I am a retired city attorney and my wife is a homemaker - never retired! This was our 13th cruise; and second on HAL, having done the Western Caribbean on Veendam last March. We selected this cruise because we had only a shortened stop in St. Thomas 3 years ago, and had never been to Tortola or a Bermuda Cay. This was a relaxing, if not overly exciting cruise on a very beautiful, well maintained and well designed vessel. The ship. MS Zaandam is now 4 years old, but except for a couple of worn spots on the wooden handrails, is in excellent shape. At 63,000 gross tons, with a passenger complement of slightly under 1400, it has a high space ratio. Our cabin was on Deck 6, a verandah "suite" which is basically a good sized cabin of about 285 square feet, including the verandah. It was provided with a full sized sofa, decent sized desk, Jacuzzi tub/shower and more drawers than we could ever have used. In addition, the closets were large and there were plenty of real wooden hangers. The room has three art works and was a very pleasant place. One could hardly ask for more than what we got for a reasonable price. In addition, the location was perfect. We had only to walk up two flights past one passenger deck to reach the Lido Deck with the spa, gym, Lido Pool, outside pool and Lido Buffet Restaurant. One flight down was the Upper Promenade Deck with the Upper Rotterdam Restaurant, Library, Explorer's Lounge, several meeting or card rooms, internet room, Piano Bar, Ocean Bar, Casino, shops and upper Mondriaan Theater. Deck 4, one flight below that, had the Lower Rotterdam Restaurant, Pinnacle specialty restaurant, Java coffee bar, Main desk, Excursion Office, Photo Gallery, Wajang movie theater, and lower Mondriaan Theater. Thus almost everything was reachable by going up or down two flights. Zaandam is as compact and easy to get around as any ship we have experienced. It also had a nice display of artworks in the public areas and stairwells, as well as displays of musical instruments everywhere. There also is a full walkaround teak deck on Deck 3, with real teak lounge chairs. Food We ate once at the Pinnacle Restaurant, a specialty restaurant with a $20.00 per person cover charge. The service was outstanding and the food excellent. We would definitely recommend it at least once on any one week cruise. Everyone else we talked to who had dined there was similarly impressed. For our other dinners we had the "late" early seating for dinner, meaning 6:15. This was a great deal more convenient than the "early" early seating at 5:45 which we experienced on Veendam. With the exception of one lamb chop entree, all our meals were quite good. I especially enjoyed the traditional Indonesian dinner and the venison. Edith usually has the vegetarian menu which she thought was okay, but a trifle bland. The desserts are a little weak, but the soups were fine. Overall the service was good, but not as personal as on Celebrity. While I would rate Celebrity's food and service (based on six of their cruises) as 9+, HAL gets a 9-. We ate all our shipboard breakfasts and lunches at the Lido Buffet. The breakfasts were standard, without some of the offerings presented on Celebrity. The lunches were prepared immediately behind the serving line, with grills, a rotisserie and cooktops for vegetables. I thought that the fish, which I had each day, was very good, hot off the grill and tasty. Hot vegetables are nice also. Entertainment The entertainment we enjoyed most was a trio of young classical musicians, the Atlantis Trio, playing flute, violin and cello at all afternoon teas and in the Explorer's Lounge, a very attractive venue, every night from 9:15 to midnight. The typical revue was presented by four male singer/dancers and six young women singer/dancers. They did a brief opening night sketch and two full length shows, all with a high degree of enthusiasm. The Mondriaan Theater is not as sophisticated as the theaters on Celebrity and (we suspect) other larger vessels. It does have pretty good sight lines, although the chairs are not models of comfort. We thought the comedian was pretty bad, the male singer/impressionist fair, and we left the magicians quickly. We did not go the last night to see a juggler paired with the comedian. The Ocean Bar had a pleasant dance music trio with a singer. We have been impressed with only one or two entertainers in all our cruises, so we were not shocked or disappointed at the mediocre quality presented. Excursions We did not do any ship excursion. Our major venture was a six hour trip on the ship Winifred out of Red Hook on St. Thomas. This is a beautiful, 43 foot sailing vessel captained by Sharon Allen with one "chief mate". We sailed over to St. John and went snorkeling for over an hour, and then returned; with lunch on board. It was a little pricey at $110.00 (cash) per person, but