10 Rio de Janeiro Holland America Zaandam Cruise Reviews

Cruise selected based on the itinerary. We had 2 issues that we escalated to guest services and were made to feel they did not care at all. Our cabin was hot and after technician checked and temperature was 22.9 Celcius,. i was told by ... Read More
Cruise selected based on the itinerary. We had 2 issues that we escalated to guest services and were made to feel they did not care at all. Our cabin was hot and after technician checked and temperature was 22.9 Celcius,. i was told by Guest Services, they could do nothing andthere were no other cabins to move. it was a blatant lie, I know this because due to flooding of several cabins later in the cruise people were relocated. After 4 nights of no sleep due to the heat I went back to Guest Services requesting a fan. We were provided with a fan, put it on and went to bed, at 12:45 that night the fan shorted and filled the cabin with smoke. Luckily I'm a light sleeper and woke up. The fire alarm nor sprinkler alerted us. I called Guest Services to report this and they showed no concern. We reported this in writing to the Hotel Director and recieved no acknowledgement of our issue. Our second issue relates to what is published in the Quench Beverage Package and what is actually available on board. basically there is a misrepresentation of the product. This issue was supposedly escalated to the HAL Coorpration. It took over 10 days and many follow ups by us with Guest Services and F&B department and we failed to get the package purchased and advertised online. Guest Services continually blocked any escalation of these 2 issues. Based on this experience, lack of activities and enthusiasm from cruise director and his offsider running activities, lots of food but either often cold, if eating in the dining room, or dry and overcooked in the Lido. We will never cruise with HAL again. In discussion with many other passengers, we are not alone with our opinion. We have done over 20 cruises, this was our 3rd cruise in 8 weeks, 1 with Royal Carribbean and the other with Princess, both cruise companies offered outstanding customer service, activities, food and fun. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
Having read fellow travellers reviews, I wanted to provide our opinion following our South America trip recently. Ship The Zaandam ship is on the small side by today’s standards (1400 passengers) but that does mean you do get to ... Read More
Having read fellow travellers reviews, I wanted to provide our opinion following our South America trip recently. Ship The Zaandam ship is on the small side by today’s standards (1400 passengers) but that does mean you do get to know the staff and fellow cruisers. The ship was well maintained, clean and comfortable. We opted for an outside cabin, mid ships, on the main deck due to the sailing around Cape Horn. We had good weather on the day itself but were glad of our cabin position as the sea still had considerable sized waves and motion. Even with good weather there was still quite a lot of movement so I would recommend thinking about your cabin position for this route. The cabin was comfortable with plenty of storage space even for 16 nights. The bathroom in our cabin had been updated and include a walk in shower which is much better than the small baths that used to be in the bathrooms. One very small niggle in the cabin is that the light switches are in the middle of the headboard and so every time you lean back to relax and read on the bed you end up turning the lights on/off. In our experience HAL are not “party ships” and so there are no real themed parties and most nights see guests in bed by 10.30pm. This suited us as we were able to wake early for some lovely scenery and sunrises. We would have liked more information on our surroundings, wildlife and history. As the ship is small the cruise director doubled as the travel director and he did provide some commentary on the scenic cruising but it would have been good to have had an expert lecturer on board. Dining We ate breakfast in the dining room on sea days ( it opens a bit too late on port days for us as we like to be out and about early) The menu does not vary year to year, but the quality is still excellent and the staff are more than happy to make a few tweaks if you want to mix and match some options. For lunch we used the salad bar and Asian bar in the Lido which were both superb. There were mandarin segments, nuts, seeds, dried cherries etc...on the salad bar which you don’t often see on other cruise lines. The Asian bar had a varied choice each day. Even if you are not generally a fan, I would suggest you try it. The ice cream was also consistently excellent as was the fresh fruit counter. Dinner for us was in the dining room, late seating. The food and service were great and the cellar master really helped us make some great choices from even the cheapest wine package. We thought the dining room evening food was some of the best we’ve ever experienced and a chef was round most nights to check we we happy, asking for what dishes we’d enjoyed and what we might like to see again. We had a table for 2 and my only real moan of the trip was that our table was near the entrance .There were a large group of guests with a travel company on our sailing who always arrived late (some nights up to 45 minutes) and they were chaperoned in by their tour guides as they arrived. This meant the waiters were trying to work as these guests arriving which created a bottleneck right next to our table and it was impossible to relax. We had a word with the Maitre D and on night 4 we were moved to another table. Once moved we really enjoyed our evenings in there. We were asked most Breakfast, lunch and dinner times if we wanted to try the Specialty Dining. One lunch time we were asked 3 times by three different waiters. The cruise director also started some of his announcements with an advert for it and it did get rather tiresome. I am sure it is lovely but we were more than happy with the dining room food and could not see the benefit of paying to eat elsewhere. It is also the most expensive speciailty dining we have seen, especially when the pound is weak against the dollar. Tours Apart from an independent tour in Rio we used the Shore Excursions for the whole cruise. I prefer to know they are then responsible for getting us back to the ship/next port etc.. We were specifically warned about a recent spike in tourism petty crime and to dress down, no jewellery etc...We found being in a group felt much safer and allowed my husband to take his large camera as opposed to being concerned about having it stolen and leaving it behind. In Rio, There were police cars at the entrance to our hotel so we were pleased we had an independent tour organised there. We’d booked the whole holiday with Holland America and the Sheraton was the only hotel we were offered. It has a lovely beach but also has a large slum area quite near so we were encouraged not to venture out on our own, especially at night. We had flown in one day earlier and booked a day trip with Viator which took in all the main highlights with a BBQ lunch. Once onboard, In Santos we just used the free shuttle into the town to a mall ( we didn’t fancy any of the trips there) you could then taxi around from there if you wanted to. I found it the most low key of all the stops. A tour may of helped that day as the Port is very industrial and you cannot really walk into the town. In Buenos Airies the highlights tour was terrific. We visited the cemetery where Eva Perone is buried and it is a quite beautiful cemetery which was very unexpected. In Montevideo we did the highlights tour which again was great, And from Montevideo onwards we felt much safer. If you are interested in penguins or real off-roading, I would recommend the trip to Volunteer point in the Falklands. It’s a long day. 30 minute tender, 1 hour on good road, 1.5 hours “off road” but the penguin colony is such a privilege to see. It’s the largest outside of Antarctic and watching the King Penguins enjoying the sea and beach was amazing. You can get quite close to them ( 6 meters is allowed) but they will then approach you as they are very curious. We saw Kings, Gentoos and Mangellec with lots of birds too. it was one of the highlights of the whole trip for us. In Ushuaia we visited the National Park, good wether prevailed and the scenery was lovely. Later that day we cruised Glacier Alley with the cruise ship and the scenery is spectacular. It outdid Norway, Alaska and New Zealand for us. The weather makes such a difference on this tour, we were lucky but the staff told us that the previous sailing had poor visibility in Ushuaia and a tough sailing around the Horn, which is not unusual and sick bags are provided in the cabins. In Punto Arenas we did a chairlift ride and a trek which was a pleasant morning and again sunshine helped. In Puerto Montt we visited the cascades, Orsono Volcano (but no view due to cloud cover) and Puerto Varas. The volcano did become partly visible late afternoon which we could see from the ship. It’s 90 mins to the cascades and Puerto Varas is a small town. It got us off the ship but I’m not sure I’d choose this tour if I had my time over. All towns in Chile are experiencing evening riots and so lots of shop windows are boarded over which gives a rather depressing look to the towns at the moment. Staff The waiters got to know us, remembered our names and our nightly drinks/fruit juice preference orders at breakfast which was impressive. The crew show was funny too. The ships photographers seem intent on getting a picture with other cruisers in the background/gangways etc...I suggested that a spot with a nicer backdrop might help encourage a few more guests to have a picture but he told me their job was hard enough getting people to stop for a picture. Usual high pressure sales culture in the Spa. I always avoid these now but had to get a nail repaired during the trip. Some eye cream was put on without me asking as a “complimentary treatment” which of course leads to them telling you how much difference it makes ( it didn’t) and despite me saying “no“ to a foot spray, I was given one and charged for it so I had to get the bill amended before I left. I’ve provided feedback many times, but this sales technique must work as it’s never changed. Shows All the shows were enjoyable that we saw ( we missed out a couple) My experience is that HAL don’t spend the same amount on their shows as other cruise companies but the quality of food is better so it depends what your own preference is. There was a classical group, a jazz type quartet and a pianist. Due to our dining times, we just watched the late show each evening. Gym Reasonable amount of equipment but the free classes were heaving. I only did one and found it too cramped so I decided to walk on deck instead. Overall for us a great cruise. Undoubtedly the weather played a massive part in our enjoyment. We enjoyed the Zandaam and would definitely cruise on this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
The Zaandam is our new favourite ship. Its smaller size means fewer decks and less crowding. Our cabin on deck 6 was one deck above the fixed-time dining room and most public areas, and just two decks below the lido. It is practical to use ... Read More
The Zaandam is our new favourite ship. Its smaller size means fewer decks and less crowding. Our cabin on deck 6 was one deck above the fixed-time dining room and most public areas, and just two decks below the lido. It is practical to use the stairs rather than the elevators. Less crowding meant that we did not have to show up at least half an hour early to sit together for performances in the theatre. Our cabin was bright and thoughtfully laid out, our balcony was deeper and more usable than the non-suite balconies on HAL’s larger ships, the ship is in excellent cosmetic condition, and the crew are cordially efficient. One curious point is that the magnetic bulldog clips we’ve used on other ships to hold papers to the cabin walls would not stick in this one. This was our first experience of HAL’s EXC program and we like it. Lectures by the two guest speakers on sea-days were deservedly well attended. The port talks were informative, useful and a welcome change from the past pitches for ship’s tours. The EXC host went out of his way to be helpful and to offer advice for independent travel. The Zaandam’s port tendering (three ports) went as smoothly and efficiently as one could expect. Entertainment was the best we’ve experienced in some time. HAL has a reputation here on Cruise Critic for cost-cutting, and nowhere has that been more obvious in past cruises than in the quality of the entertainment. The classical group Adagio, for example, used to be a quartet. Then it became a trio and, more recently, just two indifferent players. The Adagio duo on this cruise included possibly the best violinist I’ve heard at sea, better than he should have been but unfortunately at the end of his contract. I hope he’s re-engaged. And the rest of the performers, singers and dancers were a definite step up from those on the Westerdam last year and the Eurodam the year before. The food quality and presentation were at least as good as we’ve come to expect, especially at the evening meal in the dining room. Evening meals in the Pinnacle and Canaletto were excellent. Lunch in the Pinnacle remains one of cruising’s best bargains. I’m still unhappy that HAL does not buy more provisions locally and give its chefs more rein with the menus. Why should the two Chilean wines I most wanted to order off the wine list both be out of stock for the duration of a 16 day cruise that included three Chilean ports? Why can we not see the most common regional dishes on the evening menu? Bar service was typically good but a bit slow. The prices continue to inch up, with most drinks now being between $7 and $10. It wasn’t difficult to find a server except, oddly, in the Explorers Lounge, where drinks service during Adagio’s evening performances was either missing or very scarce. Because there’s no bar in the Explorer’s Lounge, the drinks, and the servers on this cruise, come from the Mix bar one room away. That, however, is the only instance where the on-board service was less than we expected. The Zaandam’s guest-facing crew were great. The captain took us much closer to a glacier than I thought he would, and made a small route change so that we could view a large iceberg. We enjoyed this cruise and look forward to coming back for more. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
