so COOL! The Captain and crew showed us what is done when they go out on those boats and explained the perils and pitfalls that they face on a typical day at sea with great animation and information. Another truly great excursion. Sailing through the College Fjords and Inside Passage was truly beautiful!! Unfortunately the vacation of a lifetime came to an end and we were sad to go, but in true HAL style, debarkation went as smoothly as it can and we made it home safely with over 2000 pictures and lots of wonderful memories. My personal recommendation to anyone who is thinking of doing the type of vacation is to do the land part first then the cruise. The land part is a lot of touring and you will need the rest when you get to the cruise. One tip for future travellers is to take advantage of their unlimited laundry service. Its 49.00 for the week and unlimited amounts, and they do it for you. No waiting for a washer and dryer as it seems the rest of the ship is doing their laundry at the same time. We had all clothes laundered prior to disembarkation which made packing substantially easier as all clothes were neatly hung or folded leaving more room in the luggage for the souveniers. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
I enjoyed a recent Alaskan cruise on the ms. Zaandam southbound from Seward to Vancouver following a land-tour package from Fairbanks. The number of arriving passengers at the Seward terminal was minimal at 11:30 and our bus group was able ... Read More
I enjoyed a recent Alaskan cruise on the ms. Zaandam southbound from Seward to Vancouver following a land-tour package from Fairbanks. The number of arriving passengers at the Seward terminal was minimal at 11:30 and our bus group was able to board the ship immediately. The cabins were prepared and I dropped off my carry-on bag and met my cabin steward, Dio. Lunch for incoming passengers was available in the Lido and, as the ship was departing later that evening, the buffet and tables weren't inundated with people as many passengers had taken the train excursion from Anchorage or were on early shore excursions. The Zaandam is a well-maintained vessel and cleaning was continuous as well as painting/varnishing on exterior parts of the ship. Yes, there are a few stained carpets here and there but this does not detract from the overall attractive appearance. Some windows needed cleaning but these concerns are addressed according to the ship's maintenance program. My inside stateroom was cleaned twice-daily and there was ample closet space with two additional pull-out drawers under the bed. Some reviewers mention a "lack of closet space" -- my feeling on this is that if you run out of room in the closets, you've probably brought too much clothing! The bathroom will need some attention during a future dry-dock period as there are a few loose tiles near the baseboard and a small bit of rust at the base of the door--small things! I ordered room service breakfasts each day. Every day of the cruise, they were delivered just slightly before the requested time. A staff member from the room service department called twice during the cruise to ensure that everything was fine--nice touch! Lunches were taken in the Lido and I found no problems there--there didn't seem to be any confusion on the part of other diners as to which station provided which particular food. For the first 48 hours, meals in the Lido are served by the kitchen staff to minimize gastro-intestinal illness. I ate most dinners in the Rotterdam Dining Room which was well-appointed and meals were served by an excellent waiter, Ekky, who also did a few magic tricks at the conclusion of each meal. I had one meal in the Canaletto restaurant which was very good. The subject of "food" comes up frequently in other reviews. I can truly say that EACH meal in the Rotterdam was served at the correct temperature and perfectly prepared. There appeared to be some confusion on the part of a few passengers who felt they didn't need to bother with the prescribed dress code. On THIS cruise, some ill-dressed diners were turned away. Face it, folks, if you don't like dressing up, enjoy your meals in the Lido! The entertainment in the Show Lounge was varied though I did not attend the opening night production as this involves "game show" type entertainment of which I'm not fond. I enjoyed a Q & A session with the cast of the production show plus a backstage tour. It's interesting to see how much stagecraft can be done with limited space. I was very grateful to the stage crew member who took the time to answer my questions and provide me with many technical details of the stage area. Most of the shows use a sound track for instrumental back-up. I am continually impressed by the way Holland America is able to accommodate passengers with mobility problems. Those in wheelchairs are able to move around the ship easily as are those who use other mobility aids such as canes, walkers and motorized scooters. Staff members are available to assist handicapped passengers on and off the ship. As the Zaandam is considered a mid-sized ship, we cruised into Glacier Bay and stopped