I just got off the Zaandam yesterday. I am sure every cruise has satisfied and unsatisfied passengers aboard based on their expectations and experiences. I guess my expectations were too high for my group of 8 we just traveled with. After sending our parents on this same cruise last year on the Maasdam and hearing the rave reviews, we all felt compelled to cruise with HAL aboard the Zaandam. My wife and I, both in our 30s traveled with our two children ages 7 and 5 as well as our parents on this cruise. Our parents stayed upstairs in a suite while we opted for an ocean view on the Dolphin deck. Embarkation: Last year we had all heard the stories of the horrible embarkation process at Vancouver but we were pleasantly surprised to find the process swift and orderly. Other that the usual security lines we found no difficulties getting aboard before 1:00pm. Once aboard, we found a lunch buffet waiting as we prepared to depart for the inside passage. Stateroom: We did find our stateroom to be plentiful for our needs, we had a queen bed with a pullman upper as well as a sofa bed. There was enough room for all six bags of luggage we carted aboard and plenty of extra storage. The attendants, who we never saw, were very thorough and attentive to the room. The stateroom was always cleaned and well stocked. Cruise: Other that the above and the exception of the Club HAL staff, we had very little else to compliment HAL and the Zaandam on. The ports of call were a wonderful experience and we would all like to visit them again someday just not with HAL. As the cruise got under way and being new to the cruising lifestyle, we were excited to experience what so many of you have said about food and service as well as the "first class entertainment." Unfortunately for us this was not to be. After eating in the Lido deck and the Rotterdam or Main dining room the first several days, we came to this conclusion. There is the Lido buffet and then there is the sit down Lido buffet(The Main dining room) The food was very poor at best, bland and boring. Very few choices were available and you were served what was on the menu for that night and that was it. If we asked for something else we were told this choice was "not available" Lobster was only served one night of the cruise and after looking forward to this all week, imagine my displeasure when I found a small lobster tail on the plate(maybe 2-3oz)that tasted so bad and mushy that we sent it back. After having the Lido breakfast buffet(typical food choices, eggs, pancakes, french toast etc.) and finding the food almost tasteless, we decided to try the main dinning room for breakfast on one occasion. After sitting down and ordering pancakes, french toast and eggs for each individual, hoping to find a better quality of food, imagine my surprise when we found the same food from the Lido buffet had been placed on a plate and delivered to our table. This was no joke! I also could not believe they charged for soda on the cruise. At $1.75 a can I figured I would get a deal with the soda card offer they had. Purchase each card at $30 dollars and your good to go, right? Wrong, that is only for the dining rooms etc. If you want to open a can of coke in your stateroom, you're charged. My kids only ended up drinking one or two sodas a day so this was a loser for me. The coffee on board was terrible to be polite. The ship had three espresso machines on board; however none of them were working and they had no intention of repairs. Later in the cruise they managed to repair one machine but the girl working the Java bar did not know how to make any special coffees and seemed rather bothered by passengers requests. I would have given anything for a Starbucks in port. Thank you Skagway! There was no midnight buffet we had heard so much about, only a theamed snack served for 30 minutes between 11:30pm and midnight. No room service after 10:00pm and food is not available in the Lido at all hours either. I never heard the term "closed" so much as on this cruise. They were constantly cleaning up and closing portions of the passenger eating areas. Several times passengers were asked to get up and move to the other side of the ship so they could "close" for cleaning. I made one request during the cruise, at the ice cream bar, to have marshmallows put on my daughters ice cream and I was told he had already cleaned them up and they were "not available" To say the least, extremely disappointing. The Pinnacle Grill was the exception. On the fifth day of the cruise we decided to try it. For $20 we were given first class service and first class food. The best food on the boat. To bad they charge an additional fee for this after paying $1000 a day for our group of four just to be on the boat in the first place. The entertainment on the Zaandam during this cruise consisted of one performing group that performed a 50s musical on one night and some other dance on another. Other than that they hired a local singer from Skagway to come on board and entertain one night, a comedian one night and there other act failed to show so they played liars club with some of the crew members. Again, very disappointing. We ended up going to the movies to see films we had already seen just for some entertainment. Not much to do on the ship except gamble, play bingo for one hour a day or sit in a lounge and watch your bar tab rise. All this with the exception of Club HAL. Fantastic with our kids Jen, Conner, Candace and Steve were brilliant and our kids loved them. They wanted to stay in Club Hal all day and night. They really helped to make the cruise for our kids. Other than this we did find most of the crew members pleasant and helpful. There were also several crew members that clearly went out of their way to make our experience better. They were rewarded. Disembarkation: We opted before traveling to purchase the HAL travel plan. This I do not recommend. After receiving our travel documents from Worldwide Travel, I found our return flight was the worst possible one available. After leaving the ship at 0800am and boarding the bus we found ourselves in the Vancouver airport ready to travel home by 10:00am. Only problem, our departing flight was not scheduled to leave until just before 6:00pm with a connecting flight out of Seattle that had an additional three hour layover. I contacted Worldwide Travel prior to leaving on the cruise and they were very indifferent to my situation traveling with children etc and would do nothing to help me. Pretty poor service considering I booked almost a year in advance. Do yourself a favor and book your own flights. On our plane home we spoke with several other cruise passengers from the other lines, Princess etc. and there stories alone made us wish we had chosen another line. Oh well, live and learn. We will definitely cruise again just not with HAL.

