The Suite Life! This was my 7th cruise w/HAL and they finally got it all exactly right. No kidding. And this was following a cruise on the Maasdam that was so bad that we swore 'Never again!'(a little more on that later). Our travel agent talked us into trying HAL 'just one more time' and we are delighted that she persuaded us. Once again we took an S-Suite (an extra large veranda suite w/a long list of perks) and this time all the extras were actually there. Wonderful mattress, outstanding linens and pillows, towels and robes of the first quality were waiting for us, along w/a bottle of mediocre champagne, a mini-bar, whirlpool tub (that I'm sure most people don't use) a dressing room (w/vanity, great mirrors, small sink and hairdryer - Judy liked the dressing room a lot, I could care less) and the Neptune Lounge. A note about the lounge - fantastic! The 'goodies' changed all day long (presided over by Pinnacle Grill staff) and always included candies, pastries, fruit and usually various finger foods, sandwiches and cheeses. Most outstanding was the cappuccino machine -- I must have had about five coffees a day, it was like having my own Starbucks right outside my cabin door! Also the concierge was straight from heaven. Anita made it a point to know us all by name and was doing little things for us, like getting us on tours after the deadlines, long after her shift was over. Embarkation was a nightmare and there was something of a feud going on between the Coast Guard and the cruise line. The 'perceived' security lapse kept us waiting from 11:30 till 4 as they brought in dogs and marched the entire crew off the ship and through the metal detector. Talk about stupid!! Watching a chef come off the boat, walk through the metal detector, set the alarm off, remember the chef's knife in his sleeve pocket, hand it to someone, walk through again, the knife was put through the scanner and returned to the chef and he went back on the boat, called to mind all the foolish time wasting, ineffective security stories I've heard since 911. What could possibly be accomplished with this show? Did they think a crew person would bring his gun/bomb off the boat to walk through the metal detector with it? Later we got to speak to the Captain and some other officers (in some private/perk suite parties) and they felt that the Coast Guard was angry about something in HAL's 'attitude' and decided to 'teach them a lesson.' Of course the only ones put out were the passengers. We were waiting so long that they HAD to bring out food and water because some of the oldies were starting to faint. No one felt more secure, nothing productive was accomplished and we all lived through a version of 'dig a hole and fill it back up' military logic. The extra insult was the Coast Guard crew people who wandered among the crowd to 'answer questions.' They wouldn't answer any questions and stood behind us and applauded furiously whenever the CO got on the horn to tell us it would be a few more hours - 'just to make sure.' Coast Guard crew told me that there was nothing they were looking for and that what they were doing was 'just being extra careful.' It was obviously a load of bull. It may sound too good to be true but everything, after embarkation, was better than the last time I'd been on the Zaandam, and in fact the best I ever have ever experienced. Food was better everywhere (we didn't do the Lido much, thought what we had there was bland but the ethnic food stations and the 'made to order' dishes were quite an improvement over the cafeteria style offerings of earlier times). The formal dining hours have been broken up into four seatings and that seemed to speed the service up. All, and I mean all,of the waitstaff were cheerful, friendly and, to a person, seemed concerned that we were having a good time. And room service, the blessed 24hour room service! Terrific food! The steak sandwiches from room service were memorably good, and I'm talking 2am orders that got to us fast and hot and delicious -- and the servers (middle of the night or anytime) all seemed like the happiest people on earth, and that bringing us food was the fun-est thing they could think of. We also have to mention Michael, the mgr. of the Pinnacle Grill (the pay-per upscale restaurant), who consistently went above and beyond to make our cruise special and memorable. Entertainment was also a notch above, excluding (perhaps, since we didn't see them) the 'legs at sea' revues (we never go to those, not to our taste). And, although it was the normal selection of singer, magician and comic...they were all good at what they did and all had the crowd involved and cheering (no small feat given the average age of the cruisers). The magician's special close up show was held in the movie theatre venue and was full, out-in-the-hall-full, well before it started so, you've been warned! Also the cooking demos filled up fast. The Zaandam just came out of drydock and not only is the ship gorgeous but the enhancements were all to our liking. The Internet/library/coffee shop/card room/music room area is tastefully done and was well used but never crowded. There were grumbles because the internet was down a lot but, hey, we're in the middle of the ocean, com'on now, you're on vacation! But you know how some folks are... The demonstration kitchen in the movie theatre is way cool, the movies were a little better than previous HAL fare (Sideways was one). And the spa area was really, really improved. We both got weekly passes for the thermal spa ($60 per/wk) and it was a great investment. We love the sauna/steam room and this (multi-fragranced, serene w/heated lounge chairs, new age music and private whirlpool & veranda) one has GOT TO be seen. Judy did a tooth-whitening there that she swears was the best ever (and does look great) at less than half of what her dentist charged. HAL cruisers are still pretty old overall (we are early fifties and felt youngish) but there were some young