3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
As a 4-Star Mariner of the HAL company, I have had the opportunity to sail on many of the ships in this fleet and can honestly say that I was completely pleased with this ship and her company on the sailing from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. ... Read More
As a 4-Star Mariner of the HAL company, I have had the opportunity to sail on many of the ships in this fleet and can honestly say that I was completely pleased with this ship and her company on the sailing from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. The informative lectures kept the days interesting and the Activities Director did a fabulous job of keeping things entertaining! The staff were very friendly and helpful and the stateroom was well appointed with great views of Antarctica and the Chilean Fjords. Food was amazing, as is the standard for all HAL sailings I have enjoyed. I have visited Alaska on two previous cruises and the views and wildlife sightings on this itinerary were significantly more breathtaking than what Alaska has offered. We were able to have staff from Palmer research station come aboard while in Antarctica and share their experiences with us which was very interesting. Given the strict rules governing the waters of Antarctica, there are many days of scenic cruising with no shore days but after marvelling to the spectacular scenery that is unmarred by our footsteps, I was appreciative of the protections that are in place for this most beautiful continent. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
Just returned from this cruise,I do really like sea days but there just was not any thing to do during the day Cooking class MEH who ever goes home and makes this stuff,because of this there were no movie during the day.And when they did ... Read More
Just returned from this cruise,I do really like sea days but there just was not any thing to do during the day Cooking class MEH who ever goes home and makes this stuff,because of this there were no movie during the day.And when they did have an evening movie it was so very old "Hawaii" come on, that movie must have been 30 years old! Trivia on the ships has become very old All the fun stuff they would do during the late seating dinner hour(The Marriage)game and the word definition game...these are usually fun to watch The HAL Cats band was very good but, The Hal cat singers sang so load you could not understand them,now I know why they have been know as The Screaming Hal cats on other reviews. Then they had two repeat shows,come on spend a little more on the entertainment and I am not talking about the eight and ten o clock show I mean two of the same shows the following nights.Back by popular demand they called it... right Makes wonder if we will sail again for a while The food was always great, no issue there Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
About 20 years ago we took a Holland America cruise to Alaska on the Noordam with my parents, and an Uncle and Aunt. We all had very positive memories of that experience. This time we took the same trip with 2 of our children, and their ... Read More
About 20 years ago we took a Holland America cruise to Alaska on the Noordam with my parents, and an Uncle and Aunt. We all had very positive memories of that experience. This time we took the same trip with 2 of our children, and their spouses, to celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately I had some extremely upsetting times on the cruise this time. We had asked for a handicap room because I have balance problems, especially in the shower. The 2 foot wide shower was not helpful, especially with with a pulldown chair up against the wall that took up some of the 2 feet. l I can't imagine a very handicapped person showering sitting on the chair with such limited space. I have experienced much better to say the least. Also, the very first morning the very odd toilet you you provide didn't work so a plumber was called. Latter that same morning the shower head kept drooping, making showering a challenge. My handyman husband fix it but again the plumber had to be called. He installed a completely new unit. Then, on the very last day the toilet didn't work again. Our son in law thought it was because too many people were trying to use the toilet at the same time. Our son also had a toilet problem on the first day. In my opinion your bath towels were too big and bulky. We have traveled a lot of the world, and the USA, and never experienced such huge towels. I have to wonder if the person who collects the towels off the floor is the same one who replaces clean towels without hand washing? The process for debarking the ship was a problem for us. If it weren't for a few courteous passengers in our crowded hallway we would have been trapped in our room. Your new rendition of Baked Alaska was pathetic compared to our first trip tears ago. It was a big disappointment after telling our kids they'd love it. On the positive side, we found all the workers to be friendly and helpful, which we did appreciate. It may be a good idea to suggest that all passengers try to be courteous. Most were but some only thought of themselves. I very much appreciated the emphasis on handwashing before going through the food lines. The cost of pictures taken of passengers was too high. A lower price would be an incentive to buy, and would result in more profit for the photographers. A good on line photo system would save dollars as only copies ordered would be printed. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2014
We were a group of three, 2 daughters and their mother. This was my 8th cruise, my mother's second and my sister's first. None of us had ever been to Alaska before. We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Pan Pacific Hotel in ... Read More
We were a group of three, 2 daughters and their mother. This was my 8th cruise, my mother's second and my sister's first. None of us had ever been to Alaska before. We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, which we booked throught HAL. It was such a convenient location and a really nice hotel. One nice thing about it was that the hotel takes care of transferring your luggage to the ship, making it so much easier for us. We decided to treat ourselves to a Neptune suite and we loved everything about it. There was tons of space, lots of storage, a large balcony, wonderful cabin stewards and all the perks of a Neptune Suite including the Neptune Lounge. Our concierges were welcoming and friendly and took good care of us. The Zaandam was in great shape and we found the crew to be friendly and eager to please. The food was excellent. The service in the dining room was quick and attentive. We ate once in the Pinnacle Grill and quite enjoyed it. We only ate in the Lido a few times - it was good but we prefered the MDR. We booked 3 excursions through HAL and enjoyed them all. The weather in Juneau was awful - rainy and very foggy, but the whales we saw on our whale watching excursion didn't seem to mind the bad weather. The White Pass railway excursion in Skagway took us through beautiful scenery and the guide was full of knowledge about the area and it's history. In Ketchikan we went on the crab feast - first we saw how they fish for the Dungeness crabs. Then we got to eat as much as we liked. They were delicious. The best part of the cruise we all agree was Tracy Arm. The scenery was breathtaking, and when we were lucky enough to get all the way to the glacier we were in awe. It was a magical day with stunning scenery and beautiful weather. Embarkation and disembarkation were both organized and easy. I would recommend this itinerary, HAL and especialy the Zaandam to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
We were on a Land/Sea tour that went to the Yukon and Denali so only spent 3 nights on the ship. I was initially unhappy with the cabin location, but it ended up being OK. It was a long walk from elevators to the very back of our deck and ... Read More
We were on a Land/Sea tour that went to the Yukon and Denali so only spent 3 nights on the ship. I was initially unhappy with the cabin location, but it ended up being OK. It was a long walk from elevators to the very back of our deck and we were always on the elevators to get to meals or coffee or Crows Nest. Noise was not terrible except for one morning we awoke to unusual engine noise for about 30 mins. The cabin was good sized for 2 people and the bed was comfortable. Our steward was efficient and invisible. The food at the Lido was varied. We had no problem finding something we liked. The ship seemed in good repair.We did not notice any shabby areas, though we were not looking for this. Only saw one show with Leon and Romy, Rock Illusionists. Enjoyed this very much. The Land portion of our trip was wonderful. All the Westmark hotels were fine. Each was different, but rooms were quite acceptable. Hectic schedule for each day, but we covered a lot of distance in a short time. Seeing Grizzly bears in Denali was a thrill and seeing Jeff King's presentation about Iditarod and his huskies was great. The history of the Gold Rush came alive in Whitehorse and Dawson City Yukon Territory. The biggest problem with our trip was that it needed to be longer. I would have loved to have more than one night in each place. Maybe after we retire we could take an extended trip. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
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: September 2013
We sailed on the Zaandam in 2008, and the ship is showing its age. cushions in the show lounge are worn and uncomfortable. We picked this cruise for its value and length, plus we only had to fly one way. We were never bored, and the 18 ... Read More
