MS Zaandam to the stars and beyond, or something like that: Island Escape Cruise Review by junewl

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MS Zaandam to the stars and beyond, or something like that

Sail Date: December 2012
Destination: Hawaii
Embarkation: San Diego
we (90 yr old husb and i, 67 yrs) selected this itinerary because the travel agent had a group going and included train transport as well as all transfers from train to ship and reverse. no flying required, which is best for my husb. MS Zaandam is the second Holland vessel we've booked. ship's company, hotel and restaurant staffs are wonderful, professional and hard working. from previous experience i suspected that food service might be rocky the first couple of days and a comment in Rotterdam dining room the first night indicated that a 'new program' for food service had been instituted and no one was happy. many fewer restaurant staff in evidence, no wine stewards, food inedible. everything improved by day three and although i still think that staffing levels are lower than our previous experience, service was excellent with truly charming people helping us. food was great, for the most part, from that day forward. [i'm a picky eater, so i'll order two or three appetizers, no More dessert; husb loves everything, especially dessert!]. husb made cabin reservations and although we were able to get a cabin with handicapped accessible shower (saints be praised), the cabin was not the deluxe verandah which i expected and had experienced previously. oh well. weather was rough for a couple of days, which we have to expect in the winter and, because we like to sail, we enjoyed the four sea days and i wore a patch, just in case. i discussed previous problems at Hilo with our travel agent: port security is tight and Holland ties up right in the middle of the action, necessitating independent cruising visitors to walk a very long distance (for a 90 yr old with rheu arth) to catch a cab. we (travel agent and i) thought we had solved the problem with Holland providing golf cart for handicapped folk, but that was not the case. oh well #2. we had a great time and the old boy managed to enjoy his Bananas Foster at Cafe Pesto while i drank a reviving glass of cab sauv. got my Japanese fabric, my new dress for SIG ZANE (and yes, i know caps indicate shouting, but i love SIG ZANE clothes). we lucked upon a volunteer with a Hilo booster group who managed to talk her way past security and we got very close to the ship on our return. we visited family in maui and left the ship a week early in honolulu, flying home at our own expense. no refund requested or offered.

problems: handicapped accessible shower had a shower stool upon our arrival which disappeared while we were at our truly awful first dinner in Rotterdam dining room. no ship's employee could provide information on aforementioned stool nor was a replacement provided until 1400 hrs on day two. poor husb had to spend that time with a little washcloth refresher. sea was too rough for him to even stand and hang on to the grab bars while i hosed him down.
he fell on a trip to the toilet in the night but was not hurt. since i could not find anyone who was able to solve the mystery of the shower stool and i couldn't get anyone to answer 'at your service' button on the phone, i started asking every employee i met from 7 am on day two about our stool.

i started looking at passenger load levels for flights out of HNL to LAX that morning and discovered that our favorite flights (noon departure) were almost if not already full. i decided that lack of response from ship's staff on the shower stool and really poor food did not bode well for the remainder of the two week cruise and elected to book a return after one week on the ship, so we continued the cruise to hilo, as mentioned above; stopped in Lahaina where we rented a RED CONVERTIBLE to drive to Kahalui and Wailuku for lunch with resident step-relatives. had a great meal and a great time, returned to the ship by tender without incident.

in the days at sea i noticed and commented to fellow cruisers about public restrooms being closed intermittently, industrial carpet drying fans arrayed in hallways, stewards steaming carpets, plumbers working away in the chases and observed plumbers in the chases on deck 7 (ours). plumbers were working amidships but ominously, gradually moving closer and closer to our cabin which was the last aft on that deck. i was counting my blessings and saying my plumbing problems...and we were getting off the ship, so we wouldn't have to worry...except that at 0300 hrs (3 am) the toilet backed up enroute to Oahu necessitating a hazmat cleanup that was completed by 0400 hrs. seas were rough and altho the smell of chlorine bleach was comforting under the circumstances, i started retching about that time and slapped a scopolamine patch on. we had to clear customs (????) at 0630 hrs and i started vomiting about that time. i'm not sure whether it was seasickness, food poisoning (we had eaten a meal in Wailuku as well as aboard in the 'kill zone time-wise', or stress because of our flood and impending five hour flight. regardless, it wasn't pleasant. fortunately i am a demon packer and it was done before i was really ill and we were finally able to get off the ship, get our transport, check in at HNL and eventually get home.