in front of the largest glacier. Passengers gathered on deck to watch and listen as "white thunder" echoed through the glacial canyon and the glacier did some active "calving." Good photo opportunities! There was ample time for everyone to experience this natural activity! I normally don't do too many shore excursions but I did a "Wildlife Encounter" in Haines. I was dubious when I first saw the place as it was extremely rustic looking with hand-painted signs and flimsy-looking enclosures but it was a great chance to get close to some native animals and to take some excellent close-up photos. Steve and Mario are wildlife experts/film makers and took our group on an extensive tour of the rural facility. Bear in mind there is some uphill walking involved! Absent during this cruise was the "art auctions" and rotating displays in the gallery off the atrium. Maybe this activity has been phased out? There were good food demonstrations in Wajang Theatre featuring the chef from the Pinnacle Grill as well as the fruit and vegetable carver. Movies were also available in the Wajang Theatre though the "free popcorn" which is usually offered didn't appear on this cruise. This was my second Alaskan cruise and I felt Holland America did an exemplary job of organizing everything from baggage handling, housekeeping, tours and meals. The land tour portion of the trip was handled well--our luggage traveled separately by truck and was delivered to our rooms. Special commendations to the front desk staff who patiently handled the many questions they receive each day and to the friendly staff of the Zaandam. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We loved this cruisetour and the Zaandam. Embarkation/Debarkation: A breeze. The fastest of any ship we have sailed on. Staff and Service: Great, couldn't be better. Room Stewards were fantastic. Cleanliness of Ship: Very ... Read More
We loved this cruisetour and the Zaandam. Embarkation/Debarkation: A breeze. The fastest of any ship we have sailed on. Staff and Service: Great, couldn't be better. Room Stewards were fantastic. Cleanliness of Ship: Very clean. Yes, it is an 11 year old ship, but the interiors and all the deck areas were spotless. No complaints. Food: Very tasty and well prepared. Even had the fish (salmon) one night, which always tells the tale. No, it was not dried out and overcooked. Perfectly prepared. Room service meals were delivered on time and were hot. Service in the dining room: outstanding. Had the anytime dining option, but managed to get a table for two each night with the same waiters, albeit, we had to come a little earlier than we would have liked in order to avoid a wait. No problem for us. The Lido: good food, but, as on any ship, can be crowded and a bit hard to navigate at peak times. At least this ship only had 1400 people and not 3000+! Verandah Room: I consider this a necessity considering the destination. Views were fantastic. Beds, very comfortable. Bathrooms, well appointed and clean. Loved everything about this trip, including the land tour portion with two nights in Denali. Stayed at the McKinley Chalet Lodge, which was wonderful. Only complaint was the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage prior to the start of our land tour. Too noisy, didn't sleep well there. The Port of Vancouver was a zoo. They really need to step it up there in getting some good organization going regarding transporting folks to the airport. Seemed to be alot of confusion, but got through it well enough. The only things we saw not working on the ship were a few of the self-service washers and dryers (which some folks were complaining about) and one of the elevators had a problem for a few days. Otherwise, don't see how anyone could complain about this ship, we thought the cruise was lovely and the staff made it so much more special with their great service with a smile. Loved every minute of this trip. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We recently returned from the inside passage on the Zaandam. We embarked in Vancouver and disembarked in Seward stopping in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. In Vancouver we dined at the Blue Water Cafe. This is an amazing fish ... Read More
We recently returned from the inside passage on the Zaandam. We embarked in Vancouver and disembarked in Seward stopping in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. In Vancouver we dined at the Blue Water Cafe. This is an amazing fish resturaunt and one of my best meals in some time. Salmon on the ship won't taste as good after eating here. Don't miss this place. Our party consisted of parents, grandparents, a 3 year old and a 8 month old baby. This was the first cruise for everyone. A few notes from the trip: We boarded early at 12pm and no line existed. This allowed us to get settled, eat lunch, explore the ship and nap the kids. Our room was ready at 12 and our luggage was delivered within 1-2 hours. The deluxe verandah suite offered plenty of room for 2 adults and 2 kids. It has a pull out couch with a queen bed and we had enough room for the crib, stroller and car seats. We packed