We sailed on the Zaandam in 2008, and the ship is showing its age. cushions in the show lounge are worn and uncomfortable. We picked this cruise for its value and length, plus we only had to fly one way. We were never bored, and the 18 days did not feel too long. The staff were great, and the length of the cruise let us get to know them by name. This is not a party cruise, by the time we got to San Diego the crows nest music and dance bar was empty most nights. I'm not a buffet fan and was disappointed every time we ate there pre cooked food that's never hot enough. We would usually get salad from the buffet and then go to the grill by the pool, good bbq fare including salmon fillets. The dining room food was excellent, we chose open dining, and often the two of us at alone, our choice. Hal did a good job accommodating my wife who is gluten intolerant, even though we didn't give them notice. Ports- Astoria was interesting, could walk the town easy enough, lots of volunteers to help you. San Diego was close to town also, lots to do if you chose. Cabo San Lucas was tender only, so time on shore was limited. Hualtulco had a beach right on the end of the pier, all the other piers were in industrial areas. The most disappointing port was Puerto Ciapas, a half hour shuttle (not free either) from town. The further south we got the more humid it was. Costa Rica and Columbia were great, lots of history We are disappointed to learn about Hal's change in alcohol policy in 2014, can only bring one bottle of wine on a embarkation only, members of my family cruised with Hal because previously we could bring on as much wine or champagne as we could carry in each port. At least they have multiple happy hours, one drink is $6, the 2nd is $1. The movie theater on board good, but the seats were worn. The entertainment in the show lounge was mostly great. The canal transit was well done, narrative given over the loudspeakers to give info . Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
Getting underway on a ship was a much more enjoying experience than the last time. Having spent 6 years in the Navy and 4 of those on a ship, I understand tight quarters, limited food and boredom. Exterior: Overall I think the exterior ... Read More
Getting underway on a ship was a much more enjoying experience than the last time. Having spent 6 years in the Navy and 4 of those on a ship, I understand tight quarters, limited food and boredom. Exterior: Overall I think the exterior of the ship was in good condition based on her age. There were a few days that I could hear the rattle of needle guns and chipping hammers. Fresh paint and primer was in the air and ventilation while we were on shore. It's just a smell you don't forget, not that bad, but not good. So while most people would complain, it is a fact of life that maintenance and cleaning in a salt-water environment must be constant. Interior: There were a few areas in the lounges where I could see corrosion take it's toll on the base of window frames. The carpets are showing their age, but those were mainly around the area that we entered and exited the ship. I also noticed several area where stains were left from people spilling items. Stateroom: My wife and I had plenty of room in our stateroom for the excessive clothes we brought. I think I only used 1/2 of what I took. Our daughters had an adjoining room and although it looked like a clothing bomb exploded, they could have space to store their stuff. As one of both of my teens were in and out of our room, I would say that 3 people is crowded and 4 is crazy in a standard room. We had ample room to store our suitcases under the bed and keep them out of the way. I did run out of hangers and used some from our other room. Our cabin stewards were the best. They knew our names and habits as well as when to jump in and clean up. Since we brought soda with us, they managed to keep a large stocked ice bucket in our room. I didn't watch too much TV, as I could have done that at home, but the channels were limited and the volume was either too loud or too soft. Perhaps it was the acoustics or I am getting old. Dining: We had open seating as there were 14 people in our group. Breakfast was usually at the Lido and the prepared hot items were OK, I opted for eggs to order or omelets. They had a great selection of juices, fruits and cereal. I would usually eat about 6:30-7 after my morning walk. I was still stuck on CST until the end of my trip. Lunch again was at the Lido and only once in the MDR, mainly due to the hours of operation. The food wasn't bad, but more of an OK, and I want to eat. They had a large selection of items and I should disclose that I was trying to limit myself to low-fat items. Most of the items just seems to be missing flavor. I did eat a lot of fish for lunch and dinner and they were all great pieces cooked right. Dinner was unique as some times it was 4 or other times it was 14. We ate in the MDR almost every night. The food was delivered timely, but again the flavor aspect was missing. I will say that we had plenty to choose from and was never hungry when I left. The desserts were good (from what I was told) and I opted for the fruit plate that became the running joke of the cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2012
Previously to our cruise we visited Santiago. A nice city, not too big. We went to Santa Luccia Hill, La monneda Palace, to the market, San Cristobal with our driver Santos who did a very good job driving us around. The reason why we ... Read More
Previously to our cruise we visited Santiago. A nice city, not too big. We went to Santa Luccia Hill, La monneda Palace, to the market, San Cristobal with our driver Santos who did a very good job driving us around. The reason why we chose this cruise because it was recommended by some friends. That was a great advise. We had a wonderful time as a family. Thank you Zaadam and the crew. We had a tour in Valparaiso that was great, we loved the graffities and all the different colours displayed in the streets. In Punta Arenas, we had a great time in a full day tour with Maritza Alvarado our guide. We went to visit a sheep ranch with her and the driver Patricio who was a great man. Thank you both for all the fun we had together. In Ushuaia we met our guide Javier who did not speak a very good English but he was amazing and showed us around with a great smile. That was superb! Only good memories, thank you all for a great time we will definetely recommend your excursion to everyone. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2012
There were four of us traveling on this 4 day trip from Vancouver BC to San Diego aboard the Zaandam. Not really a reposition cruise, but more a filler for a longer cruise to Hawaii. I had read the reviews prior regarding all the problems ... Read More
There were four of us traveling on this 4 day trip from Vancouver BC to San Diego aboard the Zaandam. Not really a reposition cruise, but more a filler for a longer cruise to Hawaii. I had read the reviews prior regarding all the problems coming from Mexico and hoped all was done by the time we set sail. For the most part it was. They replaced our curtains and bedding while we were out so no disruption there. Carpeting was completed and only saw minor work done on what appeared to be leaks. We did note some horrid smells in the public washrooms near the theatre and the Crows nest. The casino renamed of stale smoke so we mostly hurried through holding our breath. Embankment at Canada Place went very well in spite of some misleading info from the port staff who I found extremely rude and stressed out. Probably the fact they were heading the disembarking passengers off at the same time we were coming on. I had never seen so many walkers and wheelchairs in one place and I work in a nursing home!! Not a very welcome aboard experience as I had before at the Ballentyne pier for NCL the year before. Once aboard our cabins were ready, and our bags arrived shortly afterwards. The muster drill was done and we soon set sail to Victoria. The size of the cabin was huge in comparison to NCL for an inside but had no fridge. Thankfully our stewards kept the ice bucket full. They were great!!! We ate in the main dining for all our dinners and learned quickly to make reservations for each night. Never waited. I am not a fussy eater so I thought all the meals were wonderful and staff for the most part were polite though one had an odd sense of humor. We opted to stay on the ship in Victoria as it is our home, so we did some digital workshops that were very well run and worked out in the gym. Prior to the cruise I had requested use of the fitness centre for Zumba and were told it should be ok but once on the ship, the bored young lady said we could not use our own music. There were no aerobics classes offered so we were a little put off. She just shrugged and said she was tired listening to the same music herself and did nothing to help us or suggest any alternative. Entertainment was mixed. The comedienne was great as was the ventriloquist, though we made the mistake of returning to the second performance on the promise of something different..not enough that made it worth going but that was our error. The musical troupe seems amateur. Just ok. We then had 2 days at sea. Zzzzzzzzzz. Not a lot of activity here, this cruise is definitely geared for an older clientele. We attended a tour of the galley, self guided, a a few more digital and cooking workshops and a scavenger hunt. This being a smaller ship there was not a lot to do I guess. We did enjoy the pool and hot tub, make it warm tub. One thing we liked about HAL is that you can bring your own wine aboard without fear of confiscation. This and 2 happy hours on the sea days helped keep our bar tab reasonable. I would have bought photos too but they only took one photo when we boarded. When I asked they said passengers complained that too many were taken. Oh well, their loss as I was willing to pay for them. DJ Steve in the nightclub played great music and excellent music trivia but the dance selections were repetitive. Karaoke night was crazy busy for a Thursday night. Definitely popular and the club was hopping till 1am. Friday night however, country night was the opposite with last call and last song done by midnight. As this was our last night on board we were somewhat disappointed as the ship pretty well shut down at this point. Not at all like our previous experience on the Pearl. As this was one of our groups 30th birthday it was a big let down. Not that we wanted to party into the wee hours but 12??? All in all I may come back to this line but would find a larger ship, and maybe wait till I am older, it was hard to not compare as I had the time of my life on NCL. Even with new carpets, this ship shows her age. Older Kids or teens would be very bored Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Mexico, 14 days and no flights. This sounds like a great cruise. It will be our second time on Holland America. So after the initial shock of it not being Celebrity I had to stop with the expectations and from there things felt better. ... Read More
