When a cruise company offers rock-bottom prices, you have to wonder why it was necessary to do so. Has the brand lost popularity among its clientele, or did the line use the lure of a bargain to attract first-timers who will become repeat customers? For the first Alaska cruise of the season, our 11th with HAL, we paid less than what the competition was charging and less than we paid on the Alaska run in 2007. Canadians like us made up two-thirds of the passenger complement.

However, it’s pretty much a law of economics: you pay less, you get less. In this case, ‘less’ meant, first of all, slicing the food budget, reducing variety and quality in The Lido restaurant and cutting portion sizes in the dining room. One night I ordered scallops and got two – two! – with a teaspoonful of sauce. Staff size also appeared to have been reduced in the food and beverage areas, which slowed down the service.

The entertainment was just not good enough. Some of the lounge singers, while enthusiastic, suffered from off-key delivery. We felt embarrassed for the talented song-and-dance troupe having to perform such poorly conceived material. There was one shining exception: the classical duo Adagio which was outstanding. Day-time activities seemed largely geared to raising more revenue for Holland America. The Cruise Director – no doubt otherwise competent – was one of those people who needed us to remind her constantly that we were having fun.

Any Alaska cruise with great weather is, though, a success, and this one had great weather. The ports are always interesting, though excursion bargains are rare. Any cruise with HAL’s Indonesian and Filipino service crew will give you a smile: there may be fewer of them but their attitude is undiminished. First-timer cruisers have no way to notice the cutbacks. Cabins are still well designed, and, salty windows aside, the ship was spotless; the line’s traditional positives have not been lost. But it was easy to get the impression that HAL is struggling to stay afloat. Two of its ships are being re-branded in Australia; how many more will vanish? Or is this cruise line, which works hard to appeal to multi-generation families, on the verge of a new era of success?

 

Holland America: Good news or bad?

Zaandam Cruise Review by peter grant

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2014
  • Destination: Alaska

When a cruise company offers rock-bottom prices, you have to wonder why it was necessary to do so. Has the brand lost popularity among its clientele, or did the line use the lure of a bargain to attract first-timers who will become repeat customers? For the first Alaska cruise of the season, our 11th with HAL, we paid less than what the competition was charging and less than we paid on the Alaska run in 2007. Canadians like us made up two-thirds of the passenger complement.


However, it’s pretty much a law of economics: you pay less, you get less. In this case, ‘less’ meant, first of all, slicing the food budget, reducing variety and quality in The Lido restaurant and cutting portion sizes in the dining room. One night I ordered scallops and got two – two! – with a teaspoonful of sauce. Staff size also appeared to have been reduced in the food and beverage areas, which slowed down the service.


The entertainment was just not good enough. Some of the lounge singers, while enthusiastic, suffered from off-key delivery. We felt embarrassed for the talented song-and-dance troupe having to perform such poorly conceived material. There was one shining exception: the classical duo Adagio which was outstanding. Day-time activities seemed largely geared to raising more revenue for Holland America. The Cruise Director – no doubt otherwise competent – was one of those people who needed us to remind her constantly that we were having fun.


Any Alaska cruise with great weather is, though, a success, and this one had great weather. The ports are always interesting, though excursion bargains are rare. Any cruise with HAL’s Indonesian and Filipino service crew will give you a smile: there may be fewer of them but their attitude is undiminished. First-timer cruisers have no way to notice the cutbacks. Cabins are still well designed, and, salty windows aside, the ship was spotless; the line’s traditional positives have not been lost. But it was easy to get the impression that HAL is struggling to stay afloat. Two of its ships are being re-branded in Australia; how many more will vanish? Or is this cruise line, which works hard to appeal to multi-generation families, on the verge of a new era of success?


 

peter grant’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Shore Excursions
Service

Cabin Review

Cabin

Cabins are well designed. Shower controls are quite weird but work fine once you figure them out. Only one 110v plug in the whole cabin. Beds are comfortable; steward service superb.

  Zaandam Deck Plans

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Juneau

    Walked along the pier to the Mt. Roberts tram, which offers panoramic views of the area. Not cheap ($31pp) but very scenic and very well run by the local Indian tribe. Two excellent films plus gift items are on display at the top and hiking trails are available.

    Well worth a visit.

    View All 1,253 Juneau Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Juneau Cruise Port Review
  • Wilderness Tour & Crab Feast

    A scenic boat tour to a local bay, where a crab pot was lifted for a photo op, followed by a crab lunch at a nearby lodge. Pleasant enough, but not worth half what we paid.

    View All 82 Wilderness Tour & Crab Feast Reviews
  • City Tour

    Having taken the White Pass trip previously, we opted for the expensive ($42pp) but interesting old-time trolley tour. Skagway is not over-filled with attractions, but this tour, nicely narrated, makes the best of them.

    View All 38 City Tour Reviews