Sail Date: August 2017
I chose this cruise because it offered a visit to the Denali Wilderness Park. It also visited Skagway and Fairbanks, both places I had not visited. My first mistake was booking through a secondary seller. My usual travel agent was told ... Read More
I chose this cruise because it offered a visit to the Denali Wilderness Park. It also visited Skagway and Fairbanks, both places I had not visited. My first mistake was booking through a secondary seller. My usual travel agent was told by Holland America that they had not heard of the trip I was trying to book. So my friend and I booked through the secondary seller. The price was very low and as the trip progressed we discovered why. A complimentary cabin upgrade was offered. When we asked, no such upgrade was available. Gratuities were advertised as included. We were billed onboard for gratuities. Holland America's response to my inquiry about this was to politely say that it was my fault for taking such a cheap trip. The food on board ranged from acceptable to mediocre. Things that had been complimentary when I last travelled on Holland America were now charged for. Service was acceptable but orders in the dining room were frequently incorrect. There seemed to be an expectation that every service person you encountered was owed a tip. Shore excursions were aggressively marketed and overpriced. The hotel we overnighted in in Anchorage was badly in need of renovations. It was advertised as three star. I would call it closer to two stars. The breakfast buffet was terrible and outrageously priced. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
My wife and I are frequent travelers and have taken 15 cruises on a number of different cruise lines. This was a last minute booking. We flew into Anchorage a day prior to the cruise and stayed at Embassy Suites. The hotel offered a ... Read More
My wife and I are frequent travelers and have taken 15 cruises on a number of different cruise lines. This was a last minute booking. We flew into Anchorage a day prior to the cruise and stayed at Embassy Suites. The hotel offered a free shuttle from the airport, The receptionist said the shuttle would be 30 minutes but they would pay our cab fare to the hotel. We enjoyed our 2 free drinks at the Embassy and took the free shuttle to downtown Anchorage. The driver suggested several places to eat, all were extremely crowded and long waits for a table.The city of Anchorage was nothing special. In the morning the shuttle was again busy, the Embassy paid for a cab to take us to the "check in" for our shuttle to the cruise. The check in for the shuttle to Seward was at the convention center, it was well organized and convenient. We checked are bags and did not have to bother with them again until on board the ship. During the few hours we had until our bus left we explored the local outdoor market. The bus from Anchorage to Seward was excellent, the driver gave great information on our 2 1/2 hour ride. The views from the bus were also good. Embarkation was a breeze, there were no lines. We checked into our cabin and instantly noticed that the temperature in the cabin was hot. The thermostat was at the lowest setting and began to wonder if this was going to be a problem. We brought the two bottles of wine on board that Holland allows. Our cabin steward kept the bottles iced down for us the entire cruise. The cabin although a bit outdated was kept clean and the service was excellent. The first night we noticed a banging noise coming from the ceiling above our cabin, it continued night/day sounding like someone banging on a pipe then later in the cruise it sounded like drilling into the pipe. Later we determined that the kitchen was above our cabin, twice during the cruise we noticed water dripping from the ceiling in the hallway outside our cabin. The temperature in the cabin remained hot for the entire journey. The quality of food was good but we were disappointed at the limited selection each day in the dinning room. The first 3 days had French onion soup on the menu. Each day offered a choice of 4 appetizers, 2 soups, and 5 entrees. The same food could be found on the Lido deck buffet. Since we booked last minute our dinning time was optional, we never waited for a table and ate when we liked. On two occasions we found the service in the dinning room to be very slow and received the wrong food. The entertainment was average. We enjoyed the band in the "crows nest." The best value on the ship was the happy hour in the "Crow's nest" where your second drink was $2. The casino was small and offered very few slot machines. Glacier Bay was the highlight of the trip. The scenery was breathtaking. Park rangers boarded the ship and explained about the wildlife and glaciers. We spotted whales, bald eagles, seals and porpoises from the ship. Haines was a very small port, we walked around the town and took advantage of the free internet in the library. We found that most of the shore excursions cost more than we paid for the entire cruise. Juneau we took a bus from port to Mendenhall glacier for $35. The bus driver was a local resident who was very informative and pointed out much of the wildlife. At Mendenhall glacier we hiked about 45 minutes to "Nugget Falls" with a nice view of the glacier. Ketchikan we found that most of the tours were more than we spent on the cost of the cruise. We took the free shuttle to "Creek Street" the salmon were not swimming up stream yet but did see some seals in the creek. We found the vendors in Ketchikan to be much more aggressive and rude than the other Alaska ports. Disembarkation was smooth, We chose to take a cab to the airport for a flat fee of $35 instead of the Holland Shuttle that was $45 a person. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
Holland America used to have a very good reputation but since Carnival bought the cruise line forget it. It is a typical Carnival owned cruise line, mediocre at best. We ate in the main dining room and never went back. We had dinner in ... Read More
Holland America used to have a very good reputation but since Carnival bought the cruise line forget it. It is a typical Carnival owned cruise line, mediocre at best. We ate in the main dining room and never went back. We had dinner in the Pinnacle Steakhouse and it was not a good steak. I get better steak consistently in my local Texas Roadhouse. The buffet was blah. I even had one of the cooks tell me I didn't know how to order my eggs correctly. In our cabin, we had a broken lounger on our veranda that I wouldn't sit in. I told the room steward and his response was "I know". What was really strange, and not very nice, the entire ship was non-smoking except they allowed smoking in roughly 1/3 of the casino so naturally you smelled smoke. The ship however was clean. This was at least my 10th cruise, not counting a river cruise, and would I sail on Holland America again; No way. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We chose this cruise as we had traveled with HAL on this trip before. The cruise was very enjoyable and relaxing, great scenery and lots of new friends made on the cruise, We did the extension to Dinali which was a great experience but ... Read More
We chose this cruise as we had traveled with HAL on this trip before. The cruise was very enjoyable and relaxing, great scenery and lots of new friends made on the cruise, We did the extension to Dinali which was a great experience but service and cuisine did not live up to HAL standards. The off ship components could do with a revamp in both quality and care. teh Hotel in Anchorage looks and feels very tired and the breakfast was second rate at best. Our booked excursions included rafting and Tundra tour. Our rafting finished at 10pm and then we found we were on a 5am start for the Tundra tour next day. Given all were booked through HAL this could have been easily avoided. We also booked the Le Cirque dinner on Board. This was a fantastic dining experience. Our regular cabin stewards and Wine steward were first rate made the whole trip so much better. Read Less
37 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
I'll start with the positive and end with the negatives... First, I've sailed on numerous cruises with a variety of cruise lines. I like the size and look of the Zaandam. The ship was clean and well-appointed. The ... Read More