offered a great trip. I was a little disappointed in the quality of the snorkeling, but perhaps I have been spoiled by Molokini in Maui and Aruba. Her website is www.sailwinifred.com; and e-mail address: winifred@sailwinifred.com On Tortola we walked about five minutes to Speedy's Ferries where, for $25.00 per person we bought round trip tickets to Virgin Gorda. This price included jitney transportation to the Baths at Virgin Gorda. The price of admission to the Baths (if you are not on a tour which includes it) is $3.00. The legal currency in Tortola, which is part of the British Virgin Islands, is the US dollar. The walk down to the baths is hot and crowded, and the beach not large, but I could snorkel and swim, and it is a very pretty area. We had a cold bottle of water at an open air restaurant on the top with trade wind breezes cooling us off as we waited for the return jitney. We spent $60.00 for both of us, and the ships tour for the same trip; not including the restaurant drink, was $57.00 per person. On Half Moon Cay, owned by HAL, I walked around at some length and went swimming in both the lagoon and the Caribbean. The beach is very long and pretty, and the southern end not crowded at all despite the fact that HAL's Zuiderdam, with more than 1800 passengers, was there also. Basically Half Moon Cay is a beach, with some shade, and a variety of water based activities. If you are not into water sports, and don't have a large supply of sun screen, there is not much here. Edith's yoga class was moved to the beach, which she enjoyed; and I like swimming in the sea, although there is absolutely no surf. Sea Days This cruise had three sea days, the first two out of Port Canaveral, and the third between St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. Frankly HAL does a poor job in our estimation, of providing appropriate activities on their sea days. They have no lectures or guest speakers as does Celebrity and Princess, not to mention Oceania and Crystal. They seem to rely on a variety of Trivia type games while heavily promoting Bingo by means of obtrusive and noisy announcements. If you want to read a lot, and spend time relaxing either on deck or in your cabin, this cruise provides the opportunity with no sense that you have missed some great activity. Embarkation-Debarkation. Neither were great experiences. We had spent the night prior to sailing near Sarasota, and drove to Port Canaveral easily on Saturday, arriving at the car rental agency at about 12:30 or 1:00. Our shuttle got to the pier at about 1:30 and we faced an immensely long line. It took more than an hour to get through, but at least the room was out of the sun. On our return we were delayed for some reason, getting to tie up at about 8:00 instead of 7:00 as promised in the brochure or 6:00 as promised by the Captain the night before. We waited in our cabin until after 10:00 before being cleared. We had hired Art's Limousine service to take us to the Orlando airport for $56.00. This was a little higher than the ship's transfer service ($24.00 per person), but we though it worth it for the speed and security involved. Officers and crew. We actually met the Captain as he was having a light lunch by the Lido pool on our first sea day. I thought he had a lot of stripes on his shoulders, but he looked very young. I went up to him and said he looked like someone important and he laughed and pointed to his badge which said "Master". He seemed very pleasant, and like all his Dutch countrymen, speaks English very well. He is only in his early 40s. The crew members are normally a smiling and friendly group. We almost never saw our cabin steward, whereas on Celebrity and Princess they always made a point of coming around the first day and introducing themselves. Perhaps this is a product of HAL's decision to add $10.00 per passenger per day to your ship's bill as a "gratuity" charge. Our dining room waiter was good, but rushed, and his assistant was very competent and should rise to waiter soon. The front desk staff were pleasant and helpful with the few matters I brought to their attention. We did not use the Casino or any of the bars except the Java Bar at which the service was competent, but not overly friendly. Overall Impression Zaandam is an extremely attractive ship, both as to layout, care and comfort, with cabins that equal any we have ever had on any ship. The food service is good and the quality quite high. The entertainment is routine, better than on NCL, about equal to Princess and marginally below Celebrity. The daily activities are HAL's weakest point and would therefore not lend to a repeat of this cruise. Edith said she has no interest in returning to HAL unless they provide better on-board enrichment activities on sea days. But overall we were pleased with this cruise and feel that it was a good value.

