We've been on a number of cruises with HAL and sailed on 6 different ships. I wasn't too thrilled about being on Zaandam due to it's smaller size but understand that the larger ships don't go to Antarctica.
This was a first voyage on Zaandam, and even though it is a BIT smaller than what we've sailed on, I was pleased overall. I think I was a bit surprised that the food quality seemed to be a bit better than past sailings. Perhaps this was due to the itinerary...I don't know. I also noticed that the passengers seemed to be more relaxed and shall I say, on better behavior? Again, I don't know if it is due to the itinerary and cost of this particular cruise, but my husband and I both noticed this.
The ship is a bit smaller, as I said but I still found many quiet spaces on the ship when I just wanted somewhere by myself. We found a great group in the Crow's Nest daily at trivia and happy hour times. The Crow's Nest was lively and fun then.
This was the first time we were forward in the ship. We were just about under the entrance to the Main Stage. Each evening at the BEGINNING of each performance we had SLIGHT noise from the main stage but only for about 5-10 minutes and then we did not hear after that. I think as the performances begin, they are louder. Since this was an Antarctica trip, we were prepared for wind and waves, so I can't fault the room necessarily for feeling the weather conditions. However, if I had to do it again, on any cruise, I might select an aft cabin instead. We have always done well on our aft cabins. We generally select "obstructed" rooms due to the great value and the fact that we like to be close to Promenade deck. You could see the hull of the ship from our window, yet we had natural light so that we did not require the lights to be on all of the time. For us, there was plenty of room with luggage under the bed. I did take note from other passengers who said that the room felt a little larger when the bed was separated from a Queen to 2 Twin Beds, and I agree. Make sure to use the shelf UNDER the sink for items that you don't often use. I brought a few clothespins this time to hang up our swimsuits above the tub. The closet associated with the safe is a bit dark to see inside due to where the overhead light is. Next time, I would bring one of those little disc lights or a key chain light. The stateroom was comfortable and clean.
This was a tendered port. Loved everything about Stanley. What a great day we had just walking around, interacting with the locals and seeing the sights. The people at the Visitor's Center were very welcoming and for those who did not do any excursion, we were offered many options. Make sure to watch the film in the Visitor's Center about the invasion. Go to the free museum, the post office, cemetery, and the local bars. We walked through the neighborhoods chatting with residents. We also went to the grocery store, which was pretty big and got some snacks. The bar scenes were very cool. Everyone was very upbeat and welcoming. Make sure to drink the local beer!
The pool area was usually busy with people swimming, relaxing, reading and conversing. We booked several meals in the Canaletto which has always been good, and my husband went to the Pinnacle Grill a few times for lunch. Most of the time, my husband went to the Main Dining Room and I settled for the Lido. I just dont like to take that much time for dinner. This was validated on Gala nights. The food quality in the MDR was very good. The food quality in Lido was generally good. Id always sample something small and if I wanted more, Id go back. We enjoyed various talks given in the Main Stage. We did not partake in most evening performances, but a few were pretty good.