I'll start with the positive and end with the negatives... First, I've sailed on numerous cruises with a variety of cruise lines. I like the size and look of the Zaandam. The ship was clean and well-appointed. The entertainment was excellent and the service of the crew was top-drawer. I have no complaints with the cabin other than it did not have a refrigerator. Now, lets get to the negatives. Without a refrigerator, you need water and ice. I was on the "Dolphin" deck or 1st Floor; meaning, I had to go up to the Lido Deck (8th Floor) to obtain water and ice. (Oh, don't tell me there was an ice bucket in the room; it was never filled.) The small size of the glasses offered (around 6-7 ounces) means you will be spending alot of time doing the rounds. (Sure, you can bring a BIG drink-holder; but this practice is frowned upon because it can pass germs from your Big Drink to others). Next, the food was sub-par. I give Carnival (even though it owns HAL) better marks for the food. Having cruised on Luxury ships (Radisson Diamond), I have a sophisticated palate. So, it was not that the choices were too complicated, it was simply that there was nothing to "fall" back on to if you were not interested in the small choices. HAL needs a COMMON meat and COMMON salad on every menu to fall back on if the choices are all UN-common. Add a common poultry, fish and pasta and your back in business. The specialty restaurants were both extremely good. The Lido restaurant was fair at best. Few daily changes and the menu was not good. I found myself eating peanut-butter for breakfast and spaghetti for lunch (at least 3 times). The way the buffet is run is "start down there"...but it breaks up and slows down due to the different sections which causes confusion and long waits. The worst problem the entire trip was the heat. I decided to travel to Alaska to get the hell away from the heat. Oh, Alaska was fine..temperature wise. It was the ship ! From the minute you board until you debark, get ready to spend alot of time trying to find ways to cool down. ALL of the common/public areas were awfully hot. The "Explorers" area was the worst. Yes, there were alot of older people on board...I presume the "Facilities Manager" thinks all older people love the heat. Well, they got plenty of it. When I first entered my room the air was on the lowest/coolest level. I told the cabin steward that the air was not working. He looked confused. And did nothing. What does this mean? It's simple. The ship had "flipped" the system. If you did not need heat, you got nothing else. The system, ship-wide, was not "geared" to allowing for air conditioning. You're only recourse; spend lots of time outside. Oh, and how about that other little thing...you know..the NoroVirus. Yes, I've been on ships when there was an outbreak. Never got it. This time, my wife did. And we did not bring it on. It was already there when we arrived I suspect. Regardless, we know that if we tell, we get isolated. Unfortunately, my wife's condition was such that she had too. And even though THEY gave us the virus; we had to pay over $250 to the doctor and medical center for medicine and an IV. Nice. Then, of course, she missed one port due to the illness even though she had recovered. If you are going to spend alot of money and time to get to Alaska; find another cruise ship with another company. HAL's reputation is overblown and false. Too few ports of call and too many days at sea. And hot. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We had already done the inside passage but knew we wanted to do the Alaska land portion as well. We really lucked out with the weather - we may have felt differently about our experience if the weather had been bad. As it was we had some ... Read More
We had already done the inside passage but knew we wanted to do the Alaska land portion as well. We really lucked out with the weather - we may have felt differently about our experience if the weather had been bad. As it was we had some beautiful sunshine on the land portion and only one really rainy day in port at Ketchikan. The organization of the land portion of the cruise was very well done and the experience was great. Onboard the Zaandam was good too. Have to admit we like HAL - not everyone's favourite but suits us well. The cooking and computer workshops are worthwhile attending. Food very good as was the entertainment. We chose a window cabin this time as the balcony a bit more than we could afford. Weren't really keen on being on deck one but it was absolutely fine - accept for a bit of an odour in the hallway which I hope they deal with. Found the movement of the ship on this deck especially aft very limited. Felt more motion on the upper decks on previous trips. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
This was my first cruise. All in all it went well. The positives: cabin very clean, ship very clean, staff extremely attentive (except the front desk people who were not always helpful). Negatives: in my cabin you could hear the music ... Read More
This was my first cruise. All in all it went well. The positives: cabin very clean, ship very clean, staff extremely attentive (except the front desk people who were not always helpful). Negatives: in my cabin you could hear the music being played from the floor below, the cabin had an odor as if the there was an issue with the plumbing system. The entertainment was not very good and that was disappointing. Also the port of Haines was VERY boring as there really is not much to do there. There are not many activities to do on the ship and the ship needs updating. We took the train from Anchorage to Seward. The ride was nice but they messed up our registration on the train so when we were going to the ship we had to wait for our boarding cards. Getting off the ship also did not go very smoothly as we purchased the package for transportation to the airport and for the ship to take our bags to the airport. They call EVERYONE at the same time to the lounge at 7:50am. We did not board our bus until 10:00am! We sat for over 2 hours in the lounge doing nothing. No reason for that. We had dietary restrictions (kosher) and the food specially ordered was NOT edible. The cruise line needs to get a new supplier. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
This was my first Alaska cruise. Did the 13 day land/sea starting in Fairbanks not much going on there. went to denali stayed at mckinley chalet, little concerned that in the back lodge no front desk with employee staffed there. didnt ... Read More
This was my first Alaska cruise. Did the 13 day land/sea starting in Fairbanks not much going on there. went to denali stayed at mckinley chalet, little concerned that in the back lodge no front desk with employee staffed there. didnt take the food plan for land portion. found an excellent breakfast joint in Anchorage called snow city cafe,4th ave and L st. The wesmark hotel n Anchorage is in need of a makeover. Also, bring toiletries and over the counter medicines as pharmacies were not near either hotel in Fairbanks or Anchorage. As for packing layers are recommended ski pants that come off are a good idea as well as raingear, turtlenecks, cotton cargo/capris. Evening wear, dont overdo it as i found myself so tired that I wound up eating on the lido deck where dress is casual. The staff on the ship was excellent. Entertainment there was a comedian, dance shows, and pianist. Gym classes offered, pilates, yogut, cycling, idk if additional fees are charged. Did the on deck 5K for cancer, 12 times around the deck. the age of the passengers were older but some families were among them HAL club for kids. Bar entertainment was excellent. Boarded the ship in Seward, Glacier Bay truly once a lifetime experience, Haines, not much going on in port, $15 ticket for Hammer, American Bald Eagle, and another one. A free bus takes you around. Juneau did the whale watching and Mendhall Glacier tour saw some whales. Ketchikan which was the prettiest port had the lumberjack show and did tour of Saxman village. My friends did the helicopter ride to top of Mendhall Glacier and loved it. In Ketchikan, another passenger did the salmon fishing tour caught one and had it shipped it home. Plenty of shopping in Juneau and Ketchikan. In Ketchikan souvenirs were cheaper in the stores to right of the ship. We got off in Vancouver, beautiful city, we did the hop on hop off tour as our flight was 10 pm. We ate lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory in the Gaslight (?) section. very reasonable priced food. the only negative thing i have to say is that i wish HAL would offer free wifi as the front desk staff could not help us with our return flight which we booked through HAL. Hope anyone who is considering this trip plan it as you will have no regrets. also recommend booking a balcony room especially for glacier bay Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