My wife and I are recently retired and have long wanted to cruise an "around the horn" itinerary. This Holland America cruise fit the bill the perfectly. Overall, an outstanding cruise, a decent value and a great itinerary. ... Read More
My wife and I are recently retired and have long wanted to cruise an "around the horn" itinerary. This Holland America cruise fit the bill the perfectly. Overall, an outstanding cruise, a decent value and a great itinerary. We departed from Rio de Janeiro. Our flight departed the east coast for Miami on Halloween. Many of the airport and airline employees were in costume and having a good time. We ended up,with a business class upgrade for the overnight flight from Miami to Rio. Since we have been to Rio before, we didn't do anything touristy other than stroll on Copacabana Beach. I paid for our Airbnb for the night of the 31st so we could check in immediately upon arrival the morning of the first. HAL emailed us the day before embarkation to warn us that check in was going to involve two security checks and to expect delays. Because of this, we left early for the pier. Our uber driver was completely unfamiliar with the cruise port but found it without too much difficulty. Other than confusion about where to drop our bags and where to line up for check in, things went relatively smoothly. There was almost no signage but following the heard and gentle inquiries had us on board in about 30 minutes. We were very pleased with the ship almost as soon as we boarded. Our cabin was ready for immediate occupancy and our bags all arrived shortly after lunch. We were expecting a small ship having recently cruised Carnival Horizon but the ship seemed plenty large with plenty of amenities. The public areas were all very tidy and clean and outside on the decks, conscientious maintenance was evident everywhere. We found the flow of the ship very easy to get around. As always, we selected an interior cabin for economy and for the dark cave sleeping experience. We were on the second deck so we felt almost no roll and the pitching was quite sleep inducing. The cabin could serve four passengers with two beds, a drop down bunk and a sofa bed. The beds were made up as twins, apparently our request for one bed was not received but this was fixed while we were at lunch. There was an astonishing amount of closet space for two people. The tile in the bathroom looked like a 1960s motel room but otherwise, we found the cabin spacious, comfortable and appropriately updated. Dining was very good to excellent. We tried the main dining room for breakfast once and the service was so slow, we never returned. The buffet on the Lido deck, however, had outstanding breakfast options so we went there every subsequent day. The omelette station rarely had more than three people in line, the eggs Benedict were fresher and better than the dining room and the waffles were hot and freshly made. It could get crowded around 9 am so we often ate outside by the pool. We never did try the dining room for lunch instead using the buffet every day. The salads were excellent and days we wanted to try sandwiches, soups, pasta or other offerings, everything was good except the pizza. The Dive In burgers could be a bit of a hot mess but good and the dogs were also nice. The fries were always hot and crispy. We enjoyed open seating dinners in the main dining room. The food was hit or miss but the service was usually good and we had a wonderful group of dining companions almost every night. A few nights, we did not feel up to a long dinner and ate at the buffet. We had some unbelievably tender and flavorful steaks at the buffet one evening. A friend had treated us to a dinner at the Pinnacle Grill and it was outstanding. The steaks were superb and the service perfect. There were three formal nights but we only attended one. My wife felt unwell the night of the first one and the second one was during our scenic cruising of the glacier channel. Because it was light so late and we enjoying the spectacular scenery, I think many people opted to skip that formal night and hit a buffet for late dinner. The entertainment was also hit or miss. The singers/dancers are, I'm sure, very talented and hardworking but the show was poor. I think the performers were saddled with repetitive choreography and uninspired music selection. On the other hand, it was great to see a real live band performing. A guest juggler was just so so and a guest flautist was unusual but extremely talented and a good show. The highlight of the entertainment was a spectacular combo of BBC cinematography with live music. High definition films of polar regions and animals were accompanied by the live band playing the original score. We caught a few of the other acts in the bars and lounges and all were very talented. The enrichment opportunities were one of the ship highlights for us. Guest speakers addressed topics of maritime history, ship construction, glaciers, environmental concerns and applied oceanography. The port lectures were outstanding also; real and practical information about the ports without a word about shopping. The ask the captain presentation was very informative and well done. Our absolute favorite offering was the America's Test Kitchen. Once or twice on sea days, the presenter, Allison, would demonstrate two to three recipes along with advice on kitchen techniques, cookware and gadgets. The set was completely professional, the production engineer was very slick and the entire program was perfectly executed and utterly enjoyable. We found service to be very good throughout. Our cabin steward, Edward, was fantastic. The servers in the buffet were very personable even when trying to keep up with clearing tables at busy times. The bar staffs were all excellent. No complaints about service. My wife and I treated ourselves to the Thermasuite package. For the two of us, it was $349 for the entire 16 day cruise. It gave us unlimited use of the Thermasuite in the spa area. Most of the time, we were only two there. Sometimes, there was another couple there. Only once was there more than four people. I thoroughly enjoyed the steamrooms and hot tub and we both enjoyed the heated loungers. The ports on this cruise were all great. In Punte del Este, we just did a short walkabout the port. We saw a few sights and enjoyed the sea lions but were back on board in time for a late breakfast. Buenos Aires was a first time visit for both of us and we walked several miles and thoroughly enjoyed the city. We had a scheduled tour in Montevideo which showed us the highlights but left plenty of time for lunch and exploring on our own. Our arrival to the Falkland Islands coincided with Armistice Day and we were privileged to be able to attend a church service and a military parade and memorial ceremony. In Ushuaia, we had a prearranged tour to the Tierra