Erica Silverstein
Cruise Critic Senior Editor
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

Zaandam Entertainment & Activities

Theater

The Mainstage Theater (Decks 4 and 5) hosts daytime events, such as shore excursion and destination talks, enrichment lectures and bingo. In the evenings, performances included song-and-dance shows by the ship's 10-person company, guest performers (such as comedians, ventriloquists, magicians and soloists) or Holland America Line exclusives such as the BBC Earth Experiences live show "Planet Earth II in Concert."

Theater shows were well attended and can be a pleasant way to spend an evening, but could easily be missed. The BBC Earth show is an exception as it's different from anything we've seen on a cruise ship before. A live band plays the background music to short sequences from BBC's documentary of life in the animal world, which can be surprisingly dramatic and humorous; trust us, you'll be on the edge of your seat.

Daily Fun

The cruise staff hosts bingo, trivia quizzes and games (bridge, mah jongg, basketball shootouts, soccer goal scoring) on sea days, with some limited options on port days. Beverage events, like beer and cocktail tastings, are available for a fee.

An afternoon movie is shown in the Wajang Theater every afternoon; America's Test Kitchen cooking demos also take place there a few times per cruise. The wall with the movie screen retracts to reveal a show kitchen; the chef's moves are filmed for close-up viewing on the two flat-screen TVs.

Zaandam has limited activities developed in partnership with "O, The Oprah Magazine," including O's Reading Room, in which passengers can borrow copies of a book on the first few days of the cruise and discuss it toward the end of the sailing.

As part of Holland America's Explorations Central, the cruise and travel director gives various talks about what to do in the ports of call, as well as the history and culture of the areas visited. They also host office hours at the EXC desk on Deck on Deck 4 so you can ask questions.

Also available is the Microsoft Digital Workshop program, comprised of complimentary tech classes. Passengers can learn to use computers to enhance and organize photos, produce and publish videos and make 3D drawings. They can also learn more about Windows' latest operating system. The host offers drop-in Q&A sessions, as well. Sessions take place in a dedicated Digital Workshop classroom on Deck 5 that's easy to miss.

The spa and shops put on various events with the end goal of getting you to buy something. Affinity group meeting times (e.g., Friends of Bill W., Friends of Dorothy) are posted in the daily program.

For something different, swing by the atrium around noon on a sea day, when the pipe organ plays, and its statuettes come to life, banging drums and waving batons.

Once per cruise, all Holland America ships offer On Deck for a Cause, a 5K walk to benefit cancer research. If you donate $20 or more, you'll get a free T-shirt.

At Night

Evenings are generally low-key on Zaandam. Live music can be heard in the Ocean Bar and Explorer's Lounge, while a pianist entertains in Mix. Shows are well attended. There's generally a predinner trivia round and a postdinner board game (like Taboo or Pictionary) in the Crow's Nest. Late-night dancing starts at 10:30 p.m.

Note that in 2020, Holland America will add its popular Music Walk to Zaandam. The Explorer's Lounge will become Lincoln Center Stage and the piano bar in Mix will turn into Billboard Onboard with dueling pianists. A spot has yet to be finalized for B.B. King's Blues Club. These venues are known for drawing a crowd and getting people dancing, which could liven up Zaandam's evening offerings.

The casino has table games (Texas Hold'em, Caribbean stud, blackjack), roulette and slot machines. Keep an eye out for notices of casino-based tournaments and competitions.

Zaandam Bars and Lounges

Ocean Bar (Deck 5): At the top of the atrium, the Ocean Bar is a popular spot for grabbing a pre- or postdinner drink with a view. Don't miss the special cocktails curated for Holland America by Dale DeGroff found on regular bar menus and as daily specials. A quartet with a singer performs here in the evenings.

Mix (Deck 5): Across from the shops, Mix is appropriately a mix of bars sharing one space. There's a piano bar for evening sing-alongs, a wine bar with enomatic dispensers, a martini bar and an ale and spirits bar. Various, extra-fee beverage-focused events take place here, as well as the occasional music trivia. (The piano bar portion of Mix is scheduled to turn into Billboard Onboard in Zaandam's spring 2020 dry dock.)

Explorations Cafe (Deck 5): Get your fill of caffeine here with extra-fee specialty coffees and tea, both iced and hot. A limited selection of free and for-a-fee cookies and pastries are found here, too.