We did the land and sea trip, landing first in Fairbanks AK. The arrival to Fairbanks Airport was seamless and staff were waiting for us with envelopes in hand. Communication was excellent and we proceeded by coach to the hotel. Was a ... Read More
We did the land and sea trip, landing first in Fairbanks AK. The arrival to Fairbanks Airport was seamless and staff were waiting for us with envelopes in hand. Communication was excellent and we proceeded by coach to the hotel. Was a quick night stay in a lovely hotel before being shuttled off to the Riverboat tour. This was an informative, relaxing and enjoyable tour with a hearty meal afterwards. We then proceeded by coach to the McKinley Westmark Hotel in Denali. Took a bit of a learning curve to figure how to get about the grounds and where things were located but otherwise the beauty of this area is astounding. Cost to eat meals is quite expensive and most of the entire area is owned by Holland America or Princess Cruise lines. We learnt that after the last cruise of the season, the entire area is boarded up, stop lights shut off and everything is closed till spring. Took part in the bus tour into Denali National Park in attempts to see Mt. McKinley or Denali Mountain. Only about 30% of visitors get to witness the highest mountain in Alaska. We weren't part of the lucky ones, however we did see plenty of wildlife and enjoyed the rugged scenery along the way. Our driver and guide "Becky" was extremely knowledgeable of the area and the animals/birds we were seeing. Had one day of tour free time. Glad we didn't book anything extra as we truly needed some relaxation time as the itinerary thus far was go, go, go. Travelled via train to Anchorage. They sold us on the Trolley City Tour of Anchorage which in my opinion was a total waste of money. Unfortunately, when our luggage was being transported via truck to Anchorage it was totally destroyed and unusable. We spent a good portion of our limited time in Anchorage searching for a replacement piece of luggage at our cost. Upon arriving back home, we'll need to see if we can be reimbursed. (not what wants to deal with on, nor after a vacation). Back onto a train for a scenic rail ride to Seward. This train ride was very picturesque and loved that our embarkation paperwork etc was completed on the train so that when we did arrive in Seward we could go directly onto the ship. First day at sea was a bit rough but once again needed the relaxation time. Sailing through the Glacier Bay area was breathtaking and pictures, nor video captures the vast beauty of this area. We were within 4 football fields of the glacier itself and I was magnified to its glorious colours, hugeness and the way its noises of crackling seemed to tell a story. Definitely a highlight. We ate our dinners primarily in the Rottingham Dining room. Saw many people not meeting the dress code and this to me was demeaning the classiness of the dining experience. I don't think pants and a collared shirt is much to ask. The Lido dining was very slow in the mornings, especially for a personal omelette. Did the specialty restaurant one night to celebrate anniversary and birthdays. Ordered the King Crab and it was the most tasteless piece of crab I have ever had. All the others enjoyed their meals but hadn't ordered the king crab. Haines port was very small and we didn't spend much time there as we took a ferry into Skagway for the White Pass Summit train ride. This was a beautiful tour with great views and information regarding the gold rush. We even got to go to the Yukon, Canada where the train then began to travel back the way in which we came. Shopping in Skagway was expensive and in many of the jewelry stores one felt like you were prey for the store clerks to pounce upon when you walked into the door. However this prey like behaviour lessened and the jewelry prices got better the further down Broadway one walked. In Juneau we took a bus excursion from a local company at a cheaper rate than offered on the ship. Was a fantastic excursion to Mendenhall Glacier, city tour, panoramic photo op of the port and city itself. The driver/guide was born in Juneau and had much information to offer. While at the glacier we saw the salmon swimming upstream to spawn. Fortunate for us there was a Momma Black Bear and her 3 cubs along the riverside. We watched as Momma splashed about in the river and caught a salmon, bringing it on shore for all to feast upon. The shopping in Juneau was primarily Jewelry store with a few trinket stores dispersed within. I did but a pair of black "fuzzies" comfortable leather shoes/slippers/moccasins at a reasonable price. Also to note there is free Wifi in the library located on the top of the parking garage for anyone wanting to check emails but not wanting to buy the internet package on board. BTW I heard it was very intermittent on the ship with frequent cut offs from service. We had an inside cabin in the middle of the ship. Was very comfortable and room stewards were actively cleaning all the time. There was a terrible rotting cabbage/garbage smell in the hallways for several days on our floor. It seeped into the rooms a bit but I had brought room deodorizer with me that seemed to help keep the smell to the hallway. The weather was cloudy most of the days with the odd peaking out of sunshine. Fog was standard in the mornings and usually had cleared by 9:30 - 10:00 am, although some lingered along the mountain tops playing peek-a-boo with the peaks of the mountains. Temperatures ranged from lows in the evenings in high 50'sF or teens C to almost 80F or 26C in Ketchikan. We didn't require sweatshirts, scarves, gloves etc. Unless you plan on walking onto the glaciers. A long sleeved shirt with a jacket seemed to suffice, but shorts and t-shirt was needed in Ketchikan on our visit. Washed laundry while on the ship in the laundry room. Wash was $3.00 and dry was $1.50. Machines did a good job only there weren't enough of them. Often there was a line up and people waiting. Somewhat of an organized chaos. The cost of $50.00 for the ship to wash a small brown paper bag of clothes after being on shore for 5 days prior to the cruise itself was a bit much I think. Obviously, given the number of people doing their own laundry they all felt the same. Several times while eating a meal we caught a glimpse of whales, otters and even bald eagles in the distance. The entertainment was a good quality but many of the entertainers we had seem before on a HAL cruise. Thought the shows themselves could have been a bit longer. The next stopped was in Ketchikan. This is the most affordable stop for souvenirs. Jewelry was still too expensive in most stores. We ate a fantastic "Halibut" sandwich at a place called "Dairy Queen" located by the vehicle tunnel across the street from the port dock. We looked into attending the Lumberjack show but thought $39.95 each for a 1 hour show was too expensive so we just walked about. Considering the cloudiness of most days, the pool temperature was very nice. The hot tubs were at 2 different temperature in each and quite enjoyable. Often there were kids in them unsupervised, so we usually went after dinner. They close the hot tubs and pool at 10 pm and although I understand the reasoning behind this, it would be nice if they were opened longer. We had the late disembarkation into Vancouver and found it went well considering the amount of people leaving the ship. Customs was easy so long as you had your declaration paperwork completed before you left. The line-ups to obtain a taxi was crazy long and something needs to be done to manage that better. We ended up walking with our luggage to the Budget Rent a Car about 1.5 km or 1 mile away. Keep in mind it was uphill most of the way. Not for the faint at heart. We stayed in Vancouver for 4 days to take in the sights. Driving in Vancouver is treacherous and crazy. Its more like a moving parking lot intertwined with bicycles and pedestrians coming out of nowhere. I'm a professional driver and advise if you are a nervous driver at all, take the public transportation instead of renting a vehicle. Vancouver is a refined beauty compared the rugged beauty of Alaska. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
We had taken another Holland America Cruise and it was great. This one, not so much: 1) Travel to Anchorage was problematic. We wanted to go 2 day2 before but the agent talked us into going the day before and of course there was ... Read More
