28 Port Canaveral (Orlando) Holland America Zaandam Cruise Reviews

Some background on us; we are in our very early 50s and cruise just about twice a year. We have cruise on HAL 11 times prior, Princess 9 times and Celebrity 2 times. This cruise was just supposed to be relaxing after the very hard winter ... Read More
Some background on us; we are in our very early 50s and cruise just about twice a year. We have cruise on HAL 11 times prior, Princess 9 times and Celebrity 2 times. This cruise was just supposed to be relaxing after the very hard winter we have had and we did accomplish this. The weather was fabulous except for the last day at Half Moon Cay it was cloudy and overcast, we watched the tenders going back and forth to the Island and they were really bouncing around. We have been to St. Thomas and Tortola several times so we did not do any excursions, just got off and walked around. We did buy a new Nikon D70 in St. Thomas for an excellent price and I bought a beautiful necklace with blue diamonds for a really great price. It was nice getting off and finding a little outside bar and being able to enjoy a real drink for a reasonable price. We have always been very happy with the service and food on HAL but not this time. The food in the dining room was always cold, presentation was poor, always getting our orders mixed up (we were at a table for 8) and very slow in delivery. We always have a bottle of wine with dinner and every night we had to ask the Head waiter to send over the wine Stewart, our wine usually ended up on the table when they would just be serving our entrEe. The deserts were okay except for the "plastic Jello" (which is what our server called it) it seems to be flavorless. Drink prices were very high and they measured every drink a little less then a full shot and if you asked for a little more they would charge you double for the drink. Lido was not bad the food was well presented but there again the boys that worked behind the line seemed burnt out by passengers. I had ask that I have some fresh tomatoes, basil, spinach and a little garlic on the spaghetti noodles and the server gave me a hard time. The server said "the tomatoes, basil and spinach are for the tortellini and I should have either the Mariner sauce or the Alfredo sauce". When I ask please he did put it all together for me along with 2 full tablespoons of garlic on top, he was very put out by request. By the way they closed the Lido 5 minutes later (2:00 PM). Now on to the poolside dining, the hamburgers and hot dogs were good but then again the server working the grill really wish he was some where else. The condiment bar for the hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and taco's were always empty, it took them a while to get them filled and then they would leave a mess were they had dump the food into the containers. I found hair in my taco one day, now that was interesting. What I found strange was that a few CEO's from Seattle were on board trying to correct the problems. At one point we did seem them telling a Head waiter to get more staff out at the pool area, he was not happy. The food at the Pinnacle was fabulous. Maybe HAL should charge more and serve the same type of food that they served in the Pinnacle. The only problem we had in the Pinnacle was when they tried to charge us $15.00 corkage fee for a bottle of wine that the ship had given us. When I told the wine Stewart that the ship had given it too us and we had dropped it off the day before to be chilled he told me that "we will investigate this and let you know what we come up with", we also had a free meal in the Pinnacle compliments of the ship. I don't know maybe a lot of people make up stories regarding wine that they bring on but it really made me feel like I was trying to put something over them. We also had arranged a Bridge tour from some one high up in Princess, when I went down to the desk to find out when the tour would be they did not believe me. I had a copy of the email so they took that and told me "we will investigate this a get back to you" I said that will be fine just return the email back to my cabin. The next day the email was delivered back to our cabin and we did not hear until the next day the tour was arranged. Again they made me feel like I was trying to pull something over them. Our cabin steward was okay, not fantastic but okay. We always had to get our own ice, luckily we were right across were the ice machine was so hubby was able to go over and get our own, even with our room Stewart watching him. Our sheets on our bed were never changed the entire week, even in a hotel room they will change them at least twice in a week stay. The balcony floor was dirty, it was sticking like something had spilled on it and it had not been cleaned in a few weeks. I did ask for it to washed but it never was. The showers were another story, one minute it was nice and hot and then the next it was very cold. The toilet seems to work some of the times, always took a long time to get someone to look at it. On our last day we could not get it to work at all. Other people we had talk to on this trip were very unhappy with the same items I have addressed here. The shows were nothing great, the juggler needs to find a new job. Here again one of the CEO's from Seattle was on board to look over the entertainment. The casinos were very tight, I did spend a lot of money but never seem to really hit anything. The staffs in the casino were really nice, there was only one dealer we called her "Iron Woman" she never smiled and was strictly business. It actually became funny whenever she would come to a table and start dealing, everyone would leave. As I said in the beginning we went on this trip to relax and defrost, we did accomplish this. The down side is what is happening to the cruise industry and Holland America? We are set to do a another trip this November on the Westerdam and I have been reading some other reviews on this ship. So we are trying to decided whether to cancel our back to back on this ship and this line. It is sad that on our next trip we would be up to 100 days on HAL and now I do not think that will be happening. I have also forwarded this letter onto HAL headquarters, hopefully they may get back on track and we will be able to sail them again. Any questions please feel free to email me. Read Less
Sail Date April 2005
My wife and I took the Mar 5th sailing for seven days to Road Town, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. We are around 40. This was our second cruise (Royal Caribbean 3 day before). Overall, we loved our cruise. It was extravagant, yet ... Read More
My wife and I took the Mar 5th sailing for seven days to Road Town, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. We are around 40. This was our second cruise (Royal Caribbean 3 day before). Overall, we loved our cruise. It was extravagant, yet comfortable. The service was outstanding. The Indonesian staff were very friendly and seemed genuinely eager to be helpful. We got to know those that had been waiting on us and were sad to leave them. The food was also outstanding. We opted to eat most meals in the dining room (no extra charge) rather than the Lido deck. The appetizers and soups/salads were exceptional. There was plenty of variety. I cannot name a meal that I did not like. The entertainment was very good. We saw two very energetic singing/dancing shows, a magician, a singer impersonator, a comedian, and a ventriloquist. The ventriloquist act contained sexual language and swearing, which we didn't care for. Our inside cabin had plenty of room and was more than adequate with a king sized bed, flat screen TV with DVD, and small couch. Our cabin, and the rest of the boat were very clean. The public rooms and lounges were nicely designed. Many times there were only a handful of people there during after dinner hours, which made it a small but comfortable setting. A classical trio, a piano lounge singer, a ballroom dance quartet, and a soft rock group all played very well. We especially liked the classical music. The interdenominational Sunday service was very disappointing. The atmosphere was generally relaxed. Most people were at least in their 50s with many in 60s and 70s. Some might complain that this type of cruise is for older folks, which is generally true, but we found the conversations with the older folks to be engaging. We certainly learned a thing or two from an older generation about how to ballroom dance! We did not hear any cursing or see any drunkenness. The staff didn't press us to purchase alcoholic drinks or have someone constantly offering drink specials near the pool deck, which was the case on Royal Caribbean. This was not a "party" boat. The port visits were good although Half-Moon Cay was exceptional. At Road Town, we rented a car and found that we had much more time to spend at a much cheaper price than if we would have taken a shore excursion to see the view at Sky World and to spend time at Garden Cane Beach, which were both worth the trip. Traffic was a bit of a problem in town. At St. Thomas, the ship docked 1/2 hour from the town center, while most ships were docked at the town center where most of the shopping and attractions were. Traffic was a problem here, too, and some areas did not seem safe. At Half-Moon Cay, the small island is a picturesque spot for relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, and enjoying their barbecue lunch. If you are looking for a relaxing, non-party type cruise, this would be an excellent choice. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
We really enjoyed our cruise on the Zaamdam. This was our 4th cruise and our first on a Holland ship. We traveled with another couple and we are in our forties. First the really good points. The food was great. The dining room selection ... Read More
We really enjoyed our cruise on the Zaamdam. This was our 4th cruise and our first on a Holland ship. We traveled with another couple and we are in our forties. First the really good points. The food was great. The dining room selection and quality was very good to excellent. Breakfast and lunch was great in the Lido Restaurant. The only knock here was the waiting in line sometimes, but not a big problem. There was a wide variety of selections at lunch. As other have warned, beware of the scrambled eggs! Service in both the Lido and the dining room were superb. We chose an inside cabin and it was by far the best we have had as far as layout and space. The pillow and sheets stand out as far as comfort. The television was good, and our cabin steward did a great job as well. The shows ranged from OK to really good. I will point out that we do not live in New York city and are not accustomed to Broadway Shows as some have pointed out, but we know what we like and these were good. We particularly liked singer/impressionist Paul Tanner and the ventriloquist as well. Some have complained about the size of the Casino, but we found it to be adequate and never crowded. The Ports Of Call were all exceptional and we really enjoyed the Baths at Virgin Gorda! There are always some negatives. The ship did seem to move and vibrate more than we remembered others doing at times. We also purchased a Soft-Drink card for $35.00 plus gratuity. ($80.50 Total!)A piece. This was not worth it! Diet-Coke was often given to us in small glasses, it was hard or impossible to find in the mornings, and the bar staff (for the most part) seemed irritated to Serve it to you. Holland needs to address this and do a better job. Bottom line, it was good cruise on a good ship. The staff and service was wonderful and it is a good value for the money. We would definitely cruise on Holland again! Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
This was our 28th cruise. Our first HAL. We had a group of 6. Two parents in their 40's with four college age daughters (18-21). 1. Dining room staff, possibly as good as Celebrity. Enchanting personalities, quick wit and incredible ... Read More
This was our 28th cruise. Our first HAL. We had a group of 6. Two parents in their 40's with four college age daughters (18-21). 1. Dining room staff, possibly as good as Celebrity. Enchanting personalities, quick wit and incredible memory capacity for likes and dislikes. Always a delight. We had late seating downstairs..ate there every night. 2. This ship is beautiful. The recent SOE upgrades were terrific. All cabins have flat screen TV's and DVD players (bring an S cable if you want to hook up any video equipment to the DVD player). The interior designer of this ship has done an excellent job. The lamps on this ship are artwork! Throw you own bed away..the new premium bedding on this ship is incredible. You'll want to steal the pillows! Club Oasis and the Loft were really neat places..wish they'd made one for adults. Alas, on this sailing - not enough kids to use it! Loved the midship pool lounge chairs although if you don't get out there by 8am..they are all gone! Earliest rising ship I've ever been on! The layout of the decks is very predictable and it's a quick study to learn the ship. We used the self service laundry..that was nice ($2 to wash/ $1 to dry). The gym had excellent equipment but the low ceilings kept it too hot to really be able to enjoy your workout. 3. Lido restaurant was the best in the business. Food was excellent and the service was comparable to the dining room. Lots of assistance with trays and refills on drinks. Plenty of options from full meals to deli sandwiches to salad bars. 4. Our cabin was not as large as we had expected and the layout was awkward. There is a small hallway as you enter the room that's very crowding and it opens onto the foot of the bed? So you maneuver around the bed and finally find some floor space at the back of the cabin. The coffee table is bolted to the floor and in the way most of the time because the vanity chair is so large it's hard to pull out and sit in with the coffee table there. The balcony is large and has nice furniture on it. Our A/C was not sufficient all week. We asked for a technician and he reported that it was working properly. Then we lost all A/C on Wednesday and it really got bad. Took 20 hours to repair and recover from that. We like our cabin cold..not cool so this was not good for us. Our cabin steward was not great..just good. Always had to ask him to replenish used items. Cool feature I hadn't seen before was the balcony doorbell in our cabin..so room service or guests could get our attention while we were on the balcony. 5. personnel - overall there were smiling faces all around the ship. Dining room, lido restaurant were exemplary. 6. Entertainment - UGH...the poolside band played "polkas!" need I say more. They turned into a dance band at night and then it gets worse, because they try to sing and play! UGH! The stringed trio were great and we loved sitting in for an after dinner drink and listening. We didn't do any shows..reviews from other cruisers didn't rate them very high. Casino is tiny. Did win some money though. 7. Embarkation and disembarkation were very quick! We were at MCO by 10:30! 8. Whirlpool tub...this is a grotesque overstatement. This tub is 40 inches long and 22 inches wide! UGH! 9. Time changes - this ship changes timezones 4 times in 7 days! AGH! The crew wasn't even sure what time it was and none of the ship clocks were in agreement either! 10. Internet was not very reliable. We had signed up for the 250 minute block..it was down so much we only used half of that! 11. Guest card (sail/sign or whatever you call them). These were never scanned for purchases. They ask you for your cabin number and just charge it to that room. I don't care for that. My husband couldn't remember his cabin number half the time, so I'm sure we charged drinks to the wrong room? 12. Noon whistle will you are at sea. Know this is going to happen - or it will scare you to death if you are standing near a horn! 13. We had ants in our cabin? First time for that in our cruising history. We had a great time. We enjoyed the ports and had excellent service. We would prefer a younger crowed. We knew HAL caters to an older group, but figured that at Spring Break there would be some younger cruisers. That didn't happen and our kids made the best of it. The cruise staff became there friends while on board. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
Our March '05 Zaandam cruise was fabulous. We'd had plans to go skiing, which fell through suddenly, so we went online, typed in "last minute travel", and booked 2 Verandah Suites (6212 & 6218) for our family of 5 - ... Read More
Our March '05 Zaandam cruise was fabulous. We'd had plans to go skiing, which fell through suddenly, so we went online, typed in "last minute travel", and booked 2 Verandah Suites (6212 & 6218) for our family of 5 - less than a week before sailing. My in-laws decided it sounded pleasant, and came along too. We're in our mid 30s, with 3 kids ages 8-12. My wife and I played with the kids, relaxed, and had twosome dates. The kids played, rested, watched movies, swam, and enjoyed ClubHAL. My college-professor father in-law graded papers and swam with the kids, while my mother in-law, read, took cooking classes with my wife, and enjoyed the beaches. Our week on Zaandam provided a perfect mix of different activities for all of us to do together and in various pairings. The Ship & crowd. Zaandam is big enough to provide plenty of space and things to do and to handle the ocean well. It's clean and classy, but not stuffy. A previous cruise on RCCL was more like a week at a giant indoor outlet mall during the Thanksgiving sales (crowds, lines, noise, commotion - this is fun?), while Zaandam offered a comfortable, refined atmosphere - without the chaos. Our fellow passengers were pleasant to be around, with the average age "energetic 50s". Furthermore, they were gracious to our children, often lending a hand if one of the kids needed it. Cabins. Our 2 suites were simply lovely. Quiet, comfortable, perfect temp control, lots of storage. Fresh flowers were a welcome touch. Flat screen TV and DVD/CD player were a real plus, especially with the kids (satellite TV with cartoon network; plus 945 DVDs in the library). I appreciated the comfort of the bed - think Westin or Ritz Carlton. Every evening the sofa in the kids' room was converted to a bed, which my daughter thought was cozy. The verandahs were really pleasant; clean, quiet, not windy - definitely worth the extra money. Our room steward, Laode, was incredible - always greeting us with a warm smile, keeping our rooms neat, replenishing our fruit, and making a special point to fuss over the kids. Requests were never an inconvenience, and his follow through was 100%. I'm convinced he was genuinely glad to have us as his guests. Dining. Steak, escargot, venison, duck, perch, lobster, crab, chicken, salmon, pasta, shrimp, lamb - and that's what my kids ate! We were flat out spoiled all week. We took our breakfasts from the Lido restaurant out to the aft deck and up one flight to a quiet table (actually, a server helped carry the kids' trays). Perfect. You name it, you can have it for breakfast. Personally, I went for omelets, lots of mango, mueslix, and glasses full of fresh squeezed OJ. It doesn't get any better. Lunches were casual in the Lido or by the pool. The 2 times we ordered room service we were impressed. One was a late night snack of fruit plates and glasses of milk: 6 minutes. The other was when we ordered Dutch High Tea for on our verandah one afternoon (15 minutes). Simply lovely. Dinner was at 5:45 at a window table overlooking the stern. Our waiter, Mr. Yodiarta, was attentive and on the ball! He addressed the children by name, treated them as if they were the #1 VIPs on board, and when he sensed one of us couldn't decide which dessert to choose, he brought both. One evening our oldest son wasn't keen on the appetizer selection and said that what he'd really like was some mango. Presto. In 5 minutes a plate of golden slices was sitting before him. For our last night, we requested a special Filipino family meal, and the Philippine galley staff went all out with the most delicious platters you can imagine. Kids. If your kids are polite, and know how to behave in a 5 star resort environment, by all means, bring them. There's plenty to do, it's safe, and the crew could not have been kinder. Summer greeted my 3 (8, 10, 12) as we stepped aboard and she invited them to a Club HAL orientation after the life boat drill. At the orientation, they were given wrist bands identifying our lifeboat #, and lanyards with water-proof pouches to carry their key cards. My kids chose to remove the pouches and ask the front desk to punch holes in their cards so they could wear them on the lanyards. Club HAL is organized in 3 age groups (Kids, Tweens, and Teens). Kids under 8 need an adult to sign them in/out, with 8 & up free to come & go as they please - if their parents approve. We're fairly conservative, and very deliberate about our kids' whereabouts; at no time did we ever feel concerned. They did tie-dye shirts, candy bar bingo, free-play on arcade games, scavenger hunts, mini Olympics, Cranium and more. The Club HAL facilities are great, with 10 Play Station 2s, and even a special deck with hammocks for Teens. One morning my 12 year old took his book to the Crow's Nest to read quietly, ordering a bitter lemon soda to drink. When he and I went back to play a game later in the afternoon, the server addressed my son by name and asked if he'd like another bitter lemon! By the way, not 10 minutes later we watched a pod of porpoises race the ship, jumping in the air. Ports. We visited Tortola, St Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. At Tortola we left the ship early, and walked 12 minutes to the local ferry terminal where we boarded a high speed ferry for Virgin Gorda, and took a taxi to the Baths. We hiked past all the tourists and found our own private beach – loved it. Great snorkeling, but watch out for the strong current. St. Thomas is an over-touristed, jewelry selling, t-shirt hawking, booze distribution island to which we do not need to return – at least not when there are 6 other ships in port. But if you find yourself there charter a boat over to St John (our original plan until the kids were too tired from Tortola), or take a cab 5 minutes to Brewer’s Bay. We learned of Brewer’s Bay from the immigration officer who recommended it as a local’s beach with calm clear water, great shells, and NO facilities. It lived up to all of his description, and was perfect for our needs. Half Moon Cay is the tropical isle you’ve dreamed of. More than a mile of powdery white sand, clear, shallow water for snorkeling, hammocks, and a really cool water park for playing. Skip the excursions – we lost 2 hours waiting around at various points for the sting ray swim & feed. Just go way down the beach, snag that last hammock you see, and forget what day of the week it is. We took our own snorkel masks & gear for the family to use and were glad we did. It filled a canvas LLBean bag, but gave us tremendous flexibility to go wherever and do whatever we wanted. We also took along cold water bottles which you can buy as you leave the ship. Embark/Debark/Luggage. In a word: EASY. Boarding was a simple. Porters took all our luggage and had it in our rooms within 2 hours. Check-in had no lines and took 15 minutes. At the end of the cruise, we had breakfast in the Lido, then waited in our suite until we were called to disembark. Our bags were waiting for us and easily sorted by colored tags. A porter took all 10 of them to the curb for us. Holland America and the Zaandam staff outdid themselves to provide a wonderful week for our family. If I had to pick one thing that made the week, I’d say it was the service. It was always personal and genuine. Never aloof, never indifferent, always sincere. We’ve taken the kids all over the world, staying in many fine hotels and resorts, and I travel heavily for work. We have a lot to compare Zaandam to. Zaandam nailed it, and we can't wait to go back. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
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 ... Read More
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. Read Less
Sail Date February 2005