light and put the car seats in the closet. The room had plenty of storage, but again we packed very light. HAL offers free laundry service to the deluxe verandah suites which allowed us to pack light. We used the deck, but the weather was cool, cloudy and wet most days. Make sure to pack a sweater and jacket so that you can enjoy the outdoor space on the ship. Overall, we were impressed with the food. We found a waiter in the main dining room who was good with kids (Marcus) and stuck with him for most nights. As long as we made a reservation one day in advance we could generally pick the time. We ordered dinner for our 3 year old right away and then would send her off to the HAL kids club. She loved it and it allowed us to enjoy a longer dinner. We ate once at the Pinnacle Grill and the food was great. A step up, but the MDR was also enjoyable and above expectations. The food on the formal nights was better and in general the lamb dishes were big hits. Overall, the salmon was average to below expectations considering the location. There were only 8 kids on the cruise, but we did not expect many because it was May. Most of the folks on the cruise were over 60, we felt very young. The neptune lounge offers a good continental breakfast and we frequently brought this food to our room to avoid crowds and allow the kids more freedom. Paul the concierge in the lounge was very helpful. The ship seemed to be in good condition and the crew was very friendly. We saw a few "wear spots", nothing major and it didn't bother us. We went to a few shows at night which kept us entertained and enthralled the 3 year old. Getting off was the only downside. Seward is a 3 hour bus ride from Anchorage. We were flying back to Seattle that afternoon and booked a 4pm flight to give us plenty of time. We took a transfer through the ship, this was not the best way to get to Anchorage. We would have been better off renting a car and driving. It would have been less expensive and offered more flexibility. You have very little control over the timing of the bus departure, most leave before 9am. We were told that our luggage could not be transferred to the airport and that we had to pick it up at the convention center which was the second drop off point. So, we watched half the bus get off at the airport, continued on to the convention center, grabbed a quick lunch while waiting for the next bus back to the airport and jumped on an earlier flight to Seattle. Overall we had a great trip and will consider another cruise vacation. It's a great way to travel with the entire family and we especially enjoyed the Alaskan scenery. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We chose the sea of cortez cruise because we had never been in this area before.I would have liked another ship just for variety. The event that marked my change of heart was the upsell to a superior suite.We have never experienced such a ... Read More
We chose the sea of cortez cruise because we had never been in this area before.I would have liked another ship just for variety. The event that marked my change of heart was the upsell to a superior suite.We have never experienced such a spacious lovely cabin before.I ordered a scooter this year and there was a lot of room to store the scooter in the entrance. The neptune lounge is amazing with Paul our concierge ( what a nice young man)a fantastic coffee machine that replaced the regular ship coffee ( weak) and lots of gatherings of the captain and officers and interesting people.We always choose as you wish dining and did find one evening when people seemed a little grumpy waiting.Our cruis had some engine and weather problems so ports were changed and skipped.This did not impact us but others were disappointed.We love to play trivia and this proved popular with a large group. Little cost and lots of bonus.I think HAL should promote Karaoke as well. Again low cost big turnout. Some cruise lines run Karaoke 2x a day with a contest at the end.We attended cooking demos but did not find the evening entertainment to our liking.I think our cabin service meals were better than the dining rooms. I would recommend the sommelier dinner to anyone that enjoys good food and wine and interesting dinner mates. We were honoured to be invited to a renewal of a couples wedding vows.The couple had travelled from Bermuda for this cruise..We enjoyed our cruise and look forward to the next. I just have to figure out how to afford a suite again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
After reading several negative comments about this ship recently, and a rather forgetful 1-night cruise on this ship last October, I was understandably a little nervous about this adventure. I can report after calling this ship home for ... Read More