We had taken another Holland America Cruise and it was great. This one, not so much: 1) Travel to Anchorage was problematic. We wanted to go 2 day2 before but the agent talked us into going the day before and of course there was weather. So instead of getting into Anchorage at noon, we got in at Midnight. I called several time the Holland America "Help" Desk. They weren't of any help. If it had not been for DELTA, we would have missed to Trip to Denali. 2) Of course we had trouble with luggage 3) the Trip to Denali includes a 9 hour train ride and a ten hour bus ride (Lvs at 6:45am) back, so time in Denali is two evenings and one full day. So you are on the train/bus longer than you are in Denali. 4) Our Holland America bus driver talked the entire time! He also said alot of inappropriate things 5) Coffee on board was horrible. You can buy $tarbuck$ downstairs. Wait... you don’t think they have crummy coffee so as to sell…. 6) On board they are Constantly sell, sell, sell, sell,sell. I thought we were on the home shopping channel cruise. 5)Holland America STRONGLY suggests you get your boarding passes before leaving the boat. Of course that requires you to purchase internet $$$$. 7) No need for a balcony. They have dividers up between rooms which limits the view. We were mostly up in the public areas. 8) Remember 15% service charge on all alcohol. 9) No soft drinks available in the dinig rooms. So you have to buy $oft drink$. 10) No outlets near the bed so bring a long extension cord for your CPAP machine 11) Little gym with only a few treadmills, walk upstairs. The $spa is expen$ive they offer a pass into the spa fpr %250 for two, but you can only use it about once a day so do the math. However, the crew and ship were first rate, and the excursions were ok. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
1.0 star rating 10/3/2016 The worst cruise line that I have traveled on-- comparing to Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. The food and the food service is inferior to the other cruise lines. The spa staff gave a terrible first ... Read More
1.0 star rating 10/3/2016 The worst cruise line that I have traveled on-- comparing to Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. The food and the food service is inferior to the other cruise lines. The spa staff gave a terrible first impression of the ship by lying about the steam area, exercise area, and lockers and showers only being available if you pay an expensive fee. The seated restaurant was so slow and the food so sparse and unappetizing that it was not worthwhile. The servers in the buffet lines were below serving expectations compared to other cruise lines. The buffet lines stay open for too little time, and the stations are abruptly closed whether you are served or not. Cold cut sandwiches are later brought out. Ship staff were allowed to break in line and were served much better food than the passengers. For the same general price for a cruise on Holland America, you can opt out for a better cruise line. I urge you to do so. The other cruise lines are much better. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
We were looking for a land -cruise tour of Alaska and considered several lines. HA had the dates, stops and price we wanted. We took the D1 package with a view cabin. The cabin was adequate and the bed was comfortable. The couch was ... Read More
We were looking for a land -cruise tour of Alaska and considered several lines. HA had the dates, stops and price we wanted. We took the D1 package with a view cabin. The cabin was adequate and the bed was comfortable. The couch was comfy, but very little on TV but that was OK as we spent little time in it. We took advantage of the Windows, classes, the towel folding class, a cooking demo and more. We took the open seating dining option and ate most of meals in The Rotterdam, sometimes at our own table and sometimes with others. The food, service and presentation were awesome. The Lido buffet and Dive In were both good as well, but we enjoyed the unusual selection and the service in the dining room. Our cabin steward, Yudi, kept everything in great shape - and knew our names after meeting us briefly the first night. We especially enjoyed Phil the Piano Man in the Mix Lounge every evening. The embarkation and disembarkation at each port was well organized and fast. The land portion of the package was also excellent. We took the Glacier Safari in Haines, the whales and Mendenhall glacier in Juneau, the Mt Roberts Tram in Juneau - skip this, the lumberjack show and the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen in Ketchikan. All were great except the tram - car is too crowded to see out, views up above were obstructed by machinery and we had limited time - if you are a hiker there appeared to be some great rails at the top. My favorite was whale watching, my wife's favorite was the Bering Se Crab boat. Holland America did an awesome job with details - transfers were smooth, luggage was always where it should be, tour guides met us as promised - I would do it again! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
I was already in Seward so I chose an low priced cruise to return to Vancouver. The ship was older but quite lovely, being very well maintained. The cabin was about 25 sq. feet larger that the average inside cabin on other ships that I ... Read More
I was already in Seward so I chose an low priced cruise to return to Vancouver. The ship was older but quite lovely, being very well maintained. The cabin was about 25 sq. feet larger that the average inside cabin on other ships that I have sailed on [such as Royal Caribbean]. I use the cafe rather than the dining room as I travel alone and prefer casdual service (and no tie & jacket)! The food was not as good as on the Royal Caribbean or Princess, with dinner items being repeated several times during the 7 days of the cruise! The entertainment was good with the ship's dance dance & music ensemble being FANTASTIC, Broadway touring quality. The ports & Shore excursions were pretty standard Alaskan cruise fare though the wildlife centre was the highlight. The scenery (including the glaciers & icebergs) was breathtaking and the ship's captain tried to point out all of the highlights on the way. I never thought I would be continually thrilled to watch those majestic mountain peaks for days on end. Safety was sadly not a priority. While eating dinner one day, part of the ceiling collapsed, with a ceiling panel striking my shoulder. Once the steward ascertained that I wasn't really hurt, they cleaned up the floor & continued seating people under the open ceiling, never checking to see if more of the ceiling would come down. Nor did they check on me afterwards in my cabin to see how my shoulder was. Also, those entering the cafe were not req'd to use the hand sanitizer even though they were serving themselves food with shared serving utensils. I think that if an outbreak of Norwalk virus would have occurred, it would have spread like wildfire. Read Less
34 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
To be honest, I was very skeptical about cruising on Zaandam based upon past reviews. I heard that the ship was "old and tired". In contrast, we were very pleasantly surprised about the service we got from HA and the cruise ... Read More
To be honest, I was very skeptical about cruising on Zaandam based upon past reviews. I heard that the ship was "old and tired". In contrast, we were very pleasantly surprised about the service we got from HA and the cruise itself. It was excellent. We did a Land-Sea cruise tour with HA, arriving in Anchorage, with three nights in Denali at the McKinley Chalet Lodge; motor coach drive from Denali to Seward, where we embarked. We had the Explore Four promotion, which included two dinners in the specialty restaurants, Pinnacle and Canaletto, the Signature Drink package and $400 each onboard credit. We were on the Navigation Deck, in a verandah suite, port side, 7040. The verandah suite was in excellent shape, served by two outstanding stewards. Verandah suites, had a good sized bathroom, with a tub/shower combination. The bed was comfortable, the sitting room and balcony were in fine shape. Fresh flowers and fruit were provided throughout the cruise. Binoculars and umbrellas were provided. The Navigation Deck (deck 7) had no inside cabins. This deck is right below the Lido deck which has the pool and the main Lido buffet restaurant. We were worried that there'd be noise from this deck but it wasn't a problem. It was quiet. No problems with this stateroom. For dining, we ate in the Pinnacle -- outstanding; the Canaletto -- again outstanding; and once in the Rotterdam dining room. All meals and service were excellent. We ate our breakfasts in the Lido buffet. As opposed to other cruises we've been on -- the buffet served food items. It was not just grab the food. Omelets, crepes, and fried eggs were all made fresh to