Explorer's Lounge (Deck 5): This lounge is set up with rows of chairs, appropriate for the classical concerts put on in the evenings. It will officially become Lincoln Center Stage during Zaandam's 2020 dry dock.

Lido Bar (Deck 8): More than just the place to get a bucket of beer by the pool, the Lido Bar has a lovely fenced-in seated area with tables and shade umbrellas.

Sea View Bar (Deck 8): The bar located by the aft pool has limited hours on port days, opening at 6 p.m.

Crow's Nest (Deck 9): The top-of-ship lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows is a hub, day and night. The most coveted seats are the reclining chairs with ottomans where people read and nap by day. It's popular during scenic sail-aways for a predinner drink and hosts games day and night, as well as late-night dancing. A nightly happy hour, around 9 p.m., offers your second drink for $2.

Zaandam Outside Recreation

Pools

The midship swimming pool and two adjacent hot tubs on Deck 8 have a retractable magrodome for use in inclement weather. They are surrounded by a mix of padded lounge chairs and tables and chairs.

The aft Seaview Pool is on the same deck, overlooking the wake, with two cow statues reclining peacefully in the wading section that surrounds the swimming area. Furnishings are similar to the main pool, with lounge chairs around the pool and tables and chairs by the bar, close to the Lido Marketplace.

Recreation

Deck 9 is the ship's sports deck with a paddle tennis court on one side and a basketball court on the other, as well as two shuffleboard courts. Two Ping-Pong tables are set up by the pool.

The wraparound promenade on Deck 3 is popular with walkers doing laps and readers who curl up on padded teak lounge chairs, tucked in (when it's chilly) with provided wool blankets.

Sun Decks

Zaandam has a few somewhat hidden slices of sun deck, found on Deck 2 aft and Deck 6 forward. Access is at the end of cabin hallways. Up top, there is some extra sun deck space on Deck 10 forward (above the Crow's Nest) and on Deck 9 aft, tucked behind the sports courts and alongside Club HAL and The Loft. The sun deck space right above used to be for teen use, but is now a crew-only area.

Zaandam Services

Zaandam is an easy ship to navigate; all public areas and services are located on either Decks 4 and 5 or Decks 8 and 9. However, the ship's galley blocks access to the dining room on Deck 4, so you must go up or down one deck to the rear stairway to reach the main level of the dining room.

Passengers can choose to purchase access to the Club Orange priority program, which gives cruisers priority embarkation, debarkation, tendering and dinner seating; small enhancements to dinner and room service menus; and other perks. The cost is $25 per person, per day, and must be purchased by the first two passengers sharing a cabin.

The atrium, spanning Decks 4 and 5 is not high-ceilinged or impressive, but it makes a statement with a two-deck white organ in the center, which is played daily at noon. Surrounding it on Deck 4 are guest services and the EXC shore excursions desk. Also, on this deck are the art and photo galleries, with a photo studio tucked away in one corner of the photo gallery, and the underused EXC desk, where the cruise and travel director holds office hours.

Deck 5 houses the shops, selling fine jewelry, duty-free cigarettes and alcohol, perfume, logo items, sundries and more. There's a special boutique called Mirabella devoted to fine jewelry. There are two meeting rooms, Hudson and King's rooms, and a Future Cruise desk for those who'd like to book another Holland America cruise while onboard. The Explorations Cafe is an all-purpose space that houses the ship's library and collection of board games to borrow, tables for communal puzzles and internet terminals. The Digital Workshop is hidden on this deck as well.

Speaking of internet, the ship sells various Wi-Fi packages for use on your personal devices or on the ship's computers. The Social plan lets you connect to a limited number of popular social media websites and apps, and costs $14.99 for 24 hours or $69.99 per seven-night cruise. The Surf plan adds access to additional websites, such as sports, news and email, for $24.99/day or $99.99/week. The Premium plan gives more bandwidth, allowing for audio/video chats and streaming, as well as regular browsing and app use. It costs $29.99/day or $139.99/week.

If your cruise is longer than a week, full voyage Wi-Fi prices will vary, but generally offer a savings over the 24-hour rate. Also, prorated plans are offered if you want to sign up for Wi-Fi access halfway through your cruise.

The Neptune Lounge on Deck 7 is for the exclusive use of Neptune and Pinnacle Suite passengers. It offers comfortable seating and TVs, a concierge, computer stations with internet and printers, and an honor bar (pour your own drinks and mark what you took in a ledger for later billing).