Zaandam - Alaska

Zaandam Cruise Review by Jason OBrien

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2004
  • Destination: Alaska
I just got off the Zaandam yesterday. I am sure every cruise has satisfied and unsatisfied passengers aboard based on their expectations and experiences. I guess my expectations were too high for my group of 8 we just traveled with.
After sending our parents on this same cruise last year on the Maasdam and hearing the rave reviews, we all felt compelled to cruise with HAL aboard the Zaandam. My wife and I, both in our 30s traveled with our two children ages 7 and 5 as well as our parents on this cruise. Our parents stayed upstairs in a suite while we opted for an ocean view on the Dolphin deck.
Embarkation: Last year we had all heard the stories of the horrible embarkation process at Vancouver but we were pleasantly surprised to find the process swift and orderly. Other that the usual security lines we found no difficulties getting aboard before 1:00pm. Once aboard, we found a lunch buffet waiting as we prepared to depart for the inside passage.
Stateroom: We did find our stateroom to be plentiful for our needs, we had a queen bed with a pullman upper as well as a sofa bed. There was enough room for all six bags of luggage we carted aboard and plenty of extra storage. The attendants, who we never saw, were very thorough and attentive to the room. The stateroom was always cleaned and well stocked.
Cruise: Other that the above and the exception of the Club HAL staff, we had very little else to compliment HAL and the Zaandam on. The ports of call were a wonderful experience and we would all like to visit them again someday just not with HAL.
As the cruise got under way and being new to the cruising lifestyle, we were excited to experience what so many of you have said about food and service as well as the "first class entertainment." Unfortunately for us this was not to be. After eating in the Lido deck and the Rotterdam or Main dining room the first several days, we came to this conclusion. There is the Lido buffet and then there is the sit down Lido buffet(The Main dining room) The food was very poor at best, bland and boring. Very few choices were available and you were served what was on the menu for that night and that was it. If we asked for something else we were told this choice was "not available" Lobster was only served one night of the cruise and after looking forward to this all week, imagine my displeasure when I found a small lobster tail on the plate(maybe 2-3oz)that tasted so bad and mushy that we sent it back.
After having the Lido breakfast buffet(typical food choices, eggs, pancakes, french toast etc.) and finding the food almost tasteless, we decided to try the main dinning room for breakfast on one occasion. After sitting down and ordering pancakes, french toast and eggs for each individual, hoping to find a better quality of food, imagine my surprise when we found the same food from the Lido buffet had been placed on a plate and delivered to our table. This was no joke!
I also could not believe they charged for soda on the cruise. At $1.75 a can I figured I would get a deal with the soda card offer they had. Purchase each card at $30 dollars and your good to go, right? Wrong, that is only for the dining rooms etc. If you want to open a can of coke in your stateroom, you're charged. My kids only ended up drinking one or two sodas a day so this was a loser for me.
The coffee on board was terrible to be polite. The ship had three espresso machines on board; however none of them were working and they had no intention of repairs. Later in the cruise they managed to repair one machine but the girl working the Java bar did not know how to make any special coffees and seemed rather bothered by passengers requests. I would have given anything for a Starbucks in port. Thank you Skagway!
There was no midnight buffet we had heard so much about, only a theamed snack served for 30 minutes between 11:30pm and midnight. No room service after 10:00pm and food is not available in the Lido at all hours either. I never heard the term "closed" so much as on this cruise. They were constantly cleaning up and closing portions of the passenger eating areas. Several times passengers were asked to get up and move to the other side of the ship so they could "close" for cleaning. I made one request during the cruise, at the ice cream bar, to have marshmallows put on my daughters ice cream and I was told he had already cleaned them up and they were "not available" To say the least, extremely disappointing.
The Pinnacle Grill was the exception. On the fifth day of the cruise we decided to try it. For $20 we were given first class service and first class food. The best food on the boat. To bad they charge an additional fee for this after paying $1000 a day for our group of four just to be on the boat in the first place.
The entertainment on the Zaandam during this cruise consisted of one performing group that performed a 50s musical on one night and some other dance on another. Other than that they hired a local singer from Skagway to come on board and entertain one night, a comedian one night and there other act failed to show so they played liars club with some of the crew members. Again, very disappointing. We ended up going to the movies to see films we had already seen just for some entertainment. Not much to do on the ship except gamble, play bingo for one hour a day or sit in a lounge and watch your bar tab rise.
All this with the exception of Club HAL. Fantastic with our kids Jen, Conner, Candace and Steve were brilliant and our kids loved them. They wanted to stay in Club Hal all day and night. They really helped to make the cruise for our kids.
Other than this we did find most of the crew members pleasant and helpful. There were also several crew members that clearly went out of their way to make our experience better. They were rewarded.
Disembarkation: We opted before traveling to purchase the HAL travel plan. This I do not recommend. After receiving our travel documents from Worldwide Travel, I found our return flight was the worst possible one available. After leaving the ship at 0800am and boarding the bus we found ourselves in the Vancouver airport ready to travel home by 10:00am. Only problem, our departing flight was not scheduled to leave until just before 6:00pm with a connecting flight out of Seattle that had an additional three hour layover. I contacted Worldwide Travel prior to leaving on the cruise and they were very indifferent to my situation traveling with children etc and would do nothing to help me. Pretty poor service considering I booked almost a year in advance. Do yourself a favor and book your own flights. On our plane home we spoke with several other cruise passengers from the other lines, Princess etc. and there stories alone made us wish we had chosen another line. Oh well, live and learn.
We will definitely cruise again just not with HAL.
Jason OBrien’s Full Rating Summary
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