del Fuego National Park which was outstanding. Our third And final prearranged tour was in Punta Arenas and it was a bit disappointing. There is absolutely nothing at the port so you need to take a shuttle into town if you don't have anything set up. Our tour went to a scenic overlook, spent way too much time at a mediocre museum, then had a very brief stop in the downtown plaza. For Puerto Montt, I went ahead and paid for a cruise line tour of Petrohue Cataracts and Puerto Varas. We were very happy with this tour. At the end of the cruise, I purchased a cruise line tour/airport transfer. The tour to two wineries, lunch, a bus tour of Santiago and a shopping stop with airport drop off was very expensive at $200 per person but it was extremely well executed. In addition to the ports, the scenic cruising days were just a spectacular. We went around Cape Horn, the Straits of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, the Sarmiento Channel and the Chilean Fjords. We were privileged to see glaciers, fjords and even an iceberg. For us, this was the highlight of the cruise. As far as complaints, there were a few. During the scenic cruising, commentary was provided in the Crow's Nest, outside decks and on the cabin TV. The Crow's Nest got uncomfortably crowded and even then, the sound system was terrible and the commentary was inaudible. I think the commentary should be broadcast in all common areas so regardless of where you choose to observe the beauty, you can hear the details. Also, the ship seemed to be very poorly provisioned. We purchased an eight bottle wine program. By the fourth night, it seemed they never had anything on our wine list. To their credit, a substitute bottle was provided and usually a higher level wine but it seems silly to create a wine list, sell a program, and then be told almost every night, that your choice of wine is not available. Also, by about day three, there was no draft beer. By the end of the cruise, only a fraction of advertised bottled beers were available. I found alcohol prices extremely high. Overall, a great experience. We were reluctant to disembark and would have gladly sailed back to Buenos Aires. If you are interested in Patagonia and seeing some great scenery and exciting cities, this is a highly recommended cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. Ports were fantastic and weather was great. Smooth seas at their best. The ship is a different story. Dining room service was extremely slow. One night we waited over 1 1/2 hours ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. Ports were fantastic and weather was great. Smooth seas at their best. The ship is a different story. Dining room service was extremely slow. One night we waited over 1 1/2 hours before being served and the excuse was "The kitchen is backed up" Hard to believe at 5:30 PM--open seating. Two meals at the Pinnacle Grill were fantastic. The Cellar Master Package, Double was clearly worth the price. However, there was confusion concerning the number of meals that could have had clearer wording on the vouchers. The company made it right and credited the second meal. Cabin was filthy and the bathroom had mold, a cracked sink and a broken shower head. Cabin steward was personable but not very effective. Guest entertainers were extremely good but the ship's entertainers were terrible. All in all the cruise was worth the expense but the ship needs repair. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We chose this cruise specifically for the itinerary and what a wonderful itinerary it was helped by settled weather conditions for most of the passage. I had however reservations about the ship being a little dated and reserved ie the ... Read More
We chose this cruise specifically for the itinerary and what a wonderful itinerary it was helped by settled weather conditions for most of the passage. I had however reservations about the ship being a little dated and reserved ie the entertainment onboard was quite possibly the poorest we had ever been unfortunate enough to be subjected to. There was also unacceptable delays in the main dining room which ultimately led us to dine in the lido. Embarkation was poor with elderly guests having to queue for long periods of time, although this can't be helped perhaps cool hand/face towels and iced water? I was also quite disappointed to witness 'engineering' staff in contaminated overalls using the lido as a passageway whilst guests were eating. And as for the price of the ships excursions, by far the most expensive I have witnessed on any of the many trips I have completed. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
Chose this cruise for the itinerary, not the line or the ship. After reading some negative reviews, we didn't have really high hopes, but the ship turned out to be pretty nice even with a few hiccups. We are a couple in our ... Read More
Chose this cruise for the itinerary, not the line or the ship. After reading some negative reviews, we didn't have really high hopes, but the ship turned out to be pretty nice even with a few hiccups. We are a couple in our 60's and have cruised 26 times before on most of the major lines, this was the third time with Holland America. We brought our 11 year old granddaughter with us, and while there were only about six kids total onboard, the youth director Lisa did a fine job of allieviating their boredom. The ports were fascinating, unlike anything we had ever seen, but on sea days we found very little to do. Most folks played bridge, napped in the solarium, or read. Very few activities. Overall, it was a trip of a lifetime! We had smooth seas, not at all like what we expected. A word to the wise: if you're sailing out of Rio, you must have a Brazilian visa, which we quite expensive (over $1000.00 for the three of us) and it took about 3 months and many phone calls to get. The visas showed up 4 days before we left home, and it was a big hassle. Glad we got to see Rio, but we will not ever be going back to Brazil! Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
This is our 5th HAL cruise and as always a great experience. You sometimes wonder what kind of travelers cruise the world because some of the reviews from past seasons spoke of untrained staff, tired looking ship, poor food etc. This was ... Read More