Mexico, 14 days and no flights. This sounds like a great cruise. It will be our second time on Holland America. So after the initial shock of it not being Celebrity I had to stop with the expectations and from there things felt better. Embarkation: we got there early and once they opened the ship were quickly on board and exploring. Main Dining Room: they messed up our dinner reservations, again. Despite the confirmation for dinner time and linking reservations we were seated late and not with our travel companions. However Iggy was awesome and by the third night we had a table at 5:45 every night for 11. The food was usually good with a varied selection. They brought the menu the night before for one in our party who has food issues and after a bit of a hiccup things went well for her. The cafe was okay, I liked the fresh sandwiches and appreciated the daily salad and fruit. Lido dining: I think if I had one complaint it would be that food was often not hot...I liked the build your own sandwich, the sushi and the Indonesian day. Activities: The population on this ship is elderly and the activities reflect this. Generally they are quieter and off to bed early. Just don't be in a rush as the walkers and wheelchairs, and canes are plentiful. They pack the early shows and the ship becomes very quiet by mid evening. There has been only a few line dancing classes and we would have appreciated some ballroom. There is a couple of trivia every day with the name that tune during our dinner every night. We have enjoyed the digital treasure hunt that has lasted the whole cruise. We have gone for creativity in staging our photos and had a ball setting the 'scenes' up. The shuffle board deck needs refinishing, it was impossible to use it. Our guys like karaoke and they all sang and three of them made the cut for the superstar performance. Entertainment: we have made the piano bar our last stop every night and have enjoyed the sing a longs, requests, dances and chat with Piano Man Lee and the others that hung out here. Lee has a wide range of material although he does admit Broadway is his weak link. The shows have been great. Production numbers. This is a new team and their inexperience shows. They attack the numbers with enthusiasm and energy, what most of them are lacking at this point is a connection to what they are doing. One male dancer in particular was awesome and we learned this is his sixth contract so he is comfortable with his material. I am sure the others will begin to relax and enjoy themselves. Tony Pace, a Las Vegas headliner is talented and knows how to work a crowd, even an elderly sun baked crowd. His blend of song, impersonation, and comedy made for a show you wouldn't want to miss. Ronn Lucas, The ventriloquist again had such charm and talent we were tired from laughing by the end. I volunteered my husband to be a dummy and he added to the humour. Alfreda Gerald did a tribute to the Divas. Her vocal skills and personality were a huge hit and we were honoured to chat with her the next night before she headed home. Rose Ranger played guitar and sang in the piano bar. She has a nice voice and so was easy listening before supper. Adagio Strings also gave another easy listening venue. The Neptunes, a trio were cool and played the Ocean bar where the ballroom dancing took place. Hal cats were great! I did not see the Stander Dance Duo perform in the theatre, but heard negative comments about their performance. I will say when I saw them dance in the piano bar they were relaxed and did great especially the woman. Activity staff lead entertainment such as Call my Bluff, Majority Rules, the Marriage game were entertaining and fun. Jeff Peterson was next up as a magician who is funny. He bills himself as 'Comedy Magic'. He was good, but the audience was pretty slow. We tried to get them worked up, but they were a hard sell. Dale Gonyea was up next with piano and comedy with photos. He had lots of funny stuff to say pertaining to this cruise such as the fact the walking deck was always blocked off in one way or another, about the carpeting and the missed port. He had an interesting voice and had us all laughing. This particular night I could not keep my eyes open so missed bits and pieces of his performance. DJ Steve was awesome, he kept music levels balanced and at a volume you could hear the music and still chat with friends. The ship: Okay...we got a letter saying "We would like to advise you that during our stay in Puerto Vallarta, we will be enhancing the atrium and stair towers by adding brand new carpeting. We expect the work to proceed quickly and anticipate that any inconvenience to our guests will be minimal. Nonetheless, as a gesture of goodwill, we want to offer each of you a complimentary excursion on that day, October 16, 2012, to help you enjoy your time ashore in Puerto Vallarta." They were however carpeting during the whole cruise making it challenging to navigate the ship safely. The fumes at times were trying as well, both the new glue and the heat they were using to get up the old stuff. The ship does need some work, but in general is okay. Well maybe I should add that we had a hydrolic problem that kept us late in Cabo San Lucas that caused us to miss our excursion in Puerto Vallarta and then more problems there which had us in Puerto Vallarta for an extra 10 hours. Then the stop again in Cabo to get the tender and then late to San Diego. We cleared customs late in the evening and went on shore to connect with friends. We were able to get together with one of our friends but missed the other. Our visit to Alcatraz in San Fran is off since we will not stop at that port. We did get our money back from The Alcatraz booking company. To make up a bit for all the issues the ship offered free drinks for two and a half hours. Room: Our room 1820 was quiet and we were very happy with our room steward Denen. Even the traffic to the medical center was not really an issue. Lots of wonderful towel creations and anything we needed. Excursions/ Ports. Seattle: dropped from the itinerary very early in the booking process. San Pedro was our first port and it was a testing ground for our group. Our group was too big to go together. I enjoy the people I was with, but with limited time we could have done more in small groups. As it was we wandered up the coast line reading the descriptions for the sites that I had downloaded. We did a little geocaching too. Puerto Vallarta. I can't comment on the one we missed, but the Pirate Ship Ahoy was a blast. Of course it was packed because it was one of the free ones offered. A number of people Who went this one were not really fit enough especially since the waves were big due to a storm on the Pacific. They were lifting people in and out of the tenders who were... well... anyone who was slow or limited mobility because the waves were crashing. It was very hot and very humid, but we loved it. Cabo San Lucas. We booked our own Kayak trip in Cabo. We were picked up by Cabo Outfitters and we were the only ones on the trip. We had an awesome time in the building waves kayaking and snorkeling. Kasey and his wife were excellent. We did have concerns about getting off the ship in time since there were delays, but we went down early to wait and got on the first tender. San Diego: We wandered around Balboa Park. Just wish we had had more time there! San Fransisco: Cancelled. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
From the time of boarding the Zaandam to leaving her, the staff of this ship found many ways to please us with great service and courtesy. For the first time ever we never went in the main dining room, which is really unusual as on most ... Read More
From the time of boarding the Zaandam to leaving her, the staff of this ship found many ways to please us with great service and courtesy. For the first time ever we never went in the main dining room, which is really unusual as on most ships the best meals and service are found there. With the first meal at the Lido the selection and variety were so great that we thought that we would just make this our regular meal stop and not worry about eating at set times. The salad selection was varied and fresh, the Asian dishes were tasty and having the pasta bar service was tops. Confidence in health was provided by having the staff serve the plates to you and not having to hold implements handled by the person in front of you. Given the lack of proper hygiene by some guests, this is a great way to stay healthy. The pork roasts, roasted turkey, baked chicken dishes and steamed vegetables all were terrific. It was great to see the Chef around checking on his staff and talking freely with the passengers. The cooking demonstrations with the staff were not only great at sharing tips but were actually funny. The Company Men playing in the Theatre were really a high energy group that challenged the older crowd to come alive. They were fun and their talent promised long and successful careers. The ship is well maintained and carries an air of eloquence from the teak decks on the promenade deck to the intriquing artwork on display everywhere. The Hawaiian speaker really knows the Pacific and provided a great way to learn and enjoy the trip. The maritime history speaker was excellent as well. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home ... Read More