Zaandam - Eastern Caribbean

Zaandam Cruise Review by Philip M. Haggerty

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: October 2004
  • Destination: Eastern Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Vista Suite with Verandah
I am a retired city attorney and my wife is a homemaker - never retired! This was our 13th cruise; and second on HAL, having done the Western Caribbean on Veendam last March. We selected this cruise because we had only a shortened stop in St. Thomas 3 years ago, and had never been to Tortola or a Bermuda Cay. This was a relaxing, if not overly exciting cruise on a very beautiful, well maintained and well designed vessel.
The ship.
MS Zaandam is now 4 years old, but except for a couple of worn spots on the wooden handrails, is in excellent shape. At 63,000 gross tons, with a passenger complement of slightly under 1400, it has a high space ratio. Our cabin was on Deck 6, a verandah "suite" which is basically a good sized cabin of about 285 square feet, including the verandah. It was provided with a full sized sofa, decent sized desk, Jacuzzi tub/shower and more drawers than we could ever have used. In addition, the closets were large and there were plenty of real wooden hangers. The room has three art works and was a very pleasant place. One could hardly ask for more than what we got for a reasonable price.
In addition, the location was perfect. We had only to walk up two flights past one passenger deck to reach the Lido Deck with the spa, gym, Lido Pool, outside pool and Lido Buffet Restaurant. One flight down was the Upper Promenade Deck with the Upper Rotterdam Restaurant, Library, Explorer's Lounge, several meeting or card rooms, internet room, Piano Bar, Ocean Bar, Casino, shops and upper Mondriaan Theater. Deck 4, one flight below that, had the Lower Rotterdam Restaurant, Pinnacle specialty restaurant, Java coffee bar, Main desk, Excursion Office, Photo Gallery, Wajang movie theater, and lower Mondriaan Theater. Thus almost everything was reachable by going up or down two flights. Zaandam is as compact and easy to get around as any ship we have experienced. It also had a nice display of artworks in the public areas and stairwells, as well as displays of musical instruments everywhere. There also is a full walkaround teak deck on Deck 3, with real teak lounge chairs.
Food
We ate once at the Pinnacle Restaurant, a specialty restaurant with a $20.00 per person cover charge. The service was outstanding and the food excellent. We would definitely recommend it at least once on any one week cruise. Everyone else we talked to who had dined there was similarly impressed. For our other dinners we had the "late" early seating for dinner, meaning 6:15. This was a great deal more convenient than the "early" early seating at 5:45 which we experienced on Veendam. With the exception of one lamb chop entree, all our meals were quite good. I especially enjoyed the traditional Indonesian dinner and the venison. Edith usually has the vegetarian menu which she thought was okay, but a trifle bland. The desserts are a little weak, but the soups were fine. Overall the service was good, but not as personal as on Celebrity. While I would rate Celebrity's food and service (based on six of their cruises) as 9+, HAL gets a 9-. We ate all our shipboard breakfasts and lunches at the Lido Buffet. The breakfasts were standard, without some of the offerings presented on Celebrity. The lunches were prepared immediately behind the serving line, with grills, a rotisserie and cooktops for vegetables. I thought that the fish, which I had each day, was very good, hot off the grill and tasty. Hot vegetables are nice also.
Entertainment
The entertainment we enjoyed most was a trio of young classical musicians, the Atlantis Trio, playing flute, violin and cello at all afternoon teas and in the Explorer's Lounge, a very attractive venue, every night from 9:15 to midnight. The typical revue was presented by four male singer/dancers and six young women singer/dancers. They did a brief opening night sketch and two full length shows, all with a high degree of enthusiasm. The Mondriaan Theater is not as sophisticated as the theaters on Celebrity and (we suspect) other larger vessels. It does have pretty good sight lines, although the chairs are not models of comfort. We thought the comedian was pretty bad, the male singer/impressionist fair, and we left the magicians quickly. We did not go the last night to see a juggler paired with the comedian. The Ocean Bar had a pleasant dance music trio with a singer. We have been impressed with only one or two entertainers in all our cruises, so we were not shocked or disappointed at the mediocre quality presented.