I WILL BE CHECKING FOR PASSENGER COMMENTS ON PLUMBING IN THE FUTURE. Also, if i am missing required and promised equipment i will plant myself at the front desk until that equipment is replaced.

i am of the 'stuff happens' school of life. i still love cruising, under certain circumstances, because my husband really prefers it. and, because of available itineraries, i might cruise with Holland again but i'll be making some in depth investigation before any money leaves our accts.
the other ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS experience i had was the Thermal Suite in the Spa. that room is worth the price of the ticket and if i travel on Holland again it will be because of the Thermal Suite (and maybe the itinerary, of course). my ipod and i were content for the hours we spent there and husb didn't want to pay the bucks, so i was alone, except for the other occasional escapee. i wish i was there right now....but i have a little laundry to do and have to make the coffee. my dog is happy i'm home and my house/dogsitting friend is a neat freak so my house looks like five million dollars without a micron of dust observable. not expected nor requested--we have housekeeping help, but Karen is such a wonderful friend and our dog loves her, too. and i'm not vomiting any more! Less

Published 12/17/12

Cabin review: OP7088

carpet stained, handicapped accessible shower with floor drains excellent, metal fittings rusted, mildew staining and evidence of many, many repairs to grouting, some better than others. small, pie-shaped verandah with two chairs and small table. the most 'aft' verandah cabin on port side. quiet. a looooooooong walk to fwd elevators but directly below buffet/pool, etc. two nice hanging closets, shelving, several drawers. electricity unreliable for computer charging during the night, always trying to charge my 'stuff'. internet expensive and unreliable (so what else is new?). phone buttons didn't connect me with anyone--i thought they didn't love me and that's why they didn't answer the 'at your service' button. 911 worked, tho, especially when the toilet overflowed at 0300 hrs. no list of television channels, when i requested one, someone prepared one for me especially and gave me a list of available options, half of which were on 'channel 2' and the other half 'channel 4', or maybe 41, they typed one thing and people told me another. i never found good television reception and i was looking for NEWS, but kept up with my laptop, at aforementioned expensive rates. we use this cruise line solely because they start and stop in socal and my 90-yr old husb doesn't have to fly (usually) except when we leave the ship early.

Port and Shore Excursions

very long hike to taxi stands. very busy commercial port. very strict local security of the 'do not pass go' variety. little old downtown, which survived the tsunami, is charming. little noodle shops, japanese fabric store (Dragon Mama) and quilt shop. Sig Zane store three blocks up from shuttle drop. Sig Zane is a local boy who imports 100% cotton fabric, prints it in Hawaii with his own fabulous designs, designs clothing using that fabric and has it made in Hawaii. i buy a dress for myself and a shirt for my husband every time we go to Hilo. local people stop my husband on the street to chat and call him 'uncle' when we are there because of his beloved 'old' Sig shirts, especially in Hilo and around the Wailuku Kahalui area on Maui where Sig used to have a shop, as well. i don't think i've ever met Sig, by the way, but i am a very big and old fan. the Tsunami Museum is about three blocks up from shuttle drop (next to the Sig store) and is definitely worth the visit. please make a donation. it is housed in what looks like an old bank and the planters in front are beautiful. Cafe Pesto is about two blocks up from the shuttle stop and has excellent bistro-style sandwiches, pasta, pizza, wonderful ice water and great reviving glasses of wine. husb ordered Bananas Foster and i had a small pizza, which is what we ordered the last time we were there, i think.... we don't take a tour because we've been there many times before and have stayed in condos or houses in Hilo and on the Kona side but i'd love to see the lava flow and have never been able to get down there. maybe next time. there are lots of great places to visit, either on an organized tour or independently. be aware that if you stop at some of the funky little fruit stands that you might be offered one of Hawaii's biggest cash crops, and as a retired cop, i'm not interested but also, not offended, hey, whatevah, bruddah...
Read 445 Hilo Reviews

