MS Zaandam - Singapore to Hong Kong: Zaandam Cruise Review by wyatthawaii

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MS Zaandam - Singapore to Hong Kong

Sail Date: March 2012
Destination: Asia
Embarkation: Singapore
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 More 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. Less

Published 04/11/12
1 Helpful Vote

Cabin review: H3380 Large Ocean-View Stateroom

3380 was a great cabin. One floor up to the dining room, promenade deck right outside our window. The atrium was a short walk forward, elevators were nearby and the gangway was usually one or two floors below. The view was partially blocked, but we could still see the ocean and the shore. Ship movement was minimal, bed was comfortable and we could only really complain about the DVD player which gave up 15 minutes into our film. It was replaced a few days later... Probably one of the best cabins we've had.

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Port and Shore Excursions

We actually stopped in Koh Samui, Thailand first (not on the list.) We were there in 1999 and really enjoyed the laid back feel of the place. No longer - this island is jammed with hotels and bars and construction is everywhere. We took the song thaew around the island with a few stops and did some shopping in Na Thon, but mostly we were disappointed in the changes. The coffee shop that is right at the end of the pier has free wi-fi and some decent food, so make that a stop if you need to check your emails and Facebook! Be prepared for very hot and humid weather and carry lots of water. The tender to the port was almost unbearably hot with no ventilation, so try to sit near the door.

Our next stop was at Laem Chabang - one of the biggest ports you will ever see! We visited Bangkok in the past, so we decided to go into Pattaya instead. I booked a taxi online in advance and they were waiting to take us into town (we had a group of six.) We went directly to the Bali Hai pier in town and boarded a ferry to Koh Laan for the day - very easy and cheap. Once we arrived on the island, we took local transportation to a less crowded beach where we swam and enjoyed the shade of a little tree. You can also pay extra and get chairs and umbrellas. Before leaving the island we visited a beachside restaurant where we had a great seafood lunch and beer for a reasonable price. Our taxi was waiting when we arrived back in Pattaya and took us back to the ship. Our impressions of Pattaya weren't very good - it's a very big, crowded city. Some passengers went into town in the evening and had a good time, but that isn't our idea of fun. The second day at Laem Chabang was a waste - no really good options except for Pattaya, so we stayed on the ship. I think this port is best if you go into Bangkok and stay the night, otherwise it's just too far away from everything.

No, not another day in Thailand - the list is very limited and Sihanoukville, Cambodia is not an option you can choose. Yes, we were in Cambodia and research paid off for this port. Instead of the same old tired bus trips offered by the ship, we booked a moped tour online and brought along six other passengers we happened to meet in the first few days. The ship will tell you that foreigners can't rent motorbikes, but that isn't true. We went with a company called Stray Dog Adventures and Shiran was the best tour guide ever. We took the ship's shuttle into town, then took local transport to the moped shop. Once everyone was comfortable, we set off for the local beaches and skirted the traffic in town. Our destination was Ream National Park and there was lots of scenery along the way. We stopped at a seaside restaurant for coconuts, went for a swim in the park and had a great seafood lunch before returning to town. Our group was the envy of the other passengers when they found out what we did! We didn't visit the market here and we heard it was very crowded, hot and dirty. Passengers who just took the shuttle into town didn't have a very good experience. Because of our moped trip, we're planning to return to Cambodia in the next year or two before it gets ruined by development. Plan ahead for this port and you won't be disappointed!

This list of ports is pathetic! No, we didn't go to Saipan - we were in Phu My, Vietnam. There is absolutely NOTHING at this port, so unless you make plans you will have nothing to do. We organized a group in advance to take a bus trip to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon that almost duplicated the shore excursion... but cost a lot less. It was a long day on the bus to a crowded city with very few tourist attractions. We had a good lunch and saw what there was to see, but it's not a place I would visit again.

We had 1 1/2 days to see Singapore and it wasn't enough! We stayed in Chinatown and walked all over the city. We particularly enjoyed the hawker centers and had some amazing food. Try to visit the Botanical Gardens and the National Orchid Garden if you have the time. The cruise port was only two stops away on the MRT, making it very simple to find the ship. If you stay in town and take the train to the port, keep in mind you'll need to go down to the first floor to drop off your luggage (no signs telling you this.) Otherwise you'll have to drag everything onto the ship with you as we did.

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