After a smooth flight from Nashville to Seattle on Southwest, my husband and I collected our luggage, found a waiting cab, and headed to the downtown Mayflower Park Hotel. We chose it for its central location and sophisticated ambience. It's downright elegant. But it is in the middle of things, so we asked ahead for a quiet room. At the Mayflower that often means a room away from street noise but facing the connecting shopping mall. That results in white noise from the mall air conditioning units. It wasn't a problem for us as it reminded us of our own heat pump, and we slept like babies, but it may not suit everyone. We had dinner at the nearby Johnny Rockets, ambled through stores, and hung out at Barnes & Noble. The hotel has a great bar - may I recommend the French 75 Champagne Cocktail? Breakfast at the hotel restaurant the following morning was possibly the world's best French toast. We checked out at 11, and it was a quick and inexpensive cab ride to the dock. Embarkation went smoothly, with only a short wait, and we were taken directly to the Lido for lunch. Cabins were ready early. We were in 6101 on the verandah deck. The cabin steward is Hatta and if he ever needs a home, we'll happily provide one. The lifeboat drill went quickly and easily, but a word to the wise. Attendance is mandatory - your cabin number is written on your lifejacket and your presence or lack there of noted. The following morning I decided to walk the lower Promenade Deck and came across a group of very unhappy passengers huddled in life jacks. The non-attendees had been rounded up by an extremely stern ship's officer and were being required to hold their own drill. Shades of detention hall! It was much colder out there in the wind than it had been in Seattle and there was a lot of ineffectual complaining going on. We had 'any time' dining and called the dining room for a reservation soon after soon after we reached our cabin. They prefer taking reservations either at an early or later seating (often 5:30 or 8:00, but the times sometimes vary). We were given Table 126 in the stern, one table in from the window. After that we called each morning and requested Table 124 - the window table - and we spent our evenings watching the wake and being served dinner by the ever attentive Widi. The trick to getting your table of choice every night is to call on Saturday morning for both Sunday and Monday. Then just call on Sunday for Tuesday and so on. The food in the dining room is a much discussed topic. We enjoyed our dinners. The food is good for meals cooked for so many people, but the descriptions and presentation are far better than the execution. It was superior to food in the small Tennessee Valley town we call home, but it wasn't on a par with gourmet meals in Seattle, San Francisco, or Paris. There were no complaints from us; I made it home having gained only half a pound. Btw, the best dining room dessert I had was the flourless chocolate cake. We ordered room service breakfasts our first two mornings; the food was fair but the milk was tepid. The first day it arrived ten minutes early, but the second day thirty minutes early - there's a BIG difference in 7 AM and 6:30 AM, so thereafter we had a much better breakfast in the Lido. And of course that's where the famous fresh-squeezed orange juice and raisin buns are found. We also enjoyed trying the muesli. Now I have to find out how to make it. We did one lunch in the main dining room, but the slow pace defeated me. The same for the afternoon tea....it moved too slowly. The Lido hamburgers and bread pudding are as good as everyone reports. And the Lido grilled salmon in Ketchikan was far better than anything the dining room offered. We were pleased with the Zaandam. The ship is lovely, and, as far as we could see, well maintained. The crew and officers are friendly and hard working. If asked, they're happy to talk about themselves. The ship is large enough to have different venues for different tastes. We liked the Explorations Lounge/Library. We went to the library each afternoon to play the Bananagram game we purchased in Seattle and to read while sitting in the wonderful Danish loungers in front of the floor to ceiling windows. Their coffee and teas are quite good and reasonable in price; the cucumber sandwiches and tarts are free with the beverage. The computers for passenger use are located there and we did hear several complaints about how slow they are. In the evenings we went to the lounge on the other side, had an aperitif and listened to the excellent string quartet. We also enjoyed walking on the Lower Promenade Deck, browsing the shops, and exploring the ship. We signed up for the spa hydrotherapy package and were able to use the spa hot tub, scented showers, and heated loungers for the week. The room was never crowded; it's a very relaxing place to be. (We avoided the spa treatments because we'd heard so many complaints about the constant sales pitches.) Most of the other passengers were quite pleasant - of course with a few exceptions - you know who you are! There seemed to be a number of well-behaved children; no problem there. They seemed happy and busy. There were people of all ages, and as far as I could tell, each of us found the areas of the ship that suited our interests. One question that keeps coming up on the boards is whether or not a veranda cabin is a good investment for Alaska. It was for us. Glacier Bay was breath taking. We saw an Alaskan brown bear and seven puffins from our balcony - I'm sure of this because the park naturalist was pointing them out. The bear was the larger fuzzy brown spot on the shore and the puffins the seven tiny brown spots floating in the water. And yes, I was using binoculars. We saw so many whales on this trip that we lost count. We used our veranda every day. If you can afford a veranda then by all means get one. If not, the Zaandam has a great number of public viewing areas. And the ship is not crowded. There's always a window seat available somewhere. We booked our excursions through HAL and did floatplane trips in Juneau and Ketchikan. And it was worth every penny! For us, Juneau was the least interesting port (other than the flight). We're not touristy shoppers. But Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria were interesting in themselves. We visited the Russian church, raptor