After reading several negative comments about this ship recently, and a rather forgetful 1-night cruise on this ship last October, I was understandably a little nervous about this adventure. I can report after calling this ship home for the last 2 weeks that while everything wasn't perfect, by and large the ship is in great shape, the crew was outstanding and our expectations were mostly met or exceeded. Our pre-cruise hotel was the newish Hilton Bayfront in San Diego and while there are closer hotels to the cruise pier, this hotel was a perfect start to our vacation due to the beautiful rooms and ample facilities. It's only a 5-minute cab ride to the pier anyway.Staff at the new Broadway Pier facility were very friendly and accomodating and we were allowed to board shortly after 11 am, so have no complaints. We really enjoy HAL's new policy of allowing passengers to proceed directly to their staterooms upon boarding. It is nice to be able to drop off your carry-on luggage so that you may expolore the ship or grab a bite to eat without the hassle of lugging bags around. Our checked luggage arrived a short while later and we met our amiable cabin steward, Arwan. Our first two cruises were on Holland America Line's MS Amsterdam and we were very happy with that ship. Considering the Zaandam is about the same age and size, we decided to take a chance based on the fact we really wanted to try this itinerary to escape our dreary Northwest spring. I am happy to report that the Zaandam measures up completely although it was missing some extra polish apparent on the Amsterdam. Really, though, a few fancier fittings don't impact our enjoyment of a vacation. Other than some worn/stained carpeting, mostly in the elevator lobbies or by the stairs, this ship is in fine shape. Our cabin, an outside on Lower Promenade deck, met our needs perfectly. Always plenty of space for storage and moving about. Everything worked as intended and the condition of linens, carpets, furniture, etc. was good. We are always impressed with how comfortable the beds are - really a treat at the end of a long day. Keep in mind the only staterooms on this ship that have fridges included are verandah cabins or suites, but if you are in a cabin without a verandah you can reserve one for $2 a day and I highly recommend it. There was an issue with one of the ship's generators that forced a cancellation of one of our port stops. Also, weather played a role in cancelling Topolobampo, much to the disgust of some of the passengers who had booked the train trip to Copper Canyon. I can understand this excursion was a big reason why many may have booked this itinerary, but all cruising, indeed all travel, is subject to weather delays and mechanical issues. It's a vacation - go with the flow and enjoy the adventure. The captain was very apologetic about the changes and they compensated with free drinks one afternoon where many passengers proceeded to take advantage of the situation by drinking as much as they possibly could. Also, I thought it was a nice idea to give us two whole days in Puerto Vallarta, arguably one of the better ports to have some extended time to explore. I only wish we would have gone with our initial idea to try the parasailing - it looked like a lot of fun and we have vowed to return to try it for sure next time!As we booked this cruise mainly to relax and enjoy the weather, I won't discuss the ports.What really impressed us was the crew. These folks are Holland America Line's biggest asset and those on this ship that we encountered really went above and beyond to ensure a memorable vacation, particularly the beverage and dining room staff and the cabin stewards. Also notable were party planner Paula and cellarmaster Ron. The events they coordinated were well-run and thoroughly enjoyable. The DJ seemed to be almost absent until the end of the Mexico portion of the cruise, when suddenly there was a noticeable influx of younger passengers that became regulars in the Crows Nest. From then on, he seemed to be much more engaging. We mostly ate in the Main Dining Room for dinner and the Lido or Terrace Grill for breakfast and lunch. Also one enjoyable evening in Canaletto. The food quality and selection was very good, and occasionally outstanding. Only a few minor off notes the entire two weeks. From what I heard from passengers who ate in the Pinnacle Grill, they were very satisfied with their experience. I am a regular gym user, so I was happy to see mostly newer equipment and a nice selection of machines in the gym. Yes, there were a few treadmills out of order, but any gym I have been to has to repair some of the equipment occasionally. At any rate, there was plenty to go around, even on the busier days/times. Would we sail with Holland America again? Absolutely. On this ship? Absolutely. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
My husband and I went on a cruise in late March 2011 with Holland America from San Diego, California to Hawaii and back to San Diego. The cruise was great, very relaxing, great food and great entertainment. The ship was clean and it ... Read More