order. The downside was that it created some waits. We ate many lunches at the Dive In hamburger, hotdog "stand" on the Lido Deck. Again, items were made fresh to order, so there was often a wait but they provided a "buzzer" that went off when the order was ready. The burgers and hotdogs were excellent. Also on the Lido deck was a taco/nacho bar open most of the afternoons. Food there was good. For drinks, we mainly sat by the pool and took advantage of the Lido bar. Good drinks, drink specials throughout the cruise, good service. We also used the Explorations Coffee Bar for specialty coffees/teas. The Explorations Café was the a quiet lounge with Wi-Fi, books, board games, and newspapers. The other activity we participated in was the Digital Workshops with Windows 10 -- very informative. Shows were sparse, we did go to a few shows but not terribly exciting; but we're not in to that. We played bingo, gambled a bit in the casino. No issues there. We bought a 30 minute Wi-Fi package (with 15 minutes added coupon) and had no problems with Wi-Fi. Ports of call were Haines, Juneau, and Ketchikan. In Haines, we ferried over to Skagway and did the White Pass and Yukon Railroad trip. This trip is worth it. In Juneau, we did a Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watch tour through Shore Excursions.com, not through the ship. In Skagway, we did the Allen Marine Misty Fjord boat tour -- absolutely breathtaking. The overall service was outstanding -- from cooks, to wait staff, to bartenders, to cabin stewards -- everyone tried very hard to please. Our cabin stewards learned our names and greeted us by name every single time. When we asked, they provided a power strip (there's really limited outlets in the cabin). Disembarkation in Vancouver was a bit slow. All-in-all we'd go back to Holland America. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
Best things: Viewing train ride from Anchorage to Denal Watching fishing in Ship's Creek in downtown Anchorage Nice hotel in Anchorage Humpy's restaurant in Anchorage for fish and chowder. Dinner theater play in ... Read More
Best things: Viewing train ride from Anchorage to Denal Watching fishing in Ship's Creek in downtown Anchorage Nice hotel in Anchorage Humpy's restaurant in Anchorage for fish and chowder. Dinner theater play in Denali Renting our own scooters in Haines for $60/day. Whale watching were we saw a multitude of whales in Juneau Viewing the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. Seeing many eagles in Juneau. Fishing from a small boat out of Ketchikan for salmon. Good souvenir shopping in Ketchikan. Spending the day at Stanley Park and Gastown in Vancouver. Easy embarking to ship at Seward Listening to the Ashley Wey Trio play jazz. Trivia contests on board ship. We booked our own excursions. Food on board was decent. Drink specials on the ship were good. Need for improvement: Dinner show meal at Denali was Terrible Food availablity hours on ship were limited. Disembarkment process was very slow. Water for morning showers was not very hot. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
We went on a land and sea journey with Holland America during the first 2 weeks in September. We were hoping to see the Northern Lights as it was a new moon and fall. We had one opportunity but because we moved rooms they failed to call ... Read More
We went on a land and sea journey with Holland America during the first 2 weeks in September. We were hoping to see the Northern Lights as it was a new moon and fall. We had one opportunity but because we moved rooms they failed to call so all we saw were pics from some guys cell phone. Note, don't count on a wake up call. The trip went as follows: Fairbanks, Riverboat, Bus to Denali for 3 days, Rail to Anchorage, Rail to Seward then the 7 day cruise. We have cruised 5 times over the last 3 years with Holland. Most of our fellow travelers were on their first cruise. The Riverboat consisted of a trip of about 2 miles down the river with a take off and landing of an old float plan, stops along the way included a dog sled kennel from the side of the boat with commentator on shore talking about the operation and you in the middle of the river as the audience. The Alabaskan village stop you actually got off the boat to see the demos. The meal afterward was meatless stew with a decent salad. The land portion was very disappointing as the accommodations were awful in Denali at the Holland compound. They first put us in the Canyon Lodge across from the second floor elevators, laundry room, garbage shoot, and smoking room. Asked to be moved which resulted in a worst room at the Cottonwood. Two days no hot water because the unit kept tripping off and takes hours to recover once reset. Also, "were in Alaska for the view" but our windows looked out on parking lots. Ask Travel agent to request a river view if possible before leaving. We bought the land meal package for $700 which included the Music of Denali dinner show. They served you thin cut brisket that is tough as leather and a BBQ sauce that is indescribably awful and grilled salmon. The waiter/actor/chefs try really hard but come up way short of entertaining. The cruise lines have the entrance to the park pretty much to themselves with a few other places to go most notably Pizza and Subway. Otherwise the food made us sick with diarrhea and is very expensive if you don't have the meal package. The trip included a bus trip into Denali park for roughly 72 miles of which 30 or so are paved. Watch out if you have vertigo as the bus drives along steep hill sides. The bus was a Blue Bird prison bus that had few operational windows and leaked dust making us all sick. Once in Denali the wildlife is few and far between but we did see everything albeit at a distance. Mount Denali was shrouded in clouds but we did see the North and South peeks apparently an unusual event. We went on a Black Diamond ATV tour which is done in Healy not in the park. Expensive at $239 per person for 3 hours and no lunch. Expect to pay a lot for any extra tours. Rails to Anchorage and Seward have great views but freight trains have priority so it was a long trip, each car has a narrator which became a real pain after listening to them take about themselves and provide little information about surroundings for 8 hours. The domed cars were comfortable on the trip to Anchorage but totally uncomfortable and no dome to Seward. Scenic and beautiful sights along the path to both cities. The Hilton in Anchorage was sub standard with our room window looking at a wall. Holland has a select menu of about 10 crappy items from a 50 item interesting normal hotel offering. The Zaandam ship experience was not any better. Everyone was sick with colds and who knows what else. The roomer mill said 30% were having gastrointestinal issues with the others fighting colds. Yes, we started off healthy only to get sick with colds upon retuning home. We stayed in our room and out of public areas most of the trip. At least our room had a balcony and the ship turned to allow viewing from both sides. The in-room dinning was good and we could order anything served in the dinning room even if it wasn't on the menu. The late night seating was warmed up leftovers and not to Holland's standards we expected. We figured one night would have crab legs but the chef said Holland was to cheap to buy them. The gala night also left a lot to be desired with a very limited menu. Please note the room only has one outlet so bring a multi plug adapter. The shore excursions we expensive and because this was the last ship of the year the staff wasn't much in the mood for anymore tourist. The towns have been overtaken by Caribbean stores selling at twice the price. Ask your travel agent a week before for an upgrade and also the day you arrive. Met first time cruisers whose agent got them a suite for $200 per person. We've sailed with Holland 6 times and never received anything more then what we paid for. Overall we had very high expectations because of all the good we heard from friends and neighbors. We have always wanted to see the Northern Lights. We found the towns in Alaska distressed and grim and people to match. Not a lot to do unless you are flying, cruising to see whales, or kayaking to see wildlife or glaciers all at premium prices if you can afford them. The fall colors added to the trip making it a varied landscape. Bucket list checked off, been there done it but very disappointed. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
We are not cruisers so we do not expect much. We are happy if our luggage arrives. That was not the case here. Our trip started with a land portion going to Denali and for that HAL requires to physically split the luggage to use a part of ... Read More