Excursions
We did not do any ship excursion. Our major venture was a six hour trip on the ship Winifred out of Red Hook on St. Thomas. This is a beautiful, 43 foot sailing vessel captained by Sharon Allen with one "chief mate". We sailed over to St. John and went snorkeling for over an hour, and then returned; with lunch on board. It was a little pricey at $110.00 (cash) per person, but offered a great trip. I was a little disappointed in the quality of the snorkeling, but perhaps I have been spoiled by Molokini in Maui and Aruba. Her website is www.sailwinifred.com; and e-mail address: winifred@sailwinifred.com On Tortola we walked about five minutes to Speedy's Ferries where, for $25.00 per person we bought round trip tickets to Virgin Gorda. This price included jitney transportation to the Baths at Virgin Gorda. The price of admission to the Baths (if you are not on a tour which includes it) is $3.00. The legal currency in Tortola, which is part of the British Virgin Islands, is the US dollar. The walk down to the baths is hot and crowded, and the beach not large, but I could snorkel and swim, and it is a very pretty area. We had a cold bottle of water at an open air restaurant on the top with trade wind breezes cooling us off as we waited for the return jitney. We spent $60.00 for both of us, and the ships tour for the same trip; not including the restaurant drink, was $57.00 per person. On Half Moon Cay, owned by HAL, I walked around at some length and went swimming in both the lagoon and the Caribbean. The beach is very long and pretty, and the southern end not crowded at all despite the fact that HAL's Zuiderdam, with more than 1800 passengers, was there also. Basically Half Moon Cay is a beach, with some shade, and a variety of water based activities. If you are not into water sports, and don't have a large supply of sun screen, there is not much here. Edith's yoga class was moved to the beach, which she enjoyed; and I like swimming in the sea, although there is absolutely no surf.
Sea Days
This cruise had three sea days, the first two out of Port Canaveral, and the third between St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. Frankly HAL does a poor job in our estimation, of providing appropriate activities on their sea days. They have no lectures or guest speakers as does Celebrity and Princess, not to mention Oceania and Crystal. They seem to rely on a variety of Trivia type games while heavily promoting Bingo by means of obtrusive and noisy announcements. If you want to read a lot, and spend time relaxing either on deck or in your cabin, this cruise provides the opportunity with no sense that you have missed some great activity.
Embarkation-Debarkation. Neither were great experiences. We had spent the night prior to sailing near Sarasota, and drove to Port Canaveral easily on Saturday, arriving at the car rental agency at about 12:30 or 1:00. Our shuttle got to the pier at about 1:30 and we faced an immensely long line. It took more than an hour to get through, but at least the room was out of the sun. On our return we were delayed for some reason, getting to tie up at about 8:00 instead of 7:00 as promised in the brochure or 6:00 as promised by the Captain the night before. We waited in our cabin until after 10:00 before being cleared. We had hired Art's Limousine service to take us to the Orlando airport for $56.00. This was a little higher than the ship's transfer service ($24.00 per person), but we though it worth it for the speed and security involved.
Officers and crew.
We actually met the Captain as he was having a light lunch by the Lido pool on our first sea day. I thought he had a lot of stripes on his shoulders, but he looked very young. I went up to him and said he looked like someone important and he laughed and pointed to his badge which said "Master". He seemed very pleasant, and like all his Dutch countrymen, speaks English very well. He is only in his early 40s. The crew members are normally a smiling and friendly group. We almost never saw our cabin steward, whereas on Celebrity and Princess they always made a point of coming around the first day and introducing themselves. Perhaps this is a product of HAL's decision to add $10.00 per passenger per day to your ship's bill as a "gratuity" charge. Our dining room waiter was good, but rushed, and his assistant was very competent and should rise to waiter soon. The front desk staff were pleasant and helpful with the few matters I brought to their attention. We did not use the Casino or any of the bars except the Java Bar at which the service was competent, but not overly friendly.
Overall Impression
Zaandam is an extremely attractive ship, both as to layout, care and comfort, with cabins that equal any we have ever had on any ship. The food service is good and the quality quite high. The entertainment is routine, better than on NCL, about equal to Princess and marginally below Celebrity. The daily activities are HAL's weakest point and would therefore not lend to a repeat of this cruise. Edith said she has no interest in returning to HAL unless they provide better on-board enrichment activities on sea days. But overall we were pleased with this cruise and feel that it was a good value.
Philip M. Haggerty’s Full Rating Summary
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