My husband and I went on a cruise in late March 2011 with Holland America from San Diego, California to Hawaii and back to San Diego. The cruise was great, very relaxing, great food and great entertainment. The ship was clean and it continued to be cleaned throughout the cruise. Our room was clean, spacious and with plenty of drawers and closet space.  Our ship crew was always polite and greeted you with a smile where ever we went. They were always there to please you. I have read many negative reviews and I am sorry to see them for they are not true. This is our second cruise with this ship and every penny spent was well worth it. ALL of the people on the ship were always willing to make our cruise the best and they did just that. Our only negative was that the pool was not filled a few days out and back so we were unable to use it because of the earthquakes in Japan which caused the ocean to be unhappy and created large swales that would cause dangerous slip hazards on deck from the water sloshing out of the pools. But that was not the ships fault. They all highly believe in safety first. So don't hesitate in taking a cruise on this ship, when we went it was a full ship no empty rooms so it can't be as bad as some people write. They probably have never been in the ship to begin with. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Embarkation was a breeze; arrived at terminal before 11:30 a.m. and was on board by noon. The cabin was available by 1:00 p.m. We had an ocean view cabin on deck 1. It was clean, comfortable and well maintained. The only problem (toilet ... Read More
Embarkation was a breeze; arrived at terminal before 11:30 a.m. and was on board by noon. The cabin was available by 1:00 p.m. We had an ocean view cabin on deck 1. It was clean, comfortable and well maintained. The only problem (toilet failed to flush one morning) was taken care of promptly. Being on the lower deck does have some drawbacks when it comes to accessing the public areas. We got a lot of exercise going up and down stairs. This is something to consider, especially if you have mobility problems. This was our seventh cruise (fifth on Holland America), but our first Hawaiian cruise so we were a bit unsure about open ocean travel and sea conditions to be encountered. However, the seas were relatively mild except for the second day out and the ship was quite stable even on that rough and windy day; no significant problems and no seasickness. The first couple of days were cool, but the temperature warmed nicely as we got farther south toward Hawaii. This was the oldest cruise clientele that we've ever encountered. We heard that the average age was 70. There were more walkers, wheelchairs and scooters on this cruise than any we've been on. We saw a grand total of two young children. If you want a quiet cruise, this is the one. Being at the younger end of the senior citizen spectrum, we still found this one to our liking, in spite of the slow traffic flow caused by the effects of age. The ship was reasonably well maintained and the staff was friendly and helpful. Entertainment was good; we enjoyed Marty Brill (comedian), Dr. Justin Miller (guitar musician), Annie Francis (Australian singer) and Maske (Australian string trio). Dining in the Rotterdam Dining Room was excellent and the wait staff did a great job. The Pinnacle Grill was superb, and worth the $20 cover-charge. The Canaletto Restaurant was not great; we'd highly recommend the Rotterdam Dining Room over the Canaletto. The Lido tended to get a bit crowded at times, but the food was very good and the layout worked reasonably well. The Lido coffee was not as good as the dining room coffee. We used room service very little, but it was timely and very good when we did use it. The ship still allows smoking in some bar and casino areas. So if you hate cigarette and cigar smoke as much as we do, be forewarned. The gym was often crowded and some machines needed maintenance and repair. Two of the seven treadmills were out of service. Also a couple of the other machines were out of service. This area is obviously not a high revenue producer and could use more attention. The jogging track on deck 10 often proved a better option than the treadmills. The ports were Hilo, Honolulu, Nawiliwili, and Lahaina (Ensenada was a quick 3-hour mandatory stop on the return trip). We took tours in Hilo and Honolulu. The Pele volcano tour in Hilo was very good and the Pearl Harbor tour in Honolulu was excellent. We rented a car on Kauai and drove to see Waimea Canyon and visited a coffee plantation. Renting a car on Kauai was a good way to go. On Maui we rented a private limousine and had a good personalized tour. Personal favorites were Kauai and Maui. This 14-day cruise had 9 sea days. If you go stir crazy on sea days this may not be the cruise for you. If you like leisurely days at sea, this is a great way to go. The ship had enough daily activities planned to break the monotony. The library was very nice as was the Explorations Cafe area. We could always get a great coffee drink and grab a book or magazine to read. Overall this was an excellent cruise on a great ship with a fine staff. We'd definitely consider doing it again if the price was right. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
This was cruise number 40 (22nd with Holland America)and my third time on the Zaandam. We live in Palm Springs and drove down to San Diego. It's about a 2 1/2 hour trip, but we like to get to the port the day before we sail to be on ... Read More