This is our 5th HAL cruise and as always a great experience. You sometimes wonder what kind of travelers cruise the world because some of the reviews from past seasons spoke of untrained staff, tired looking ship, poor food etc. This was NOT our experience. Staff was GREAT, helpful and polite even with difficult demanding passengers. The ship had been in dry dock in October so I will not comment on how it looked prior to that but in December 2013, the ship was looking clean and very well maintained. Hardly any visible rust spots on the exterior. EMBARKATION: Easy and hassle free. We were using our French passports so did not require visas. Luggage delivered promptly. MEALS: Food always excellent on HAL although I will say that on previous cruises on different HAL ships it was probably better. At times, especially at breakfast in the MDR food was often "lukewarm" rather than "hot". Food quality was however very good. Soups both hot and cold always EXCELLENT. Meat cooked to my requested doneness. Pinnacle Grill excellent as was the Caneletto except for our first evening there where my pasta was overcooked. STATEROOM: Large, roomy and tons of storage. This is a real "plus" that HAL offers. Room clean and in good condition. Bed super comfortable. Bathroom clean and working well but in need of upgrading. Patio furniture also looking tired. ENTERTAINMENT: We seldom go to shows every night and HAL is not the specialist in large Broadway like productions. I prefer the invited guest entertainers more than the HAL troupe but that is personal to me. Piano Bar player was very, very good and funny. Also the violin player in the Explorer's lounge was exquisite. We listened to her every single evening. STAFF: Many thanks to our terrific stateroom attendants: Made and Joe Neptune lounge concierge: Shirley Pinnacle Grill staff: Made and Elvira MDR: Tatang, Francisco Shore excursion specialist: Patrick Our Captain who kept us safe, informed and was very present throughout the cruise and did not hesitate to wake everyone at 7 am when a fire alarm sounded. Everything turned out OK but its nice knowing that HAL officers take safety seriously. This is why we keep cruising with them. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
South America/Antarctica - December 15- Jan. 9 on HAL’s Zaandam I just got back today from a fabulous cruise on the Zaandam. This truly was the trip of a lifetime. I got same great pictures of Antarctica. We avoided the deep freeze back ... Read More
South America/Antarctica - December 15- Jan. 9 on HAL’s Zaandam I just got back today from a fabulous cruise on the Zaandam. This truly was the trip of a lifetime. I got same great pictures of Antarctica. We avoided the deep freeze back at home and had almost 24 hours of daylight. We experienced some other cultures that we may never had experienced. We had wonderful tablemates and enjoyed dinner with them immensely. Our family consists of me, Cathy, semi-retired age 50, ds18, dd15, ds8. Everyone loved the cruise. DS8 cried on the last night and has been constantly bugging me for the past several days about when our next cruise is. He is also convinced that I should get a job on a cruise ship so that he can sail with me. We booked the cruise about 4 months in advance. We had sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam in July, 2012 for a 24 night Med cruise, so we were well prepared for the 21 night South America cruise. Originally, I was going to post this as a semi-live report, but the Zaandam’s internet was not up to the task. My apologies for the length of the review. Our ship’s itinerary Dec. 18-19 Rio de Janeiro Dec. 22-23 Buenos Aires Dec. 24 Montevideo Dec. 27 Stanley, Falkland Islands Dec. 28-Jan. 1 Cruising Antarctica Jan. 2 Ushuaia Jan. 3 Punta Arenas Jan. 6 Puerto Montt Jan. 8 Valparaiso (end of cruise) Pre- cruise Toronto to Iguassu Falls Our cruise left from Rio de Janeiro. We flew in 2 days ahead for a visit at Iguassu Falls. The journey was scheduled to last 21 hours from Toronto. Our flight from Toronto to Washington, DC was on time, but our flight from DC to Sao Paulo was delayed 2.5 hours which took up most of our connection time. Although the United flight attendants said that there would be a gate agent to help us with the connections, there wasn’t anyone in the jetway or gate area except for several people who looked like they were on break. At Sao Paulo, we had to go through immigration, collect our luggage,and recheck the luggage for a domestic flight to IGU. This was very quick, but we still missed our connecting flight with TAM. TAM had no clue what to do about our missed connection and said to talk to United. There was no one at the United desk, and I was told there wouldn’t be for another 4.5 hours. Uggh. We had already been travelling for almost 24 hours. My next strategy was to try to find the local number for United online. Good news - GRU has free internet. Bad news- it is abysmally slow, so I was doubtful that I would be able to connect. After 20 minutes of trying, I was able to connect to the airport’s wifi, bring up the United website and find the local phone number for the airline. Luckily, the local phone number had a selection for English and I was connected to a United agent who spoke English. She told me we were booked on a flight that left in 1.5 hours with GOL. Great! But it would have been better if the there had been someone at the airport to tell me this. Other people who flew out of Toronto on my flight, didn’t get their connection to Rio until midnight. Another lady I met from Vancouver, had her first flight from Toronto cancelled due to a snowstorm, then missed her connection in Sao Paulo. She was 2 days late getting into Rio. Luckily, she had planned for 4 days in Rio. Pre-cruise Iguassu Falls In Iguassu Falls, we stayed at Iguassu Resort. This was convenient to the airport and the National Park. The resort had a lovely main pool area, with live music that played in the evenings. The restaurants onsite were very expensive - 52 reals ($26 US) for the buffet. And no, the buffet was not all that great - it looked like a $10 buffet. We opted for the Asian restaurant and left hungry. I also left with with tummy trouble that lasted until I broke down and took the levaquin that my travel medicine doctor had prescribed, 5 days later. When we got back to the room, we discovered that the room service menu was significantly cheaper and ordered from there from then on. The National Park was very nice, very well run. Our taxi dropped us off and there was someone there to direct us to the cashier. After the cashier, we got on a very nice double decker bus that took us to the beginning of the main trail. This trail starts right in front of Hotel das Cataratas, the only hotel in the park. Since there were four of us, we would have needed 2 rooms at this hotel, instead of one at Iguassu Resort. If there had been two of us, I would definitely have stayed at Hotel das Cataratas which would have given us the opportunity to visit the falls whenever we liked. The main trail was 1.5 km long, along a boardwalk. There are quite a few stairs on this walk, it’s not handicapped friendly. It took us about 1.5 hours to do the entire walk at a slow pace. Boarding Our flight to Rio was uneventful. The IGU airport is very new and nice. It is also very small which was a good thing. We did not have any trouble speaking English - or my attempts at Portuguese in Foz do Iguacu. The taxi booths at Rio are right next to the baggage claim, and in case you miss those, there is one about 50 feet directly in front of the doors from baggage claim. They take reals or dollars or credit cards. They gave me a quote in USD that was better than the exchange rate my bank gave me, but because I had quite a few reals left over, I used those. Once we passed the booths, my son, who was 10 feet ahead of me, was approached by a gypsy cab person, but he quickly backed off when he saw my chit for the taxi. The English/Portuguese started to break down when we reached the actual taxi