This was our 4th cruise. We did have a great time on this sailing (December 11th through the 18th). We have sailed NCL (the Seaward before its elongation), then Royal Caribbean (Rhapsody of the Seas), and 4 years ago, the Dawn Princess. I ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise. We did have a great time on this sailing (December 11th through the 18th). We have sailed NCL (the Seaward before its elongation), then Royal Caribbean (Rhapsody of the Seas), and 4 years ago, the Dawn Princess. I would give this Zaandam sailing an 8 out of 10 (a 4 out of 5) and my wife an 8.5 or 9 out of 10 (she didn't experience a particular problem I did). I would agree with many of the previous statements in other reviews concerning this ship: food was excellent, cabin noise *between* cabins was very minimal, dining stewards "became family members" as one so accurately put it. But there were a few surprises that would cause us next time to choose Princess or RCI. Namely, cigarette smoke, which I'm sure is somewhat of a problem on every ship, and the inexplicable noise the crew makes working above and outside the cabin starting at 4 a.m. every morning. But an 8 out of 10 is a good score none the less. We loved visiting Virgin Gorda and the Baths, and Half Moon Cay reflects accurately the raves mentioned on the boards here. It was a most gorgeous setting. In spite of very rough seas on our day at sea coming up from St. Thomas, and expecting not to be able to tender in to the island, as is mentioned in the catalogue, "Conditions permitting," which my wife suggests means that about 1/3 of the time the seas are too rough to transfer from ship to tender. But we were blessed, and enjoyed most of the approximate 6 hours allowed ashore. We just paid the $9 for a clamshell and enjoyed a spectacular morning with new friends made at the late seating in the Rotterdam. The clamshells were very available and you couldn't reserve one until you showed up and paid for it. But I suppose if you get ashore early you'll have no problem acquiring one. The shops on the island only take cash, which we didn't know until we wanted to buy something! If we had known, we would have taken cash with us, but we hadn't heard, not attending any of the excursion meetings in the lounges. It probably should have been mentioned in the daily paper. We sought no further excursions than the trip to Virgin Gorda upon landing in Tortola, as we wanted to economize. And we had seen St. Thomas a few times already. For us the best part of the trip was dining. The Rotterdam Dining room was very nice, and seating at 8 p.m. on the upper level was fun, but our table mates were the best. At first quite well behaved though talkative, the gang of 10 individuals, from Newfoundland, Canada, San Francisco, North Carolina and upstate New York, grew increasingly raucous. We probably made the most noise and stayed the latest while the stewards patiently and good naturedly waited for us to finish our merriment and depart. Our master waiter (or whatever you call the person responsible for the table, working for the white coated station chief) was a blast, and enjoyed tormenting us during the dessert presentation with the "wiggling Jello." We wondered did ANYONE ever order the Jello when so many other incredible delights were available? Was there even any Jello available at all, since surely no one would order it; there probably only existed that one lone demonstration plate, and they just changed its color every evening! We answered the question one evening as one of the young women at the table ordered a Jello and, upon receiving it, cut it into 10 equal parts and passed it around the table for consumption. The next night I ordered a Jello myself just to prove they were prepared to supply whatever demand, and sure enough, it came. The staff was not at all shy to granting multiple dessert requests, you could definitely order more than one. Until more people do this, of course, and they put a stop to such frivolousness! Another evening my wife spotted a young lady at a nearby table entertaining her table mates with the old "spoon hanging from your nose" trick and showed us at our table that it really could be done without smoke and mirrors! To everyone's delight of course. Yes, the dining experience was special! The ship, being about 5 years old, 4 of those in service, was smaller and more closed (rather than exuding an open feeling walking around its interior public areas) than we have experienced before, such as on the Dawn Princess and the Rhapsody of the Seas (its 1st year in service). But it was pretty well kept for being so "old." It was a beautiful ship. My wife and I both love the ships rocking motion while at sea, and the smaller ship seemed more apt to move. Though, for you who hate this, it is not at all excessive, so don't worry on that account. The third day at sea, when we hit gale force winds and rough seas, the movement was almost like an amusement park ride. I loved it especially sitting in the Crow's nest fully forward and as high (deck-wise) as possible. My wife will be writing a more detailed summary of the week. I've posted pictures here ( http://mywebpages.comcast.net/theislands/ ) (and I hope our table mates don't mind this display). Now, about the noise and the smoking. And the elderly. We too had heard it all about the age range of HAL, and as others have mentioned, were still a bit surprised and the seemingly large number of very elderly, and in wheelchairs, and using walkers and others just moving slowly. But we both recognized that it was fabulous that those at such an advance age could actually get out and enjoy a cruise. We think everyone should! It just surprised us, is all. Being non-smokers we had a harder time on this ship trying to escape the filthy smoke floating in our direction as if a magnetic attraction existed. We'd have to get up a lot and move to avoid the filthy smell and toxin. There just seemed to be more smokers around than on other ships. I believe if one chooses to indulge in a bad habit it should be kept to oneself. Smoke all you want just keep it IN you, don't share it with me. I know, I'm fighting a losing battle. It's not that I get ugly with people about it (other than a dirty look as I am forced to get up and find a better place). But why should I, a paying passenger, be forced to do this just so someone can spread their cigarette, or cigar smoke with everyone else on their deck? Explain that to me! And our cabin, while very clean and roomy, had an appalling smell of cigarette smoke in it. We heard someone mention that they had the same problem, and was offered the "deep cleaning." This helped immensely but I think, talking with our cabin steward, that they just sprayed the walls, carpet, and fabrics with something to mask the smell and exchanged the bedspreads. I don't think they actually replaced the drapes, and you can't do much more with the furniture and carpet. But it did help, and one should feel free to mention it to the Customer Service personnel as soon as you discover the problem. They were quite happy to please their customers. The last problem I'll mention I had, which, interestingly, my wife didn't have (and neither of us drank much onboard, so it wasn't that!), was an early morning noise problem. I was awakened just about every morning at around 4 a.m. to very loud banging and things bumping and crashing into other things. It must have been the ship's crew doing what they needed to do to run and maintain the ship. Sometimes this meant high pressure spraying of the decks and outside walls to clean off the saltwater, or what ever. (This I noticed at 4:30 one morning -- after getting awakened I walked around the ship exploring; virtually no one else was up -- except the working crew -- spraying down the deck, walls and underside of lifeboats). Other loud banging noises were more inexplicable. It sounded like they were just moving around large pieces of equipment, like boilers or lockers. This might be the problem with a cabin like #3397, an outside stateroom very far aft. Maybe if we weren't upgraded from the K cabin, this wouldn't have been an issue. But I found it annoying in the extreme. I didn't complain to anyone about it (except for our table mates) because I knew I would be spending the day napping anyway. But I never experienced this on the previous 3 ships. I don't know how to explain it. I must add that this noise is not the same as noise between cabins. I only heard brief faint talking from one adjoining cabin on two occasions. So I think the walls between cabins must be very well insulated. I guess I can't say the same for the outside walls! I'll stop there. I've written too much already. But there is so much more to say, as anytime you travel to the Caribbean on a cruise ship it is magical. I could talk about the small movie theater on board that showed VHS editions of new movies, and all seats will have someone's head blocking part of the screen (that must be fixed when the ship goes into dry dock in 2005!), or the really cool ships itinerary map on the wall near the Casino, or the interactive map allowing one to explore history's more famous and important voyages while showing their routes on a huge wall map, or the really cool models of ships on display throughout. Maybe next time. For our twenty-fifth anniversary, my wife wants to board the RCI Brilliance for an upper Mediterranean cruise. We have to start saving now! On a last note, we booked early through a cruise vacation agency and got an unbelievably fabulous price for this cruise. And my wife found a very inexpensive third party for the cancellation insurance. Very recommended. Why not save money if you can? We did this by using the "guaranteed cabin" thing, it being more expensive to choose one's own cabin. But we moved up from the Main deck (deck 2) to the Lower Promenade Deck (deck 3), from a K to an HH. The cabin was a little more roomy. Though note the caveat I describe above. Read Less
Sail Date December 2004
This was my fourth cruise (third on HAL), and by far my best overall cruise experience. I chose this itinerary and ship based mainly on the low single supplement for an inside guarantee cabin. My trip began the day before when I flew ... Read More
This was my fourth cruise (third on HAL), and by far my best overall cruise experience. I chose this itinerary and ship based mainly on the low single supplement for an inside guarantee cabin. My trip began the day before when I flew into Orlando, the closest large airport to Port Canaveral. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport, and then took the hotel shuttle back to the airport the next day to catch the Holland America ship transfer. The cruise line reps were friendly, as well as knowledgeable. The trip over to the port is a boring 45 minute drive through swampland, so either bring a good book or use it as an opportunity to chat with your fellow passengers, if they're so inclined. With multiple buses arriving at the terminal simultaneously, the check-in and embarkation process could be categorized as organized chaos. Lines were long, but kept moving, albeit slowly. My cabin was ready by the time I finally boarded the ship, and I was personally escorted to it by a uniformed steward wearing white gloves. After checking out my room and freshening up a bit, I proceeded to the Lido deck for lunch and then did a self-guided tour of the ship before the muster drill and sail away party. My luggage arrived an hour or two later and I was able to unpack before dinner. The Zaandam is a beautiful cruise ship, and a cut above the Statendam and Maasdam that I cruised on previously. My inside aft cabin on the Dolphin Deck was clean and quiet, and my room steward Agus was attentive and friendly. The new mattresses and sheets that are part of HAL's Signature of Excellence upgrade program are absolutely heavenly. A couple of observations...of the 3 HAL cruises I've done, this one had the widest range of ages and "types" of people. I'd say the average age was 60, but the 20's, 30's and 40's were well represented. Out of a total of 1,440 passengers, only 40 were children. Another plus to cruising during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was a large group of secular humanists onboard that held seminars and meetings every day. My encounters with them were always pleasant and enjoyable. They in no way monopolized or took over areas of the ship. Their organized activities were pretty much limited to the Half Moon room. The Zaandam's captain, Master Olav van der Waard, is young, handsome and personable. If I could meet an attractive, well-spoken, sophisticated man like him, I would definitely consider changing my marital status. Food and service were superior, with only a few minor misses. My favorite meal of the entire cruise was dinner in the dining room on the last night. I chose hot crab and artichoke dip, conch chowder, Greek salad, osso bucco (braised veal shanks Italian style) over mushroom risotto and key lime pie for dessert. Two lobster tails were featured as an entrEe on the second formal night. Our waiters offered on more than one occasion to bring us additional appetizers and entrees. Dutch Night, a HAL tradition, is gone but Nasi Goreng (Indonesian rice dish with a variety of grilled, spiced meats) was on the menu one night. My dining companions were totally enjoyable, and made dinner really something to look forward to. I was at a table for 6, but only 5 of us showed up. We had the 8:00 seating which was perfect for me -- not too early and not too late. Besides the dishes I just mentioned, I also enjoyed the Caribbean paella, Oysters Rockefeller and steamed mussels (appetizers), and the filet mignon with BEarnaise sauce and a crab cake and asparagus bundle. I ate lunch in the dining room when I could, and especially enjoyed the wiener schnitzel and the beef short ribs. While I'm on the subject of the dining room, the breakfast and lunch hours were very limited. Most days it was 8-9:30 a.m. for breakfast and noon until 1 p.m. for lunch. I wish the Rotterdam was open at least 2 hours for both breakfast and lunch. One day I tried lunch in the Pinnacle Grill for $10. It was OK, but the food and service was as good, or better, in the regular dining room. I had gingered carrot soup as an appetizer in the Pinnacle, and it tasted like cold Gerber's strained carrots to me! The worst thing I ate was the scrambled eggs. They were terrible. I tried them in the Lido, in the dining room and through room service. The venue didn't seem to matter. I ended up having to reorder eggs over medium. I did ship-sponsored shore excursions at our 3 ports of call -- Tortola, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. As a single woman, I feel more secure on a group tour rather than going off on my own in an unfamiliar place. Plus shore excursions are a great way to meet other people. The ship's shore excursions were poorly organized for Tortola. Everyone met in the Mondrian Lounge and only one staff member was present to hand out stickers and give directions. For St. Thomas, they simply let us off the ship, and then we located the appropriate sign for our tour on the pier. Much simpler and less aggravating. Tortola was rather interesting, with cows, goats, pigs and chickens roaming freely. I hope it's able to maintain its native island charm, and not become another crowded, overly commercialized island like St. Thomas. I couldn't wait to get back to the ship from downtown Charlotte Amalie. It was hot, humid and crowded, with the much touted duty free shops offering little more than overpriced trinkets and junk. Sitting in a massive traffic jam inhaling exhaust fumes is not my idea of a vacation. With 7 ships in port that day, it was just too much for the city to handle. In contrast, my first visit to Half Moon Cay was like being in paradise. I'm not a sun and sand person, so for me to be impressed with a beach, it has to be something special. As far as onboard activities, I played Bingo, watched some movies in my cabin, took a bartending class, attended the Rock 'n' Roldies show, went to most of the late night cast shows and the Indonesian crew show, sampled the offerings at the dessert extravaganza and Dutch High Tea, had wine and hors d'oeuvres at the Mariner's reception and just plain relaxed. It was nice being able to stay in my stateroom until my disembarkation number was called. I've never enjoyed being herded into one of the public areas and then waiting hours to get off the ship. With the exception of a few very minor glitches, this ship and its crew are winners. If you're interested in a relaxed, sedate and more refined cruise experience, Holland America's Zaandam may be what you're looking for. Read Less
Sail Date December 2004
We approached our first cruise with some trepidation after hearing stories of stomach ailments and unavoidable weight gain. Our fears were unfounded. Our experience on the elegant Zaandam was most enjoyable and relaxing. The ship is ... Read More
We approached our first cruise with some trepidation after hearing stories of stomach ailments and unavoidable weight gain. Our fears were unfounded. Our experience on the elegant Zaandam was most enjoyable and relaxing. The ship is luxurious and scrupulously clean. It never seemed crowded. The staff was always helpful, attentive, friendly and never intrusive. We chose HAL for its accommodations. Our suite was large and comfortable with more storage space than we could possibly use. The verandah was a great place to eat and read. A bottle of champagne was waiting in our suite when we boarded. We frequented the modern gym, ate gourmet meals and enjoyed a few theatre shows along with a couple of movies in the cinema. Many of the bars had live music and dancing in the evening. The coffee bar outside of the cinema was very popular second only to the casino where some of the older passengers happily disposed of their Social Security. Dining in the Rotterdam where we ate most of our meals is superlative. The service is excellent. Dinner was a gourmet affair often lasting an hour. We looked forward to the varied menu our steward brought to our cabin every evening. Portions were just the right size, well prepared and tastefully presented. We often skipped the tempting desserts and repaired to our room for wine on the verandah. The ship allows you to bring wine on board. We also brought port and sherry. Although we did not run a bar tab we were never lacking for an after-dinner drink. Our efficient and unobtrusive steward kept our room immaculate and replenished the bowl of fresh fruit every day. There is also a buffet restaurant with a pasta bar on the Lido deck. A hamburger, taco and pizza stand always seemed to be open by the pool. Coffee and tea were always available. We could order room service at any time. We once ordered High Tea and got enough desserts to last us the rest of the trip. The ship is quite stable. It slowed down during the day for a smoother ride. Rocking was noticeable one day when we ran into gale force winds. I rather enjoyed it but the motion disturbed my wife. She felt better when she could see the horizon and preferred to be on the verandah despite the wind and spray. Most people seemed to purchase shore trips from the ship but we opted to try it on our own. The ship first stopped at Road Town, Tortola. We ignored the dockside hawkers, asked for directions then walked a couple of blocks over to the ferry landing. We were just in time to catch Speedy's motor catamaran to Virgin Gorda. The round trip for two cost $50 including a taxi to the Baths. The ride was fun. The Baths are a national park that charges $3 per person. Fortunately we brought some cash. Down the hill at the end of a forested path was a beach strewn with large boulders. The swimming and snorkeling were good there. We took off left clambering through the rocks following wet footprints to a great beach. Snorkeling was great. Colorful fish were everywhere. Many sailboats were anchored offshore to enjoy the diving and swimming. We stayed a few hours before heading back. Too late for the Hilltop restaurant we headed back to the ship and ate at the Lido buffet. The next stop was St. Thomas. We were unimpressed by the town of Charlotte Amalie. It looked like a slum. The much vaunted shopping area was more like an over-priced run-down outlet mall. We compared prices of brand-name items and found them to be double the prices in the US. The stop must be a US government requirement. Smart travelers can tour the island for $1 simply by walking to the bus stop and taking advantage of the public bus. The final stop was the HAL private beach, Half Moon Cay, on Little San Salvador in the Bahamas. It is simply paradise. We took the first tender over, enjoyed the beach, the barbecue and stayed as long as we could. We greatly enjoyed the cruise. It is amazing how efficiently the staff meets the needs of so many different people. The ship was superb and HAL really pampers its passengers. Read Less
Sail Date December 2004
Zaandam Christmas Cruise 12/18/04 - 12/28/04 Us -- We are a family of 11- 4 adults- late 30s-early 40s, 2 adults mid 60s, 1 great grandmother -- 90+ and 4 children -- girls 15, 12, 10 & 8. Family cruise history: HAL, Renaissance, ... Read More