We are not cruisers so we do not expect much. We are happy if our luggage arrives. That was not the case here. Our trip started with a land portion going to Denali and for that HAL requires to physically split the luggage to use a part of it in Denali and then the next suitcase on the ship. They call it "Meet-me-on-ship" or similar.. We parted with our suitcases in Anchorage and three nights later we boarded the ship in Sewall. The suitcases were not there. The cruise found then in Anchorage, Westmark Hotel, forgotten. It took three additional days to get them in Haines. They were express-shipped via Alaska Air, and one suitcase was damaged beyond repair. Cruise line offered a financial compensation to get a replacement in Juneau, but we refused; we wanted a suitcase. WE did not come to buy a suitcase in Juneau, we came to enjoy the cruise. After two negotiating sessions with the representative we did get replacement yet we were annoyed by unwillingness of the cruise line to solve their problem, and put responsibility on us. And, we found, talking to some people that we were not alone about a similar issue. The ship is registered in The Netherlands and flies the Dutch flag, Yet, they fully take advantage of American naivete. In this, it is tipping. I do not mind to tip, but I do resent that tipping is compulsory. It is not necessary in The Netherlands either.The tips should be rewards, not necessity. In our case the tips were automatically added to the ship account and we found that out on the day we clear the ship account. If HAL wants to add the tips, why not to say that at the time the cruise is paid for? I do not like a bushman's attitude and this cruise line is good at it. Beware. The "compulsory" tip came to about 20% of cruise cost.. This ship is old. The maintenance crew moved constantly doing paint repairs and the promenade smelled of oily substance. We had an open seating for the dinner. We used it once, on the first day. We were crammed to the table with 8 other passengers. The food was not well prepared, the vegetable was wilted, the soup was cold. One could not communicate with the waiters as they spoke poor English, and the cruise line did not provide a basic dictionary of the waiter's mother tongue. ( Consider it a joke, but one of the presenter's about First Alaskans provided a brief dictionary. Dealing with the staff was much more important to us..) Alaska is a beautiful place to visit, but, unfortunately the most of us will be stuck with a cruise line which really does not care. For us.. been there, done that, here goes HAL.. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
I booked the 7-day cruise in suite class along with land 6 months in advance and looked forward to our first cruise. Our journey began in Fairbanks where after arriving off our flight we were greeted by Holland American staff who pointed ... Read More
I booked the 7-day cruise in suite class along with land 6 months in advance and looked forward to our first cruise. Our journey began in Fairbanks where after arriving off our flight we were greeted by Holland American staff who pointed us in the direction of the luggage team and our bus to the hotel. The staff (from beginning to end of our 14 day trip) did a wonderful job with moving people and baggage. I was surprised in Fairbanks, Denali, and in Anchorage that our accommodations (part of Holland America's Westmark Properties) were subpar at best; a step above a Super 8 motel. The hotels in both Fairbanks and Anchorage were dirty, loud, and just quick stop over for 1000s of cruisers - and it shows in the staffs’ customer service attitude (or lack there off) and in the facilities themselves. I would have expected to have a similar level of service and accommodation based on the level that was paid for on the ship - i.e. Suite Class would afford a few additional luxuries (for example a bathroom with soap and shampoo that were in individual bottles rather than a few soap pumps hanging on the wall in the shower!). Two highlights prior to boarding the cruise were (1) the Kenai Forge National Park and (2) the train ride from Denali to Anchorage. In Kenai Forge, we booked a 6-hour boat tour of the park and glacier through Kenai Forge Tours - well worth the time and money as we saw whales, otters, birds, eagles, orca, and some of the best close up scenery of the glaciers. Wonderful Cruise and Crew. We truly enjoyed the rail journey from Denali to Anchorage - booked as part of the Holland America Cruise. Other then having to wait for 40+ others to have lunch on the train (finally getting to my wife and I close to 2pm) the journey was wonderful. We boarded our cruise in Seward following our afternoon cruising the Fjord. The process was quick, simple, and easy - from start to finish it took less that 5 mins for my wife and I (we did do all of the necessary pre-boarding online). Once on board we found our stateroom, met up with our luggage, and began to get our sea legs. Our stateroom was good sized, only it lacked today’s required hotel features (i.e. more than one working plug in the room). In today’s environment of electronics, charging phones, iPads, camera, and camcorder batteries you would think that the rooms would offer more than one plug. Our bathroom was good sized and included a dressing room with ample closet space. The bathroom itself was dated and needed a complete make over. Just as in our rooms on land, the bathroom did not offer any shampoo or bath soap besides the plastic canisters hanging from within the shower, akin to a Super 8 motel. Certianly not what is expected from a cruise line that prides itself on A Signature of Excellence. I was disappointed in the dining options on the ship - only two specialty restaurants, the main dining room, the buffet, and poolside snack bar. On one night of the cruise one of the restaurants was transformed (Holland America’s word, not mine) into NYC Le Cirque and for an additional $49 per person. The plates changed, some of the decorations were changed, and a different menu. Certainly not worth the $100 up-charge. The staff in each of the restaurants was attentive - but when asking about specific menu items or options were ill informed or just didn’t understand what we were asking. The buffet did not met expectations whatsoever – from tired décor’ to a lack of diversity in options. I was surprised that I could not find a cocktail waitress during our dinner at the buffet. Our only option was to get our drink at the bar, drop it off at a table and fight the buffet line… only in my evening, when I returned to my table my drink was gone, my seat was taken by someone else and I was left standing with my plate in my hand, no table, and no drink! The main dining room offers two options – set seating time and open seating. We opted for open seating and ended up having dinner only twice in the main dining room (night one and night 6). The food was good, plenty of options, and best of all the opportunity to sit next to a window and watch for wildlife. The entertainment on the ship was average at best...comedian, ships dancers, and a Dancing with the Stars Competition. In the main show room we found it impossible to find a cocktail waitress any of the nights. A highlight of the week in the show room was some of the presentations while we were cruising though Glacier National Park. We took advantage of the embarkation special in the spa and purchased the Thermal Spa package… allowing for unlimited usage of the hot top, sauna, steam room, and locker room throughout the voyage. It was WONDERFUL the first few days as we sat in the hot tub while cruise to Glacier Bay… but after that, the word got out and folks began to come to the thermal spa with beers in hand – hard to believe that the ship would allow this. We did mention this to the staff – but no action was taken in front of us. Booking in the suite class we were able to take advantage of the Neptune Lounge. After boarding we were able to get a free glass of champagn, meet some of our fellow passengers, and check on dining reservations. The team in the lounge were very helpful in getting dining reservations and making last minute shore excursion bookings. I would be hard pressed to rebook on Holland American, until they upgrade their boats. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2015
Ship could use some big time updating. Bathrooms were ancient. Plumbing issue on first morning (early) caused flooding of cabin. Maintenance came and asked us to leave the room while they made repairs. Water spilt over from the ... Read More