stand and in the taxi itself. The name for the cruiseport is Praca Maua. My first attempt at pronouncing this was bad. Correct pronounciation is prahssah mao-ah. Even then, the cab driver wanted to discuss exactly where we wanted to be left off. He finally used hand signals and we agreed that I was getting on a ship there. Baggage dropoff was very quick - too quick. They had taken two of our 5 bags before they understood that, yes, I did have the luggage tags on me, even though they weren’t attached. So, two bags got whisked away without luggage tags. Don’t worry, they said, they’ll use the name tags on the luggage, except they never actually verified that there were name tags on the luggage. I am a little paranoid about this as on my very first cruise (on a different cruise line) my one and only piece of luggage was given to ship’s personnel at the transfer to the ship and was not seen again for 7 days. I had taken pictures at the Rio airport of each piece of luggage, so I wasn’t tooo concerned. We entered the terminal. There are sundry shops in the terminal, so it would be a good place to pick up things you had forgotten to pack. They have us a number (14), the health questionnaire and asked us to sit. Two minutes later, they told us to get in line. The lines were not well marked, and we almost boarded a different ship. We finally joined the looong line for checkin. After a few minutes, I started musing about how I wished we had priority checkin. Our line hadn’t moved at all. Wait! We did have priority checkin! We were in a suite! Out of that line, and into another line, which was even less well signed. Here, there were agents who were twiddling their thumbs. The agent took our passports, and said we’d get them at the end of the cruise. They also took or checked our Argentinian reciprocity fee receipts. Pictures taken, we headed for the ship. The stateroom - Originally, I had booked an oceanview for the 4 of us. None of the balcony staterooms on the ship sleep 4. So, it was an oceanview or a suite for 3 1/2 times the price. Ummm, I’ll take the oceanview. Two weeks prior to the cruise, I was emailed with an upsell and I took it. This is our first time in a suite on any of our cruises. We are in cabin 7022 which is directly across the hall from the Neptune Lounge. Although the food selection at breakfast is not large in the lounge, it had some of my favourite foods including smoked salmon and bagels, fruit, pastries, tea, coffee, cappucino. Unfortunately the cabin was under the Lido, and I could never quite figure out why, but every morning, starting around 5 am, there was something being dragged or pushed above our cabin. It sounded like we were underneath a bowling alley. One of the very first nights, something was not secured and every time the ship rolled, something above us would roll, rumble, rumble, rumble and then BAAANG! when it reached a wall. As I said, just like a bowling alley. The ship - Zaandam came out of drydock about 6 weeks ago. The carpeting throughout the ship has been changed. The air conditioning works well as does the plumbing. In our suite, the upholstery on the chairs and sofa as well as the curtains all look new. Towards the end of the cruise, I noticed that some of the chair upholstery had detached from the rest of the chair. The bathtub, tiling, and counters in the bathroom look old. Everything is very clean. About halfway through the cruise, one of my dd’s friends balcony cabins was flooded. On our first day in Antarctica, the potable water was shut down for a few minutes because of a flood in the Lido restaurant. Our tablemates got a picture of the flooding - a water main had broken and there was a waterfall coming out of the ceiling through a light fixture. On one of the last sea days, the dreaded 7 short blasts followed by a long one sounded at 7:20 am. An electrical fire in a light fixture on deck 1 was detected just a few cabins down from our originally booked cabin. At 7:32 am, the captain announced the light fixture had been removed and ordered emergency response teams to stand down. Demographics. Most of the passengers are in their 50’s and 60’s. I have met more teachers - mostly retired- on this cruise. This includes the 4 other people at our dining table, people on our shore excursion and others. That’s fine with me - I’m a teacher too. Club HAL and the Loft At the beginning of the cruise, there were about 30 kids, including 20 teenagers. About 5 more teenagers and 4 more 8-12 year olds got on Buenos Aires. DD15 easily found 2 other 15 year old girls to pal around with. DS8 is happy to have a few other kids, a couple of counsellors and a Wii and an Xbox in the kids club. Like other ships he has been on, he wants to be there every minute that the kids club is open. Club HAL on the Zaandam is not particularly handicapped friendly. The aft elevator does not go up to deck 9 where Club HAL is. You either have to walk up the stairs outside the Lido on deck 8 or take different elevators, go outside, and skirt through the tennis or basketball court on the sports deck. Food One of the things I liked best about our first cruise on HAL, in 2012, on the Nieuw Amsterdam, was the food, especially the desserts. While the Zaandam has the same menu, the food was not quite the same. The descriptions on the menu often did not match what was served. For example, the lettuce wraps were not wrapped in lettuce. My favourite on Nieuw Amsterdam had been the fruit crisps. On Zaandam, they consisted of mostly crisp and hardly any fruit. The worst example was the Black Forest cake. It had neither chocolate nor cherries, nor was very cake like. It was a white gelatinous mousse. The fruit pies were equally bad - very very little fruit and lots of starch or gelatin to hold the jelly like filling together. On Christmas Day, my stomach was feeling bad, but Maine lobster was on the menu - can’t miss that. Well, I should have. It was “lobster thermidor”, which was a grey paste with a couple of miniscule pieces of lobster served in a lobster shell. Gross. There was a dessert extravaganza on one of the last sea days. None of the cakes were labelled. The chefs served DS8 two pieces of desserts. After he ate 80% of one of them, I tried it - it was dripping with rum! December 19 - 4x4 to Tijuca Forest Tijuca is pronounced tee-zhooo-ca. The 4x4’s were old army-style trucks which we boarded at the port. Ten of us sat in the back on 2 benches. I think the truck had a top speed of 40 mph. Unfortunately, we were on a highway with a 50 mph limit. This was not exactly the fresh air excursion we signed up for. It took 75 minutes to get to the forest. There were 2 stops within the forest for about 20 minutes each. We saw some beautiful waterfalls. There was a short walk through the forest. There were police stationed at the stops within the forest as there has been muggings of tourists recently. There was an additional stop on a beach where we watched the hang gliders land.We did drive past Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. In total, we spent 3 hours crammed in the 4x4. I’d give this shore excursion a 3/5. December 22 Buenos Aires - Shore Excursion - Markets of Buenos Aires We