honeymooners and a few kids who seemed to be having a great time. The kid's facilities were hugely updated and expanded but...we didn't investigate. Overall it still is the HAL white-gloved elegant laid-back experience. NOW, TO THE LAST CRUISE!! On the Maasdam about a year ago, the website promised new mattresses and dry-cleaning and upgraded linens and none, NONE, of those were available. The mattress in our S-Suite was not only NOT the promised 'Euro-styled, pillow-topped' jobber but was the nastiest, stained, lumpy and sprung piece of crap that ever escaped from a Econo-lodge. Dry cleaning was broken, staff seemed unhappy, getting on and off the boat in Norfolk was a nightmare and, bottom line, HAL lied about what they would provide. Further the food and service in the main dining room were so bad that we ate seven out of ten dinners at the Pinnacle. I have some back problems, so before booking I really asked about the mattresses and got the word back that they had just been replaced. They weren't and it really hurt me and ruined our vacation. I wrote to HAL complaining, sent photos of the filthy mattress and pad, copies of their webpage (showing what they were still promising) and explaining that I asked specifically about the bedding and was lied to and all that I got in reply was a note thanking me for my feedback!!! We are still stinging from that one but this cruise was great. We dislike new tipping policy ($10 per/person/day automatically charged to room and split w/everyone including cooks, dishwashers and officers [doesn't that make it salary?] and if you have the auto-'tips' removed they take your individual tips away from whoever you gave them to and pool them! So much for individual recognition! Why HAL doesn't just charge $70 per/person more and just be a classy 'no-tipping' line is purely beyond me.) but we always used to tip more so, bottom line, we shrugged our shoulders and paid less. Anita had sad look when we shook her hand and thanked her and mumbled 'new tipping policy'. We guessed that she didn't like the new policy either. We're not drinkers but I resent the change in policy that doesn't allow passengers to take bottles of liquor to their rooms (like before) and when I did get to talk to different staff people I heard a number of downbeat comments & sad head-shaking about what "Carnival is doing to us." Hard to know what the future will bring but in the right here and now, the Zaandam is a happy boat of a convenient size that is hard to beat for a wonderful vacation if you are the laid back cruiser.

Zaandam - Western Caribbean

Zaandam Cruise Review by mickeytheb

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: February 2005
  • Destination: Western Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Neptune Suite with Verandah
The Suite Life! This was my 7th cruise w/HAL and they finally got it all exactly right. No kidding. And this was following a cruise on the Maasdam that was so bad that we swore 'Never again!'(a little more on that later). Our travel agent talked us into trying HAL 'just one more time' and we are delighted that she persuaded us.
Once again we took an S-Suite (an extra large veranda suite w/a long list of perks) and this time all the extras were actually there. Wonderful mattress, outstanding linens and pillows, towels and robes of the first quality were waiting for us, along w/a bottle of mediocre champagne, a mini-bar, whirlpool tub (that I'm sure most people don't use) a dressing room (w/vanity, great mirrors, small sink and hairdryer - Judy liked the dressing room a lot, I could care less) and the Neptune Lounge. A note about the lounge - fantastic! The 'goodies' changed all day long (presided over by Pinnacle Grill staff) and always included candies, pastries, fruit and usually various finger foods, sandwiches and cheeses. Most outstanding was the cappuccino machine -- I must have had about five coffees a day, it was like having my own Starbucks right outside my cabin door! Also the concierge was straight from heaven. Anita made it a point to know us all by name and was doing little things for us, like getting us on tours after the deadlines, long after her shift was over.
Embarkation was a nightmare and there was something of a feud going on between the Coast Guard and the cruise line. The 'perceived' security lapse kept us waiting from 11:30 till 4 as they brought in dogs and marched the entire crew off the ship and through the metal detector. Talk about stupid!! Watching a chef come off the boat, walk through the metal detector, set the alarm off, remember the chef's knife in his sleeve pocket, hand it to someone, walk through again, the knife was put through the scanner and returned to the chef and he went back on the boat, called to mind all the foolish time wasting, ineffective security stories I've heard since 911. What could possibly be accomplished with this show? Did they think a crew person would bring his gun/bomb off the boat to walk through the metal detector with it? Later we got to speak to the Captain and some other officers (in some private/perk suite parties) and they felt that the Coast Guard was angry about something in HAL's 'attitude' and decided to 'teach them a lesson.' Of course the only ones put out were the passengers. We were waiting so long that they HAD to bring out food and water because some of the oldies were starting to faint. No one felt more secure, nothing productive was accomplished and we all lived through a version of 'dig a hole and fill it back up' military logic. The extra insult was the Coast Guard crew people who wandered among the crowd to 'answer questions.' They wouldn't answer any questions and stood behind us and applauded furiously whenever the CO got on the horn to tell us it would be a few more hours - 'just to make sure.' Coast Guard crew told me that there was nothing they were looking for and that what they were doing was 'just being extra careful.' It was obviously a load of bull.