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home to the pier. We booked this cruise through an local agent.On the day of embarkation we met the guide at the pier. Before we checked in we had to carry our luggages to the rear of the pier for collection which is quite a walk. Then we went upstair for checkin. The was a long que and the process took about 30 minutes. The room was ready when we were on board. We booked an outside but were upgraded to a veranda. The cabin was spacious ,similar to the Westerdam we were on 2 years ago. The bathroom was big with a full bathtub. After we unpacked we went to Lido for some food.It was difficult to find a table. The ship was chartered by the Japanese and 90% of the passengers were Japanese. Even the announcements were in English and Japanese. It was a direct cruise from Hong Kong to Kobe without visiting any port. Food in Lido was good. Lots of variations, international and Japanese. However food in MDR was mediocre, cannot compare with Celebrity. But our waiter from Indonisia was excellent. One setback about HAL is their entertainment. We did go the shows every night but found that they are very amateur. I almost fell asleep. The second day we were hit by a big storm with 60mph wind and 8meter wave. About half of the passengers were sick. It lasted for over 10 hours. Surprisingly there was no announcement from the captain. It was pretty bad as we couldn't even walk without holding the wall. I used the gym every day. It is quite spacious with adequate equipments and not crowded. There were 2 ping pong tables and my son spent a lot of time playing with other kids. Zaandam is an old ship but it was kept very well and very clean.We could hardly notice any wear and tear. I was told it will be refitted this Octobein in Vancouver. Disembarkation was a breeze but getting through Japanese immigration was a nightmare.They have only one line for foreigners and it was extremely long. We stayed in Kobe and Osaka for 2 more nights, did sightseeing and flew back to Hong Kong. All in all we enjoyed Zaandam. We loved the library, the pool and the basketball court. All the staffs were so friendly and always with a smile. We definitely will go back if the itinerary is attractive. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Background Information It was cruise no. 47. We went before on HAL's EURODAM and WESTERDAM and had some concerns. We made already the experience that you CAN make very good experiences with HAL but also few single items ended in a ... Read More
Background Information It was cruise no. 47. We went before on HAL's EURODAM and WESTERDAM and had some concerns. We made already the experience that you CAN make very good experiences with HAL but also few single items ended in a desaster. We loved the Signature-/Vista-Class Ships and had some concerns before because the price of the balconies was extremely high. Furthermore we booked originally Hong Kong - Kobe but they just changed the itinerary without notification. You learned about the changes in cruisecritic.com or when you were wondering where your booking dissappeared to. My parents (end 70s) went with us. So we know that HAL has a certain infra-structure for this range of ages. Hotel Info (if any) We booked the Inter-Continental in Singapore ourselves. Great hotel. We liked it. Ship Info Well - we really had concerns going on board since we already read some bad reviews on cruisecritic.com. But we were nicely surprised how good the ship's condition was. We had a great space ratio and we had only minor problems in our cabin which mostly were solved within hours. We loved the ship. When you are used to travel on Vista-/Signature-Class Ships you miss some options. But maybe it was only because of the length of the cruise. Activities/Entertainment I loved the musicians on the stage but also in the bars and lounges. Especially the bar pianist James Blackmon and the Adagio Strings. The shows were too old-fashioned for my flavour. Once the CD announced: "The music your parents and grandparents loved" - well I am mid 40s but it was more for my friend's parents and grandparents and he is mid 60s!!! We had no chance to participate other major activities but the M&G with the facebook and cruisecritic.com-members. Service 99% outstanding-fantastic-cordial-personal-wonderful etc. 1% idiots you always have on ships (like giving 4 pieces of candy for a table of 6) Three samples for outstanding service: 1. we had so many vouchers for the Pinnacle Grill and asked instead for a beverage value card and they did. 2. we asked for a dragon fruit and someone walked up to the Lido and got it for us in the MDR. 3. a port call was cancelled due to weather conditions and so my birthday party which I paid was just gone. But they give me a table in the Pinnacle Grill for lunch and dinner so I had a wonderful day onboard. Port & Shore Excursions Because of the size of our group and the high prices we arranged all tours ourselves. Singapore - Singapore Flyer - Ducktours - honestly it was too hot and too humid to do anything. Just stayed at the hotel. Koh Somui - Half Day Tour on the island Laem Chabang - First day: Bangkok highlights with delivery to the airport We flew to Siem Reap to stay there two nights for Angkor Wat. For this arrangement we paid about 500 USD per person while the ship wanted more than 3,000 USD pp for their arrangement. We flew to Phnom Penh and had a small tour there before we returned to Sihanoukville to join the ship. Phu My - Tour to Saigon but with some desaster and stolen iPhone Nha Trang - was cancelled due to weather condition Sanya - We had a private tour as we had independent visa Halong Bay - I became my own Hotel and Cruise Director... We chartered a junk incl. two cabins so my parents could rest. So we could stay after sunset. Hong Kong - I did one day Macao and the 2nd day Ladies' Street, Aberdeen and tram ride and finally Victoria Peak. Here you find pictures of our tours and more detailed information in this cruisecritic.com-Thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1609426 Summary Excellent: so many things were 120%. So what was good was really good. But what was bad (especially outside SOP) it was really bad. Travel To Port of Embarkation We were lucky as Lufthansa sold for 1,111 EUR business class tickets on November 11, 2011. So it was a perfect way to travel to the port as it was an Airbus 380. Stateroom Wonderful - due to location easy access to promenade and larger than standard rooms. We loved it: 2715 - and it was so cheap as it was sold as obstructed view but we did not feel like in one. Dining It was good. Due to the length of cruise towards the end of the cruise I had the wish to have something different. Terrible the new "healthy" low fat cream they used. I loved their desserts before but with the new cream it was terrible. Best was the Pinnacle Grill - the lunch was wonderful. But I had only once chance to get access. Wondering how other get the tables as they never advertised for them for lunch. Two dinners: just outstanding - especially the service. Le Cirque: due to the high level of Pinnacle Grill it could not meet my expectations and was just a disappointment - although the food was good. But as said: due the performance you get in the Pinnacle Grill itself, Le Cirque is a big disappointment as the cover charge is 39.00 USD pp. Children's Clubs We did not used. Disembarkation Smooth - but very crowd due to fascilities. But anyhow we want to have the good things again that we accept all bad things: so the next HAL cruise is booked. Pictures of the cruise and detailed comments can be found in this thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1609426 Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
REVIEW OF ZAANDAM: San Diego-Hawaii-San Diego February 27-March 13, 2011 Being from the Midwest, the best place to be in February is Not in the Midwest. Therefore we booked this cruise to paradise. We chose HAL principally because ... Read More