Ship could use some big time updating. Bathrooms were ancient. Plumbing issue on first morning (early) caused flooding of cabin. Maintenance came and asked us to leave the room while they made repairs. Water spilt over from the bathroom into the cabin, soaking the carpeting. We quickly got dressed to go to breakfast. Came back two hours later and found the problem fixed but our room had a high powered fan to dry up the cabin. Maintenance man said we could turn down the fan while we were in the cabin, and he would notify front desk of issue. We were NOT offered to move to another cabin. For two days, we put up with the fan as it tried to dry out the carpeting. My wife, who had a bit of a cold when the trip started, ended up with a lung infection, and the on ship doctor put her in quarantine for the last three days of the cruise. Food on the ship was only average. Have had better on other cruise lines. Entertainment was OK. Some nice shows, some real clunkers. Excursions were real nice and in fact, the best part of the trip. Embarkation was fairly quick, but disembarkation was LONG. We were told it was time for our group to go to the awaiting bus, only to have to stand in line for an hour waiting for a bus to arrive. I would not recommend HAL for your Alaska adventure. Go with a newer ship, which will offer the same excursions but you will have a much better time on board. I have attempted to contact HAL Client Services with no response. My travel agent, which was a HAL representative, said that it sometimes takes a few weeks for an Client Services agent to respond, but it has now been 24 days which I feel is way too long. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2015
This ship should be taken out of service for a maajor overhaul. Bathroom tiles were mildew stained. Vinyl on restaurant booths were torn Dining tables had cracks in Formica that collected dirt. Line cooks were nice unless you had a ... Read More
This ship should be taken out of service for a maajor overhaul. Bathroom tiles were mildew stained. Vinyl on restaurant booths were torn Dining tables had cracks in Formica that collected dirt. Line cooks were nice unless you had a request then they were snippy. Buffet often closed early or opened late. Food variety was good and it looked great but was bland. Bar service was spotty. One of the chefs and one of the muscians obviously hated their job as they were miserable. Also I didn't like the fact that they often turned the cruise into a floating market by putting up tables to sell wares. Also several of the "activities" and "services" that they offered was just a ploy to get you to buy things. The only reason I didn't give it a one star is because the desk agents and stewards were great and they responded quickly to a broken AC unit and toilet. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
We did a land sea tour to Denali followed by the cruise through Glacier Bay to Vancouver stopping at various ports on the way. We booked all our tours through HAL. The embarkation was a breeze. Quick friendly and efficient. We ... Read More
We did a land sea tour to Denali followed by the cruise through Glacier Bay to Vancouver stopping at various ports on the way. We booked all our tours through HAL. The embarkation was a breeze. Quick friendly and efficient. We arrived at our cabin and our bags were delivered with half an hour. Well done. The ship is in good shape. The appointments are relatively tasteful and overall, I found her easy to navigate and there were plenty of areas to enjoy. The Lido Deck was all about food. I have never seen so much food and quite frankly, I found it unappealing however, I am in the minority. The buffet seemed to go on forever and this area always seemed busy. I quite liked the outdoor pool area as it was nice to sit in the sun and enjoy the peace. The Observation Deck was also quite good with huge lazy chairs and good service. At night, this turns into a dancing/music venue but not too loud...quite good fun. The Pinnacle Restaurant is excellent. Great food and good array of wines. I liked the service staff but the Maitre D was curt, arrogant and unpleasant. I did not like her or her attention. I preferred the waiting staff who were really lovely. Canaletto's was OK but just OK...I'd dodge this one next time. It is an Indian chef's interpretation of Italian food. The shows were awful. Honestly, I dragged my husband to one and we left after 20 minutes...it was so bad. One night, they had a comedian and he seemed OK but the singing and dancing was very basic. We did attend a wine tasting lesson and that was superb. Well organised and we learnt heaps from the Cellar Master, Raj. As to the tours, we did not have a bad one. All of them were brilliant. Well organised and all exceeded our expectations. My favourite was the trip to the Arctic Circle. Such a wonderful experience. I am so happy we booked through HAL as I found everyone of the tours superb. The downsides: the butlers we had drove me insane. They were basically annoying. I found they were over attentive and it doesn't appeal to me. Intrusive. The suite was noisy...one night it was so bad that the banging and clashing from upstiars went on for hours. To be fair, we complained and they did address the issue. They also gave us a USD$400 credit off our bill for the inconvenience. Also, the Managers don't consider passengers when doling out the duties to staff. We had five days in port and two at sea so they choose a sea day to grind paint outside the Explorations Library. It was so loud, you could not sit and read. Crazy!! Why not do it on a port day when most people leave the ship?? I have done a personal blog with full details and pics on all tours if it helps. ineverfeelthecold.blogspot.com Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
Overall rating of cruise is due to two things - lack of organization in getting off the ship at some ports. People coming from stairwells, off the elevators and then coming down the corridors. Too many converging into one area and total ... Read More
Overall rating of cruise is due to two things - lack of organization in getting off the ship at some ports. People coming from stairwells, off the elevators and then coming down the corridors. Too many converging into one area and total disorganization. Need major improvement. I understand the guidelines for Formal night as set in the description, but on Carnival, Princess and the Royal lines, my companions have always been allowed with a pair of slacks or Dockers and golf shirt. We were told that jacket was required. If any cruise should be designated as more "casual" it should be an Alaskan cruise. One of my friends was allowed on Formal night with golf shirt, nylon warm up pants and flip flops on another ship. Based on this formal night experience, we will likely NOT go on Holland again. I only ate in the dining room for dinner twice and the second time it was very, very, very slow. First time was on the first night, so not busy in the dining room and attentive service. Room attendant was the best. Ship very, very nice. All areas around the ship very, very nice. Nice to have coin laundry facilities. Nice to have good movies changing nightly. Need to allow internet access to print boarding passes. Not right to make us pay to log on to your slow lousy service. Offer to print them for us!!! Coffee station ran out of ingredients for chai Tea Latte halfway through. Had three port stops but never got supplies to make it for duration of cruise. Why? Saw the Faberge egg rep get pissy at the guy at the counter on the last day. He was a jerk to the guy and I hope the employee doesn't get in trouble. Faberge guy was a total jerk! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
First time we have sailed on HAL. We did the Denali land tour prior to cruising- it was a great experience. Stunning and beautiful scenery with lots of wildlife viewing. Embarkation was fast-less than 10 minutes. Our cabin as a verandah ... Read More