It may sound too good to be true but everything, after embarkation, was better than the last time I'd been on the Zaandam, and in fact the best I ever have ever experienced. Food was better everywhere (we didn't do the Lido much, thought what we had there was bland but the ethnic food stations and the 'made to order' dishes were quite an improvement over the cafeteria style offerings of earlier times). The formal dining hours have been broken up into four seatings and that seemed to speed the service up. All, and I mean all,of the waitstaff were cheerful, friendly and, to a person, seemed concerned that we were having a good time. And room service, the blessed 24hour room service! Terrific food! The steak sandwiches from room service were memorably good, and I'm talking 2am orders that got to us fast and hot and delicious -- and the servers (middle of the night or anytime) all seemed like the happiest people on earth, and that bringing us food was the fun-est thing they could think of. We also have to mention Michael, the mgr. of the Pinnacle Grill (the pay-per upscale restaurant), who consistently went above and beyond to make our cruise special and memorable.
Entertainment was also a notch above, excluding (perhaps, since we didn't see them) the 'legs at sea' revues (we never go to those, not to our taste). And, although it was the normal selection of singer, magician and comic...they were all good at what they did and all had the crowd involved and cheering (no small feat given the average age of the cruisers). The magician's special close up show was held in the movie theatre venue and was full, out-in-the-hall-full, well before it started so, you've been warned! Also the cooking demos filled up fast.
The Zaandam just came out of drydock and not only is the ship gorgeous but the enhancements were all to our liking. The Internet/library/coffee shop/card room/music room area is tastefully done and was well used but never crowded. There were grumbles because the internet was down a lot but, hey, we're in the middle of the ocean, com'on now, you're on vacation! But you know how some folks are...
The demonstration kitchen in the movie theatre is way cool, the movies were a little better than previous HAL fare (Sideways was one). And the spa area was really, really improved. We both got weekly passes for the thermal spa ($60 per/wk) and it was a great investment. We love the sauna/steam room and this (multi-fragranced, serene w/heated lounge chairs, new age music and private whirlpool & veranda) one has GOT TO be seen. Judy did a tooth-whitening there that she swears was the best ever (and does look great) at less than half of what her dentist charged.
HAL cruisers are still pretty old overall (we are early fifties and felt youngish) but there were some young honeymooners and a few kids who seemed to be having a great time. The kid's facilities were hugely updated and expanded but...we didn't investigate. Overall it still is the HAL white-gloved elegant laid-back experience.
NOW, TO THE LAST CRUISE!! On the Maasdam about a year ago, the website promised new mattresses and dry-cleaning and upgraded linens and none, NONE, of those were available. The mattress in our S-Suite was not only NOT the promised 'Euro-styled, pillow-topped' jobber but was the nastiest, stained, lumpy and sprung piece of crap that ever escaped from a Econo-lodge. Dry cleaning was broken, staff seemed unhappy, getting on and off the boat in Norfolk was a nightmare and, bottom line, HAL lied about what they would provide. Further the food and service in the main dining room were so bad that we ate seven out of ten dinners at the Pinnacle. I have some back problems, so before booking I really asked about the mattresses and got the word back that they had just been replaced. They weren't and it really hurt me and ruined our vacation. I wrote to HAL complaining, sent photos of the filthy mattress and pad, copies of their webpage (showing what they were still promising) and explaining that I asked specifically about the bedding and was lied to and all that I got in reply was a note thanking me for my feedback!!! We are still stinging from that one but this cruise was great. We dislike new tipping policy ($10 per/person/day automatically charged to room and split w/everyone including cooks, dishwashers and officers [doesn't that make it salary?] and if you have the auto-'tips' removed they take your individual tips away from whoever you gave them to and pool them! So much for individual recognition! Why HAL doesn't just charge $70 per/person more and just be a classy 'no-tipping' line is purely beyond me.) but we always used to tip more so, bottom line, we shrugged our shoulders and paid less. Anita had sad look when we shook her hand and thanked her and mumbled 'new tipping policy'. We guessed that she didn't like the new policy either. We're not drinkers but I resent the change in policy that doesn't allow passengers to take bottles of liquor to their rooms (like before) and when I did get to talk to different staff people I heard a number of downbeat comments & sad head-shaking about what "Carnival is doing to us." Hard to know what the future will bring but in the right here and now, the Zaandam is a happy boat of a convenient size that is hard to beat for a wonderful vacation if you are the laid back cruiser.
mickeytheb’s Full Rating Summary
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