Zaandam Christmas Cruise 12/18/04 - 12/28/04 Us -- We are a family of 11- 4 adults- late 30s-early 40s, 2 adults mid 60s, 1 great grandmother -- 90+ and 4 children -- girls 15, 12, 10 & 8. Family cruise history: HAL, Renaissance, Cunard, Princess, NCL, Carnival, RCI, Celebrity, Costa, Chandris/Fantasy, Majesty, Delta Queen Steamboat, American Hawaii Cruises. My grandmother is in her 90s and has cruised for over 60 years for obvious reasons, won't list all the lines she has been on... Overview -- There were a fair share of families aboard for this Christmas holiday sailing. Overall it was easily evident that HAL's median age is older than most other cruises. This presented a fairly wide variety of age groups, and reported 200+ well-mannered children. It was pretty exciting shortly after embarkation, to encounter strolling carolers. Unfortunately this was the one and only occasion where we saw this. Pre-Cruise -- We stayed at the Radisson at Port Canaveral. Nice resort and clean. They presented an excellent breakfast buffet with friendly service. What a great way in which to begin our family holiday. The drawback was being packed like sardines on buses for the shuttle to the port. Again, the resort's problem not HAL'S. There were 3 ships leaving Port Canaveral on this day. The wait, loading of luggage etc. on a 50-passenger bus was EXTREMELY chaotic and time consuming. Pick up by the Radisson shuttle at the end of the cruise was via their "regular" shuttle and went very smoothly. For those debating pre-cruise parking, signage is excellent leading to the port via stationary and electronic signing. Parking at the port is also extremely easy with convenient drop off areas for both handicapped persons and baggage. The parking area is fenced in and charges $10 per day. Porters were readily available to transport our luggage the 3 feet from the storage under the bus to the forklift palette. We were very disappointed by our first impression of HAL when the same guy asked for a gratuity after having already being "taken care of." If no tip had already been given, it would have been one thing, however we tipped him more than a $1 per bag for our entire family. When I last checked this was the recommended guideline. Embarkation -- Longest part of the line was of course waiting to go through the metal detectors along with the X-ray of all carry-on items. Inspections were thorough and as we all know necessary. Cruise line reps were all pleasant and polite, check-in agents were also plentiful and efficient. We did have all our forms pre-printed and filled out, as most people did. Our daughter was issued an ID bracelet with her lifeboat muster station in the event there was an emergency and she was separated from us. Ship staff could then easily take her to where she was supposed to be. As a parent this was very reassuring. We arrived about 11:30 a.m. and the whole process from arrival to boarding was about a half hour. Our grandmother, taken aboard via wheelchair, had separate check-in, which was of course much faster than that of the "masses." The family met up at the Lido for lunch. At 1:40 p.m. the announcement was made that the cabins were ready. Luggage arrived very shortly afterward and everyone in our group was able to unpack prior to the 4:30 p.m. lifeboat muster drill. The steward (forgive me for not knowing his name -- my Dad had the most personal dealings with him) who wheeled her aboard was ready to ditch her off as soon as they were aboard. My father mentioned to him that a tip would be offered if he would to take her to Lido deck and he became her best buddy though out the entire cruise! Lucky for us he worked at the Piano Bar where we gathered nightly for pre-dinner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Again, he took excellent care of our entire family making sure we always had plenty of hors d'oeuvres and peanuts to go along with our drinks. Side story -- The last day at sea he asked for the names of our family members. Little did we know and how delightfully surprised we were when he searched us out in the Lido the next morning to present to each family group a "personalized" Dutch hat signifying the date, family members and signed, presumably by him! He received an additional gratuity on the last evening to show our appreciation for his great service. Crew -- See the Dining Room heading for our favorite crew member. Overall everyone on the ship was extremely pleasant and helpful. There were plenty of smiles all around. I cannot begin to tell you how many times in the Lido I had to politely and with a smile, ask one of the "boys" to carry the tray of someone else "who REALLY needed the help." The Ship -- The Zaandam had the best layout out of all of the newer ships that I have personally been fortunate enough to cruise on. The Zaandam's layout made it very easy for my elderly grandmother to walk around with out having to walk a "mile" to get anywhere as she does on a "MEGA" ship. If you book on deck 6 or 7 you will never have to go any lower than deck 4 on the ship except for shore excursions. With the Lido and pools on deck 8 there is not too far too travel up and if you can obtain dining in the Rotterdam Upper Dining Room, you will only have to go down to deck 5. With the before mentioned problems with our cabins, overall cleanliness aboard the Zaandam was excellent. The ship's dEcor is a little worn around the edges, but no real complaints. The ship is going into dry dock January 2005 and will be getting some new carpeting along with the other scheduled SOE enhancements. On our cruise aboard the Golden Princess in late 2003, DH and I, still childless, reveled in the sanctity of the their "Adult Only" Aft swimming pool. In September of 2004 our soon to be adopted 8 year old daughter arrived in our lives. Both swimming pools aboard the Zaandam had signs posted "saying no children swimming without supervision under the age of 13" at both the Lido and Aft swimming pools. The daily bulletin, for only the first few days of the cruise, "requested" that the children use the Lido Swimming Pool. Well we tried that. I'm sorry, but with a crowded holiday sailing it was just plain unrealistic. The Lido Pool area is perfect for relaxing when it is cool outdoors. On hot Caribbean days the air was downright hot, even with the roof fully open. The water was opposite, positively cold. Even had it not been a sold out sailing, there were not enough seats never mind chaises around the Lido pool to reasonably expect families to solely use that pool. Our daughter, with chattering teeth asked if we couldn't swim in the aft pool. Ever mindful of the peace for the adults, after some discussion we decided to try the aft pool. Much to our surprise we discovered other well behaved children and adults thawing out in the sunshine. Our daughter never had the luxury of swimming lessons in her previous foster homes. At all times she was accompanied by one of us at least sitting at the pool's edge, if not in the water with her, to ensure she would not splash or otherwise interfere with any of the adults present. All of the children always behaved themselves, which led us to the conclusion that HAL does attract a more conservative clientele. Pinnacle Grill -- Did not dine there, but did see the beautiful table settings and dining room. Christmas Day they offered their "$49.95 pp Wine Dinner." Gym/Spa -- I had a terrific manicure at a very fair price. My SIL and her family had multiple spa services and were very pleased with the staff and wonderful massages, manicures and pedicures, which they received. We both booked immediately after lunch right after we boarded the ship. And glad we were. Do not call, go there in person, otherwise, they will tell you they will call you back and that may not be for a long long time. The new Spa will be going in during dry dock. The spa staff will have off for two weeks and the last week in dry dock will be spent on training for their new "digs." Shows/Entertainment -- Did not attend any shows. Family members who did, said they were just "so, so." We regularly listened to Sonia Marie while in the Piano Bar, she had her "following," though I don't think any of us would have gone out of our way to listen to her play. Sea Breeze was better and they played in the Crow's Nest. For the most part, after the last show, the ship grows quiet. You can find people in the casino, Casino Bar or Crow's Nest. Each evening the Crow's Nest featured a different theme such as Disco, '50s, Black & White, from about 11 p.m. to midnight. Then music reverted to a DJ who played for the most part hip-hop. The Crow's Nest was a late night "hangout." On the last evening of the sold out holiday cruise at 1:30 a.m. there were all of 12 people still there. Cabin Accommodations -- Our family of eleven had 4 (3/3/3/2) -- Cat. A. Verandah cabins on deck 7- 7048, 7050, 7052 & 7054. For two persons the cabins were terrific. With 3 people the cabin quickly became difficult to maneuver given the narrowness of space between the end of the queen size bed and the wall. For privacy there was a curtain, which extended 3/4 of the way to divide the cabin between the "living area" or in our case, sleep sofa for our daughter and the queen size bed. There was an additional curtain that provided privacy between the bathroom and closet area from the rest of the cabin. For families, if only for the space, if budget allows, I would highly recommend a Cat. S suite. This allows not only more room to get around, an additional sink with private dressing area separate from the tub and water closet. Even better would be an adjoining or inside cabin for the kids. Even for couples, if you enjoy breakfast on your balcony, the only way in which to have a table AND chairs for a "sit down" breakfast would be in a Cat. S suite. Just as an added note, we had a comparable mini-suite on the Golden Princess last year. The cabin was much more spacious and though the balcony was slightly smaller, the cabin itself offered more seating and was much less cramped. Cat. A Balconies on the Zaandam are equipped with a high quality comfortable chaise lounge as well as matching chair with end table. Nice touch over the cheap hard plastic stuff found elsewhere. I don't know if it was because of our location higher up on the ship than where we were last year, but our balcony remained virtually salt free. Last year while sailing Princess, after just a few days the furniture was so encrusted in salt you needed to sit on a towel. Princess did offer an advantage with two TVs as opposed to just one. When there is a disaster the size of the recent Tsunami, if only while getting dressed in the morning and at night, DH and I are interesting in keeping up with what is going on. Our daughter is too young for gory tragedies of this nature and much preferred watching cartoons on Boomerang! In each cabin there was a directory including movie listings and the channel offerings: ESPN, CNN, TNT, CNN Headline News, Boomerang!, Discovery Channel, "On Board" -- promos for ship services, "In Port" -- shore excursion and port information, Nautical Info with view from the bridge, and "Port Shopping." Our cabin also had a VCR and a very long listing in cabins of videos available for pick-up at the front desk. The Wajang Theater offered movies such as Collateral, Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, Santa Clause 2, Bourne Supremacy, and The Manchurian Candidate. There were 2 Movie Channels showing a daily rotation of movies (beware parents ... we awoke one morning to our 8 year old watching an "R" rated movie). It was nice during a Christmas cruise, if you are inclined to stay in your cabin, to have the option of viewing Christmas movies, some classics such as, It's a Wonderful Life, Noel, White Christmas, ELF and Santa Clause 2. For adults there were also movies such as Collateral, The Terminal, The Stepford Wives, King Arthur, Troy and Manchurian Candidate. For kids, there was Around the World in 80 Days, Spy Kids, The Prince and Me, Cinderella Story and Shark Tale. The same steward served our 4 cabins. He spoke next to no English. Formerly serving as a bartender on the ship, he was now cleaning cabins and poorly at that. At the end of our voyage, everyone pretty much agreed that his lack of English speaking skills were more than likely the root of most of our "cabin problems" not being solved in a timely manner. We were surprised that our cabins, which had sofa beds, were never converted back to sofas during the day. Upon arrival we walked into cabins with a queen size bed and one sofa. After the first night's dinner we returned to cabins with the queen size bed and a small narrow bed, which remained such for the entire cruise. In other words, with one chair IN the cabin and one chaise lounge and additional chair on the balcony for three people, don't plan on sitting around. Room service breakfast balancing plates on our knees would not have been a pretty sight. In that our family had 4 cabins adjacent to one another we were hoping to have the doors between the 4 cabins opened for easy access to one another. Our cabin steward said it was not possible. As we were waiting to disembark along comes a crew member climbing over the railing opening door upon door so that he would be able to walk through balcony to balcony while he was hosing off the salt. My cabin as well as my parent's cabin did have mildew present amongst the grout in the bathroom tiles. Big turn off considering it is easily curable with a little of the right cleaner and some elbow grease. First night prior to leaving for dinner we left a note for the cabin steward: from the previous cruise which had disembarked that morning, we were left with: a bathroom wastebasket which had not been emptied, a desk full of crumbs and a shelf full of receipts from the previous cabin occupants. 3 of 4 cabins had 3, not 4 occupants. Each of the four cabins only had two bath towels! They were not offered outright, each cabin had to request the 3rd bath towel for the 3rd occupant individually. Sorry but is that not just common sense? Cabin 1 -- safe would not lock, a screw had fallen out. Called each morning for repair, 3 days in a row, with no response. A phone call was placed day 4 and we asked simply for a screwdriver to repair it ourselves. Afternoon of day 4 we remembered we had an eyeglass screwdriver. DH used this and fixed the safe himself. Over the period of 6 nights, the cabin became progressively warmer at night. Called day 7 for someone to check it. Front desk phoned morning of day 8 to see if it had been repaired. No it had not. By the end of the day it was fixed and in perfect working condition. Unfortunately in the same cabin one of the children accidentally broke the flexible hose off of the shower nozzle to brace herself and avoid falling during a swell (too young and never having traveled before, she did not know enough to grab one of the hand holds). Called for repair as soon as it happened prior to dinner and it was repaired by the time dinner was over. Cabin 1 again -- besides the problems with the safe, one morning there was an 8:15 a.m. knock on the door from maintenance. They knew, without it being reported, that the cabin had low water pressure. Without asking anyone to vacate the cabin they went into the bathroom and did what they had to do. Again, the privacy curtain between the cabin entrance where the bathroom is located and the rest of the cabin was appreciated since everyone was in pajamas and one person was still in bed. Cabin 2 -- ring on tub faucet was broken, thus shower did not function. Called for repair, no response. After my SIL had a total of 4 others shower that evening in her cabin she called the front desk for a second time requesting repair. "She" explained it would be appreciated if our grandmother who had paid over $20,000 for this cruise had a shower that actually functioned. The shower was repaired by the time we returned from dinner that evening. Cabin 3 -- one day the cabin was just never cleaned, morning nor night. We did see a supervisor making notes on a clipboard outside of the cabin as we were departing for dinner that evening. No way of knowing if one thing had anything to do with the other. No phone calls were made to have the cabin cleaned. At this point we just couldn't be bothered considering HAL'S staff unresponsiveness to other maintenance problems in the cabins. The following day the cabin steward apologized stating that he had "forgotten about it." This cabin also had an intermittent odor of sewage from the toilet, which was not present in the other cabins. Lido -- Quality of the food was good and the selection was for the most part pretty good. Breakfast buffet open 7 or 7:30 a.m. -- 10 or 10:30 a.m., offered just about everything imaginable except for waffles or soft boiled or poached eggs (yes, heard someone ask for poached, but they did offer hard boiled eggs). If you arrived at breakfast early enough before it got too busy, the waiters would be kind enough to get your coffee or tea for you. Arrive later when it was busy and it was "hit or miss" whether you would be lucky enough to be offered a refill by one of the waiters roaming with a pot for such purpose. At lunch, the buffet was open 11:00 a.m. -- 2 p.m., the soup and salad bar was a big hit, open 11:30 a.m. -- 5:00 p.m. as well as the deli. Stir Fry and a Pasta Bar rotated day to day. The ice cream bar is extremely popular as well with flavors of ice cream and some toppings rotating daily. Wish there was an easier way to get a soda on the Lido though. They had a bartender set up at this little table. Half the time they did not have what you wanted and the rest of the time he was off getting, presumably, more soda. I had a good chuckle when one of the waiters asked ME, who herself was wondering where he was, where the bartender was. Alas, a mind reader I am not... Toward the end of the cruise, we just found it easier to order a soda at the pool bar on our way in for lunch. Besides never missing ice cream, our children all especially enjoyed making their own tacos and daily selections of pizzas, which were offered. This food was available from 11:30 a.m. -- 5 p.m. If you were still full from breakfast, it was also very convenient to stop by late afternoon for a burger or a "make your own" plate of nachos to snack on. Still enjoying our time poolside, this was a better option than having to go to our cabin and order room service. Though we did not have dinner in the Lido, tables at night were set with linen tablecloths. A condensed version of the evening's menu is offered buffet style. The exception being your entree that you order while in line and then is served to you by a waiter at the appropriate time. Room Service -- HAL does excel and shows some nice touches in their room service. My favorite late lunch was the French Onion Soup and a Caesar Salad. One of our cabins had room service breakfast almost daily. One cabin had early morning coffee delivery along with juice. At no extra charge, there were a good variety of items available for appropriate times of the day, which were delivered in a timely manner, whether ordered the night before (breakfast) or via telephone. Christmas eve morning an order was placed for a couple of cheese plates for delivery to one of our cabins that night. This was no problem and they arrived promptly at 6 p.m. as requested. A bottle of wine and six cans of beer ordered at 5 p.m. for 6 p.m. simply never showed up. The server who delivered the cheese stated he would check on the liquor delivery, but we never heard back from him either. A sampling of items offered 12 Noon -- 10 p.m. are: Bay Shrimp Cocktail, Smoked Salmon Appetizer, Onion Soup, Caesar Salad, Chef Salad, Club Sandwich, Chicken Breast Sandwich, Tuna Melt, Vegetarian Wrap, Steak Sandwich and Hamburger. Dining Room & Food -- Our family booked this cruise in July and the only seating available was the Main seating 8:30 p.m. Since booking, we had been waitlisted for the 8 p.m. seating. Upon embarking, my Mom and SIL, visited the Maitre d' in order to take one last stab at changing to the 8 p.m. seating. Fat chance! None of us had hopes that the time would be changed, so contented ourselves with the fact that HAL had accommodated our request for a table for 11 people. Evenings the family gathered pre-dinner for drinks and hors d'oeuvres, usually at the Piano Bar and then proceeded to our table J in the Lower Rotterdam Dining Room. We had the opportunity to enjoy some breakfasts and one dinner in the upper dining room and noticed a drastic difference in room temperature. It was unbelievably cooler on the upper level than the lower level. It did not matter that on the Informal nights gentlemen were requested to wear a sports jacket. Half way through dinner, in our area of the lower dining room, many men room were removing their jackets. Overall, as some others have stated, HAL does have some problems in the dining room. HAL is spreading their dining room waiters and busboys so thin that they have all they can do just in order to keep up. I don't require polite chitchat and you do not have to know me by name. I can appreciate feeding the children early in the meal. But my Mom did teach me to be polite, and "wait for everyone to be served" before beginning to eat. Only problem was that we were never served courses together. Food was served as soon as it came out of the kitchen as long as you were finished with your previous course. It did not matter where your tablemates were in their meal. A regular production line for sure, but again, we in no way fault the dining room staff, they are just trying to do the best they can with what they have. It was no wonder that pepper grinders are on the tables in the dining room. While HAL is at it, another time saving measure to make it easy on everyone would be to place a pitcher of ice water, salad dressings and sour cream on the table as well. Everyone can agree there is nothing worse than a cold baked (steamed) potato with sour cream or having to ask for a second cup of coffee. Our head steward, Oka, really saved our HAL dining experience. He in his supervisory position tried his utmost to provide the touch of service that one used to find on all cruise ships. Oka picked up the slack as best as he could, refilling water glasses, clearing dirty plates etc. He not only took care of all of us, but in particular, this father of 3 young children, who are home in Bali, took great joy at dessert time, in pleasing the 4 children in our family. There were napkin animals, magic tricks, jokes, puns and riddles. In return the children taught him a few of their own for him to add to his repertoire for future passengers. Oka, also accepted special orders in advance for the following evening. The kids in particular became hooked on the Fettuccine Alfredo with extra sauce and extra cheese on the side. He found out that our daughter was head over heels for shellfish. A couple of nights she dined on 2 double portions of huge shrimp, one for an appetizer and one for dinner. Following her first taste and love at first sight with King Crab Legs, he surprised her on another night with the biggest portion of King Crab that you have ever seen! One night dinner was open seating due to the Lido Deck BBQ. The dining room was serving only in the Upper Rotterdam Dining Room on a "first come, first served basis". Oka made sure that he saved a highly coveted table for 10 (which he squeezed into 11) for us. We did not have our regular waiter, but Oka made sure he surprised our daughter once again with a huge portion of King Crab. On our last morning, Oka helped us out with breakfast once again. The steward was insisting our family, together again for one last time until most likely next Christmas, had to split up into two tables of 6 & 5. Oka raced across the room and whisked us off to a table for ten, quickly adding an additional place setting and chair. Obviously this is why he "gets paid the big bucks." There has to be a better way with the March and festivities taking place at dessert time for the Main seating in the Upper dining room. Being the "late" seating we were just being served our entrees in the darkness of the festivities. The Baked Alaska on the upper level was most likely to die for; however downstairs, after our meal, we were served a melted mushy mess. I was embarrassed for the dining room staff actually having to "slop" the drippings onto the plates. Even the wine stewards are ragged. Some nights sodas were not received until the entree was being served. Those drinking soda gave up on ordering seconds and simply began ordering two sodas at one time. The wine steward quickly picked up on this and kindly obliged and kept this as a standing order. One night, and one night only, toward the middle of the cruise, the "standing" soda order was already present on the table when we arrived! If you love wine, and are adventurous, you have to love the Zaandam's "Wine Navigator." These packages offered a mix of wines from all over the world. The Wine Navigator Package was priced 4 bottles for $82 or 6 bottles for $125. You are able to pay for the package and then as you go, choose from the list of wines offered. Choose every bottle the same, or try a different one each night! My Mom and sister-in-lawn really lucked out since two of their favorite wines were offered through the "Admiral's Choice" Package. This package offers higher price pointed wines, which were 6 bottles for $175. Both packages offered savings on a good balance of whites and reds from around the world. The price of the packages does not include the automatic 15% gratuity. Guess it would not happen too often, but the night we had open seating for dinner, those ordering individual bottles of wine as I did, vs. those ordering from "their package" were served first. My bottle of wine arrived at the table in a timely manner. The wine from the package, which my Mom had selected, did not arrive at the table until the salad was being served. Perhaps the wine steward felt I deserved better service since the 15% auto tip was going directly into his pocket vs. that from the Wine Package that was already pre-paid and presumably pooled among all the wine stewards? Breakfast here was awesome and cappuccino or espressos were at no extra charge. Service in the morning was excellent in every way. Most of the time, the toast was actually even still warm. Diabetic selections in the Lido and the Dining Room are excellent. You will have no trouble dining on this cruise, even more so in the goodie department ... sugar free ice creams, cookies, desserts... Items are hardly if at all salted (including popcorn at the theater) so those on low sodium diets will have no problems. If you like salt, be prepared to "shake, shake, shake." Soups and breads were especially excellent, as well as the King Crab Legs and most of the Appetizers. "Daily Alternatives" were offered: Caesar Salad, Grilled Salmon, Broiled Chicken Breast and Grilled Sirloin Steak. The Sirloin was disappointing in that it was "hit or miss." Just about everyone at our table ordered it on one night or another, and whether ordered rare or medium well, the taste was never consistent. Portions for all of the courses served were a perfect size. Each of us always had enough room to sample dessert. Again though, if HAL would like to show true quality of their line they would not bother serving certain items such as Carpaccio. Offered on several evenings, it was so paltry, it was laughable. There IS a difference between thinly sliced and translucent. If you do order it, ask for a double! Christmas -- The rest of the family had cruised two years again over Christmas with RCI and were moved to tears by the beauty and amount of decorations around the Grandeur of the Seas. The Zaandam in their opinion was very lacking in comparison. Just no oomph! Yes, each cabin door had a small