First time we have sailed on HAL. We did the Denali land tour prior to cruising- it was a great experience. Stunning and beautiful scenery with lots of wildlife viewing. Embarkation was fast-less than 10 minutes. Our cabin as a verandah suite located on deck 7. The room was spacious with lots of storage. The bathroom was a little dated but everything was spotless. The cabin stewards did an excellent job in taking care of us and were always polite and professional. We prefer to dine in our room for breakfast- room service was very punctual and the order was always correct and the food was hot. As far as entertainment we only went to one show- it was lively and well done. The onboard movies were fun and we enjoyed the popcorn. Dining at the Pinnacle Grill was delicious. The main dining meals were good as well- food arrived in a timely manner and was hot. The menu throughout the ship seemed a little limited but I believe it is geared slightly towards an older crowd who tend to prefer (stereotypically) simpler meals. All staff on board that we interacted with were polite and professional-no complaints. All of the ports were fun. We only booked one excursion thru HAL- the White Pass Rail ride in Skagway and it was fabulous. The whale watching in Juneau we arranged in port at one of the kiosks. Glacier Bay was amazing and the captain/crew did an incredible job of getting us close to view the calving glaciers. We stayed in the Pan Pacific in Vancouver which makes it extremely easy to disembark. The Pan Pacific is a wonderful hotel- walking distance to lots of shops, eating and neighborhoods. We walked to Stanley Park - about 4 miles but it is a lovely walk along the water. We had a terrific trip Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
Our group of three couples chose the Denali add on where we flew into Fairbanks, then took the scenic train to Denali, and a second scenic train to Anchorage, and a final scenic train to Seward before boarding the Zandaam for a downbound ... Read More
Our group of three couples chose the Denali add on where we flew into Fairbanks, then took the scenic train to Denali, and a second scenic train to Anchorage, and a final scenic train to Seward before boarding the Zandaam for a downbound trip to Vancouver. Downbound is recommended as it provides the relaxation of the cruise after living out of your suitcase. The land portion of the trip was most impressive. Luggage Handling HAL excelled in this area. One bag stays with you and is in your various rooms before you arrive. The other goes directly to the ship from Fairbanks and is in your room when you arrive. Likewise, your luggage will be waiting for you in the airport in Vancouver. Outstanding! Fairbanks The two tours provided by HAL and included with your add on were exceptionally well done. They were two of the best tours we have taken. The lunch provided on the gold dredge tour is so so. Hats off to the people of Fairbanks and the other locales. They truly understand how to do tourism. The Westmark is an adequate hotel. The public areas are nice. The rooms need a makeover, but are fine otherwise. The hotel is located a few short blocks from the downtown area, which is safe and clean. There are things to do there that will entertain tourists. I can highly recommend Big Daddy's BBQ, which was featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives on the Food Network. Also highly recommended is the Thai House. Reservations are recommended for the latter. We split at both restaurants and had plenty to eat and paid prices similar to the lower 48. You will have plenty of salmon to eat along the way, so be patient and have it later. Scenic Train Ride to Denali This is a very nice experience! Watch for moose!!! Denali You stay at a very large resort with exceptional transportation services. The lodge is a nice facility, but seems to need some maintenance TLC. I understand HAL is buying it from the current owners. Hopefully, HAL will attend to these somewhat minor issues that the current owners may be putting off pending the sale of the development. Your best food will be found across the highway from the complex. Try the salmon bake and pizza restaurant. If you have mobility problems, call the restaurant and they will pick you up at the main chalet. The included tour is very nice. You will have beautiful scenery and will see many large animals. The animals are widely spaced and require a keen eye to find sometimes, but they are there. The Husky Homestead Tour is a hoot. Book it! Scenic Train to Anchorage Very nice! Anchorage HAL provided us with the Hilton, which is one of two venues there. It was very nice. There is not a great deal to do near the hotel, so use the time for rest. Scenic Train to Seward Beautiful scenery and the train pulls right up to the ship. Well done! Summary HAL provides a first class experience with the Denali add on. Zandaam and HAL We have cruised a lot and have our own pecking order for rating ships and cruise lines. We start with food. We like to try new things and do not insist on American style food, which is often bland with large portions. Service and staff friendliness is next. The cleanlinest of the ship follows. These are the big three. With this in mind and without adding HAL, we rate the cruise lines in the following order: Excellent 1) Celebrity, Very Good 2) Norwegian, Good (3) Princess, ranked lower due to very average food, (4) Fair Royal Caribbean, ranked lower due to below average food and a ship atmosphere not to our choosing, (5) Will Not Cruise Carnival, due to one horrendous cruise experience with them. After cruising with HAL, we would add it to the Excellent category, just a whisker behind Celebrity. Celebrity seems to do what HAL does and adds some unexpected and occasionally surprising touches, which we did not experience on Zandaam. Otherwise, the two lines are quite similar in quality. The food on Zandaam was excellent in both the dining room and Lido buffet. Oddly, food poolside was slow and below average. The cruise staff was friendly and outgoing. The dining and room staff were primarily Indonesian. They were friendly and tried very hard to give good service, but language problems sometimes were apparent. This led to somewhat uneven service. The ship was squeaky clean and the staff was very proud of its 100% cleanliness rating. With that said, Zandaam is 13 years old and shows some wear and tear, which will no doubt be addressed at the time of refurbishing. Entertainment was a strong point. The dancers and singers used the somewhat small stage well and didn't try to and put on a Vegas style extravaganza, which often looks out of place on cruise ship stages. The performers were some of the best we have seen. The outside entertainment always varies on board. We saw a fair magician and an excellent comedian. The lounge entertainment was very good. The ship itself is hard to describe. The best word I can come up with is "stately". Although built in 2000, it seems older, as if deliberately designed to harken back to a more traditional type of cruising. It has a musical and historical theme aboard. All the artwork tells a story, which we really liked. Be sure and read the gold tags next to each piece. There are some flow issues aboard and a couple of choke points, although you will never feel crowded. The ship is ideal for an Alaskan sailing as it boasts a retractable roof over the pool area. On the downside, Zandaam lacks a "wow" factor. The small atrium is filled with a concrete looking Baroque pipe organ with a number of cherubs. It occasionally has the cherubs hit a musical note. I personally found it hideous. The showroom is also a jumble of colors and does not impress visually, although it provides an intimate atmosphere for the entertainment. The pool area is so so. In addition, the shop area is ho hum. These are the areas where a ship normally makes a design statement. Zandaam does not. With that said, the ship grows on you and feels comfortable. I note that passenger reviews consistently rate Zandaam higher than the website lead review. I would guess the difference is found in the visual impression Zandaam makes. I could see the key reviewer giving a lower score for the ship because of this, while the passengers dismiss the appearance and focus on the food, service, cleanliness, entertainment, etc. Regarding children, they DO cruise on HAL. The ship has a youth program and there were 70 children on board. With that said, you will find that most cruisers would best be described as young at heart and active seniors. We found our fellow passengers to be some of the most enjoyable we have encountered. HAL keeps the same group of passengers together on the trains and buses, so you do form some nice first name relationships. Just a note on ports, Haines will give you a view of a real Alaskan community. Juneau and Ketchikan have changed so much that is almost hard to believe. Both have been transformed into Caribbean style shopping streets and even use words like "pirates" and "Caribbean". Sad. Get away from the dock area in both and search for a more authentic experience, especially in Ketchikan's historic district. Overall this was a VERY nice cruise. We will seriously consider HAL when making future cruise plans.   Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.7
Service 3.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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