There's a medical center on Deck 1. All self-service launderettes have been removed.

Zaandam Spa & Fitness

Spa

The Greenhouse Spa (Deck 8, forward) offers an array of relaxing treatments, including facials, massages and body wraps, as well as salon services, such as hair styling, manicures and pedicures. Acupuncture, medi-spa cosmetic services (Restylane and Botox), teeth whitening and men's services (such as shaves and beard trims) are also available. A Youth Spa Menu includes parent/child massages, acne attack facials and styling sessions.

Spa services don't come cheap, so look for specials for embarkation or port day appointments, or discounts for booking multiple treatments.

A thermal suite offers heated loungers, hot tub, sauna and steam room, and entrance is via passes sold by the day or for the full cruise for singles and couples. Pricing varies by sailing, and passes can be purchased (and sell out) online before the cruise, as space is limited.

The minimum age for using the spa is 18; younger children may be accommodated if accompanied by an adult.

The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Fitness

The gym, located within the Deck 8 spa, overlooks the bow of the ship with floor-to-ceiling windows. It is equipped with Precor treadmills, elliptical machines, stationery bikes, weight training machines and free weights. One area is set aside for group classes, which include free options (abs, stretch and total body conditioning) and extra-free workouts (yoga, Pilates, cycling and guided meditation for $15 and boot camp for $20 per person, per class).

The fitness team is available for personal training sessions (rates vary by package) and lead free workshops and foot print analyses in the hope of selling you various products and services.

There is no jogging track on Zaandam. The wraparound promenade on Deck 3 is ideal for walking laps, but signs request no running. A mile is 3.5 laps.

The fitness center is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Zaandam For Kids

All Holland America ships are generally adult-focused, though you will find families onboard shorter sailings, often a three-generation group from grandparents to grandkids. Zaandam does not have family-specific cabins, though it has both connecting staterooms and rooms that can accommodate three and four passengers.

Its kids club, Club HAL, occupies a small area of Deck 9, and due to generally lower numbers of participants, divides children into three (possibly even two) groups versus five. That said, smaller groups can mean more personal attention for kids and a calmer atmosphere (rather than the zoo-y, overrun feeling you might find on a mega-ship during winter break).

The minimum age to sail is 6 months (or 12 months if there are more than two consecutive sea days on the itinerary). Children in diapers (including swim diapers) are not allowed in the pool; they must be toilet trained to enter. There are no kid pools.

On sea days only, Guest Services staff can babysit children in public venues (not in your cabin) for an hourly rate of $10 for the first child and $7 for subsequent children. Inquire at the reception desk; services are limited.

Kids

Club HAL is located on Deck 9 aft for kids ages 3 to 12. The multiroom play space has a gaming and movie-watching section, a craft and board game area and a play space with a slide for the youngest cruisers. Kids are generally divided into two groups, ages 3 to 6 (kids) and 7 to 12 (tweens), but on our cruise, the groups were combined together. (That said, we didn't see any preschoolers in the club at all.) Youth staff cannot change diapers or assist kids in the bathroom.

Kid activities range from barnyard bingo and cartoon trivia to paper bag puppet crafts, pirate adventure parties and parachute play. Tween events could include making photo frames or beaded key chains, spy night or pajama parties, relay races or video game play.

Club HAL is open every night from 7 to 11 p.m. On port days, it's open basically all day while the ship is in port, but you must tell staff in advance that your child is coming (and one responsible adult must remain onboard). On sea days, it's open for a few hours in the morning and in the afternoon, with a break for lunch and dinner. Club HAL does not provide meals or snacks, due to food allergies among its passengers. Parents must sign children of all ages into and out of Club HAL.

Club HAL is going paperless, so you won't get a printed schedule of events anymore.

Teens

The Loft is for teenagers ages 13 to 17, and is decorated like a cool hangout. Teen activities are scheduled on sea days morning, afternoons and evenings from 8 a.m. to midnight, and port days evenings only. They can come and go as they please.

Activities include Xbox tournaments, karaoke contests, volleyball and Ping-Pong, poker night parties and jewelry design crafting projects.

Holland America Zaandam Ship Stats

  • Crew: 604
  • Launched: 2000
  • Decks: 10
  • Passengers: 1,432
  • Registry: Netherlands
  • CDC Score: 98

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