were in Buenos Aires for 2 nights. Some passengers got on and some got off. There was no noticeable difference in the numbers on the ship. Temperature was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Our shore excursion was Markets of Buenos Aires. This is a 4 hour excursion. The markets were flea markets. No thanks. The last stop was at Ricoleta cemetary which was much more interesting. DS18 wished we could have stayed longer, but given the temperature, it was way too hot for me. I would give this one a 2/5. December 24 - Montevideo We got off the ship, but did not do a shore excursion. None of the ship’s offerings appealed to us. There are shops across the street from the port, but many were closed because it was Christmas Eve. Montevideo has a tradition of spraying people with champagne or other liquids on Christams Eve. They also set off firecrackers in the streets. We attempted to go further into the shopping area, but some firecrackers were set off that prevented this. I saw one passenger that had been hit by liquid. The souvenirs were overpriced in the two shops we saw. December 27 - Stanley, Falklands Islands We prebooked a trip to Volunteer Point with Estancia Excursions. HAL let us know that we were going to the Falklands 5 days prior to sailing, although it was always on the itinerary as “weather permitting”. They opened up Falklands shore excursions at the same time. Volunteer Point was $349 pp and sold out before the second day of the cruise. The tenders started leaving around 7:45 am, but there was no announcement. We just decided to head down to see if we could get off, and we got on about the 4th tender. The ride was about 20 minutes. Estancia Excursions appeared to be the only private vendor at the dock. They were swamped by people trying to book last minute. They took out probably 12-16 4x4s. The trip out was an adventure in itself. Volunteer Point was excellent and would be well worth the price of admission on the ship’s excursion. The drive to Volunteer Point was incredible. The first 50 minutes or so were on paved and then gravel road. The last 70 minutes were on peat. At Volunteer Point, there were both King penguins and Magellan penguins. The King penguins were very handsome birds and outshone the Magellans. The scenery was great as well. I rate this excursion as a 5/5. December 28 Sea Day This was the day I wished I were home. The seas were quite bad - about 20 feet. I was terribly seasick. I took ginger plus meclizine which put me to sleep, but still left my stomach feeling awful. December 29-31 Antarctica Fabulous otherworldly scenery. This was the whole point of the cruise for me. There were 3 Antarctic experts on board and they did lectures on sea days throughout the cruise, which were fabulous. We were supposed to have workers from Palmer station come on board to give a talk as well, but the weather was not agreeable to boarding them. January 1 Drake Passage More heavy seas, but not as bad as the crossing to the south. We circumnavigated Hornus Island which is the island containing Cape Horn. It is part of Chile. I saw a Chilean naval vessel close by to starboard as we started our circumnavigation. The horn saluted them as they dropped off. IMO, it appears that HAL has solved the problem of how to get from Argentina to the Falklands and back to Argentina - they inserted Uruguay before the Falklands, and then got the Chilean government to admit them to Chile when they circumnavigated Hornus Island - before going to Ushuaia. Jan. 2 Ushuaia Drive to Tierra del Fuego national park It was rainy and cold in Ushuaia. There were about 8 large buses that did this excursion. You can do it yourself - if you are confident in your Spanish as the taxi drivers did not speak any English.The best scenery was right at the dock. After Antarctica, the scenery on the shore excursion was nothing great. Rating 3/5. Jan. 3 Punta Arenas Off the Beaten Track shore excursion Three of us went on this shore excursion. It involved a short bus ride to the ferry and a 2 hour ferry ride each way to Magdalena Island. A snack and lunch pack was provided with 2 sandwiches, chocolate bar, cereal bar, large bottle of water and a large juice pak. Magdalena Island was covered with Magellan penguins. We were told there were 200,000 penguins. Even on the ferry you were extremely close to the penguins. We had seen the Magellan penguins at Volunteer Point though. So, while I got some great pictures, having been to the Falklands, it would have been better to save the money. This shore excursion was also sold out. Rating 4/5. Jan. 5 Puerto Montt - Private excursion with GV Tours I have struggled with what to write about this one. This was a tender port. Nineteen people (including 3 of my family) had signed up for the excursion on our roll call. Three people did not show. This got us off to a bad start because with that large of a group, the pricing for the shore excursion was a fixed amount, not a per person rate. So, all of a sudden, I’m on the hook for the fare for 3 more people. Luckily Veronica found one person at the pier and put her on our bus. I still had to hit up everyone else for $10 more. Secondly, although I asked the Neptune concierge for early tender tickets, they kept putting me off and finally left a message at 9 pm the night before that they couldn’t do it. Most of my group showed up early and left to get tender tickets, 10 minutes after tickets were announced. I took them an hour and a half to get to shore. Even though I left half an hour after them (waiting for the no-shows), because I had priority tendering which meant I didn’t need tickets, I was waiting on the pier for at least half an hour. So, it was 9:30 by the time we all arrived and got going on the tour. Thirdly, we almost missed the ship as we arrived at the pier 10 minutes after the final tender time. I really didn’t want to write that last part, but I don’t feel that it would be fair to my fellow cruise critic members to leave that out. Luckily, some of the ship’s excursions were late and the final tender didn’t actually occur until about 90 minutes later. Lesson learned - if I ever feel that I want to organize a group shore excursion again, it would have to save me at least 50% above the ship’s shore excursion. I would also ask for payment in advance before the sailing. Ratings: 5/5 for lunch, tour guide’s commentary, the bus and Petrohue rapids. Timeliness back to the port, tendering experience, failure of participants to show up and concierge helpfulness were epic fails.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
My husband and I are in our 60s….typical HAL cruisers on our 19th cruise, but WOW, this 21 day holiday cruise broke the sedate HAL mold, with an exciting international mix of passengers from young to old! We enjoyed this vibrant group. ... Read More