center, and national park service area in Sitka. Don't miss the salmon stream and totem poles in the park. Even the shops seemed to be more interesting than in Juneau. And tendering was quick and easy. Throughout our trip we met local college students working in the tourist trade; they were all polite and more than willing to talk about their lives and the fact that their mothers are sad they'll be heading off to Fairbanks all too soon. Ketchikan is the home of the fourth smallest Wal-Mart in the entire world! I just like knowing that. And the day it opened, they had to close in two hours because they had sold all the merchandise. It's a great place to just wander around; Misty Fjords is so beautiful it's indescribable. We arrived early for Victoria; cabs are waiting at the dock and are easily found near the Empress Hotel for the return trip. They are more than happy to accept your American dollars and some stores will even give you the proper discount. I talked to a few people who did the gardens tour and were unhappy because they had little time to see the flowers before it was too dark. We just walked around downtown near the harbor in the light rain and felt lucky to be there. It's a beautiful city. What to pack? If you can, Gore-Tex raincoats and layers. Lots of layers. I wore six layers in Glacier Bay - and it was sunny. Gloves and a hat. And many thanks to the poster who suggested a fleece vest. Yes, I saw at least one pair of jeans on smart casual night in the dining room. Did she look happy? No, but it may have had nothing to do with the jeans. Most of the passengers seem to follow the rules; those that don't stand out. Formal nights were dressy but not really formal, with dark suits for most men and theater/cocktail party clothes for women rather than gowns. The children wore their dress up clothes and fit in quite well. It was fun to see them. We had a minor snafu at disembarkation; all was going smoothly - passengers are divided into color coded groups - until someone sent down the blue group's luggage for the orange group. So we had to wait till the right luggage was found. Think of it as a last minute 'meet and mingle' at the terminal. It gave us a chance to meet a few new people and compare our trips. But that did result in a delay getting a cab - when passengers had stopped exiting the building the cabs left thinking disembarkation was over. We had to wait till they were summoned back. In conclusion - finally! - it was a great trip. After reading comments and reviews here at CruiseCritic we realized just how important a passenger's attitude is. We were determined to make the best of our trip. Alaska is a great place to visit and HAL is just the cruise line for us. We'll be back.

Smooth Sailing Aboard the Zaandam

Zaandam Cruise Review by skankycat

1 person found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: August 2009
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Vista Suite with Verandah
After a smooth flight from Nashville to Seattle on Southwest, my husband and I collected our luggage, found a waiting cab, and headed to the downtown Mayflower Park Hotel. We chose it for its central location and sophisticated ambience. It's downright elegant. But it is in the middle of things, so we asked ahead for a quiet room. At the Mayflower that often means a room away from street noise but facing the connecting shopping mall. That results in white noise from the mall air conditioning units. It wasn't a problem for us as it reminded us of our own heat pump, and we slept like babies, but it may not suit everyone. We had dinner at the nearby Johnny Rockets, ambled through stores, and hung out at Barnes & Noble. The hotel has a great bar - may I recommend the French 75 Champagne Cocktail? Breakfast at the hotel restaurant the following morning was possibly the world's best French toast. We checked out at 11, and it was a quick and inexpensive cab ride to the dock.
Embarkation went smoothly, with only a short wait, and we were taken directly to the Lido for lunch. Cabins were ready early. We were in 6101 on the verandah deck. The cabin steward is Hatta and if he ever needs a home, we'll happily provide one. The lifeboat drill went quickly and easily, but a word to the wise. Attendance is mandatory - your cabin number is written on your lifejacket and your presence or lack there of noted. The following morning I decided to walk the lower Promenade Deck and came across a group of very unhappy passengers huddled in life jacks. The non-attendees had been rounded up by an extremely stern ship's officer and were being required to hold their own drill. Shades of detention hall! It was much colder out there in the wind than it had been in Seattle and there was a lot of ineffectual complaining going on.
We had 'any time' dining and called the dining room for a reservation soon after soon after we reached our cabin. They prefer taking reservations either at an early or later seating (often 5:30 or 8:00, but the times sometimes vary). We were given Table 126 in the stern, one table in from the window. After that we called each morning and requested Table 124 - the window table - and we spent our evenings watching the wake and being served dinner by the ever attentive Widi. The trick to getting your table of choice every night is to call on Saturday morning for both Sunday and Monday. Then just call on Sunday for Tuesday and so on. The food in the dining room is a much discussed topic. We enjoyed our dinners. The food is good for meals cooked for so many people, but the descriptions and presentation are far better than the execution. It was superior to food in the small Tennessee Valley town we call home, but it wasn't on a par with gourmet meals in Seattle, San Francisco, or Paris. There were no complaints from us; I made it home having gained only half a pound. Btw, the best dining room dessert I had was the flourless chocolate cake.
We ordered room service breakfasts our first two mornings; the food was fair but the milk was tepid. The first day it arrived ten minutes early, but the second day thirty minutes early - there's a BIG difference in 7 AM and 6:30 AM, so thereafter we had a much better breakfast in the Lido. And of course that's where the famous fresh-squeezed orange juice and raisin buns are found. We also enjoyed trying the muesli. Now I have to find out how to make it.