This was cruise number 40 (22nd with Holland America)and my third time on the Zaandam. We live in Palm Springs and drove down to San Diego. It's about a 2 1/2 hour trip, but we like to get to the port the day before we sail to be on the safe side and also to extend our vacation by an extra day. We stay at the Holiday Inn Bayside on North Harbor Drive about a ten minute ride to the pier. The hotel has a cruise and park package with transportation to and from the pier. I think that it is a good deal. We checked in at the pier with no trouble. It was about 11:15 am but there were very few people checking in at that hour. Instead of boarding we left the pier and went to a nearby seafood restaurant. When you will be eating HAL's fare for 11 days, we deserve some variety even pre-cruise. We had booked a mini-suite but were able to purchase an upgrade to a Deluxe Verandah suite the day prior to sailing. I think that HAL's large suites are second to none. Lovely big room and a wonderful large, deep and private verandah with room for two lounge chairs to spread out plus a table for four -- and room to spare. ALERT! HAL has done away with the little individual bottles of shampoo and conditioner. They now use dispensers. Another tradition gone. An added benefit is access to the Neptune Lounge with all the good available all day and two wonderful attendants to help with any requests. While the Zaandam could use an exterior paint job, the interior is lovely. I had nothing to complain about. Incidentally the service almost all over the ship was great. The bartenders in the Ocean Bar could use a little more experience, but we had a great time in the Piano Bar. The food was fine. It is typical ships' fare about as good as good banquet food. Our waiter and wine steward were fast and attentive. We had late seating.The Pinnacle was a little disappointing, but I am not a steak eater. I ordered a vegetarian dish for the challenge to the kitchen. Stick to the steaks! My activities consisted of eating, reading and relaxing while on board. I did not go to any shows preferring to meet friends in the bar after dinner for a nightcap. The ports were great -- lots of variety: PV, Manzanillo, Acapulco, Huatulco, Zihuatanejo, and Cabo. We tendered in three ports. I understand there was some confusion at Zihua and Cabo because timely announcements were not made. However, we just got off when we wanted with no problem. Huatulco was especially nice. There is a great beach close to the dock with lounge chairs available for the price of a beer and a tip. At Manzanillo we docked close to town avoiding the more distant industrial piers. No taxis were necessary. Town was a five minute walk from the ship. Once disembarkation began (HAL had to locate wayward passengers for customs) everything went smoothly. Will I go again -- you bet! Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
This was our third HAL cruise. We went into San Diego one night early. We stayed at the Bay Club Hotel & Marina, which is on Shelter Island. December is an especially nice time to stay at the here because of the marina and many of the ... Read More
This was our third HAL cruise. We went into San Diego one night early. We stayed at the Bay Club Hotel & Marina, which is on Shelter Island. December is an especially nice time to stay at the here because of the marina and many of the boats are decorated for Christmas. The Bay Club has a lovely view anytime, but especially nice in December. They also provide a complimentary full breakfast buffet, airport pickup & port drop-off. Embarkation: We arrived around 11:00 and were on board by noon. We had access to the cabin around 1:30. The ship is beautiful and we enjoyed the smaller size. There were bouquets of fresh flowers everywhere, and we were fortunate that some of the Christmas decorations were up. Cabin: We booked a BC guarantee, and were assigned a B. Our cabin was very quiet, roomy, comfortable & in an excellent location. The balcony was large enough for 2 small chairs & a lounger. We had dinner one night on the balcony. The bed was very comfortable and the bath was large enough to move around in with a very nice tub/shower combo. The towels are large and absorbent and the bath supplies are very good quality. Our room stewards, Hemly & Huru, were excellent. We would leave our room for breakfast or an activity and it was always clean when we returned. The ice bucket was never empty which is important to us. Dining: We had late traditional dining. Best food I've had on a cruise in years. The menu selections were excellent with a number of appealing choices each evening. Our servers, Gede and Made, were fabulous -- they had that perfect combination of friendliness, warmth & professionalism. We went to the Pinnacle one night and DH's porterhouse was perfect but I had to send my filet back as it was overcooked. The service in the Pinnacle was not nearly as good as the service in the MDR. Entertainment: We went to a show each night and/or went to one of the lounges. Since entertainment is a matter of personal taste, I will only mention the entertainment that we thought very good to