My husband and I are in our 60s….typical HAL cruisers on our 19th cruise, but WOW, this 21 day holiday cruise broke the sedate HAL mold, with an exciting international mix of passengers from young to old! We enjoyed this vibrant group. We flew to Rio de Janeiro and back from Santiago on Delta with the expected winter weather delays, always tense, so make sure you have plenty of time before connecting to your international flight. We had sailed twice previously on the Zaandam, and she came out of the latest dry dock looking like a new lady! She was immaculate throughout. There were noticeable improvements around the ship in many venues, much more open and flowing, with new upholstery, carpeting and drapes. Beautiful flower arrangements and holiday decorations graced the ship. The crew appeared very upbeat and proud to be serving on the Zaandam. With the usual compliment of activities listed each day in a nicely designed daily program, one could do as much or as little as you wished. There were many quiet places to escape from the lively Lido crowd. A great addition was and Antarctic Exploration Team, who gave talks on sea days, covering everything you ever wanted to know about Antarctica, and maybe some things you never thought about! These talks continued after we left Antarctica, too. We prebooked all our shore excursions through the ship, and were very happy with our choices. I want to add that bringing local currency was not necessary, and vendors everywhere kept their calculators busy converting pesos to dollars. The front office had local currency if necessary. Excursions: Rio: Corcovado& Rio Highlights. It was rainy/ foggy so the legendary beaches were deserted and Christ the Redeemer drifted eerily in and out of the mist. The train ride up was fascinating. Good overview. Buenos Aires: two day Showcase of Buenos Aires. We had a great guide who didn't mince words about political opinions and life in her city. We saw it all from the Recoleta Cemetery to the Tango Show. It was hot and sunny. Lunch was on our own with a variety of dining choices, and I was amazed to see tour members head for TGIFriday's! This was the time to break out the credit card and enjoy Argentine cuisine. Montevideo: Montevideo and the Wine Trail. Time at the city square, then out of town along the condo studded coast to the Bouza Winery for tasting and a sumptuous lunch. Most enjoyable! The Falkland Islands: North Pond Penguin Colony. A longer tour in 4X4s across the island to see penguins on a white sand beach, and then a huge Gentoo colony on the top of the hill….thousands of penguins and chicks literally standing wing to wing. Got a history lesson with this tour, too! Ushuaia: Drive to Tierra del Fuego National Park. In spite of rainy day, the park held its own quiet beauty. Punta Arenas: Off the Beaten Track: Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve. A must! A long (but comfortable) ferry ride for the E-Ticket experience of a lifetime! Thousands of inquisitive penguins and chicks just feet away, looking at you, walking in front of you, posing for you! Fantastic! Puerto Montt: Petrohue Falls, lake cruise and Chilean countryside. Off and on rain, but relaxing. Beautiful countryside, great lunch, shopping and the volcano made a spectacular appearance for us. Valparaiso: Coastal cities and Chilean valley traditions with airport transfer. Perfect way to end the cruise. We loved the horse ranch demonstration, Pisco Sours and delicious lunch. We had an excellent guide. We were dropped off at the airport at 5 PM. The main event on this cruise was our time in Antarctica. We were blessed with two stunning, sunny days. The vistas were surreal and ethereal as the ship glided silently across water as smooth as glass! The abundant shades of blue took your breath away. Wildlife was everywhere. It was "another world" experience we will never forget! There is always much talk on roll calls about proper clothing. Temperatures were around 30 degrees and quite tolerable. We are from the desert in southern California and just layered our clothes, topped off with jackets spayed with a water repellant. Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must, too! I wore non thermal tights under slacks with nylon gym pants over that to break the wind. Most important gear were hats to cover ears, a scarf and gloves. The shop on the ship sold jackets, scarves hats and gloves. We were very comfortable. Hot chocolate, gluhwein and pea soup were served during scenic cruising. Our Vista cabin 6110 was spacious and very comfortable, and looked completely new, including the built in furniture, carpet drapes and bedding. We had plenty of storage. It was located over the showroom and you could hear noise, but we didn't consider it a problem. It was a short walk to the outside deck at the bow of the ship, which we used frequently. Our steward, Asep, took good care of us, making sure we had everything we needed. He amazed us with his towel animals! The water was hot and the toilet flushed…life was good in 6110! We requested a table for 2 at 5:30 open seating. We had #114, which was perfect, not close to other tables, yet offered a great view from the back windows. Apri and Ary were our personable, competent stewards. Ary impressed us with his magic tricks! Dinner offerings were overall good and consistent. Iggy was the As You Wish Dining Host and circulated the dining room making sure all was well. There was always an alternative menu. The Coho Salmon was very good. A favorite are always the chilled soups. On the last night there was an International Dinner, which offered lots of choices. We used room service for breakfast most mornings, and did dine in the Pinnacle Grill one night. Dinner and the service were excellent. On sea days there was always an international buffet on the Lido poolside featuring cuisine of different country each time. The Chilean and Peruvian meal was the best! There were several teas as well. Entertainment was varied. I had seen both shows before, and this show cast did not seem to have the charisma of past shows. The onboard enrichment lectures were informative. I appreciated the onboard Catholic Priest and daily Mass. Non denominational services were also available. Disembarkation went smoothly. Passengers were bused to the main terminal. Because we were on a HAL tour, our luggage was sent directly to the airport. Internet on the ship was the usual slow and frustrating. We were not able to check in for our flight the evening before (network overload), but did so the morning of disembarkation on our ipad with a different network. At the airport you must insert your passport in the machine to print out your boarding pass. The airline counters don't open until a few hours before departure, so we waited in line for 1 ½ hours. The Santiago Airport was chaotic, with no place to sit except in restaurants, which were filled to capacity. We surrendered our Chilean Landing Card (which was inserted in the passport when we entered Chilean waters) at passport control and went through security. At the airline gate we were given a table number and an agent looked through our bags once more before we boarded the plane. This was a near perfect cruise with a fantastic itinerary that I would heartily recommend, and we would love to repeat in the future.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 3.5 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.5 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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