wreath, there were Gingerbread houses at the entrance to the dining room and Christmas trees were not overly abundant. Yes there were fresh flowers in Christmas displays, including the cabins and dining room. Chocolate Santas were put out on display at the Lido Buffet on the 27th of December, the day after the Chocolate Extravaganza on the 26th. Two days before the end of the cruise the ship's flowers were for the most part wilted and dead. I personally would prefer they just remove the dead/dying flower arrangements, as opposed to the sad remnants of dried carnations and wilted orchids left in the holiday aftermath. Egg Nog was served Christmas morning to those waiting in the Mondrian Lounge for those waiting for Santa. Following an old fashioned "sing-a-long" we watched via two large screens, Santa's trek from arrival at the top of the ship's stack, down the ladder onto the sports deck and then various stops such as the spa, weight room and Lido prior to his "live" entrance to the Lounge. IMHO, call it sour grapes if you like, but I do need to mention the selfishness of the childless persons who crowded the front of the lounge. I am not saying that this is a "family only" event, but it would have been nice if families with children received some type of priority seating in the lounge. With an 8:30 p.m. dinner seating which was all which could be offered 5 months prior to booking, how early could we drag our eight year old out of bed the next morning to get a seat in the front of the lounge? After we opened Santa's gifts in our cabin, attended breakfast with the rest of the family in the dining room, which HAL so thoughtfully served until 10 a.m., our family made the lounge 15 minutes prior to Santa's arrival. This was not nearly enough time to get those highly coveted seats near Santa which had already been taken by those who did not have "family obligations" prior to Santa's arrival. Kids received a wrapped gift, a "Club HAL" baseball cap, and had their picture taken with Santa by the ship's photographer. This made another nice cruise keepsake for only the price of a ship's photo gallery. I can fully understand how older or single folks would like to see the delight in the children upon seeing Santa, but how about giving a break to the parents? Our kids only believe in Santa for so many years, why not let us appreciate it while it lasts. When the day comes and our children no longer "believe" we will gladly join you in the back of the lounge to make room for the younger families. Itinerary & Weather -- 4 full days at sea, one of the reasons our family chose this itinerary/ship, the ship was our destination and resort. We had near perfect weather with a mostly cloudy and cool sail away. First day at sea was more clouds than sun and last day was chillier and mostly cloudy. The other days in between were stunning Caribbean perfect with warm temperatures and refreshing trade winds. Most mornings, as typical of the Caribbean, there were also rainbows a plenty. That late afternoon and throughout the evening of our last night the waves were reaching upwards to 13 feet+ along with a gale force wind which made the ship very "creaky." If you were a novice cruiser you did notice the "barf bags" placed at all elevators, but did not know that this would mean a rough night. After departing Half Moon Cay, it was too windy to be out on deck. All in all this made for an excellent opportunity for packing and last minute on board shopping. The Mohito Happy Hour was moved from the Aft pool to the mid-ship Lido Swimming Pool where the roof was closed well before 3 p.m. Tortola -- Here is a tale of two families who choose two outings. Half of the family, a party of five, awoke early and were off the ship just after 8 a.m. Their aim was to catch one of the ferries to the Baths. Walking off of the pier, both Speedy's and Smith's Ferry companies had representatives selling packages. The party of five, basically ended up going with Speedy's after the reps from each company fought back and forth over who was going to charge what. Speedy's finally won the competition. By this time, it was going to be cutting time short for them to walk from the pier over to Speedy's ferry departure point. The Speedy's rep was kind enough to throw in a free taxi ride for the five of them so they could make the ferry in time. The family had a terrific time exploring the Baths and then a late lunch at the "Top of the Baths" before taking the ferry back to Road Town. The rest of us got off the ship after lunch and "tried" to hire a taxi. All the drivers were absolutely insisting that we had to go to Cane Garden Bay. We politely declined asking for a ride to either Brewer's Bay or Sapphire Beach. They continued to refuse to take us to Brewer's Bay and to them Sapphire was just way too far and out of the question. After seeing some threads regarding the water conditions, we told them that we thought the water may be unsafe due to discharge from the boats anchoring here. Of course they stated this was not correct. Our vacation, and health, so we did not want to take a chance, especially knowing there were other places we could visit. As a side note, HAL no longer offers their Cane Garden Bay excursion. Interestingly enough, it was only when the six of us turned away to re-board the ship, where we would not have to pay a taxi to get to the ship's swimming pool, and thus taking our money with us, that one of the drivers came forward. He was more than happy to take us to our destination of Brewer's Bay. He was even fortunate enough to fill up his taxi with six additional people. Evidently after agreeing to a return time in two and a half hours it was worth his time since he parked and hung out at the snack bar. We paid $10 pp round trip from the ship to Brewer's Bay. It was a great place to hang out even if you have only a few hours, much cheaper than any three-hour beach excursion the ship could offer. You can rent chaise lounges for $5 each. There is a bar with liquor and snacks. The ride over and back was a good way to see the beautiful vistas and the driver was kind enough to stop for photo opportunities without even being asked. Snorkeling is off to the west side of the beach along the rock cliff. The water is fairly shallow and clear. There are a few rocks on this west end of the beach, but water shoes are not required. Walk/swim a short ways out and the bottom becomes ALL sand. The further you walk east down the beach, the sandier it gets. When in Tortola, if you do not want to venture to the Baths this is a great alternative! In our case the Baths were not doable for my 90+ y/o grandmother. She went to Brewer's with us and loved watching her granddaughter swimming and playing in the sand. St. Martin -- Mom and Dad did what they do best here, spending 4 hours making a sizable donation to their friends at Ballerina Jewelers. The ship's "Discover Scuba" excursion was sold out way in advance of sailing. I found out through this board about Shore Trips® so for an additional $12 per person over the ship's excursion price my brother, niece and sister-in-law booked a trip through them to try out scuba. As had happened with my husband and I after our first dive, once you do it, you are hooked! They had a fine experience with Shore Trips® and would not hesitate to use them again. The rest of the family enjoyed the Aft swimming pool which, as you can imagine was very peaceful. Barbados -- Wow is all I can say! This day was by far one of the highlights of our Christmas cruise aboard the Zaandam. We sailed aboard the Silver Moon II on Christmas Eve for their 5 hour Lunch Cruise. The new 45' catamaran is sister to the original 44' Silver Moon. SM II sails this lunch cruise with a maximum of 18 people aboard. Cost was $80 per adult and $50 per child and well worth the expense. The cat does hold up to 40 persons for private charters, so it is obvious that there is plenty of room for 18 people to comfortably sail, drink, eat and swim or snorkel. Our family made up 11, out of a total of 18 people aboard. There was plenty of space for everyone to spread out. Never did we feel crowded. There was shade for my Grandmother and anyone else who wanted it and plenty of spots for sunning and relaxing. Captain Nick, the owner, and his crew, the kind of young men which every parent would like their daughter to marry, spoiled us from the first moment we stepped on board and we could not have been more pleased with this excursion. Our excursion this day was 10 a.m.  to 3 p.m. We were met outside of the cruise terminal and transported via mini-bus the few minute ride to the marina. The boat is new, and kept clean as a whistle. You must remove your shoes to even step aboard. We were a little concerned about my grandmother being able to walk on board, but the crew very very carefully and skillfully cajoled and assisted her. Once we were all aboard drink orders were taken and we began our 5 hours of bliss. First off we were told that there was a very strong swell out of the north and the waves were just too big to get in with the turtles. A snorkel above a couple of wrecks would be substituted instead. After a 45-minute sail, the first snorkel stop was to a reef. The crew passed out high quality and well kept, snorkel gear. At each stop one of the crew members snorkeled with the group and acted as guide. Following this snorkel, everyone re-boarded, rinsed off with the fresh water hose and ate a delicious bountiful lunch of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, fish, garlic bread and Caesar salad. All the while, we were offered unlimited soda, beer, wine, pina coladas, rum punch or strawberry daiquiris. Lunch was even followed by Rum Cake and coffee or tea. Seeing some of the other passing catamaran excursions packed to the gills, we knew no matter how much others had paid for their excursions, we had the best value for our money and it was the absolute best decision to go with Silver Moon. Don't' believe me, check out this thread ... Silver Moon Catamaran - Great !!!!! Martinique -- Been there had already done that. Brother and SIL paid $25 each for a taxi tour with another couple and now they too can say, "been there done that." DH and I spent a quiet relaxing day lounging by the aft swimming pool. Daughter spent the morning in Club HAL and then returned for the afternoon session after a dip in the pool and her luncheon feast. Please see "Club Hal" in this report for information on what this day held. Half Moon Cay This is a beautiful island for sure. It is very similar to Princess Cay, but with much more in the way of facilities. Our half day, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., on the island was shared with the passengers from the Zaandam's sister ship, the Volendam. The island's weather this day was mostly cloudy, cool and extremely windy, but nonetheless, the beach was crowded. If you are unable to walk a distance down the beach, the advice is to make sure you get to the island early. The new children's water play area was nice, however was not officially open? A water slide is just not a water slide without running water. On a Christmas cruise with a lot of kids (well for HAL right?), there was enough disappointment to go around. But they made the best of it, using the floating platforms. Most, if not all, of the excursions this day were cancelled due to high winds. To avoid the children's water park area, head north, the further the better. Food was typical out island BBQ: Baby back Ribs -- to die for, the usual hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, salads, fruit, brownies, cookies. There was also steak albeit under cooked. Zaandam Christmas Cruise 12/18- Club HAL, Disembarkation, Favs & Overall Club HAL -- The oldest and the youngest children in the group participated. In that this was a Christmas cruise there were a fair number of children aboard, but not an overwhelming amount as I thought there might be. There was no charge for the club, not even supplies. The teen made tons of new friends and generally just ended up "hanging out." Most night's teen events (ages 13 - 17) ran 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. There was an organized "get together" for the teens, for some reason it seems they were held mostly at the Aft Pool or Sky Room. With the upcoming addition of the Oasis Lounge, of course this will be the new place for the teens to gather. Our daughter picked and chose which Club HAL activities she wished to participate in. She enjoys arts & crafts and now has some nice souvenirs from her first cruise. I was not too thrilled the day she played "Toilet Tag" until I was let in on the details. This was a regular game of tag with a little bit of a different title. Only disappointment in the Club was the day we were in Martinique. We had signed up our DD the day before as required. When my husband went to sign her into the club that morning, none of the Club HAL staff was there. "They" decided they felt like taking the day off, and we were "lucky" that one of the male entertainers "volunteered" to man the Club that day. My husband chatted with the gentleman long enough to determine he felt safe leaving DD at the Club. Our daughter happily played on the computer for a couple of hours, but obviously that was beside the point. Disembarkation -- Debarkation on Dec. 28 was miserable. I don't believe this was any fault of the cruise line. Departure questionnaires were left in our cabin earlier in the week. Since we had driven to the Port, we knew we would be some of the last people off of the ship. Each cabin was later assigned a letter, which would be called for disembarkation. It is terrific that HAL allows you to remain in your cabin, so were astonished they had repeat the age old announcement for people not to gather around the gangway, staircases, etc. Although the ship had arrived in Port on time, there were the usual cases of inconsiderate passengers needing being paged over and over to report to immigration. The first numbers were not called until about 9:30 a.m. We did not get off until almost 10:30 a.m. The good news was that if you did NOT require a porter it was very easy to claim your luggage and get out of the terminal. If you need to get to Orlando definitely make arrangements to have someone meet you rather than relying on the whim of one of the taxi drivers. Our Radisson shuttle picked us up and took us back to the resort to retrieve our cars. Overall Experience -- Another holiday cruiser stated they "would return to HAL. However, we all felt that Princess was slightly better than HAL." Our group was of mixed opinions. The three kids who had cruised previously with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean would choose Royal Caribbean. HAL would have won us over completely if their dining room service were improved and the quality of the food elevated just ever so much. Problems with the cabins were annoying but as time has faded become less important. Let's just say it was good enough that three in our group just booked a suite on the Westerdam for a 15 day transatlantic cruise in April. Favorites: 1. Our kids loved the Pizza & Taco Bar in the Lido. 2. Salad bar and Ice Cream bar in the Lido. 3. Cappuccino and Espresso at the Java Bar. 4. Soda card at a little over $50 (including the non-optional 15% gratuity) sounds like a lot of money but is actually a bargain. If you drink two sodas per day, it pays for itself. In the hot Caribbean sun if you drink more than that, you will be ahead of the game. Thumbs up to HAL for including ginger ale and Diet Sprite in the package. 5. Chocolate Chip Cookies. Classy Touches: 1. Terry cloth hand towels in the public restrooms. 2. Pleather document holder. 3. Keepsake Portfolio of Captain's Farewell Dinner & Christmas Dinner menus. 4. A wheelchair was given to my grandmother for her use throughout the entire cruise. She is able to walk short distances with the aid of a cane to get her from place to place on the ship. Our last night at sea was too rough for her to walk at which time she was able to revert to using the wheelchair rather than miss dinner in the dining room. 5. Happy to see a cruise line who still conducts a kitchen tour. 6. The Cruise Log presented at the end of the voyage makes another nice keepsake of our trip. Could Have Done Without -- It was heavenly, there were only sporadic "reports from the bridge" given by the Chief Navigator, not the Captain. Sadly, we had bingo announcements a plenty. "You gotta be in it to win it"... Daily bingo announcements are just plain rotten. If the passengers cannot remember what time bingo is scheduled, let them carry the daily schedule with them. Additional Notes: My husband does not buy the latest fashions in clothes, doesn't have a ear splitting stereo or an expensive sports car. He is however what I refer to as a "coffee snob." No Starbucks double Latte for him, just good, high quality, read expensive, coffee and the right machines for grinding his own beans and brewing the perfect cup. The one complaint I hear from him, everywhere but inside our own home, is how rotten the coffee is. Finally I can send him to the Zaandam! Whether in the Lido, Dining Room or Java Bar the coffee was near perfection and lived up to his expectations. Upon arrival, each cabin already had a nice complimentary holiday arrangement. For this Christmas cruise there was an additional offering of Holiday gifts available for delivery once aboard. DH and I purchased various gifts for our family and ourselves directly through Hal's Ship Services. Besides the 28 inch Christmas Tree for my grandmother's cabin and the 16 inch trees for our other three cabins. We ordered "Frosty The Snowman" for our daughter. The description was labeled a "festive drum filled with traditional seasonal trimmings." Traditional seasonal trimmings it indeed did have. So fresh and so green was it that my allergies forced Frosty into relocating to my parents cabin. There were also bottles of wines and orders of Chocolate strawberries with Champagne. We had faxed the order to ship's services well in advance of departure and brought the copies with us should there have been any problems with delivery. Each and every item arrived on the appointed day and nothing was forgotten. Especially wonderful was not only the chocolate covered strawberries, but the California Chase-Limogere, Brut which came with it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2004
This was actually my very first cruise experience! Before we set sail, I read some of the posted reviews, so I wanted to share my thoughts as well. We sailed on HAL's Zaandam ship to the Eastern Caribbean in December of 2004. This ... Read More
This was actually my very first cruise experience! Before we set sail, I read some of the posted reviews, so I wanted to share my thoughts as well. We sailed on HAL's Zaandam ship to the Eastern Caribbean in December of 2004. This trip was actually a gift from family members so we did not necessarily pick this cruise line, but we were very thankful to go! Let me first say that we are a young couple in our late 20's. I mention this because it is important for perspective buyers to know that the age demographic of this cruise was somewhere between 65-75. We knew this before leaving, but we were still a bit surprised. While the ship does offer activities for children, it seems to lack attention to anyone in the 18-40 age group. Thankfully we focused in the port visits. You could tell that the ship's staff is trying to improve on this point. It will be interesting to see how effective HAL will be on attracting a younger audience in the future. That said -- we decided to focus on relaxation and fine dining. On these points, the Zaandam shines. The staff, which is primarily Indonesian, was wonderful! Very attentive. Our needs were constantly met, the room was comfortable and very clean. Every night our beds were turned down and a chocolate was found on each pillow as an additional treat. The food seemed to constantly exceed expectations... the buffet offered wonderful options and the dining room was exceptional. With casual, informal and formal nights, we experienced a variety of options. Our dining stewards became members of the family.... they recognized our preferences and continually offered them every night. A good example is that my mother-in-law asked for an iced tea on the first night... the next evening, her iced tea was waiting for her! The wonderful attention to detail helped make us feel special. The entertainment was pretty good... a bit cheesy, but good. Everyone is a critic, but we just decided to enjoy what was offered and realize that every night offered a new option. An on-ship movie theatre was a nice alternative! The ports of call were a welcome sight... we decided to avoid the ship's shore excursions and do a bit of our own exploring. We enjoyed the islands very much. Overall, this cruise experience was great for a first timer. We will probably look for a cruise line with a slightly younger appeal next time... but if you are looking for a relaxing trip with exceptional service, try the Zaandam! Read Less
Sail Date December 2004
The Zaandam is a beautiful ship. Small and elegant. The public spaces were tastefully decorated and and the cabins were not too small. The bathtub was very small, almost a washtub. The service in the main dining room was acceptable but ... Read More
The Zaandam is a beautiful ship. Small and elegant. The public spaces were tastefully decorated and and the cabins were not too small. The bathtub was very small, almost a washtub. The service in the main dining room was acceptable but not exceptionable. The food was good but menu very limited. We had to ask for bread 3 times in one night. The service in the buffet was worse. Good luck in the buffet, the lines were long and the food was limited. Closed down early compared to other ships I have been on. The pool area is small. Water cold. The ship staff seemed to not want to be there. No one smiled or even made conversation till the last day. The rooms were not made up quickly and no cute towel animals for our enjoyment like on other ships. I am not sure if this is the norm on this ship or if it was due to the fact that most of the ship's crew's contracts were up. I thought we had booked a luxury cruise and we were very disappointed. I don't think we will sail with this line again. As much as we love cruising, this line has lost clients. Read Less
Sail Date November 2004
As would-be first time cruisers, my husband and I debated for several weeks whether or not we should even take a cruise vacation. Weighing concerns over claustrophobia (a red herring worry) and seasickness (ditto, except for some weird ... Read More