excellent. Mondriaan Showroom: Elliot Finkel, Jeff Tachta, and the last production show, Love, Broadway were very enjoyable. We also thought that the HALcats, Neptunes & Piano Man were excellent. The Mondriaan showroom seating does not have good sight lines to the stage, so I recommend going early. Ports/Excursions: When we left the ship in Hilo we had a lovely surprise -- they gave each of us fresh flower leis which lasted most of the cruise. In Hilo, we shared a private tour (Ricky's Tours) with two other couples from the roll call. We enjoyed the tour, which concentrated on the volcano. In Honolulu, we took a bus to Waikiki & walked on the beach, shopped in the Aloha Tower Shopping Mall & had Mai Tais. We felt fortunate to be in the Honolulu harbor late because they had a parade of boats with their Christmas decorations which was fun. Kauai: Took a free shuttle to a little shopping center near the Marriott, had lunch at Dukes & walked around the Marriott hotel & beach area. Maui: Enjoyed a HAL tour that went to the Iao Needle and then the Ocean Center. The Ocean Center was a really worthwhile experience. We had some concerns about going on the Zaandam because of some negative posts but the ship is beautiful with elegant touches. The service, the food, the ambiance all made for a fabulous cruise. We were also concerned about being exposed to a lot of smoke on the balcony, decks & in the casino, but that was never a problem for us on this cruise. We did have 2 situations which I'd like to mention if only to forewarn future Zaandam cruisers : 1. At embarkation, we were told by all the staff upon boarding to go to the Lido. When I told them that we were going to the dining room, they responded that the lunch in the dining room was by invitation only. I was prepared for this because I had read that it had happened on an earlier cruise, so we went to the dining room. When they requested our invitation before seating us, I explained to them that "Welcome Back Embarkation Lunch in the dining room" was a benefit for all Star Mariners, so they did seat us. 2. We had two erroneous mini bar charges during the cruise, which we straightened out while on board only to come home and have an additional $25 added to our bill after the 'final statement' was delivered to our stateroom. We did call HAL and were given a credit. It was annoying, so I recommend checking your charges. Disembarkation: Easy & very organized. We took a cab to the airport for $10 plus tip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
A relative drove us to the port and our bags were collected. We entered the terminal, filled out a form, and waited for our number to be called before boarding. It took about one-half hour. We boarded the ship and had lunch in the Lido. ... Read More
A relative drove us to the port and our bags were collected. We entered the terminal, filled out a form, and waited for our number to be called before boarding. It took about one-half hour. We boarded the ship and had lunch in the Lido. We ate breakfast and lunch at the Lido every day except for the "Mariner" special lunch in the Rotterdam dining room one day. We liked sitting "outside". The first two days the staff was very careful about our not handling the coffee machine, etc. to prevent an outbreak of a virus. They were successful. After the first two days the restrictions were much less. The daily Explorer was put in our cabin each evening and helped us to plan our activities for the following day. I enjoyed the Challenge Trivia each day and Erik, the cruise director, pointed out that it was just for fun, but we got quite competitive. We chose to purchase a "thermal suite" package and enjoyed the steam room, mineral hot tub, heated loungers, misted shower, and the relaxation room with flavored water & snacks almost every day. We had early seating and our dining steward Tono and his assistant Diek did a good job of taking care of us. One evening our entrees were delayed, and he seemed to take it personally that his table had to wait for their meal. I was able to order decaf cappuccino at dinner. I attended the show every evening. The production numbers were lively and enthusiastically performed. On other nights we had individual singers, magicians, musicians, and the wonderful Elliot Finkel (pianist). Every night had a surprise and we enjoyed it. The "Neptunes" in the Ocean Bar played older standard dance music that was our speed. Some of the same couples gathered there most nights. Holland America has rolled out a special dinner night in their special dining room. It is "Le Cirque". It is affiliated with the the restaurant of the same name in New York. The meal and service were unbelievable. It was definitely worth the extra cost. We stopped at four ports: Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai, Maui. The Trilogy catamaran snorkeling excursion offered through the ship (Maui) was the best. I am a terrible swimmer at best. They made sure that I had what I needed to feel confident. After snorkeling we went looking for whales. What an amazing experience. They were competing and acting very playful. George in the Explorations Lounge was very helpful when our computer decided to stop working. The Windows Tech taught me things about my camera I didn't know and has me excited about easier editing of my trip pictures. I always dread disembarkation. This one was the smoothest ever. There were a large number of persons on our cruise who used walkers, wheelchairs, motorized scooters. The crew made sure that those passengers who required extra help got it. This sounds too good to be true. The only complaints I had were of some guests that were rude. There is always someone that thinks the rules don't apply to them or someone who finds something about which to complain. This is a vacation. Relax, enjoy, and don't get hung up on the small stuff. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
For those of you wondering about the condition and joy of the Zaandam, I can report that my wife and I found everything exceptional. We did not look for little frays in carpet or light bulbs out, or windows not washed so we can say we had ... Read More
For those of you wondering about the condition and joy of the Zaandam, I can report that my wife and I found everything exceptional. We did not look for little frays in carpet or light bulbs out, or windows not washed so we can say we had a fantastic time once again on a Holland ship. This was the first time for us on any HAL ship other than Vista Class so we wondered how much we would enjoy it-absolutely great! We enjoyed every night in the MDR Upper at 8PM with what I have to believe was the best as to servers and quality of food. There was always something that suited our taste. I brought my own wine and we enjoyed a bottle per night. One night the Cellar Master brought us each a glass of Proseco because I happened to mention to him that I really enjoyed that Italian wine. We were celebrating our 40th Anniversary and he knew that. We did have two dinners away-one was Deluxe Seating at Paradise Cove in Honolulu that I arranged independent of the Zaandam and that is where they also go. It was fantastic! and a beautiful setting. The other dinner was the Sommelier Dinner in the Pinnacle Grill that Rod, Cellar Master, put together and we had a great time. He served expensive champagne to start off and expensive wines continued to flow with each course of a 5 course gourmet dinner. It was a wonderful evening and I highly recommend it. Cost was $69 each and we were quite "happy" come the end of the experience. Rod has a great personality and does and excellent job in presenting and explaining each wine. We had already done the wine tasting for Standard and then Premiun wines on two days. We attended a Special Captain's cocktail party in the Crow's Nest on one of our formal nights and as always, it was very nice and we met an interesting couple a little older than we are and from North Carolina. I had organized my 4th Meet and Greet and we had a great bunch of people(24 total). All had a very nice social together. As to excursions, we were very disappointed in the ship's excursion to Nani Mau Gardens along with Akaka Falls with a side trip to Moana Lau macadamia farm(which was the highlight). Our tour bus was late and broke down on the way to Akaka Falls and after a quick tour of the falls since we were running late, the bus would not go so we waited 90 minutes for a replacement bus that was like brand new. It would have been a different experience had we had a dependable tour guide and proper bus. We would not recommend going to Nani Mau which we found in poor condition, but we would recommend getting a car and doing the nut factory and other side trips on our own. This was in Hilo. In Nawiliwili, we chose to take the little shuttle from the pier a short distance to the beach where we discovered the Marriott Resort with a lovely beach and facilities. We would certainly do that again. There was an ABC store handy where we could get some bottled water, etc for the short ride back to the Zaandam. We will definitely go back to Hawaii and hopefully on the Zaandam and we will do this day again. In Maui, we took the ship's tour of the Maui Tropical Plantation and Maui Ocean Center and we enjoyed this very much. Again, we would probably rent a car so we could spend more time at each of those and then time for shops in downtown Lahaina. Didn't particularly find anything exciting about Hilo Hatties and certainly not Maui Divers that is pushed hard by the tour ambassador. Needless to say, we had a fantastic cruise with a great bunch of people, excellent crew and officers in all respects. We personally thought most of the entertainment was quite good and we liked the Cruise Director, Eric. As to their comments about requesting passengers to rate the cruise as a 9, this is done on every cruise we have been on and we rate based on our experience which would be an 8+ and for a review a 5+. Highly recommend this cruise and we love the sea days but the last 4 sea days seemed to fly by which we didn't expect to happen. Bob Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
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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