REVIEW OF ZAANDAM: San Diego-Hawaii-San Diego February 27-March 13, 2011 Being from the Midwest, the best place to be in February is Not in the Midwest. Therefore we booked this cruise to paradise. We chose HAL principally because it left from San Diego, one of our most favorite cities.. We also decided to arrive a day early as San Diego was guaranteed to be warmer than where we were. We were lucky to escape from a seven-inch snowfall the day before we left. However, in San Diego we were greeted with rain, clouds, brisk winds, record snowfalls in the mountains above the town and unseasonably cold weather. We were glad we brought our sweaters and jackets from the North. On Sunday we boarded the ship. Now, at last, the good weather. Not so fast. Departure was sunny but still chilly. Standing on the upper decks as the ship departed the bay was not a comfortable situation with wind gusts that echoed life in the snow belt. It did not get better for days. On the second full day at sea, 35 know winds, rough seas and high waves made the ship roll back and forth so much, the outside was declared off limits. Many fell sick; others just fell due to the high amount of rocking onboard; the movement just made us tired and we went to bed earlier than usual. By Wednesday first week, the worst was over. And by Thursday, the expected warm weather finally appeared for good. The Zaandam is a relatively small ship compared to the giants out there now (70,000 tons and 1500 passengers). We enjoy the Navigator class from RCI which is double the size. One plus was the relatively small number of passengers, thus insuring you would see the same faces (new friends) often during the cruise. Some of the amenities we enjoyed on RCI were lacking (notably the promenade). Crew members were friendly and helpful but service often was absent when you most needed it (see below). It often seemed that if it were not their responsibility, they would comment they would pass the word to others and then as soon as they were out of eyesight, soon forget about you and go on their own business. The Zaandam has a beautiful three story ornate pipe organ in the atrium of the ship. We heard it only once during the entire cruise (although I heard others indicate it played several times during the day). I would think HAL would have at least one if not several formal shows (playings) of the organ during the cruise; it has a great asset that is not being effectively utilized. Pluses: The embarkation was a breeze. Even though we arrived at 11am, before debarkation was all completed (the ship was several hours late arriving due to bad storms the night before), we were checked in and boarding before noon. Our luggage arrived by mid afternoon and we were totally unpacked before departure. Can't say much for Pier B and the old warehouse used as dock facilities by San Diego. But that was not HAL's fault. For the first three days, all food was handled directly to the passengers by the staff and no self-service was available. This was a new policy to combat the ever present dangerous noroviruses. Seemed to work. Since I am an independent sort, I felt somewhat embarrassed to be waited on when I could just as easily do it myself but I understand the reasoning for the service. We enjoyed the Canaletto, the specialty non-premium restaurant offered by HAL. More of these should be the norm in every ship: enriched variety between the MDR, the Buffet, and the premium extra-pay restaurants. Food was good but servings were too generous and we left food on the plate rather than stuff ourselves. Kudos to Kainoa, the Hawaiian travel guide for the ship. A native Hawaiian, very knowledgeable, very friendly, helpful and accessible to all passengers. He made the trip so much easier and enjoyable. He was present dockside on all the Hawaiian ports, readily available to answer questions and direct you to where you wanted to go. Also kudos to Eric, cruise director, a very talented, funny individual who made the cruise more eventful with his one liners, his stories, and his Georgian accent. The Culinary Arts center was a great hit. Not that we are great chefs or have the inclination to be so back home. It was fine entertainment, good learning, and just a good time was had by all. Paula, the party planner, was always a jovial, friendly, delightful, knowledgeable hostess whom we can't say enough good things about. We were especially delighted by the Executive Cook-Captain battle one day. The Theatre seating was not typical movie theater hard seats but cushioned seats more of a cocktail lounge act seating. It made the ambiance of the theater better. Entertainment was good not great. Justin Miller, guitarist, was outstanding and played an afternoon matinee in addition to his night show (and substituted a second night when one of the regularly scheduled entertainers came down sick. That is above and beyond the call of duty!!). The singers and dancers were excellent. The comedian for two days was hilarious and played perfectly to the senior crowd. For the first time ever we saw an acrobatic act on a cruise ship stage and had to agree it was different and kept the crowd's attention throughout the show. We were pleasantly pleased with the library and exploration (computer center) on the Zaandam. Very spacious, many volumes, well organized, quite a few comfortable chairs and tables and an onboard librarian. It would set a great example for other ships. The Zaandam has a retractable roof that covers the 8th Lido deck pool area. Great for rainy/bad weather. But often they leave it up instead of opening it when weather is good. Nice feature though. Afternoon Tea (3pm) was a daily stop for us. Light finger food and pastries with your choice of tea or coffee. A chance to reconnect with friends or make new friends. A midafternoon break. A delightful tradition that I would recommend all cruise lines partake in. Negatives: As usual the number one negative in my book was the high cost and inversely proportional low speed of the Internet. I make my living on the Internet and can cruise during off-season only by working while cruising. You would think that with current technology, reasonable speeds can be obtained. I hate paying the high rates for Internet and I hate it worst when I wait for minutes for a page to load, meanwhile watching the minute meter keep increasing without accomplishing anything. First cruise line that provides fast, inexpensive, reliable internet service will have us as lifetime loyal customers. Better yet, offer an unlimited internet rate and all the pressure and stress will disappear for us road warriors. Food was adequate. Portions were large, too large and half portions should have been offered. Our goal for every cruise was to come back the same weight as we arrived. We sampled all the restaurants. Ample variety. Good but no better than other cruise lines we had been on (this comment we would remark many times during the duration of the cruise and hear others). We found the variety lacking (and found this seconded by other passengers with experiences from other lines) and assortment limited on the menus. As the cruise went on, the quality of the food decreased. The Zaandam must have a new pastry chef; with the exception of large cookies and ice cream (which you can hardly mess up even if you tried), the special deserts lacked flavor and texture. This is a petty concern of mine but I must express it: The Zaandam only offers water and tea as complementary beverages; other ships we have been on include Lemonade and Fruit Punch. These additional drinks add to the variety of the food offered. We chose "anytime dining" as a means to be flexible. As I understood it, you could go to the Main Dining Room anytime during dinner hours (or make a reservation). The ship likes the flexibility as it provides some flattening of the usual dinner hour traffic jams. Well, as we learned much to our disappointment, a better name is "Anything but" dining. We tried most of the two weeks to make a reservation and the only time they had was 7:45 (if we wanted that late we would have chosen the 8pm seating). We also tried numerous times to show up and every time was told 7:45pm. Either offer it sincerely or do not offer it. We had two room stewards. Why two? Not enough work for two and we did not see them for days. DW marked our sheets and they were not changed for several days. One night by nine, our room had yet to be serviced for the night. That is getting late in anyone's book. We enjoy a few minutes in the jacuzzi before bedtime. The 'hot tub' was more accurately named "luke warm tub." It was the only hot tub I have ever been in that was at room temperature. DW tried to call the desk for 30 minutes (and then a further 30 minutes back in the room) without the phone being answered. DW also cornered four or five crew members (including one officer) and asked about the problem, "We will contact someone for you." Thirty minutes later no one had yet surfaced to assist us. For a premium line, we expected a hot Jacuzzi and prompt service, neither of which was forthcoming. After numerous phone calls, we were told they closed the Jacuzzi at 7pm. This is nonsense and idiotic. Do they roll up the streets at 6:30 too? I know the average age for HAL is in the seventies but there are some that want something to do after dinner. Oh and no towels on the pool deck; we dripped and dried ourselves all the way back to our room. To be quite honest, they did fix the situation and sent us an apology letter with a special food gift. But it did take them the better part of two days whereas it should never have occurred in the first place. We also enjoy playing the penny slots. We were glad to see two-cent slots. However, upon closer examination the minimum bet one could play was 40 cents (twenty lines minimum at 2 cents). This, at the very least, was false and misleading advertising. Needless to say, we did not play the slots or the casino. What else, we wondered, were they misleading us on there? The crew is mostly Filipino with Dutch officers. They were excellent and made every attempt to assist you when necessary. We did find their grasp of English to be substandard and it was hard at times to understand what they were trying to say. Holland-America uses a negative check-off system (similar to that used by record/book companies when you must send back a card otherwise they send you the next selection). Tips are automatically charged to your unless you intentionally fill out a form at the Front office. And to make it more difficult, you can only do it the last night before debarking. They are obviously trying to make it as difficult as possible in the hopes you will forget or just give up. We believe in determining for ourselves the gratuities given staff. And feel insulted that HAL wants to force us into a system instead of letting us decide for ourselves. We had an aft cabin that was only two cabins short of being on the stern of the ship. Often when we sat on the verandah (note not balcony, verandah), the smoke from the ship's smokestack could be seen in a downward spiral on our side of the ship. Often we could smell the fumes and had residue on the verandah occasionally. It did not make for a fitful sleep knowing fumes were nearby. The ship needs a good overall and maintenance