i'm not a shopper but i do love Ala Moana shopping center. Alan Wong's restaurant, only open for dinner (i think) and if the President is in town don't even try. Queen Emma's Palace. Great quilt collection. Bishop Museum is too big and too hot (the last time I was there). I love the Art Museum, especially the Contemporary Museum on a ridge fairly close to Punch Bowl. PUNCH BOWL. my husb is a WWII vet and some of his crew members are still there, we always visit so we can pay respect. Drive around the island. my son was stationed at Kaneohe and my sister lived on the island and worked at Queen's and/or Castle for several years. there's lots of the old Hawaii left there as well as the busy, fun, touristic parts. i love the Royal Hawaiian, i don't care what anyone says and i love to sit at a table on the sand and look at Diamond Head. enjoy! donate to one of the non-profits while you're there and spend a little $ locally.
Read 506 Honolulu Reviews

we anchored in the channel off old Lahaina town and it used to be a lot funkier and more fun but it is still a great place to stop. tendered in to the dock by Pioneer Inn or whatever that's called by the banyan tree and the old courthouse. we are there to visit resident relatives and i really don't like to shop at Hilo Hatties or any of the other touristic type 'joints', so we are immune. if you need souvenirs, take a look around and then head to (1) ABC Store, or (2) Walmart/Kmart (i hate them but they serve a purpose), or (3) Costco (hope you have an extra suitcase), or one of the local supermarkets. there are lots of unique asian items available to the fabulously varied ethnic communities and it is really an unusually fun experience to check out the grocery stores--i know it sounds stupid but trust me on this. my kids think i'm nuts but i sent my Apple software engineer son a box of Hawaiian delicacies from the supermarket one year which included about five cans of Spam, each with a unique flavor, i.e., teriyaki Spam. Mike has an engineer coworker who is from Paia originally who almost cried when he saw the Spam and took it all home. anyway, you get the picture. Maui is beautiful. i like the drive around west Maui as much as the drive to Hana, actually, more than the drive to Hana, because the drive from Hana to wherever you have to return is living hell, but easier if you go completely around east Maui, despite the warnings from the rental car agency (i don't know if they still tell you not to, but if it's not raining we never had a problem). i won't ever do it again, however, because i've done it several times with and for different friends/relatives and i've seen Lindbergh's grave, and that's all i wanted to do, anyway. the locals used to tear the road marker down which was the landmark for the church cemetery where he is buried so you had to do some calculating to find the little road to turn off, but it was worth it, even if he was an old fascist. i like poking around in the pawn shops and antiques stores in Wailuku. Bailey House Museum and Maui Historical Society are well worth the visit, PLEASE DONATE. lots of fun little bistro style cafes. our favorite French bakery closed after the owner went down in his plane last month, sadly. maybe his family will be able to reopen, hope all is well with them. County park in Iao Valley is well worth the visit, tribute to immigrant groups and people who have made Hawaii great. my step-son is a demon hiker and goes into the crater several times a year to camp. that hike isn't really possible for a day tripper but you can drive up there and it is wonderful. i don't recommend the dawn/bicycle trip and it's probably not possible for most cruise ship passengers. there is an old Congregational church which is now affiliated with one of the Churches of Christ south of Kihei. we attend there when we stay in Kihei and they sing hymns in Hawaiian, which i love. MAKE A DONATION. we also attended a wonderful little church in Paia close to the fire station the last time we rented a house there. they had a wonderful Christmas Eve service and at the close, we all stood on the perimeter of the little sanctuary holding lit candles and singing carols. each attendee was given a little bag of fruit upon departing. not something most cruisers can do but think about it for a future visit.
Read 480 Maui Reviews
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