As would-be first time cruisers, my husband and I debated for several weeks whether or not we should even take a cruise vacation. Weighing concerns over claustrophobia (a red herring worry) and seasickness (ditto, except for some weird feelings of suspended equilibrium the first night) and the feeling that we would be big losers not to take a cool vacation for once in a long time, we finally decided to give it a shot. But then, next big decision! Where to go, what cruise line, when, how long? Our nearest embarkation port was Jacksonville, serviced primarily by Carnival. After a little research on this website and others, we decided that Carnival was not the way to go for us. We are thirty-something professional types with no kids, but being the party animals at our age when we weren't at 21 is not our idea of a fun way to spend a vacation. Visions of dressing up for dinner and "adult" music and beautiful public areas kept popping up in our head. In all fairness, we have not cruised with Carnival, so it may be the place for you, but from what we researched, it would not have suited us. We looked farther afield, and discovered that the selection was much bigger in Port Canaveral. Disney, Carnival, RC (we think), and Holland America (HAL) all sail from there, and to boot, the port was only a four-hour straight shot from us down I-95. Again, the Internet was very helpful, and HAL emerged as the victor. We liked the fact that all the reviews raved about the good food and classy interiors, and we appreciated the fact that while some complained about a slower night life and social calendar, that was just our speed. OK, feeling very proud of ourselves for completing two of the four requirements for booking a cruise -- port and line -- we then narrowed it down to Thanksgiving week so we wouldn't have to take as many vacation days off from work. The only route available from HAL for that week was Western Caribbean (Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios, and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, HAL's private island). So far, so good. Of course, our only frame of reference was prior to last Saturday the Internet reviews and the experiences of friends and family on other cruise lines. When we finally turned off of I-95 last Saturday afternoon, and came to the cruise terminal, we yelped with joy. How beautiful! How majestic! The signs for HAL's terminal were clearly marked, and it was a piece of cake to get there. The shore baggage handling functions similarly to outside check-in at the airport, but we were not happy with the surly guy taking our luggage. I doubt he's a direct HAL E/E but probably an independent K/R type. Once we parked the car in the lot ($10 a day prepaid and very easy), we went inside the HAL terminal where we waited in a LONG line for about 50 minutes to check in and show our ID credentials. My only complaint -- provide some water or lemonade for us while we wait. The HAL folks were very nice and courteous (as was our experience throughout the entire cruise). Onward to the gangplank -- watch out for the photographers unless you really want a picture to purchase. We found out later it wasn't required; our mom had taken a cruise with Norwegian, and had to take a photo for her ID card, not so with HAL. The interiors of the Zaandam are very understated in a very hip European manner with lots of interesting unexpected but quite tasteful color and texture combinations. I'm told the ship is not as large of some others, but I wouldn't have known. Tucked away are lots of little lounges with great places to chat with new friends or read a book. But more about the interiors later. Our room (#3308) was off by itself in the middle of the Lower Promenade deck close to the front of the ship. We were concerned about vibration, which as landlubbers were experienced the first night, but we got used to it, and would probably take the same room again. Oh, don't worry about getting an outside window unless you are farther up in the ship -- the windows on the Promenade deck were always curtained b/c everyone walks past them and peers in on their exercise circuits around the deck. We had a windowless inside room, so no worries on that count. The room was arranged with conservation and maximization of space in mind, and we had plenty of space for our things. A word about our cabin steward. I wish I could take him home. Our room was spotless the first day and throughout our entire cruise. Saephul is a quiet and diligent young man who obviously takes a great deal of pride in his work. It shows. Any time we needed new towels, we'd leave them to be picked up, and we'd return a few hours later for new ones (this was several times a day if we went swimming and then changed for dinner). The bathroom was immaculate at any time of the day, and our beds were turned down at night with chocolates on the pillows. (I agree with other reviewers -- bring sodas b/c they are $1.75 a pop on the ship -- $2.00 for mineral water. We brought a six pack of Sprites with screw on caps and made liberal use of the ice bucket and glasses. Next time, I'd bring more.) Saephul got an extra tip for his performance above and beyond the call of duty. Food. When you first get on board, don't make the mistake I did as a newbie cruiser, and think that the only food available is at the Lido Pool (tacos, burgers, hot dogs). Wrong! Continue to go aft, and you will run smack dap in the middle of buffet heaven -- the Lido! Yum! The Lido ended up being our breakfast stop (great European muesli and chocolate croissants), and our sometimes lunch place (the main Rotterdam dining room was a little slow if you came back to eat during a port of call day). PLEASE, PLEASE eat in the dining room for your evening meal. My husband and I felt like a king and queen each night with "Budi" and Wheni. Elegance, refinement, sophistication. The food and atmosphere in and of themselves were well worth the price of our ticket. That kind of meal would have cost us easily $100 to $150 in a local upmarket restaurant. The soups were excellent, as were any appetizer you cared to mention. My husband had the best lobster of his life, and I dearly loved the desserts (especially the mango-based ones). All I can say is "Baked Alaska" -- you'll see what I mean if you sail on the Zaandam. Only item that we had to work around was our late seating (8:30 p.m.), but you get used to it; we just went to the late shows and took a nap or rested in the afternoon.) Also, try to make the afternoon teas (around 3-3:30 p.m.) -- the pastry chefs throw out all the stops, and you pretend you are in a movie with Helena Bonham-Carter or Kate Winslet. The food again is extraordinary (and my husband and I are tough culinary customers). We don't care a thing about gambling -- can't really comment on the casino except to say it was always busy when it was open. Zelda in the gift shop is a dear, and was never without a smile or kind word --a beautiful person inside and out. Lots of opportunities for formal pictures (there are two formal nights in the dining room -- about 30% tuxedos and the rest nice suits and ties with some evening gowns and mostly ultra nice dresses) -- the photographers are nice guys from the former Yugoslavia. The evening shows were pretty good -- my husband is more the one for Vegas style shows. I prefer classical music and old ballads, so the Atlantis Strings (the Zaandam chamber group) were really FANTASTIC. Some nights after the older passengers had gone to bed (10:30 p.m. or so), they played to an empty room. But don't believe other reviews that there's absolutely NO night life on HAL ships -- just go to the Crow's Nest or the Piano Bar. Karaoke night was loads of fun, and as shy as I am about singing in public, I actually participated! (It's nice and sweet to have your better half cheering you on!) Ports of call. If you speak Spanish and you've been to Mexico before, Cozumel can be lots of fun. If you don't, and you're scared to haggle, you might be overwhelmed. Juan, our taxi driver to San Miguel from Puerto Maya was very friendly, and pleased that we spoke conversational Spanish with him. There's a set rate of $6 to take you to San Miguel, the main town, but Juan let us have it for $5 after we had a big conversation with him all the way to town in Spanish. Most of the stores have the same tourist kitsch in Cozumel -- T-shirts, beach knickknacks -- and more valuable jewelry (diamonds, etc.) than I would ever need or want. We highly recommend the Museo del Cozumel -- it was very well done with modern exhibits. Don't miss the Maya Casita in the courtyard of the museum -- the explanations were really fantastic if you are near fluent in Spanish, but not bad just in English. The exhibits have dual language explanations with good English translations. Also stop by the Church of San Miguel -- the first Mass in Mexico was celebrated on that spot in 1519 by Cortez's priests. I regret that I did not go to the "local" grocery store (I love doing that in foreign countries) and buying some Mexican vanilla. I will next time. I heard from others that snorkeling on your own at Chankannab park was great. Grand Cayman -- lots of lingering hurricane damage and clean up. We were restricted to George Town as a result because 75% of the island was closed to tourists, and walked around to the shops a lot. I got bored just looking at jewelry so I went to observe a court proceeding at the Grand Cayman courthouse; make sure you are dressed appropriately (no shorts or jeans), and they will let you in if the trial or proceeding is open to the public. Same good behavior is expected there as it would be in the States; it was fascinating to me because they follow English common law as a British possession. We wanted to go to Pedro St. James, but that was also off limits. Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- what an experience. Within 15 minutes of walking from the Reynolds pier (next to the bauxite factory and about a ten minute walk from the main town), my husband was offered marijuana and prostitutes (female and male). EVERYONE wanted a tip for some minor act -- no problem, mon. We took our only shore excursion of the trip, a van ride to the "Enchanted Gardens." In reality, the gardens were the grounds for the now defunct Shaw Park Hotel (which our singing guide Anne told us is owned by a former Jamaican prime minister...ahem). Lovely and strikingly verdant but a little run down. I had never been in a tropical rain forest before, so I enjoyed it. What I did not enjoy was the guilt trip our tour videographer (Anne's sidekick) gave us to buy her video (at $25) -- nice girl, but again, it's that Jamaican tip thing. Quite frankly, I was glad to have taken a shore excursion in Ocho Rios (see comments about my tall and strong husband's experiences above), but at $29 a head, I think it was a bit much, considering the Lonely Planet Jamaica guide in the ship's library quoted $4 a head for entrance to the gardens. Granted, we were paying for a van, too, but gee whiz. Also disturbing to me was the fire eating man that our driver just happened to come across on our way to the gardens. Of course he ate fire and rubbed it across his hands, but ramming it down his shorts was too much for me. It repulsed and saddened me. If I never go to Jamaica again, I would be OK. Hopefully, though, "Ochee" is not like the rest of Jamaica. Half Moon Cay is the most pristine beach I have ever been to -- we had a little delay in getting there because of the weather, but I'm glad I hung in there. My husband, the trooper, walked the Columbus trail to the coral reef, and saw lots of cool natural scenes, including cranky crabs, and lots of fish and birds; 80% plus of the island is a dedicated natural preserve. We had a beach BBQ there that was very organized and tasty. The water is GORGEOUS, and so CLEAR!!! Wished we could have stayed MUCH longer. We sailed back through the Bahamas and saw the lights of Freeport and Nassau, and made it to Port Canaveral on time. We got off later because we were driving home and didn't have a plane to catch. Only complaint about disembarkation was the lack of any carts or porters at the luggage pick-up point before we got to the customs desk. A number of quite elderly passengers were struggling with several suitcases, and no one was there to help them. (Even we younger folks were straining a little bit.) One very nice surprise and plus to HAL is the type of fellow passenger that it tends to attract. We met in the last week some of the most urbane, intellectual, exciting, and NICE people we have met in a very long time. International passengers as well as those from all over the US are not few and far between, and being able to dine with them or just strike up a conversation with them on the promenade was a great pleasure and bonus. The fact that HAL takes the trouble to deliver a mini daily newspaper in your language, suited to your nationality (NY Times for Americans; London Times for UK citizens, etc.) says a lot about HAL's outlook. The little extras that HAL offers are wonderful -- a java bar with unlimited speciality coffee drinks, popcorn with movies, and star gazing with the navigation officer. Try HAL, you won't be disappointed. We are already looking for our next trip with them! Read Less
Sail Date November 2004
This was our fifth cruise and second with Holland America. Our previous experience with HAL was in March on the Zuiderdam. We booked this cruise about 3 weeks after returning. Some of you may have read our Zuiderdam review and are aware of ... Read More
This was our fifth cruise and second with Holland America. Our previous experience with HAL was in March on the Zuiderdam. We booked this cruise about 3 weeks after returning. Some of you may have read our Zuiderdam review and are aware of Diane's phobia on flying. Well, there was no wine on the plane to go with her "feel good pills" so she drank champagne. Let me assure you she will NEVER try to replace wine with champagne again. The flight was an utter disaster. We flew into Orlando a day early, rented a car and stayed at the Clarion near the airport. The room was nice. They had a complimentary cocktail hour and breakfast. The breakfast was supposed to start at 7 a.m. but was not set up until 8 a.m. It took me 30 minutes to check in and 45 minutes to check out. We had reservations for the end of the cruise but we canceled them. Saturday morning we drove the 45 miles on 528 E to Port Canaveral. Again, Diane's fear of traveling in anything moving faster than "It's a Small World After all" ride at Disney World resulted in an 1.25 hour drive. Anybody else can make this trip in 45-50 minutes. Embarkation: Holland America makes this process so easy. There were porters there taking our luggage from the shuttle van onto their cart and we walked into the terminal. No hauling luggage at all. We arrived at the pier at 11:45, security check line took 20 minutes and check in took 5 minutes. There is a separate line for suite guests. Itinerary: Anybody ready to be confused: At booking the itinerary was: Cozumel; Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and Half Moon Cay (HAL's private island). Before cruise: Due to hurricanes Grand Cayman was dropped and sea day added. Day of cruise: Grand Cayman back on itinerary and drop extra sea day. Day 3 of cruise: Pick-up shipwrecked Cubans (3) and drop Ocho Rios from itinerary and add a sea day. Yeah you read that right. The captain got a distress call and spent 8 hours sailing around looking for the people. He found them at 3 a.m. That took care of the 8 hours we were to have on Jamaica. The Bahamian government refused to take the Cubans so Thursday day night a Coast Guard cutter took them off our hands. The Ship: You who have cruised know how you feel when you first board a cruise ship and so you know what we were feeling. We have been so blessed being able to cruise three times this year. Boarding just brought us into a totally different world. The Zaandam is not what I would call a beautiful ship. It has all the amenities you can expect but on a smaller scale than the bigger ships. It is clean and well maintained. There is the centerpiece pipe organ in the atrium which plays 4 times a day, a harpsichord which I told Diane was "half a piano" which she believed, guitars signed by numerous musicians, etc. Rotterdam Dining Room: This is the main dining room. It is a two level affair with two dinner seatings for each level. We had a table for two early seating on the lower level at 6:15 (upper level early seating is 5:45). This was the first time we have not been seated with at least 4 other guests. We missed the companionship and conversation with other guests and will probably not do this again. Service was poor. The first night I got tired of looking at my empty coffee cup after 10 minutes so we went to the Lido Restaurant and got our own coffee. The next night the steward, waiter and assistant waiter were very apologetic and bent over backward to take care of us. But on the second formal night the same thing happened. This time we waited and the steward and waiter again apologized for the delays. Worst service I have ever had on a ship. The food is well presented and very good. However, I was not impressed with the selection. We had dinner menus in our room each day. With this knowledge we only ate in the dining room 3 nights. We ate once at the poolside on BBQ Night and at the Lido Restaurant the other 3 nights. The same meals served in both places (big disappointment) but at least we did not have to wait. Lido Restaurant: The food in the buffet style restaurant is very good for breakfast and lunch. While there are not the multiple stations like other ships the lines ran smoothly and quickly. I was disappointed with the dinner menu however. The food is good and well presented but it's the same thing being served in the dinning room. It seems to me there should be a different menu in each dinner venue. The other disappointment was the juice availability. On other ships the juice is available along with ice tea, tea and coffee. With the exception of breakfast the only way you could get juice was to ask one of the stewards who would get the juice from the back. Grill/Pizza: Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos and pizza available by the pool. Very tasty. Pinnacle: Sometimes I think cruises are over too quickly. We had planned to make reservations but never got around to it. Our loss. Others said the food and service were terrific. Stateroom: The main requirement we had was a verandah. We prefer to relax and enjoy each other's company and this is most easily accomplished in our stateroom and on our balcony. We booked an S suite 7012 on the Navigator Deck. The balcony had two lounge chairs and a table with 4 chairs. Great for breakfast while in our HAL robes. The room itself is very spacious with a separate dressing room with lighted make-up mirror and a small sink. Diane loved this and had me take 4 pictures of her sitting there during the cruise. The bathroom has a water jet tub. There is one sink verses two on the Zuiderdam. Lounges: Bunches of these each with its own atmosphere. We are smokers so we were limited to which lounges to visit and where to sit. For you non-smokers this should make you very happy. The entertainment varied and was enjoyable. Casino: We aren't gamblers so the fact that this was the smallest casino we have ever seen was not a problem. This was the first time I have won at slots on a cruise ship. To you big time gamblers my $45 winnings are probably laughable. Diane won $183 at Bingo. Mandarin Lounge: The entertainment was varied, pleasant and enjoyable. The usual cruise ship fare. Activities: The Cruise Director and her staff put on a number of activities throughout the cruise and there were around 7 different movies offered throughout the week. Photography: This continues to be my pet peeve as on every cruise we have taken. We enjoy pictures of our experiences. On each cruise I take between 200 and 300 pictures and purchase many of the pictures of the ships photographer. We purchase an album and additional pages on the ship to display the photos. The embarkation picture starts off each of our albums. All I want is a simple 5x7 picture but no-o-o-o I have to also take the folder and a 5x7 picture of the ship and pay $19.90. Then the photographers on Formal nights don't know how to take a picture of a tall person (I'm 6'2") without cutting off the top of my head but leave 2 inches of the bottom of the photo for the ship's carpeting. I have mentioned this twice before taking the picture and they still get it wrong. Excursions: Cozumel: We were to snorkel but due to strong winds, all water excursions were cancelled. We just shopped at the market place. Grand Cayman: We just did a little shopping here. Let me say one thing about a restaurant named Breezes By The Sea. It is near the tender drop off. The pricing is in GCD NOT USD. The conversion is $.80 GCD to $1.00 US. The only way you know this is if you read the small writing at the bottom of the menu. Also at the bottom of the menu it mentions a 15% gratuity is added to the bill. Two Pina Coladas, a serving of peel and eat shrimp and a cheeseburger w/ cole slaw (no fries) came to $48.56 U.S. All the stores were priced USD but not this rip-off joint. They were doing a fantastic business the day we were there. Ocho Rios: Swimming with the Dolphins cancelled as stop here was canceled. Half Moon Cay: There have been a number of excursions added since our visit in March. Because we had missed out on snorkeling in Cozumel and swimming with dolphins in Jamaica we decided to snorkel with the sting rays. This offering had just begun the week before. It was great fun and we enjoy laughing at pictures of ourselves in the gear. Staff: With the exception of the wait staff in the dining room the staff was great. Our room steward, Shaq was excellent. If we had an issue we simply left a Post-It note and it was addressed. When we entertained in our room it was cleaned as soon as we left. I am sure he was watching for us to leave so he could do his thing. Conclusion: While there were a number of disappointments with this cruise it has not lessened our love of cruising. On a scale of 1-10 we give this an 8. We were never for want of food but the Lido dinner menu and juice availability have a lot of room for improvement. After the Zuiderdam cruise I was hooked on Holland America but now I think it's time to try Princess and RCI. Keep on Cruising Read Less
Sail Date November 2004
This was our 8th cruise, but first on Holland America and we are ready to go again! The Zaandam was in excellent condition and definitely a cut above the ships we had sailed on NCL, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. Service was outstanding ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise, but first on Holland America and we are ready to go again! The Zaandam was in excellent condition and definitely a cut above the ships we had sailed on NCL, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. Service was outstanding and my husband and I found the crew to be friendly and helpful. We had a category E large outside cabin on the Dolphin deck and it was very comfortable with the new high beds, wonderful new linens, a sofa, easy chair, desk/makeup table, and bathroom with a bathtub. Our steward did a fine job, but not timely in that our cabin usually wasn't cleaned until early afternoon; this was different from our previous cruises where our cabins were always cleaned during breakfast. Embarkation was painless and we arrived at Port Canaveral at 11:30 a.m., parked our car in the attached lot, and were on board by noon. Lunch was served at the Lido Buffet and we found the food there to be the best cruise buffet we've ever experienced, with many choices and not the same food day after day. Our cabin was ready by 1:30 and our luggage had already arrived before that. So, we were unpacked and ready to rock and roll by mid-afternoon. We had terrific tablemates for dinner and they made the cruise very special for us. We only ate in the dining room for dinner, preferring to have breakfast and lunch in the Lido. Dinners were, for the most part, pretty good, although there were some items that weren't exactly as described in the menu. The lobster tails were good a size and I had two while hubby had three. We spent my birthday dinner in the Pinnacle Grill and that restaurant is not to be missed. Definitely a five star experience! Our waiter and assistant waiter were pleasant, but did not engage in friendly banter with us at all during the week. The wine steward was very friendly every evening. We had ordered the wine package (6 bottles for $125 plus 15% tip) and he took care of it for us every evening. The weather was perfect all week except for a little rain the morning of Half Moon Cay which later cleared up. Everyone I talked to wished that HMC was a longer visit! Jamaica was a new stop for us and we enjoyed our mini-tour of Dunns River Falls, etc. with a taxi driver and a shopping trip to the Island mall near the dock. Beware of Margaritaville.....expensive drinks and very poor service. Grand Cayman and Cozumel are old hat to us now and we usually just shop and eat lunch at a favorite restaurant. We didn't swim with the stingrays this year, but have several times and it's an exciting excursion and highly recommended. GC has a lot of construction going on due to Hurricane Ivan's devastation, but the stores were open downtown and busy. I didn't go to any of the evening entertainment, but played in the casino instead. Very small casino which disappointed me, but the staff was very friendly and helpful. Hubby said some of the entertainment was ok, but nothing special. The only negative of the whole cruise was the awful behavior of children at the Lido Deck pool by the bar. There were 250 kids on board this cruise and they ruined the pool experience for me (an avid swimmer) every day with their horseplay, jumping in the pool, doing cannonballs, etc....everything posted right there they weren't supposed to do. I don't know how parents can be there and not witness the distress of adults trying to swim and/or converse. The most disgusting thing was seeing kids in diapers in the pool.....come on folks, surely you saw that prohibition on the signs posted by the pool or at least use some common sense. HAL needs to enforce the pool rules and I would prefer they have one pool for adults and one for children, as we have experienced on other cruise ships. Disembarkation was a little slow, but we drove and so we were in the last group called. A person kept being paged by Immigration for almost an hour and I believe that is what slowed down the process since passengers can't leave the ship until Immigration says so. We had a porter take our luggage right to our car and we were on our way home about 11 a.m. People for the next cruise were already arriving and did we ever want to turn around and join them for another week on the Zaandam! Overall, I would rate this cruise very highly and certainly do recommend it to future cruisers! It was a very relaxing week and we will definitely cruise on Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2004