We did one lunch in the main dining room, but the slow pace defeated me. The same for the afternoon tea....it moved too slowly. The Lido hamburgers and bread pudding are as good as everyone reports. And the Lido grilled salmon in Ketchikan was far better than anything the dining room offered.
We were pleased with the Zaandam. The ship is lovely, and, as far as we could see, well maintained. The crew and officers are friendly and hard working. If asked, they're happy to talk about themselves. The ship is large enough to have different venues for different tastes. We liked the Explorations Lounge/Library. We went to the library each afternoon to play the Bananagram game we purchased in Seattle and to read while sitting in the wonderful Danish loungers in front of the floor to ceiling windows. Their coffee and teas are quite good and reasonable in price; the cucumber sandwiches and tarts are free with the beverage. The computers for passenger use are located there and we did hear several complaints about how slow they are. In the evenings we went to the lounge on the other side, had an aperitif and listened to the excellent string quartet. We also enjoyed walking on the Lower Promenade Deck, browsing the shops, and exploring the ship.
We signed up for the spa hydrotherapy package and were able to use the spa hot tub, scented showers, and heated loungers for the week. The room was never crowded; it's a very relaxing place to be. (We avoided the spa treatments because we'd heard so many complaints about the constant sales pitches.)
Most of the other passengers were quite pleasant - of course with a few exceptions - you know who you are! There seemed to be a number of well-behaved children; no problem there. They seemed happy and busy. There were people of all ages, and as far as I could tell, each of us found the areas of the ship that suited our interests.
One question that keeps coming up on the boards is whether or not a veranda cabin is a good investment for Alaska. It was for us. Glacier Bay was breath taking. We saw an Alaskan brown bear and seven puffins from our balcony - I'm sure of this because the park naturalist was pointing them out. The bear was the larger fuzzy brown spot on the shore and the puffins the seven tiny brown spots floating in the water. And yes, I was using binoculars. We saw so many whales on this trip that we lost count. We used our veranda every day. If you can afford a veranda then by all means get one. If not, the Zaandam has a great number of public viewing areas. And the ship is not crowded. There's always a window seat available somewhere.
We booked our excursions through HAL and did floatplane trips in Juneau and Ketchikan. And it was worth every penny! For us, Juneau was the least interesting port (other than the flight). We're not touristy shoppers. But Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria were interesting in themselves. We visited the Russian church, raptor center, and national park service area in Sitka. Don't miss the salmon stream and totem poles in the park. Even the shops seemed to be more interesting than in Juneau. And tendering was quick and easy. Throughout our trip we met local college students working in the tourist trade; they were all polite and more than willing to talk about their lives and the fact that their mothers are sad they'll be heading off to Fairbanks all too soon.
Ketchikan is the home of the fourth smallest Wal-Mart in the entire world! I just like knowing that. And the day it opened, they had to close in two hours because they had sold all the merchandise. It's a great place to just wander around; Misty Fjords is so beautiful it's indescribable.
We arrived early for Victoria; cabs are waiting at the dock and are easily found near the Empress Hotel for the return trip. They are more than happy to accept your American dollars and some stores will even give you the proper discount. I talked to a few people who did the gardens tour and were unhappy because they had little time to see the flowers before it was too dark. We just walked around downtown near the harbor in the light rain and felt lucky to be there. It's a beautiful city.
What to pack? If you can, Gore-Tex raincoats and layers. Lots of layers. I wore six layers in Glacier Bay - and it was sunny. Gloves and a hat. And many thanks to the poster who suggested a fleece vest. Yes, I saw at least one pair of jeans on smart casual night in the dining room. Did she look happy? No, but it may have had nothing to do with the jeans. Most of the passengers seem to follow the rules; those that don't stand out. Formal nights were dressy but not really formal, with dark suits for most men and theater/cocktail party clothes for women rather than gowns. The children wore their dress up clothes and fit in quite well. It was fun to see them.
We had a minor snafu at disembarkation; all was going smoothly - passengers are divided into color coded groups - until someone sent down the blue group's luggage for the orange group. So we had to wait till the right luggage was found. Think of it as a last minute 'meet and mingle' at the terminal. It gave us a chance to meet a few new people and compare our trips. But that did result in a delay getting a cab - when passengers had stopped exiting the building the cabs left thinking disembarkation was over. We had to wait till they were summoned back.
In conclusion - finally! - it was a great trip. After reading comments and reviews here at CruiseCritic we realized just how important a passenger's attitude is. We were determined to make the best of our trip.
Alaska is a great place to visit and HAL is just the cruise line for us. We'll be back.
skankycat’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Vista Suite with Verandah
Cabin B 6101
Above the auditorium; you can hear the show at night. We used earplugs and/or a white noise CD and had no problems. The white area shown in the deckplans in front of this cabin is officers' quarters and is very quiet. Room often goes for a reduced rate and can be a good deal.
Navigation Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins