Having read fellow travellers reviews, I wanted to provide our opinion following our South America trip recently. Ship The Zaandam ship is on the small side by today’s standards (1400 passengers) but that does mean you do get to know the staff and fellow cruisers. The ship was well maintained, clean and comfortable. We opted for an outside cabin, mid ships, on the main deck due to the sailing around Cape Horn. We had good weather on the day itself but were glad of our cabin position as the sea still had considerable sized waves and motion. Even with good weather there was still quite a lot of movement so I would recommend thinking about your cabin position for this route. The cabin was comfortable with plenty of storage space even for 16 nights. The bathroom in our cabin had been updated and include a walk in shower which is much better than the small baths that used to be in the bathrooms. One very small niggle in the cabin is that the light switches are in the middle of the headboard and so every time you lean back to relax and read on the bed you end up turning the lights on/off. In our experience HAL are not “party ships” and so there are no real themed parties and most nights see guests in bed by 10.30pm. This suited us as we were able to wake early for some lovely scenery and sunrises. We would have liked more information on our surroundings, wildlife and history. As the ship is small the cruise director doubled as the travel director and he did provide some commentary on the scenic cruising but it would have been good to have had an expert lecturer on board. Dining We ate breakfast in the dining room on sea days ( it opens a bit too late on port days for us as we like to be out and about early) The menu does not vary year to year, but the quality is still excellent and the staff are more than happy to make a few tweaks if you want to mix and match some options. For lunch we used the salad bar and Asian bar in the Lido which were both superb. There were mandarin segments, nuts, seeds, dried cherries etc...on the salad bar which you don’t often see on other cruise lines. The Asian bar had a varied choice each day. Even if you are not generally a fan, I would suggest you try it. The ice cream was also consistently excellent as was the fresh fruit counter. Dinner for us was in the dining room, late seating. The food and service were great and the cellar master really helped us make some great choices from even the cheapest wine package. We thought the dining room evening food was some of the best we’ve ever experienced and a chef was round most nights to check we we happy, asking for what dishes we’d enjoyed and what we might like to see again. We had a table for 2 and my only real moan of the trip was that our table was near the entrance .There were a large group of guests with a travel company on our sailing who always arrived late (some nights up to 45 minutes) and they were chaperoned in by their tour guides as they arrived. This meant the waiters were trying to work as these guests arriving which created a bottleneck right next to our table and it was impossible to relax. We had a word with the Maitre D and on night 4 we were moved to another table. Once moved we really enjoyed our evenings in there. We were asked most Breakfast, lunch and dinner times if we wanted to try the Specialty Dining. One lunch time we were asked 3 times by three different waiters. The cruise director also started some of his announcements with an advert for it and it did get rather tiresome. I am sure it is lovely but we were more than happy with the dining room food and could not see the benefit of paying to eat elsewhere. It is also the most expensive speciailty dining we have seen, especially when the pound is weak against the dollar. Tours Apart from an independent tour in Rio we used the Shore Excursions for the whole cruise. I prefer to know they are then responsible for getting us back to the ship/next port etc.. We were specifically warned about a recent spike in tourism petty crime and to dress down, no jewellery etc...We found being in a group felt much safer and allowed my husband to take his large camera as opposed to being concerned about having it stolen and leaving it behind. In Rio, There were police cars at the entrance to our hotel so we were pleased we had an independent tour organised there. We’d booked the whole holiday with Holland America and the Sheraton was the only hotel we were offered. It has a lovely beach but also has a large slum area quite near so we were encouraged not to venture out on our own, especially at night. We had flown in one day earlier and booked a day trip with Viator which took in all the main highlights with a BBQ lunch. Once onboard, In Santos we just used the free shuttle into the town to a mall ( we didn’t fancy any of the trips there) you could then taxi around from there if you wanted to. I found it the most low key of all the stops. A tour may of helped that day as the Port is very industrial and you cannot really walk into the town. In Buenos Airies the highlights tour was terrific. We visited the cemetery where Eva Perone is buried and it is a quite beautiful cemetery which was very unexpected. In Montevideo we did the highlights tour which again was great, And from Montevideo onwards we felt much safer. If you are interested in penguins or real off-roading, I would recommend the trip to Volunteer point in the Falklands. It’s a long day. 30 minute tender, 1 hour on good road, 1.5 hours “off road” but the penguin colony is such a privilege to see. It’s the largest outside of Antarctic and watching the King Penguins enjoying the sea and beach was amazing. You can get quite close to them ( 6 meters is allowed) but they will then approach you as they are very curious. We saw Kings, Gentoos and Mangellec with lots of birds too. it was one of the highlights of the whole trip for us. In Ushuaia we visited the National Park, good wether prevailed and the scenery was lovely. Later that day we cruised Glacier Alley with the cruise ship and the scenery is spectacular. It outdid Norway, Alaska and New Zealand for us. The weather makes such a difference on this tour, we were lucky but the staff told us that the previous sailing had poor visibility in Ushuaia and a tough sailing around the Horn, which is not unusual and sick bags are provided in the cabins. In Punto Arenas we did a chairlift ride and a trek which was a pleasant morning and again sunshine helped. In Puerto Montt we visited the cascades, Orsono Volcano (but no view due to cloud cover) and Puerto Varas. The volcano did become partly visible late afternoon which we could see from the ship. It’s 90 mins to the cascades and Puerto Varas is a small town. It got us off the ship but I’m not sure I’d choose this tour if I had my time over. All towns in Chile are experiencing evening riots and so lots of shop windows are boarded over which gives a rather depressing look to the towns at the moment. Staff The waiters got to know us, remembered our names and our nightly drinks/fruit juice preference orders at breakfast which was impressive. The crew show was funny too. The ships photographers seem intent on getting a picture with other cruisers in the background/gangways etc...I suggested that a spot with a nicer backdrop might help encourage a few more guests to have a picture but he told me their job was hard enough getting people to stop for a picture. Usual high pressure sales culture in the Spa. I always avoid these now but had to get a nail repaired during the trip. Some eye cream was put on without me asking as a “complimentary treatment” which of course leads to them telling you how much difference it makes ( it didn’t) and despite me saying “no“ to a foot spray, I was given one and charged for it so I had to get the bill amended before I left. I’ve provided feedback many times, but this sales technique must work as it’s never changed. Shows All the shows were enjoyable that we saw ( we missed out a couple) My experience is that HAL don’t spend the same amount on their shows as other cruise companies but the quality of food is better so it depends what your own preference is. There was a classical group, a jazz type quartet and a pianist. Due to our dining times, we just watched the late show each evening. Gym Reasonable amount of equipment but the free classes were heaving. I only did one and found it too cramped so I decided to walk on deck instead. Overall for us a great cruise. Undoubtedly the weather played a massive part in our enjoyment. We enjoyed the Zandaam and would definitely cruise on this ship again.

South America Review

Zaandam Cruise Review by hm+jdmcruisers

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Having read fellow travellers reviews, I wanted to provide our opinion following our South America trip recently.

Ship

The Zaandam ship is on the small side by today’s standards (1400 passengers) but that does mean you do get to know the staff and fellow cruisers. The ship was well maintained, clean and comfortable. We opted for an outside cabin, mid ships, on the main deck due to the sailing around Cape Horn. We had good weather on the day itself but were glad of our cabin position as the sea still had considerable sized waves and motion. Even with good weather there was still quite a lot of movement so I would recommend thinking about your cabin position for this route. The cabin was comfortable with plenty of storage space even for 16 nights. The bathroom in our cabin had been updated and include a walk in shower which is much better than the small baths that used to be in the bathrooms.

One very small niggle in the cabin is that the light switches are in the middle of the headboard and so every time you lean back to relax and read on the bed you end up turning the lights on/off.

In our experience HAL are not “party ships” and so there are no real themed parties and most nights see guests in bed by 10.30pm. This suited us as we were able to wake early for some lovely scenery and sunrises.

We would have liked more information on our surroundings, wildlife and history. As the ship is small the cruise director doubled as the travel director and he did provide some commentary on the scenic cruising but it would have been good to have had an expert lecturer on board.

Dining

We ate breakfast in the dining room on sea days ( it opens a bit too late on port days for us as we like to be out and about early) The menu does not vary year to year, but the quality is still excellent and the staff are more than happy to make a few tweaks if you want to mix and match some options.

For lunch we used the salad bar and Asian bar in the Lido which were both superb. There were mandarin segments, nuts, seeds, dried cherries etc...on the salad bar which you don’t often see on other cruise lines. The Asian bar had a varied choice each day. Even if you are not generally a fan, I would suggest you try it.

The ice cream was also consistently excellent as was the fresh fruit counter.

Dinner for us was in the dining room, late seating. The food and service were great and the cellar master really helped us make some great choices from even the cheapest wine package. We thought the dining room evening food was some of the best we’ve ever experienced and a chef was round most nights to check we we happy, asking for what dishes we’d enjoyed and what we might like to see again.

We had a table for 2 and my only real moan of the trip was that our table was near the entrance .There were a large group of guests with a travel company on our sailing who always arrived late (some nights up to 45 minutes) and they were chaperoned in by their tour guides as they arrived. This meant the waiters were trying to work as these guests arriving which created a bottleneck right next to our table and it was impossible to relax. We had a word with the Maitre D and on night 4 we were moved to another table. Once moved we really enjoyed our evenings in there.

We were asked most Breakfast, lunch and dinner times if we wanted to try the Specialty Dining. One lunch time we were asked 3 times by three different waiters. The cruise director also started some of his announcements with an advert for it and it did get rather tiresome. I am sure it is lovely but we were more than happy with the dining room food and could not see the benefit of paying to eat elsewhere. It is also the most expensive speciailty dining we have seen, especially when the pound is weak against the dollar.

Tours

Apart from an independent tour in Rio we used the Shore Excursions for the whole cruise. I prefer to know they are then responsible for getting us back to the ship/next port etc..

We were specifically warned about a recent spike in tourism petty crime and to dress down, no jewellery etc...We found being in a group felt much safer and allowed my husband to take his large camera as opposed to being concerned about having it stolen and leaving it behind.

In Rio, There were police cars at the entrance to our hotel so we were pleased we had an independent tour organised there. We’d booked the whole holiday with Holland America and the Sheraton was the only hotel we were offered. It has a lovely beach but also has a large slum area quite near so we were encouraged not to venture out on our own, especially at night.

We had flown in one day earlier and booked a day trip with Viator which took in all the main highlights with a BBQ lunch.

Once onboard, In Santos we just used the free shuttle into the town to a mall ( we didn’t fancy any of the trips there) you could then taxi around from there if you wanted to. I found it the most low key of all the stops. A tour may of helped that day as the Port is very industrial and you cannot really walk into the town.

In Buenos Airies the highlights tour was terrific. We visited the cemetery where Eva Perone is buried and it is a quite beautiful cemetery which was very unexpected.

In Montevideo we did the highlights tour which again was great, And from Montevideo onwards we felt much safer.

If you are interested in penguins or real off-roading, I would recommend the trip to Volunteer point in the Falklands. It’s a long day. 30 minute tender, 1 hour on good road, 1.5 hours “off road” but the penguin colony is such a privilege to see. It’s the largest outside of Antarctic and watching the King Penguins enjoying the sea and beach was amazing. You can get quite close to them ( 6 meters is allowed) but they will then approach you as they are very curious. We saw Kings, Gentoos and Mangellec with lots of birds too. it was one of the highlights of the whole trip for us.

In Ushuaia we visited the National Park, good wether prevailed and the scenery was lovely. Later that day we cruised Glacier Alley with the cruise ship and the scenery is spectacular. It outdid Norway, Alaska and New Zealand for us.

The weather makes such a difference on this tour, we were lucky but the staff told us that the previous sailing had poor visibility in Ushuaia and a tough sailing around the Horn, which is not unusual and sick bags are provided in the cabins.

In Punto Arenas we did a chairlift ride and a trek which was a pleasant morning and again sunshine helped.

In Puerto Montt we visited the cascades, Orsono Volcano (but no view due to cloud cover) and Puerto Varas. The volcano did become partly visible late afternoon which we could see from the ship. It’s 90 mins to the cascades and Puerto Varas is a small town. It got us off the ship but I’m not sure I’d choose this tour if I had my time over.

All towns in Chile are experiencing evening riots and so lots of shop windows are boarded over which gives a rather depressing look to the towns at the moment.

Staff

The waiters got to know us, remembered our names and our nightly drinks/fruit juice preference orders at breakfast which was impressive. The crew show was funny too. The ships photographers seem intent on getting a picture with other cruisers in the background/gangways etc...I suggested that a spot with a nicer backdrop might help encourage a few more guests to have a picture but he told me their job was hard enough getting people to stop for a picture.

Usual high pressure sales culture in the Spa. I always avoid these now but had to get a nail repaired during the trip. Some eye cream was put on without me asking as a “complimentary treatment” which of course leads to them telling you how much difference it makes ( it didn’t) and despite me saying “no“ to a foot spray, I was given one and charged for it so I had to get the bill amended before I left. I’ve provided feedback many times, but this sales technique must work as it’s never changed.

Shows

All the shows were enjoyable that we saw ( we missed out a couple)

My experience is that HAL don’t spend the same amount on their shows as other cruise companies but the quality of food is better so it depends what your own preference is. There was a classical group, a jazz type quartet and a pianist. Due to our dining times, we just watched the late show each evening.

Gym

Reasonable amount of equipment but the free classes were heaving. I only did one and found it too cramped so I decided to walk on deck instead.

Overall for us a great cruise. Undoubtedly the weather played a massive part in our enjoyment. We enjoyed the Zandaam and would definitely cruise on this ship again.
hm+jdmcruisers’s Full Rating Summary
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