checkup. Rust could be seen throughout the ship. It was clearly showing its age. When we on the tender to/from Maui, the rust was clearly visible all along the waterline. Not a comforting sight to say the least. We found service to be substandard. Not just us but others attempted to contact the Front Desk and Guest Relations and spent 30-40 minutes without anyone picking up the phone. The Front Desk was basically afraid of their own shadows and could not make decisions or make allowances to the guest. And the computer guru said to DW, "If you have any more problems, I am going to have to sever your connection." Not fix it, not assist it but eliminate the source and the problem will go away; she got my award for the Best effort to dissuade you from every returning to HAL. The room stewards did not have a direct extension; to contact them you had to phone the front desk (whom never did answer their phone so how do you communicate with them when you needed them? Still not certain how) Not exactly service oriented displays by a cruise line that portrays itself as a superior service line. Conclusion HAL considers itself a premium line (it is a legend in its own mind as the joke goes). It offers excellent service but at a considerable monetary premium to other lines. The question in our mind is whether the service and amenities offered are worth the premium paid to cruise with HAL. IMHO (and DW concurs), HAL is overrated and is not worthy of the premium prices paid (Not just us but many of those we spoke too had the same feeling including several who had cruised many times at HAL). Its service is no better and in many fashions worse than other lines. DW would not recommend them at half the price. We do like some of the innovative itineraries they have proposed (whereupon you leave and return to the same American port but get to visit Europe, South America or the South Pacific, thus eliminating the dreaded 9 hour cross Atlantic flights). But this is not enough to overcome their basic service problems. We have therefore scratched HAL from further consideration for our future cruises. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2010
My mom and I cruised previously with NCL, Royal Caribbean and Holland America Line. This was our eighth cruise overall and our second time on Zaandam. We have sailed on Zandaam about a year ago and we have enjoyed it but the latest 15-day ... Read More
My mom and I cruised previously with NCL, Royal Caribbean and Holland America Line. This was our eighth cruise overall and our second time on Zaandam. We have sailed on Zandaam about a year ago and we have enjoyed it but the latest 15-day Hawaii cruise was awful experience. After embarkation we were told that the staterooms are not ready and the crew told us to go up in the Lido buffet and wait. Around 3:00 pm there was an announcement that the staterooms are ready and we went down to our cabin. To our surprise the beds were not separated, the toilet bowl was dirty, there was some garbage in the closet, bed sheets had holes and hair, and the blankets were old and worn. The air conditioner did not work and it was hot in the stateroom. We immediately have reported all these problems to the front office and they told us that someone will be there shortly. We waited for several hours but nobody came. We have visited the front office again and insisted that the bathroom needs to be cleaned, beds has to be separated and A/C has to be repaired as soon as possible. After some arguments with the front office personnel they finally sent a cabin steward to clean the bathroom and separate the beds. The technicians also came to repair the A/C. They told us that the A/C is working now and that we can adjust the temperature to our liking. They lied to us as they simply set the temperature to minimum. We have set the temperature controller to maximum but it did not work as the A/C was blowing cold air. Because of cold temperature we couldn't sleep all night. In the morning we went to the front office again and insisted on a meeting with a hotel manager. After several arguments with front office clerks they have made an appointment with Guest Relations Manager, Mrs. Grace Zerna. She was 20 min late and no one even care to let us know that she is late. We have explained the situation to her but she was rude and kept interrupting us. We insisted on a meeting with Hotel Manager, Mr. Kees B. Streuding. She has refused and said that she could not find him. We said that we will not leave the front desk area until we meet with the Hotel Manager. In about half an hour the Hotel Manager finally met with us. We informed him about A/C problem and asked to repair the A/C or move us to another stateroom. He said that there are no available staterooms and promised us that the A/C will be repaired. The technicians came again and told us that they have replaced the thermostat and that we can adjust the temperature, but it was a lie again. The A/C blew cold air again... The clerk from the front office checked the temperature in our stateroom. It was 64 F. After many stressful visits to the front desk during the first 3 days of the cruise we gave up as there was no help from management to solve the problem. They simply ignored us. It seemed that the hotel manager does not exist at all as during the 15 day cruise we have not seen him except our short and useless appointment. We had no choice but to sleep in the cold room with our clothes on and using extra blankets. We got cold for several days and had a sore throat and cough. Two days before the end of the cruise we wrote an official letter to the Hotel Manager, Mr. Kees B. Streuding, and demanding compensation. There was no response. We have enquired at the front desk about response to our letter but they said that there will be no compensation... Other problems during the cruise include: 1. During the cruise there were constant painting and varnishing in the public areas on outside decks. The ship was repaired all day long and the crew was wearing protective respirators. It was awful because instead of enjoying fresh air during our 9 sea days we were forced to breathe poisonous chemical fumes and vapors. 2. Another disappointment was the food. It was of low quality, very repetitive and mostly tasteless, except for formal nights. At lunch there were mostly 3 or 4 chicken dishes with fries, rice, noodles and vegetables. Watery oatmeal, expired granola boxes, salty soups, most meat and fish dishes had no taste or had strange odor. The fruits and desserts lacked any variety. There were no grapes, mangos, peaches or nectarines in the buffet. You can also see other cutbacks. 3. There were fruit flies in the glasses with water and juice, on bread and fruits in the main dining room and in the Lido buffet. The windows throughout the ship were dirty and some dust streaks were hanging from the ceilings in the Lido buffet. 4. In the middle of cruise there were general plumbing problem and toilets did not flush for about 12 hours. The administration tried to hide that it is a general problem and there were no announcements or apologies given. 5. Many passengers were waiting for beautiful Napali Coast passage but for some reason the captain has changed the course and no information given. On the plus side we have enjoyed the cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Arts Center, The Neptunes trio in the Ocean Bar and Kimika show. Hawaii ambassador, Kainoa, has provided very interesting and informative lectures. Our dining room stewards, Tono and Ariana also provided excellent professional service. We are extremely disappointed with this cruise on Zaandam as our vacation was ruined and we will never sail on Holland America Line again unless HAL will greately improve their customer service and dining. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We have cruised on Holland America several times before, once on Disney, and once on Royal Caribbean. We booked this cruise over a year ago. We were traveling with my husband's brother and sister-in-law. We love to cruise for ... Read More
We have cruised on Holland America several times before, once on Disney, and once on Royal Caribbean. We booked this cruise over a year ago. We were traveling with my husband's brother and sister-in-law. We love to cruise for the rest and relaxation and getting away from our hectic jobs. Now our journey ... We arrived in Vancouver 10/01, the day before our cruise. We had booked the Fairmont Waterfront through HAL and we met the HAL representative at the airport and they ushered us to a taxi and straight to the hotel (a breeze). Room was on the port side (beautiful view). We woke up a little before 6:00 a.m. and saw the Zaandam arrive. There were also two other ships in port that day (1 Princess and 1 NCL). We had transfers to the ship that also included a city tour. The tour started at 9:00 a.m. and was nice at first but they did not want us on the ship until 2:00 p.m. The ship sailed at 3:00 p.m.!!!! Needless to say, most on the bus were not happy campers. We finally got to the ship and just barely got our lunch when the Lido was closing. We have always boarded the ship early .... so excited to get there. So, if you have booked the transfers, I would just skip the city tour and walk over to the ship yourself. On the plus side, there were no lines since we were boarding so late and our luggage was in our rooms when we boarded. Our room was great!! We booked the secret rooms (there are two 7086 & 7083). They are classified as insides but actually have a large window on the aft/stern of the ship. Great location .... just one quick flight up to the Lido. We ate all our meals in the Lido. This was to be our first (and NOT last) cruise where we packed lightly (no formal clothes). YIKES, some would say but we loved it!! This is a vacation after all!! We were surprised that the Lido was so busy every night. Seems lots of other cruisers have