My husband and I are in our late 40's/50's. We were looking for a quiet getaway - to read and relax and found it on the Zaandam. A small ship by new standards, but the best service from the cabin steward and dining staff that we ... Read More
My husband and I are in our late 40's/50's. We were looking for a quiet getaway - to read and relax and found it on the Zaandam. A small ship by new standards, but the best service from the cabin steward and dining staff that we have experienced in our 15 cruises. And by far, the best food. Of particular high quality were the beef entrees and the soups. I wasn't thrilled with the desserts other than bread pudding and banana's foster. As I said, the ship is small, and doesn't have all the amenities as the larger newer ships, but if you want a higher standard, a high quality passenger, a relaxing atmosphere then this will be great. If you are looking for party atmosphere, don't go here, as you will be disappointed. We still can't get over the quality of service. Everyone we encountered was absolutely top notch. I don't know how they do it, but my husband and I commented on it daily. The spa is a bit small - no inside whirlpool/spa, which I would have liked. Our room was Verandah deck 6, room 6207 and it was very nice. The sheets and towels were of very high quality, along with the carpeting, etc. We could not hear anyone from the other cabins. This is an older crowd, which was fine with us, as we said, they are well heeled, polite and quality people, unlike some of the rude crowds we have run into on the "fun" ships. There isn't a lot to do, in my opinion, which was just fine with us - we read, slept, sat on the deck by the pool and relaxed. There was the standard bingo, pool games, board games, etc. The casino is very small. We had the 8 p.m. seating, which was perfect - on the second level (desk 5), which I preferred - more intimate and quieter. We had a table for two which we requested. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill the first night, for $10 per person, instead of the $20 and I found no reason to go back. Nothing outstanding - the food in the dining room was equally as good for no extra $$. There were only 15 kids on board - yahoo. This was a plus, as we didn't want to be around kids. I would not recommend this ship at all for children. It was also nice that you didn't have to wear yourself out getting around the ship. Even though the ship is smaller, we were never crowded, and there were never lines for anything. Great! I can highly recommend the Zaandam. The ports of call were Tortola, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay, which were outstanding. In both Tortola and St. Thomas we rented private day sails, which really made our trip. After all, you have to spend time in the gorgeous water - heck I can shop at home! The water in Half Moon was even more beautiful - take advantage of the powderlike sand. Great ship if you want to relax in a quality atmosphere. The ship was spotless. Good luck. Read Less
Sail Date November 2004
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 ... Read More
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. Read Less
Sail Date October 2004
I just came off a 7 day cruise on the Zaandam. The good: It was a nice ship, tho somewhat aging, but classic decor. Nice cabin, very spacious, the best part of the cruise! Food was average, with average presentation /taste. The bad: Had ... Read More
I just came off a 7 day cruise on the Zaandam. The good: It was a nice ship, tho somewhat aging, but classic decor. Nice cabin, very spacious, the best part of the cruise! Food was average, with average presentation /taste. The bad: Had to wait in line for 2 hours to get on board, terrible long and slow embarkation! Average age was 75 yrs, and all married couples...(I am 40 and single). Terrible odor of boiled cabbage throughout atrium, main deck area, and other days it was an odor of sewage!! Same choice of breakfast buffet every day, nothing different. Poor entertainment, nothing suitable for younger age group. Very miserable bar staff especially at the Dolphin pool bar. Supposed to be designated smoking areas on ship, but this was rarely adhered to unfortunately, so it was offputting to go to any bar/lounge. Supposed to get fruit every day in cabin, but had to wait 2 days for it. No toiletries provided, had to ask, they had forgotten, then only one bar of soap for entire cruise, no replenished items (fortunately I had my own). All in all, it was nice to get away and relax in the sun, but definitely would not recommend this line for any younger, single folks that are looking for some fun and entertainment. If you are married and over 70, then it will be a perfect cruise for you. I was very disappointed, and realize that this line seems to cater for an older clientele, and is not really appropriate for a single, younger traveller... Hey! I got a good sun tan at least! Sorry Holland & America...I am sure I will cruise again with you, but probably not for another 30 yrs....then I know I will have fun and appreciate it all! Read Less
Sail Date October 2004
I've been on 3 other cruises prior to going on the MS Zaandam. I was very disappointed with the "5-star" cruise and could not wait to get home. Something that is very unusual for me since I love the Caribbean. The Good: ... Read More
I've been on 3 other cruises prior to going on the MS Zaandam. I was very disappointed with the "5-star" cruise and could not wait to get home. Something that is very unusual for me since I love the Caribbean. The Good: Embarkation and Disembarkation were actually the smoothest that I have ever experienced. It might be the timing that I arrived and the location of my room, but overall it was the smoothest process I've ever experienced in all my cruising. The crew members were very patient with my group getting our paperwork together and were quite helpful. Another positive was the layout of my room. I've always had a room with a balcony so my bed was generally in the center of the room. This time, I could only afford the room with a window, afterall it is a "5-star" cruise. The arrangement of the room, with the beds under the window, the room seemed more spacious. The closets were amazing. These were the biggest storage I've ever experienced, we were even able to put our luggage away so we weren't stepping all over them. The Bad: After reading the reviews of other cruisers, it dawned on me that it wasn't my imagination that the cabin steward, waiters, etc did not introduce themselves to us. Considering they were going to be our stewards, waiters, etc for the next 7 days I find that very impersonal and dare I say, cold. The other cruises I've experienced I still remember their names and they knew my likes and dislikes by the 2nd day. It makes sense to me that HAL incorporates an automatic $10 gratuity to your cabin bill unlike other cruises where they leave you envelopes and "suggested" amounts for each member of your "comfort team." This guarantees that the team gets a gratuity since in all reality, they may not deserve as much or even any. I understand that they did work all week to make my stay comfortable, but gratuity is defined as "something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service." Adding a mandatory $10 a day is not voluntary, especially if I don't feel they deserve it. Basically they did their job, what they are paid for, even if minimum wage. But a tip or gratuity is deserved if the person does something above the ordinary, not something extravagant, but something.. be friendly or something....take the mildew out of my bathroom... have you heard of Tilex? One night I accidentally spilled my coke in my bed. I apologized to my cabin steward and asked if he could possibly change my bed. He told me no. I thought that was special. I even offered to change it myself, if they gave me the linens.. still told no. Another Bad - I don't think I need to expand too much on this, because apparently many others wrote in detail about this... the variety and quality of food was not up to par nor were the hours of operation. Cruise lines are known for making you fatter and overstuff you with food. Not a problem here... Another Bad - Another thing I don't need to say much on because it was mentioned on other reviews.. but the average age of the guests was about 85 and HAL catered to them. Going to bed by 10:30 out of sheer boredom while on vacation is pretty sad. Another Bad - not sure what caused this because I've traveled on bigger waves, but every time we were not anchored, our ship rocked out of control. I'm surprised all the seniors didn't get sick, but if they did I hope they didn't get sick on their bed because they won't change the sheets. Last Bad to mention, there are sooo many but I don't have the time....there were too many "no's" told to the guests and dissatisfied cruisers that by Wednesday most people at the pools and bars were complaining about the cruise and swore never to cruise with HAL again. The UGLY: I have severe allergies (hospitalization, turn blue, get oxygen...bad) to foods which I told the travel agent and even called HAL prior to let them know. To have my waiter chuckle and shrug his shoulders when I asked what was in a dessert made me quite angry. Luckily I had a head waiter help out and make sure I'm good. REAL UGLY - I was on deck 2. I thought that the noise that I heard at 5 AM were the insane jogging, but it dawned on me that it was very centralized. It turns out that HAL does "moderate" cleaning at 5 AM. At 5:15 AM I called the front desk to ask them what they were doing outside my window at 5:15 AM. I was told (very politely) that they were doing "moderate cleaning" and then asked "can you hear that?" So my reply was, "If I couldn't hear it, would I be calling?" Why 5 AM? Aren't I on vacation? INCREDIBLY UGLY - Lobster is usually the meal that most cruisers look forward to. I, like my roommate, starved myself for the fabulous lobster meal. The lobsters were tiny and also was the night of the "Baked Alaska" presentation. So our waiter became MIA. On other cruise lines my waiter generally comes up and says, I have to do this parade thing, is everything ok before I go... well not our waiter. So by the time he came back to our table we were famished for more food. His response, the kitchen is closed. Well we are the first seating so we knew that they would have to open up again, so I went over his head to the head waiter. We eventually got our food and had to ask another waiter to serve us dessert. Later that evening we found out that they ran out of lobster and the second seating didn't get any at all.....HOW AWFUL!!!!! Like I mentioned above, there are so many things that went wrong with this cruise. Unfortunately if you just isolated one thing it was an oops, but unfortunately there were sooo many. So by day 3 me, along with other cruisers, were fed up and unfortunately some were taking it out on every crew member they encountered. I kept reminding my group that there are about 25% of the crew that weren't that good, but that 25% made it horrible for the other 75% and everyone had to suffer. I wish HAL and other future cruisers of HAL good luck. I will never sail with them ever again, even if it were free. If it weren't for the people I was with, it was the most miserable vacation I've ever spent. Read Less
Sail Date October 2004
The bottom-line is that the Zaandam is a great ship and we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. This was the second year in a row where we took the Zaandam cruise over our Easter break. Last year it was a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas, this year ... Read More
The bottom-line is that the Zaandam is a great ship and we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. This was the second year in a row where we took the Zaandam cruise over our Easter break. Last year it was a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas, this year it was a 7 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We drove down from Charlotte to Port Canaveral the Friday before we left and stayed at the Days Inn Cocoa Beach. I would not recommend this hotel. They were supposed to hold a cot for us and they didn't, so I got to sleep on the floor (joy). They did have the deal where you can leave your car with them for the week while you're on the cruise and Art's shuttle picks you up and takes you back. I was happy with Art's shuttle very prompt and timely. Embarkation was not the best we've ever had. We had to wait in line about 45 minutes or so and got on about 1:00. I was disappointed that there was no line for filling the forms out online ahead of time. It seemed to help a little when we got to the counter, but we still had to bring hardcopies of the forms we completed online and had to sign them in person. We also had some issues with our room keys when we first boarded. Of our five cards (wife and I and 3 kids), only two worked and we had to keep going back to the front desk to get them reprogrammed. Once on board we went to the Lido for a nice lunch and relaxed by the pool. We could get into our rooms by about 1:30. That night and the next two days were at sea days and we enjoyed the quiet ambience of the Zaandam. The kids liked the kid's club activities and my wife and I and our oldest daughter played the daily team trivia games (we won twice!). We also enjoyed the library, crows nest lounge and hanging out at the pool. The shows were good (great magician one night, pretty good comedian and the Zaandam singers were just OK). On Tuesday we pulled into Road Town, Tortola. We got off the ship about 8:15 and walked over to the marina to catch the 9 AM Speedy's boat to Virgin Gorda. We were at the Baths by about 10 AM and had a blast there. That place is so unique. It is really easy to walk down the steps to the baths. You can also walk down a different path (also easy) to the Devil's Bay beach which is gorgeous. Crawling thru the Baths was a little more difficult, but still worth it. Just so beautiful inside of there. We hiked thru the Baths and made it over to Devil's Bay and hung out there most of the morning. We took the Speedy's taxi/shuttle back at 12:30. We were back onboard the ship by 1:30, went to the Lido for a quick lunch and got back off the ship and took a taxi to Cane Garden Bay for the afternoon. The beach there was beautiful and it had some neat shops and restaurants right along the beach. We stayed there till about 5 PM and got back on the ship at 5:30 just in time to sail away. The next day we stopped in St. Thomas. We were off the ship by about 9 AM and took a taxi over to the American Boat Marina to do a private day sail on the Winifred. Many people have posted how great this was and we agree. It was definitely the highlight of our entire cruise. We boarded her boat about 9:30 and sailed the whole day until about 3:30 or so. We were back on the ship at 4:30. We sailed over to St. John and did some great snorkeling. We saw turtles, eel, sting rays and even an octopus, which is very rare to see during the day. We would highly recommend the Winifred to anyone wanting a private sail. What was nice about it was that we're a family of 5 and it only takes 6 passengers, so we had the boat all to ourselves. When we left St. Thomas, we had another day at sea, which was nice after we spent two days running like crazy on the islands and soaking up a lot of sun. We needed the time to chill out and relax! Finally on Friday we made it to Half Moon Cay. We got there late due to some storms overnight (we didn't feel anything and slept like babies!). We didn't get off the ship until 9:30 and had to be back on at 12:30, but the time we spent there was great. Did some good snorkeling over by the rocks and the weather was nice so we caught some sun and relaxed on the beach. We got back into Port Canaveral Saturday morning, but again got off a little later than I would have liked. We didn't get off the boat until about 9:30 Am and by the time we made it thru customs (not too bad) and found Art's shuttle to take us back to our hotel and get our car, we weren't on the road back to Charlotte until 11 AM. I forgot to mention it, but the food in both the dining room and the Lido were outstanding. Everything our family had was good. We did not have a complaint about any of the food. All in all, this was a fantastic cruise and we're ready to make this an annual Easter tradition! If you have any questions, feel free to email me. Thanks. Jeff DeMaria Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Easter 2004 Cruise on HAL's Zaandam, April 10-17 Introduction: This review will be long and detailed. Prior to our last cruise I enjoyed reading such reviews and researching cruise options. I kept a journal throughout our cruise in ... Read More
Easter 2004 Cruise on HAL's Zaandam, April 10-17 Introduction: This review will be long and detailed. Prior to our last cruise I enjoyed reading such reviews and researching cruise options. I kept a journal throughout our cruise in order to document our experiences, adventures, observations, helpful suggestions, likes and dislikes. Who Are We?: My wife Leslie and I have been married for eighteen years. I'm forty-three years old and she's forty. Our son John is fifteen. I'm in sales, and Leslie is a CPA. We both have our Bachelor's Degrees. We are very active in our community, son's school, church, and we enjoy our involvement in Republican politics. We are from the Charlotte, NC, area. Prior Cruise Experience: My wife of 18 years, our 15 year old son John and I set sail from Port Canaveral on April 10, 2004. This is my fifth cruise. All were with my wife Leslie. Three cruises were during the 1990's onboard the now defunct Premier Cruise Lines. That was a very family oriented cruise line which we liked. Our son, then five, joined us for one of those. In 2000 my wife and two couples sailed together. That was a seven night cruise on board Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas from Miami to San Juan, PR. Our Royal Caribbean cruise in 2000 was all we could ask for. We flew to and from Miami. However, there was one overwhelming source of irritation. There were prevalent and frequent references of a sexual nature, and inappropriate humor. For example, the cruise director suggested several times that the rocking ship was due to people having sex in their cabins. On the two formal nights we dressed for dinner, and then were exposed to sophomoric crude humor from the theater stage. The belly flop contest disturbed my wife's rest beside the pool one day. We knew that we'd want a more mature and sophisticated experience on our next cruise. Why Cruise? Cruising makes our perfect vacation. We enjoy researching and choosing our cruises very much. We not only love the large ships and the beautiful tropical destinations, but the fact the trip is one all-inclusive price. Of course alcohol, gambling, shopping, professional photographs and tips are extra. My family and I enjoy the fact that we don't have to spend any time or energy evaluating the cost of various options. Professional Photography Deal: HAL made all passengers an offer that we felt was excellent. For $99 you could select any fifteen photographs. There is a gallery with all pictures displayed throughout the week. Organized On Board Activities: HAL offers whatever you'd like with regard to organized activities. My son and I like the contests like golf putting, ping pong (we were both champions on different days), shuffleboard, team trivia and team name that tune. Team trivia competitions were held each day we were at sea in the lounge. There is no need to bring your own team. Players are very friendly and some teams will need another player, or sometimes teams will split to accommodate additional players. The more the merrier. The prizes range from HAL logo'd coffee mugs, to travel alarm clocks, to a visor. For me the best part of the activities is getting to know more people. I always try to remember names and to use them throughout the cruise. It fun for me and people like having their names remembered. Selecting HAL and Zaandam: First we identified our possible cruise dates. Our target date was to depart on the Saturday when our son's spring date started. As long as the port was within driving distance, we knew we preferred to drive to the port instead of flying. This was to both save money, and to give us more travel flexibility. Plus with the hassles of travel to and from the Orlando airport and the port, and possible flight delays, driving made sense for us. Therefore, we wanted the port to be as close as possible to our Charlotte, NC, area home. There are limited cruises from North and South Carolina ports, and we found no match. Port Canaveral became our first choice of ports. Once we selected the port, we used various web sites to see what cruises were available. We eliminated Carnival Cruise Lines because as I mention earlier we wanted something even more sophisticated that Royal Caribbean. We eliminated Disney Cruise Lines because we knew we did not want that many small children. We also knew we liked the large cruise ships, and we like the Eastern Caribbean. My wife did not care to visit Mexico. We knew we wanted a six or seven night cruise. We found HAL Zaandam Eastern Caribbean Cruise departing on April 10. Of course each cruise line had its own web site. I particularly like reading cruise reviews on several of the numerous sites. Simply do a google search of "cruise reviews," or "cruise reviews Zaandam" to find these sites. We were at first concerned that this would be a senior citizen's cruise. We also wanted to make sure that there were youths onboard that our 16 year old son would enjoy. Since the Easter break is a popular time for Spring Break we were confident there would be plenty of people his age. We were pleased with the wide variety of age groups. Yes, there were plenty of teenagers. Yes, the average age of passengers is older than Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines. We enjoyed the other parents of youths that were onboard. Many onboard were families traveling like we were. There were many groups with three or even four generations traveling together. If you are a young single person looking to find a mate, this cruise is not for you. I'd imagine that if this were a regular fall or winter cruise there would have been a disproportional number of senior citizens. He found the ages were a healthy mix. Before the Cruise: We shopped prices. We reserved level MM, which was an inside cabin. Our full price with port charges and taxes was $1,856. We reserved about ten months in advance. We purchased the cruise insurance as well. This was because my mother has not been in the best health, and we did not want to risk loosing our money should we need to stay home with home. However, all was well and the insurance was not needed. We knew we wanted the early dinner seating. On HAL this seating is in very high demand due to the older passengers and the many families. A month before the cruise we wrote to HAL's headquarters and requested a complementary cabin upgrade. We were advised by our travel agent that we had been upgraded to a large outside cabin. We also researched our destinations: Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, and Tortola, British Virgin Islands, plus the two private island days. We knew we would not purchase the cruise line shore excursions. Rotterdam Dining Room Service- Poor: On most cruises the dining room service is excellent and passengers