the same idea. I have to say that service in the Lido was fantastic. We tend to eat at the same table (if we can get it) on the port side and met Andi who was our waiter/go getter. He was great .... always smiling and happy. He learned our names and after the second day, he remembered us. The first couple of days we were served and that made service slower but once we could serve ourselves and get drinks it went much quicker. I loved the Asian Cuisine and that is what I ate almost every day at lunch (along with bread pudding, or course). Wish they had more selections on the nightly buffet though. We had a great turnout for our cruise critic meeting. It was great seeing everyone and putting names with faces. Ran into several of them all through the cruise and it was like meeting up with family. The ship provided cookies, coffee and refreshments but none of the officers showed up. Well ... as for the ship. We have been on the Zaandam before (back in 2006) and it was in better shape then but the Zaandam is still a great ship. It could use a little TLC. Seems like they have cut way back on the staff, service is still good but maybe they need more staff to maintain the ship. It wouldn't hurt them to wash the windows. I put that on the survey by the way. There was a contact crew that got on when we were getting off. They had taken down some lightning on the aft pool deck and was hauling plywood up the stairs outside our room. Couldn't figure out exactly what they were going to do. The organ in the atrium is beautiful. We got to see it play on one of the sea days when we happened to be at the front desk. It started playing and the little figures on the sides started moving. It was very nice. I made a comment to the desk clerk that I had not seen it play and I believe he said it played on sea days at 10:00 a.m. and Noon. Now for the sea days .... I love sea days, I really do. Time to relax and do nothing, if you so chose, BUT we have decided that four and lastly five are way too many for us!! The last couple of days we were wishing we were back home and that is a first for us. We didn't see any of the shows. Sat in on one Liars Club - that's a HOOT!! Went to all of Kainoa's (the native travel guide) talks and lectures. You sure learn a lot about Hawaii from him. Disembarkation was a breeze ... we chose expedited which means you can carry off all your luggage without any help and get to leave the ship first. We left the ship at 8:30 a.m. and grabbed a waiting taxi and was at the airport before 9:00 a.m. All in all, we had a great time. Not the best way to see Hawaii. My husband had never been and we did not get enough time in each port but we knew that going into it. We got to cruise (which we love) and see a little of Hawaii - What more can you ask??? Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2010
First, I am not a Holland America "homer". I've now sailed with them 3 times but my allegience is with Princess thanks to the great amenities we've earned over 22 sailings. I wish CCL would allow Captain's Circle ... Read More
First, I am not a Holland America "homer". I've now sailed with them 3 times but my allegience is with Princess thanks to the great amenities we've earned over 22 sailings. I wish CCL would allow Captain's Circle members the same amenities on Holland as the Mariner Society members receive and vice versa. It would be really good for CCL business if they allowed that type of arrangement among all of their cruise companies. Our cruise was booked close to a year in advance. As the date got closer I looked into Zaandam reviews on cruisecritic and was somewhat alarmed at what was written by some people who must be very difficult to please. It's not the rundown vessel plagued by poor service some would like others to believe. Yes, there is a little rust here and there but I challenge everyone to try not to find rust on a 10 year old vessel. I noted only one burned out lightbulb on the ship. The overall service was outstanding. Boarding: We arrived at Seattle pier 91 a bit later than we had hoped and waited 20 minutes to get our keys Cabin: We switched to a 4 person cabin about 6 weeks from departure when it appeared Grammie's work schedule would allow her to join us. We ended up as far forward and inside as one can be on the Dolphin Deck. Great exercise going up and down the stairways to the dining areas and very convenient to the Mondrian Lounge where all the shows were held. Twin beds with a pull down bunk for grandson #2 and a pull out sofa for grandson #1. Lots of closet space and space under beds for luggage. Bathroom was quite adequate and the shower seemed a little roomier than what we find on Princess. Only detractor for the cruise was the intermittent operation of the toilet flushing mechanism. It was tempermental but the resident plumber showed us how to use a "magic pencil" to flush the toilet manually when necessary. (There's a little hole on the right side of the bowl at the wall, insert the pencil and whoosh). The trouble was noted and scheduled for fixing. Flat screen TV worked well with a decent selection of channels like CNN (constantly nothing new), cartoons, the bow channel, a couple of movie channels (one showed the movie NO SIGNAL for most of the cruise). Cabin attendent Aden did a good job keeping the room squared away. Dining: Dining manager Indra assigned us a window seat at table 110 every evening at 5:15 in the anytime (Deck 4) section of the Rotterdam Dining Room. Our waiter Tono was quite special and very good with the boys. All of his recommendations during our 6 nights with him were spot on and he and his assistant kept the meals going at a reasonable yet unrushed pace. When he had a moment, Tono conversed with us and even showed us some magic tricks. We enjoyed our final dinner at Caneletto a nice, no-surcharge, Italian focused dining area set aside from the Lido buffet on Deck 8. The antipasto, minestrone, lasagne, fruitti de mare and tiramisu were quite good. From conversations we heard at tables nearby it seemed as if many folks spent the majority of their dinners at Caneletto which had a superb varied menu that I would have enjoyed multiple times. The meals in the Rotterdam Dining Room were stellar. Breakfast choices were limitless and those we ordered were wonderful. Our dinner choices of crab legs, steak, seafood, lamb chops, soups, salads and desserts were served at the proper temperature and all thoroughly enjoyed. (The lobster was a bit salty.) The Lido breakfasts and lunches were equally impressive regarding variety and quality. The staff was right on top of cleanliness in all eating venues. Tried the poolside taco bar once and was completely satisfied. Entertainment: Cruise Director Erik put together great shows for us. I generally sat through both early and late shows because the boys were at Club HAL during the early show and they wanted to see the stage shows as well. Lee Bayless' comedy was totally family oriented and fun proving one doesn't require profanity to be successful. Well Done Lee! Joel Mason's Elton John tribute was done to perfection and interlaced with family suitable comedy. What a talented musician he is. The Zaandam singers and dancers were energetic and technically very proficient and the band was fantastic. The dueling drummer and bongo player during a break in the Elton John act was top notch...well done ladies! Club HAL: The boys spent nearly every waking onboard moment with new friends and a kid-passionate counselor, Cassandra, immersed in numerous, never boring, Club HAL activities. Everything they got involved with was judged to have passed with flying colors according to the boys. They even had some high quality one on eight interaction with a Park Ranger in Glacier Bay. Itinerary: I chose this cruise with the boys because I wanted them to experience Sitka's Russian heritage, the Raptor Center, and also a wildlife expedition. Princess does not visit Sitka very often and not out of Seattle. Unfortunately, on the first night out Zaandam ran into very high seas (30+ft swells) that really pounded the ship. With an unfavorable forecast for better conditions the Captain wisely turned around and detoured the ship into the Inside Passage. A lot of meclizine was consumed that night. Being berthed well forward we had e-ticket thrills for quite a while. I resurrected my USN sealegs and was thankful to have them come back so quickly. Unfortunately, the change in routing caused Sitka to be axed from the schedule. Disappointing to everyone? Yes, but the Captain did the right thing for our comfort and safety. The weather in Juneau was good enough for us to enjoy a visit to Mendenhall Glacier and a trip up the Mt. Roberts Tram before the weather turned foul. People who took helo rides up to the glaciers were not disappointed. Despite the rainy (what else?) weather in Ketchikan, The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show was a big hit with those who attended. Having visited Victoria several times in the past, we stayed aboard during the 4 hour stop in that port. Disembarkation: Very smooth as we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, let most everyone off ahead of us and we took care of our own luggage. No heartburn here! Other comments: Paula the Party Planner was a joy. She hosted numerous activities in the Wajang Theatre/Culinary Arts Center that were quite popular. The cooking demonstrations and the galley tour were fun. Pilar in the gift shop was also very personable as was Maki, the barrista in the Explorers Cafe. The daily sudoku and trivia contests in the library were challenging and the musicians (especially the "Adagio Strings") did a fine job of entertaining the passengers throughout the ship. The Front Office staff were well-groomed, professional, personable, and helpful. I did not miss the Park West art program but couldn't get too excited by its replacement. John and Miriam who run the future cruise assistance desk are fine HAL representatives and very knowledgeable about the HAL vessels and itineraries. The material condition of Zaandam was good and effort continues daily to keep the ship up to HAL's high standards. I didn't see a frown on the face of any crewmember the entire week. Even the deckhands cleaning the lower promenade wraparound deck at 5am were in good spirits. Reflecting back on some derogatory comments I read by recent posters on cruisecritic.com I wonder if we were on the same ship. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2010