have a chance to really bond with their servers. That was not the case for our table. Our primary server was Rachmat. He displayed little or no personality. He never attempted to know our names and frequently made mistakes. He also offered few good suggestions. Rachmat was assisted by Nur Aziz who also did not impress us. Those at other tables served by this team agreed. I'm sure their tips and reviews reflected the lackluster service they provided. Friday, April 9, 2004: The three of us drove from Charlotte, NC, to Jacksonville, FL, for the night. This allowed us to travel at a leisurely pace and get a good night's sleep. We reserved the hotel well in advance due to this being Easter weekend. We each had prepared a small overnight bag that would allow us not to unpack our entire car trunk for our one quick night. Day 1, Saturday, April 10, 2004, Embark From Port Canaveral: We made the final ninety mile drive at a relaxed pace. Our bags were already labeled with the tags HAL had sent us. We arrived at the port at 12:30 p.m. We were thrilled to see huge ships in port. Large signs directed us to Holland America. We were pointed to an unloading parking space. Our luggage was taken away to soon arrive in our cabin. I drove to the nearby parking area, which was uncovered. I paid the $10 per day in advance. The check-in went smoothly. Documents were checked. They collected credit card information so that you're on-ship purchases can be easily charged at the end of the cruise. Room keys that also serve as on board charge card are issued. The first of many posed pictures were taken. Only one hour after arriving at the port we were enjoying lunch at 1:30 p.m. We were very pleased with our cabin. The two twin beds were moved together. Our son would sleep on a sofa that converts to a cot. There was a desk with chair. The bath had plenty of room for us. There was a large window. Prior to our arrival we'd been upgraded from an inside cabin on the Dolphin deck to a large outside cabin on the main deck. We then explored the ship including the library, spa and pool decks. I visited the concierge to make sure we were being seated at a large table for dinner. We prefer to sit with a large group instead of our just sitting as a party of three. We were assigned to a table for eight, perfect. My son and I visit the basketball area. There we meet a father and son that live within fifty miles of us. George and his son "G" were very friendly. I somehow knew our paths would cross many times during the next week, and I was right. We really hit it off with them. Late in the afternoon we had the muster drill, which went smoothly. Then we went to leave our son at the Bon Voyage Party. He was eager to say good-bye to us, which was fine with us. Leslie and I went to the top deck to waive good-bye to Florida. Then we went to prepare for dinner. The dining room is two stories. There was a pianist near the entrance. Very elegant. We were the last to arrive at our table, which was next to a large window. We were with a good group. There was a family of three, which included a seven year old daughter. We immediately enjoyed her parents Rick and Angela, both about age thirty-five. They were from Tennessee. The other pair was a seventy year old grandmother named Del traveling with her thirteen year old son, Zack. They were from Florida. We all spoke openly and all participated in the conversation. We knew we'd enjoy meals with these people. If we had not felt this was the case I would have immediately ask to have my table assignment changed. After dinner our son went to Club HAL (youth program). Leslie and I went to the auditorium for the show. The entertainment was a comedian named Dwayne Cunningham. His show included juggling and wholesome humor. We enjoyed it. As we wandered the upper deck hallways observing the art work I visited the restroom. When I tried to exit the slipping door wouldn't budge. I knocked on the door, and shouted. No one came. This was a fairly remote area. After about fifteen minutes my wife heard me. She told me through the door that she was getting help. Ten minutes later she returned, and then ten minutes later an engineer arrived to remove the door. Forty minutes after entering I was freed. To add insult to injury my wife advised me while I was locked in that I was in the women's room, not the men's. Fortunately this mishap was not a sign of things to come. Day 2, Sunday, April 11, 2004, Easter Sunday, At Sea: At seas days, my wife would tell me, is her favorite day ever on a cruise. We rose at 6:00 a.m. and went to Interdenominational Easter Worship in the Waging Theater. It was a full house. A retired Navy Chaplain led the service. After breakfast John and I played ping pong. Leslie and I got chairs and lounged by the pool. We read, chatted, and napped. We went to find John for lunch but he was eating with some new friends. Leslie and I went to our cabin and changed from swimsuits and went to Rotterdam dining room for a more formal lunch than the Lido Deck Dining Room offered. We were seated with a charming older couple. We talked until we were nearly the last guests in the room. If it's service and atmosphere you want then the Rotterdam dining room is the best choice for meals. After lunch Leslie had hair styling appointment. I took the occasion to enjoy an afternoon nap in the cabin with the ocean moving swiftly by our window. Leslie awakened me and I went on deck. John was in an organized basketball free throw contest with other passengers. I joined in too. It was very windy on deck. You had to shoot a free throw three feet to the right to have a chance of the wind blowing it in. It was fun watching and cheering. We then played in ping pong tournament. There were 24 males who participated. There was a wide range of ages. John and I met in the Championship. I won. I went to the room to prepare for formal night. Leslie was beautiful with her new hair style and dress. We went to the Captain's reception early to avoid the long lines for traditional picture with the captain. We were right; the lines were very long later. We enjoyed champaign with other passengers then went on deck for more pictures of our own. We went to the dining room and for the second night waited shoulder to shoulder for the doors to open. (Note: There is no need to arrive early for dinner. They do not open the doors until the prescribed time.) Rick and Angela were late for dinner because she had a spa treatment that went late. They are a lot of fun to be with, and are very funny. For dinner I had lobster bisque, Caesar salad, crab legs (already split) with hot butter, and crusted salmon. The head steward made flaming crepe Suzette beside the table. We invited our table mate Del to sit with is for the show and that we'd save her a seat near the front. She liked the idea and we enjoyed her company. Her grandson Zack was going to Club Hal. The show was "Up on the Roof," the songs for the '50s and '60s. Lights, costumes, dancing. The cast had about ten performers. After the show we went to the cabin to find our son John under the covers watching a baseball game. He's bushed. We then rushed to play Name That Tune in the piano bar. We were not alone. There was a big crowd. We strolled the ship enjoying the art displays and various musical offerings. We visited the casino but did not wager since I am a loser at the tables. We retired at 11:00 p.m. We placed our morning coffee and fruit order outside the door. We agreed that we don't have enough room to comfortably enjoy breakfast in the room. Leslie stated that this has been her favorite day ever on a cruise. Day 3, Monday, April 12, 2004, At Sea: We rose early and get chairs by pool at 7:00 a.m. We had breakfast at 7:30 a.m. I worked out in the gym, which has all cardio machines facing forward toward the open sea. It's a nice view. HAL is known for well equipped fitness centers, and the Zaandam is no exception. John and I participated in ping pong and shuffleboard tournaments. I showered, steamed, and dressed in the spa to give Leslie and John more room to prepare for dinner. I really enjoy this practice. I'm surprised that more passengers don't shower and dress for dinner in the spa. Dinner was informal. One third of men are not wearing jackets. The show featured Paul Tanner who sings and is an impressionist. His finale is Elvis which many men really appreciated since the women were really swooning. Leslie, John and I went to the Crow's Nest Lounge for TV Tune Trivia, which was fun. Then we retired for the night. Day 4, Tuesday, April 13, 2004, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands: We awoke at 6:00 a.m. and could see that we'd arrived at Tortola as scheduled. We were the only ship in port. Our coffee arrived as requested. John and I had breakfast in the Rotterdam dining room. Breakfast is his favorite meal of the day. This breakfast was outstanding. We were eager to visit Road Town. We could see the beautiful island and its beaches. We went ashore and took a cab to a beach we'd read about called Brewers Cove. The driver gave us much local information. The taxi trip to Brewers Cove is $6 per person. He dropped us off at the beach, which had a small snorkel equipment rental shack, which served drinks as well. Chickens and roosters ran wild around the shack and beach. We'd brought our own snorkeling equipment; therefore John and I were ready to go. We had the beach all to ourselves. No other passengers arrived until we'd been there for over two hours. (Note: We'd have felt safer and had a better time if we'd waited until 10:00 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m. to go to the beach with more fellow passengers.) The three of us were all alone for over two hours after the cab driver left us. This is not the best feeling in a foreign land. The water was clear and snorkeling was pretty good. We found a beautiful coral reef. We'd enjoyed the beach and wanted to return to Road Town for shopping and sightseeing so we caught a taxi that was dropping off passengers. John wanted to freshen up on board since he was tired and felt sandy, but Leslie and I wanted to stay in town. He returned to the ship alone. Leslie and I walked the town and went on board an hour later. We purchased forty postcards and BVI postage stamps. We found John napping. Leslie and I had lunch on board. I retired to the Crow's Nest to write cards to friends and family back home. John found me and convinced me to come and play in the shuffleboard tournament. Afterward I returned to Road Town to mail the cards and for more shopping. I ran into Leslie while re-boarding at about 4:30 p.m. Tonight was the big Caribbean Deck Party and BBQ. During the day I'd ran into our table mates and we all agreed that we'd be on deck and would not dine in the Rotterdam Dining Room. A big draw is $10 unlimited rum punch served in a pineapple. Prior to dinner I again showered, steamed and dressed in the spa. There was a huge buffet on the Lido deck and the Caribbean band played. It was a great time. The evening closed with Comedian Dwayne Cunningham in The Mondriaan Lounge. We enjoyed this show as much as the one on our first night on board. Day 5, Wednesday, April 14, 2004, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands: We again rose at 6:00 a.m. It was a short trip to St. Thomas, and we are docked. We could see other mega-ships like the Princess's Golden Princess, and Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. We had to see customs to get a card to go ashore. We wait for our level to be called, which was a mistake. (Note: If you wish to go ashore as soon as possible then get in line with customs as soon as possible.) Our son John is an excellent golfer and we needed to keep his game sharp during the week-long cruise. We'd researched our destinations and learned that there is one golf course in the Virgin Islands. Mahogany Run Golf Course is in St. Thomas and has a driving range. John brought three clubs on the cruise and when we went ashore he took them with him for our visit to the course. We caught a cab with our friends George and "G" who were going fishing at Megan's Bay. The cab dropped the three of us off at Mahogany Run and the driver gave us his mobile number to call when we were ready to return to Charlotte Amalie. The staff at the golf course treated us very well. I'd learned that this course is famous for three holes created on cliffs that overlook the ocean. They are known as "The Devil's Triangle." We wanted to see them. I asked a staff member if I could tale our cart to see the holes. He said no, but after accepting a generous tip he offered to take us personally on a cart that easily carried three of us, plus the driver. What a thrill! The beauty was indescribable. The holes were very challenging. Our driver let John play a par-3 hole. He made a par. We made some excellent pictures. We called our taxi driver and he came promptly to return us to the port. I wanted to walk historic St. Thomas instead of returning to the ship. The driver dropped me and took Leslie and John to the ship. Later Leslie would shop at the ship side shops called Havensight Shops. She bought a bracelet which she wears daily. I walked back to the ship. I tried to find John at a ping pong tournament, and then checked at the trivia tournament, he wasn't there either. The game was about to start with six teams. I joined in and we won. Lot's of laughs and fun questions. Dinner was very unusual. It was an informal night. Rick and Angela were having dinner in the Pinnacle Grill ($20 per person, reservations required). Their seven year old daughter Mattie wanted to dine with us instead, so Rick and Angela invited Del to join them. Her grandson, Zack would dine with us too. Our son was dining in the Lido Restaurant with new friends. So there we were: me, my wife, a seven year old girl, and a thirteen year old boy. Neither child was related to one another. None of us knew each other only four days earlier. The head steward seated a couple with us because there were four open seats. Needless to say they were intrigued. The couple was from Tampa and we came to learn that they were in the cabin next door to us. About the time we finished dinner the three adults returned to claim their children. Leslie had a headache and retired for the evening. I went see The Hill Brothers Show. This is an excellent comedy and juggling show. After the show I checked on Leslie, who was sleeping. I went to the piano bar and joined a Name That Tune team. My teammates were a family we've gotten to know. They had three generations on the cruise. We did well scoring 25 points, while 26 wins. Leslie was still sleeping and it was 1020 p.m. I walked the deck and went to the theater for The Hill Brothers Show. I really liked this juggling and comedy act. The brothers are both in their twenties. Tonight was the dessert extravaganza. They've converted the Lido Dining Room for the midnight event. Many people enjoy taking pictures of the ice sculptures and beautiful desserts. Then they eat again. There is a special flaming Crepe Suzette station. Day 6, Thursday, April 15, 2004 (At Sea): Leslie felt much better. We had breakfast in the Lido Dining Room. We claimed poolside chairs. We enjoyed the sun and Caribbean band music. John and I participated in another ping pong tournament. Since I enjoy the Rotterdam Dining Room and today would be our final lunch onboard, I decided to go to there for lunch. It's a party of two, just me and my book. I've broken protocol by wearing my dry swim shorts, shoes and a collared shirt. For some reason they seat me at an empty table for six. When I'm about half way through a French couple I'd met earlier was seated at the opposite end from me. They wanted to chat. The topic was that they were disappointed at the extremely casual attire many of the passengers insisted on wearing. The wife shuddered when the stated that she had even seen someone at lunch earlier in the week wearing their swim suit. I shook my head in disgust to show my agreement with her. I then remembered that I was wearing my yellow trunks with big blue flowers. The napkin in my lap and table cloth had thus far hidden my faux pas. I knew I did not want them to know, but I was over half way through when they arrived and I did not want to wait for them to finish, at which time I could stay at my seat and avoid them seeing my trunks. Besides they could see I was well into lunch when they arrived and it would have been very awkward to wait for them to finish and then stay there seated until they left. So when I finished I simply rose and said good bye. The trunks were clear to see. I made no comment and did nothing to call attention, though they seemed louder than normal, and I departed the dining room. I hope they thought that my trunks were simply the latest in American high fashion and sophistication. The moral of the story is to avoid under dressing for any occasion. I went to the team trivia contest in the Crow's Nest Lounge. Thunderstorm and rain arrived for the late afternoon. George and our new pal Mike invited me for a few drinks in the Crow's Nest. We enjoyed the view of ocean and conversation. Tonight was a formal dinner night. I streamed, showered and dressed in the locker room. We had more photos taken. This was the best dinner of the week. I had shrimp cocktail, clam chowder, salad with raspberry dressing, lobster tail with hot melted butter, filet mignon and baked Alaska for dessert. After dinner Leslie and I strolled the deck, plus enjoyed the art work inside the ship. We then went to the Zaandam cast show. We sat on the third row. Great singing, dancing, costumes, props, lights, etc. After the show we play a few slots, and then retired to the Explorers Lounge for some classical music. The live trio plays piano, bass, and violin. After this we went to the piano bar. The youth ages 13-17 were having their own casino night. Leslie and I walked by their large room and made eye contact with our fifteen year old. His eyes said hello but do not enter. We moved and retired to our cabin and changed into more comfortable clothes. John came back and he and I went to play some night time ping pong. Then to bed. Day 7, Friday, April 16, 2004. (Half Moon Cay): We rose early because the private island experience is our favorite and we wanted to be among the first ashore. We realized that the last tender returning to the ship left at 12:45 p.m. The "tendering" is scheduled to start at 800 a.m. At 7:00 a.m. we found that no land was in sight yet. We learned that there was a weather delay. High waves were causing concern about the safety of the tenders beside the ship. At 9:10 a.m. we saw the island. Leslie was sunning. John and I played ping pong with friends. We caught a tender at 9:30 a.m., and arrived at 9:45 a.m. We had three hours on the island. We found a secluded part of the beach near an empty hammock. We relaxed and enjoy the sun. Photographers from the ship came by with a variety of clever photo opportunities. We loved the private island experience. Clear ocean water, white sandy beaches, clean, shopping, water sports, Caribbean music and a simple buffet. I snorkeled out to some ship wreckage they've placed. It has barnacles and many fish. Also saw coral reef. Son John and I nap together in a hammock. John went back to the ship ahead of us. Leslie and I strolled the beach. We ran into and visited with a newlywed couple we've spoken to several times. They are both about 55 years old. The groom told me earlier in the week that they would be married on St. Thomas. They were eager to tell us all about it, and we were glad to listen. We sat on the beach and chatted. At 12:15 p.m. Leslie wanted to return to the ship. I wanted to stay and see Angela and Bill (our table mates) ride the banana boat. She went back to the ship and I hang with them. When I'm walking to the tender I chatted with a very tall, attractive and sophisticated fifty year old divorced woman. She had not enjoyed the cruise. She was eager to return home to kill (or at least assault) her travel agent. It seems that she anticipated good activities for single women to meet single men. Boy was she on the wrong cruise. She was surprised at how much I'd loved it. She like many were passengers was upset about the short visit to Half Moon Cay. When I looked at the people around us I could see why she was disappointed. It was nearly all families, many with small children. Certainly not the single men she'd come to meet. The cruise director had told us that there were 250 kids under eighteen on board, and that last week there were 450. He joked that with 450 youth on board it brought the average passenger age down to eighty-one years old. I ran into my pal George and we returned to the ship together. His family left him too. We joined Angela and Bill on the tender. I found John napping in the cabin and Leslie sunning. It was too windy so we went inside. We checked out our photos. We needed to get our 15 for $99. I saw on the daily schedule that there was an event called "Meet the Zaandam Cast." They were charming. Their ages are about 18-25 years old. Many passengers and particularly young girls had questions. They then took us on a backstage tour to see dressing rooms, costumes, wigs and props. This was our last evening onboard. We had a full table since Bill and Angela's daughter Mattie had brought along a seven year old pal. I had artichoke dip, conch and corn chowder, chilled pineapple and banana soup, Greek salad, roast duck, prime rib, and finally bananas flambE for dessert. At our table we all exchanged addresses. Before dinner Leslie and I had prepared envelopes with tips for various staff, which we personally delivered. Our table servers got very little. After dinner we went to a magic show featuring a husband and wife team. It was called DV8, like deviate. I really liked the show. After the show we stayed for Jackpot Bingo. The grand prize of $5,800 was to be awarded. A twelve year old girl won. They also had the cruise lottery winner drawing, again we did not win. Big fun for all. We returned to the cabin to pack for Saturday arrival at port. Our bags must be outside the cabin door by 1:00 a.m. Day 8, Saturday, April 17, 2004: Son John's favorite meal of the day is breakfast, but he's not yet had breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room. He and I went together. It was wonderful, of course. They had about any breakfast item imaginable available including fresh fruits and fresh squeezed juices. We relaxed on deck until our group was called to leave the ship. We quickly retrieved our bags and went to our car. Back to North Carolina. In Closing: You were warned this was long and detailed. I hope it is as helpful and as entertaining for you and those I've read in the past. Happy Cruising!!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
I'm going to try to give my objective opinion about my B2B on the beautiful MS Zaandam. All in all we had a wonderful time and would sail her again in a heartbeat! Transfer: We took Basik Shuttle who picked us up at the Crowne Plaza ... Read More
I'm going to try to give my objective opinion about my B2B on the beautiful MS Zaandam. All in all we had a wonderful time and would sail her again in a heartbeat! Transfer: We took Basik Shuttle who picked us up at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the Orlando airport. They were well on time and we had a smooth ride to Port Canaveral. They were waiting for us upon arrival and I can recommend them without hesitation. Embarkation: A breeze, it took us about 15 minutes to get our documents. No fancy blue or even a plastic cover for them but who cares.....and there we were, onboard the lovely vessel. The rooms weren't ready yet so we had lunch in the Lido and around 1PM the announcement came that we could go to our staterooms. We had cabin # 2657 on the Main deck and it was a spacious outside cabin with plenty of storage space. Our cabin attendant was Banbang and I think he was the most attentive person I've ever met. He took good care of us and our cabin was always spotless clean. Dining Experience: What can I say, we did the B2B which means we had the same menu for 2 weeks in a row but we did not care. We had plenty of choice and did not have had a bad/bland/not so good meal during those 2 weeks. Our table was # 167 on the lower level which meant we had dinner at 8.30 PM. Our waiter for the 1st week was AJ and our busboy was Jaya. Made was our sommelier. ( We took the wine package which was very convenient and they had good wines on the list.) They were great and we had a real good time with them. The 2nd week we had Sinta as our waiter and Agus as our busboy. Also no complaints what -so-ever! We also met Joost Olthof, he's 2nd Maitre D', Dutch like us, so we had a good time with him as well and I think he had a great time too. We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido nearly every day and again no complaints. We went to the Pinnacle Grill twice and it was outstanding Entertainment: We've visited the Piano bar frequently, with Sonia Marie, the Explorer Lounge with the magnificent Champagne Strings, and at the Lido pool the Caribbean Steel Band. High Society played in the Ocean Bar, they were ok. The Crows Nest was fun too. I saw one show which was called Party Grass which was good and there was a comedian who was hilarious but I don't recall his name. But we're not party animals so for us the entertainment was ok. Gym and Spa: We went to the gym every day, it was well equipped. We did sauna twice, very good and very clean. Took a massage and the masseuse had magic hands. The turn over day was fun, like you own the whole ship, there were only 6 of us for the B2B. The only thing which was a bit annoying was, that between 8AM and 11.30AM on the whole ship one couldn't find anything to drink, all the bars were closed, no coffee or tea or ice water because they were cleaning the machines so beware that if you stay on the ship you have to take precautions. Disembarkation: Because we planned to stay in Orlando for a couple of days we had embarkation# 25, we were off the ship by Pam. With pain in our hearts I must admit. Excursions: On all the islands we hailed a taxi to drive us around which turned out to be great fun. On Grand Cayman we had 'Elvis' as our driver, the King's still alive! So look out for him if you want to have a blast! Half Moon Cay: In one word HEAVEN and we were lucky we could visit the island twice. A shame we had to leave at 12.45 PM but better than nothing! Well I think I've covered it all. If you have any questions, ask away. After a day of hard work it's good to think back to a great vacation on board the Zaandam. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
We are inexperienced cruisers and this was only our 2nd cruise, having done an Eastern itinerary on the Zuiderdam in Feb. '03 as our first experience. We were so impressed with HAL's service, the quality of the food, the beauty ... Read More
We are inexperienced cruisers and this was only our 2nd cruise, having done an Eastern itinerary on the Zuiderdam in Feb. '03 as our first experience. We were so impressed with HAL's service, the quality of the food, the beauty of the ship, and the value of cruising, that we could hardly wait for a second chance! When a mailer arrived with great last-minute deals, I was off to the travel agent within the hour! We were lucky to find that one of the best Zaandam deals coincided with Spring Break week...so we were able to take our 3 college-aged kids, plus my son's fiancee, along. We booked 3 cabins in all: a balcony minisuite for my husband and myself, and 2 inside cabins (minimum NN stateroom guarantees) for the kids. With only a month before sailing, we had a lot to pull together...but with the help of the web to prebook shore excursions & our dear neighbors' kindness to offer petsitting, we were ready and EXCITED on Embarkation day! Since we live in the area of West Palm Beach, we are only a 2-hr drive from Port Canaveral and decided it would be far easier---and less costly---to drive & park. This worked out extremely well, especially at disembarkation when we were able to grab our bags, head to the parking lot, load up and go. (Access in and out of the port is very easy, and the ship's berths are easily sighted from the highway on the way in so it is impossible to get "lost".) Parking was $10 per day, so we would recommend this for folks living in the area, or driving their own car from another area. Security was good, but very efficient and the lines moved so quickly that we were onboard about 30 minutes from the time we entered the terminal building. STATEROOMS: We were escorted to our stateroom and found most of our bags had already arrived. The kids were upgraded from Cat NN to Cat L larger inside staterooms, and were given adjacent cabins. Though lacking a window, their cabin amenities were nice and we were surprised at how roomy they were; very comfortable for 2 persons each. Our Cat B was very nice! In addition to a comfortable queen bed, we had a sofa, chair,coffee table and large armoire-type desk in the sitting area, a mini-fridge and self-service bar, tons of closet space, a TV with VCR, and a compact but very functional bathroom that included a bathtub with whirlpool and a wall-mount hairdryer. There was a mirrored cabinet for storage in the bathroom, and 2 nice cotton bathrobes for our use in the closet. The balcony was somewhat small, but there was room for a chair, table, and chaise. The two of us could enjoy it with room to spare, although our room was often the Family Rendezvous Headquarters and it got crowded on the balcony when 6 of us tried to pile out there all at once! THE ZAANDAM: This is a very lovely ship with interesting artwork and lovely public spaces. The Lido had excellent food, and the pools were very nice (although often the aft sundeck was crowded with seating hard to find). The main pool often featured a steel drum band playing reggae, which added a festive touch and helped the pina coladas go down (more) easily! I did not notice kids "running wild" or dominating the pool as was written about by another reviewer on the same cruise...in fact, much of the time, the pool was underutilized and the hot tubs available from what I observed. We used the spa one day, and found it to be very nice; there are Port Day specials for spa services and I had a very relaxing massage, which was quite a treat! We never did try the alternative restaurant, but dined nightly in the main Rotterdam dining room and thought the food was excellent! There are many choices on the menu; the soups are superb,the entrees are delicious, and portions are just right so that you are satisfied without feeling "stuffed"! The java bar was a bit of a disappointment---the coffee was very good, but the cappuccinos were tiny. We had room service for breakfast on 2 occasions and were very happy with prompt delivery of hot food exactly to our specifications. We are not big night-lifers and the few shows we did attend, were rather "cheesy" production shows...good costumes, ok talent. The exception was comedian Fred Klett, who was completely HYSTERICAL! (We have since heard him on "Bob and Tom" and again, we were in stitches!) As for overall service, HAL did not disappoint! Our room steward magically kept our room in tip-top condition and our fresh fruit refilled without ever being "seen" until our 5th day into the trip, when he asked us by name how our day was! Our waiter and asst waiter knew our beverages from the first day onboard, and we never had to ask..they were brought to the table as soon as we were seated. The Lido staff asked our names the first day, and used them every time we saw them throughout the cruise...amazing! We have heard that these people are often not tipped due to HAL's "tipping not required" policy; that is a shame, because the staff goes so far out of their way to give personal attention and make the cruise enjoyable! We are glad they will be setting standardized tips (so we have read) beginning this year, because so many folks take advantage of the current policy as an excuse NOT to reward the very good service (which they not only expect, but often demand)! Our itinerary included two sea days, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, and Half Moon Cay. COZUMEL: We had prebooked a snorkel/Catamaran sail/beach party through HAL,and must say it was one of the highlights of our trip! We had considered visiting the ruins, but due to some tight time constraints (we were to be in port 6 am to 2:30 pm) we were concerned that we would be rushing through the experience. As it happened, we arrived in port nearly 2 hours behind schedule, as our Captain had to divert during the night to rescue some fishermen who were adrift at sea and had sent out distress flairs!! This added a real element of excitement to the trip, but shortened our time in Cozumel and resulted in cancellation of all trips to the ruins after all. (HAL issued shipboard credits to those passengers; surprisingly, we did not hear any complaints from disappointed travellers.) We had hoped to do a little shopping after our excursion, but that will have to wait until our next trip! GRAND CAYMAN: Of course...we booked Stingray City! And this is a MUST do, an absolutely incredible experience! We had ample time to explore a bit of the town and had lunch at a little diner (I believe Coretta's) to try some local cuisine. The prices were high, but the conch fritters were excellent and we had a nice chat with the owner herself, who has been in business for 20-some years with 2 locations. We picked up some Tortuga Rum cakes and fudge as gifts for our petsitters while we were strolling around town. MONTEGO BAY: I had prebooked my husband and son to golf the White Witch at Rose Hall; it was a very pricey round of golf, but a spectacular, world-class oceanview course and a lifelong memory! The guys went by cab both ways, with no problems. Unfortunately, I had not pre-booked anything for us ladies....we took a shuttle into town and found that to be a BIG MISTAKE!!! From the moment we stepped off the van, we were hounded to come spend money, get our hair braided, buy marijuana "for a great price", etc. Two of the girls got their hair braided and as soon as they were done, I herded them back onto the shuttle & right back to port. Along the way, we saw all kinds of marijuana growing wild along the roadways (which could have been had for free! haha!) The drive was hair-raising, with people cutting others off at high rates of speed, merging within inches of one another, etc...but despite the white knuckles, it was fun looking around at our surroundings. Jamaica is geographically beautiful; however, the parts of MoBay that we saw, were downtrodden and it was evident that there is a lot of poverty in the area. HALF MOON CAY: This is a very lovely island, I believe it is actually (or, was?) Little San Salvador island. White powdery sand, crystal clear, aquamarine Bahamian waters, and upscale improvements by the cruise line including pavillion shelters, beach volleyball courts, a playground, a chapel, walking trails, several beach bars, a shopping enclave and post office, etc. The beach barbecue was very tasty, and we enjoyed our day very much! This time of year, the water is somewhat chilly so only the braver souls actually did any swimming. Overall, we had an absolutely wonderful time on our second cruise and it was one of our best family memories ever!! We were very glad to see such a nice mix of passengers on this cruise; retirees, families, young couples, and children. HAL has added us to its list of loyal customers and "hooked" us on cruising for good! We have considered trying other cruise lines but worry that they may not be able to live up to our expectations offer 2 great experiences with HAL! Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
In my cabin we were 3 females, we started our cruise off by having my jewelry taken while we were at the mandatory lifesaving lessons. Fortunately, after confronting the steward my jewelry just happen to reappear by the end of the evening ... Read More
In my cabin we were 3 females, we started our cruise off by having my jewelry taken while we were at the mandatory lifesaving lessons. Fortunately, after confronting the steward my jewelry just happen to reappear by the end of the evening after i went to the desk and requested my luggage be returned as i was missing something VERY important. I was also very disappointed in how the children ages ten and under were allowed to monopolize the pool on the Lido deck the whole week with no supervision, screaming, running jumping in the pool. The food in the dining room was not up to the standards which I had heard about from previous passengers. Some nights the soup was even cold and the meal not edible which was the consensus of the other seven guests at our table. We constantly had to check our daily charges as we had to dispute charges that were not ours. Without an explanation we did not even come close to spending the amount of time on the islands as was scheduled for the cruise. Even the morning of disembarkment we had charges from the nite before not ours. That seemed to be the talk in the morning on the deck by everyone back at Pt. Canaveral. I personally feel that my experience on this ship would keep me flying to all my vacation destinations. I hope that this was an unusual week for the ship as so many passengers were extremely unhappy. Sincerely Catherine M. Lindquist Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Embarkation: We had a challenge on getting flights down to Florida but did get a flight into Ft Lauderdale and drove the 3 hours to Port Canaveral. Orlando would have been the logical place to fly into but since we booked on such short ... Read More
Embarkation: We had a challenge on getting flights down to Florida but did get a flight into Ft Lauderdale and drove the 3 hours to Port Canaveral. Orlando would have been the logical place to fly into but since we booked on such short notice this was the best we could do. The car rental agency, Budget, that we dropped our car off at got us to the boat quickly. They parked right at the luggage drop off where the dock workers unloaded our luggage to be loaded on the Zaandam. It was a couple of hundred feet to the embarkation center, through security, up a flight of stairs on an escalator and we were completing our boarding paperwork (5-10 minutes). Then it was onto the ship. This was our first cruise on Holland America so we really didn't know what to expect. The HAL Kids Club representatives who gave us an itinerary for the week of the kids programs greeted us at the gangway. We went up the gangway and were on board at 3PM. We walked around exploring the ship with our 2 children ages 7 and 10. There was the required pre cruise lifeboat drill. We were back at our cabin by 4:30 and our luggage had already arrived! The fastest I have ever seen my luggage arrive in the 3 cruises I've been on. I had a good feeling about this cruise. I wasn't disappointed. The Zaandam: What a boat!! Everything about this ship was impressive. The artwork throughout the ship, the reading areas, the library/internet room, the formal dining area, the lounges, the Pinnacle Grill, were all very well decorated, elaborate and "classy". We loved the size of our cabins (the room seemed a little bigger than the super liner rooms we had been in previously). Much of the lido deck area was a casual atmosphere with the casual buffet area, "outdoor grill", 2 bars, 2 swimming pools and 2 hot tubs. A real positive was the retractable roof over the swimming pool area. Early in the cruise it was extremely windy and at times overcast. The crew within seconds could close or open this enormous roof to adapt to the changing weather conditions. We did not use the spa located on the lido deck. The casino was small by cruise ship standards and contained about 8 card tables, a roulette table, a craps table and about 100 slot machines ranging from nickel to 5-dollar slots. It never seemed overly crowded and didn't overpower the upper promenade deck. There were 4 lounges on the upper promenade deck, several meeting rooms, the internet/library, a liquor shop, 2 clothing shops, the upper part of the Rotterdam formal dining room, the upper part of the showroom the Mondrian Lounge, and jewelry shop. The promenade deck contained the main entrance to the Rotterdam dining room, the main entrance to the showroom the Mondrian Lounge, Main Office, Movie Theater (really movie theater like with free popcorn), photographers showing area, coffee or high tea area, and kids arcade. There was also a basketball/tennis area, volleyball area, HAL kids club area and disco lounge called the "Crow's Nest" with large windows running along the exterior (really sharp) at the top deck. Overall, I never felt crowded or boxed in. When I was in the promenade or upper promenade areas it felt elegant. I wanted to be dressed up, refined, and enjoy the moment. I'm not sure how the Freddy Mercury or Iggy Pop autographed guitars hanging on the walls fit in with the overall refined theme in these areas but somehow it worked. We stayed in 2 inside cabins. It was fine because we weren't in there but to change or go to sleep. The only time it mattered was when you woke up. You had to look at a watch to figure if it was day or night. I did go into an outside cabin and was impressed with how large the window was. The last time I took an outside cabin; it wasn't worth it because I almost broke my neck trying to get an angle to look out the tiny porthole. That wasn't the case on the Zaandam. We also went into a suite one night to socialize with a family we met. The suite had a large balcony about the size of our room. The interior was twice the size of our cabin. There was also a separate changing/sink area outside the bathroom. The bathroom had a tub rather than a standup shower. The suite was quite impressive. The Crew: I had been on 2 cruises on Carnival super liners. The crew was often distant and in the background. What a difference. I got to know the wine steward, the maitre d, waiters, the buffet cooks, and crewmembers. They would greet our kids by their first names and call me Sir John and my wife "Mum". I had to ask, "Please just, John." I found the Indonesian and Philippine crew to be intelligent, articulate, genuine, engaging and very friendly. One night the Indonesian crew performed songs and dances from their 12,000-island homeland. It was quite a cultural experience. The following week the Philippine crew would do a show with their cultural songs and dances. Food/Entertainment: The food was very good. On the Lido deck there was an omelet chef at breakfast as well as hot/cold buffet. During the casual lunch there was a hot/cold buffet served on the Lido deck dining area, there was a sandwich bar in which you could design your on sandwich, or a pasta bar where you could do the same, there were several types of salads available. There were hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, and pizza available at the Lido deck grill. Ice cream was available in the afternoons. We only ate in the formal dining room during dinner. There was the requisite lobster tail night. There was always a strip sirloin or filet mignon on the menu. Some type of seafood was featured each night as well as fowl such as breast of duck or chicken. Thankfully, there was a kid's menu. One night, Wednesday night, there was a cookout on the Lido deck. We attended this instead of the "Dutch menu" in the formal Rotterdam dining room. There was also another dining room called the Pinnacle Grill. For an additional $20 per guest you could eat in this very upscale restaurant. There were several types of aged beef. This was definitely a step above the formal dining room. One gentleman we spoke with said that at the Pinnacle he had the best steak he's ever eaten. In retrospect we wish had tried it. It didn't seem worth it because we had our kids with us who eat plain pasta, hamburgers and chicken nuggets. We should have taken them to the casual dinner and then gone ourselves to the Pinnacle when they went to HAL kids club. Oh well, next time. The entertainment in the main theater, the Mondrian Lounge, had its highs and lows. I wish rather than a featured entertainer playing a one-hour show, they had several performers play each night in a one-hour variety show. Some of the entertainers were just not that talented to carry a performance by themselves. It was easy to lose interest. The 2 nights that the Zaandam song and dance company provided the entertainment I found it more varied and enjoyable. There was string quartet playing in one of the lounges, A sing-a-long piano player in another lounge, A quartet playing jazz or big band tunes in another lounge. While I haven't focused on it too much the median age of the guests on this cruise was pretty high. There were many elderly guests on board. This is not a party ship. There was disco entertainment at for the late night crowd in the "Crow's Nest Lounge". This was the focal point for the late night crowd. I didn't see very many singles or young couples. During the day a steel drum band played reggae tunes on the Lido deck. Girl watching was very, very, limited. We were fortunate enough to pick a school vacation week so; there were more than a hundred children on board for our kids to meet. It was easy enough to make acquaintances and it was a very social atmosphere. The Islands: We stopped in Tortola, ST Thomas and Half Moon Cay. TORTOLA During the Tortola visit we took an excursion to the Baths at Virgin Gorda. This was a very physical trip. The Baths are inlets good for snorkeling, swimming, sun bathing and viewing sea life. There are several caves to explore that have been formed by falling rocks. This is a very physical trip which includes hiking down a trail to the beach and much bending and crawling to explore the caves and inlets. It is very beautiful. We were very happy we went. Upon our return to the Zaandam, we decided to explore Tortola. Some acquaintances took cabs to other beaches. The open air cabs were available right off the dock. We took a short walk into town but there wasn't much to see. The kids got some trinkets and my daughter had her hair braided at a bazaar at the dock facilities. ST Thomas My wife and I had been to St Thomas before. We took the Zaandam tender boat to St Thomas spent a short period of time looking at the downtown bazaar but didn't spend any time jewelry or electronics shopping. Instead we loaded the family onto a ferry boat that took us to St John, a neighboring island. St John is very quiet compared to St Thomas. The boat ride was about 40 minutes. From the dock at St John we took an open air taxi $8 each way to Cinnamon Bay. This is one of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen. The water was crystal blue. The beaches were like Talc. We were ecstatic that we went. The cab ride back was a bit hurried since wanted to make the 2:15 ferry back to St Thomas. In talking to some of the guests waiting for the tender boat, the liquor shopping in St Thomas was very, very good. The ship duty free shop was about $1.00 more per bottle and had less of a variety. In either case, you could not bring the liquor back to your cabin it was held for you until the last day. Half Moon Cay Half Moon is an island owned by Holland America. The beach here is very beautiful as well. The theme here is beach, ocean and sand. There are a number of beach activities like parasailing, snorkeling, fishing and swimming. There are a small number of stores and an open air bar. My daughter got her braids redone here. The Tortola braiding didn't hold up well. The stay here was very short. Maybe 4 hours. That was okay with us because the day was overcast and not very warm. There was a cook out with the same menu as the Lido deck barbecue. Hamburgers and hot dogs. If you can, wait till you get back to the ship. Once again there were not dock facilities for the cruise ship so we took a tender boat to and from the island. Overall: We were looking for a vacation to relax, be entertained, and entertain our kids and to feel special. This cruise certainly did that. If we were looking for a party, this was not the ship. We felt special and well taken care of. We felt that this was indeed 5 star quality. Our kids loved this trip. Their concerns about seasickness, making friends, the food, and nothing to do, never materialized. When the boat was rocking, they thought it was fun! While we might explore other cruise lines for a younger crowd or better entertainment, I wouldn't hesitate to try this line again if the same value was there. Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.5 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 3.5 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 3.5 3.7
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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