We were prepared for things to go south, rather than north considering that we had such a diverse group going on this cruise. 2 very active seniors both quite hard of hearing and both very opinionated were with us, both truly believing ... Read More
We were prepared for things to go south, rather than north considering that we had such a diverse group going on this cruise. 2 very active seniors both quite hard of hearing and both very opinionated were with us, both truly believing that we would be walking through a foot of snow in ports because we were going so early in the season. Never cruised before, so we at least knew the ship would impress them. 1 semi senior, smoker, single, who injured herself 2 weeks before we left which made walking very difficult. Has cruised many years ago, but only Caribbean destinations. 2 mid thirties who have cruised twice before, honeymoon cruise to Alaska, and a 3 day quickie out of Miami. I have a gluten allergy, which makes eating tricky. Holland America was the only line that was reasonable for a single, I applaud them for that. They also made me believe that they would take care of me as far as my gluten allergy, I will give them a 3.5 out of 5 on that, but forms went back and forth prior to the cruise and I felt good about it prior to boarding. Embarkation was a zoo, it really would have been daunting to someone who didn't have a lot of time (we were quite early) or a complete newbie. There was not good instructions regarding tagging of luggage or where it went while you were outside the terminal in line. The lines did move surprisingly quickly, so don't get bent out of shape over the long lines, it moves along rapidly. It would be nice if the embarkation photo spot had a place to set down jackets and carry ons so you could get a nice picture...I would have like one that was good of us all. The first two days there were some rough seas, and Grandma did get sick. After that she was touchy, but not bad. Make sure you get scopolamine or whatever it is called, it works very well. The Lido buffet was, in my opinion, poorly set up as a buffet, but I don't know how else you could do it. Breakfast hours were extremely short in both the Lido and the Rotterdam dining so make sure you are an early bird... I chose for the family to eat sit down meals in the dining room. I just hate buffets, and I felt we all enjoyed the meals much better and had more control over the meals. No elbow football in the Lido line up, with vultures hovering over your table and kids screaming. Be prepared for about and 1.5 for lunch and breakfast in the Rotterdam, but hey, dining is half the experience. I was very disappointed to find that after the hours of paperwork I submitted to ensure they had gluten free breads on board, the bagels I requested never were to be found. I would have been pleased to simply have had the bread, except that I did all this extra paperwork to ensure what I wanted each day. The dining room servers for the most part were good, and after day two they were getting the hang of the gluten free. Don't be scared to tell them something was wrong or you can't eat something, but for goodness sakes, do it politely, I couldn't believe the treatment some people gave these poor servers. English was definitely a second language, which provided some difficulties at times, but overall, the meals were fantastic. One of our seniors partial broke on day one of the trip, making chewing difficult, and he couldn't believe that the meat was so tender he could still eat it. Even our fussiest eater was impressed with the food, and that says something. As you wish dining was all we could get by the time we booked our cruise. That is a bit of a pain in the butt with a group of 5 as there was limited tables for our group. We tried just showing up as they suggested only once, and they did accomodate us quickly, but if you have evening plans your plans might go out the door as there are no guarantees for seating. We had wanted the early seating...no such luck. So, if you get stuck with as you wish dining instead, CALL right away at 8:00 am and get a reservation, usually you will get 5:15 or 5:30, if you wait you likely will get 7:15. Shipboard activities were excellent, but a few of my favorites never appeared again, like the icecarving that would be done on deck for the evening display. There were ice molds I would say, not hand carved, for the chocolate extravaganza and a couple of meals, but not the carvings of old. I enjoyed the three ports and glacier bay, but beware of the 7.50 park tax that has "suddenly" been imposed and will be charged to your room for going into glacier bay. No one informed us of this. This particular cruise was a nice mix of port time and ship time. Sitka, in my opinion, was a poor port, and should have been a half day excursion, rather than taking Ketchikan down to a half day. Sitka was nice, but not much to see on land. I understand the need to stop for 3 hours in Victoria because of the foreign port rules, but they sure don't do anything for ship tourism like the other ports do LOL! The shore excursions people really push Butchart gardens as a fabulous evening tour...by the time you manage to get off the ship as they don't give any preference to excursion people, get to your bus get loaded, it is almost dark. Unless you want to see plant lit up, I can't say it is worth your money and the rush. It was cold rainy and miserable and then our bus broke down. At that point I was proactive and asked for our money back as it would have been 9 in the evening before we even got there. They were accommodating...so maybe try to find someone who has done the evening tour before booking it to ensure you get what you think you are paying for. My husband was taking care of the room bills for the group, and while we were struggling to figure out whether we were going to Butchart gardens, he was making sure our bills were in order for departure. He asked for a gratuity adjustment so we could tip cash to some of the people we wanted to. 3 times he tried to adjust, 3 times they screwed it up. We ended up still in our room at 9:30 the next morning as he tried to fix it, as they now had over charged. In frustration he finally removed all gratuities and scrambled over the ship finding the people we had wanted to tip and got off just before they were going to yell. I will say I accidentally left behind 2 cameras in our cabin, realizing after we disembarked. I had all the pictures off of them, so at least the memories were intact, my pocket book was squealing a bit as I waited heart in my throat to see if they would find them. 15 minutes later they were safe and sound in my hands, so kudos to the staff for that. Overall ship decor and shape 7 out of 10, I had a little higher expectations of the music ship, the piano was a big music box, nothing exciting, played 3 times a day, I thought it was a pipe organ...don't pick this ship for that reason. Smoking is still allowed on the ship and in the rooms, there was a lot of grumbling about this, and a survey on ship too. I am disappointed in this day and age that there was indoor and outdoor smoking wherever on this ship...theatres and dining rooms excepted. I hope this policy changes as it will certainly influence my decision next time around. Food was an 8.5 out of 10, only because of my difficulties with food, which is to be expected, but not after all the pre travel legwork I did. Everyone else would rate the food 10 out of 10 for the dining room, 7.5 for the Lido. Ports of call 7 out of 10 as I was disappointed with Victoria timing and would want to switch the half day to Sitka rather than Ketchikan, or just do both a full days and simply stop in Victoria later and do an evening tour of something else to fulfill the port rules. At the end of the day, we loved Alaska, we enjoyed the Zaandam, the rooms and beds were fabulous as we had been told on Cruise Critic, and we would do it again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2010
Background Information: My husband, two year old daughter, and I booked this cruise for three reasons 1) Visited glacier bay, a must, 2)Round trip out of Seattle (yes there are more scenic venues, but cost was a factor), and 3) Value for ... Read More
Background Information: My husband, two year old daughter, and I booked this cruise for three reasons 1) Visited glacier bay, a must, 2)Round trip out of Seattle (yes there are more scenic venues, but cost was a factor), and 3) Value for money. Holland America has a fairly good product and has a legacy in Alaska. Hotel Info (if any): Stayed at homewood suite s post cruise. Enjoyed the small kitchen and roomy suite with seperate bedroom. Ship Info: The Zaadam is still a servicable ship. Although she did have areas where she showed her age (slight rust, wear in elevators), she was fairly well maintained. This ship has a full promenade, which is missing in some newer ships, and has a covered pool area which is a must in Alaska. She does not have all the recent hype features (rock climbing, skating rink, flowrider, poolside screen), but the reality is that in Alaska the trip is port intensive and sea days are best spent recooperating or viewing glacier bay on deck. Very limited (NO) activities for toddler set, but staff was generally very friendly to young passengers. Self service laundry available, but beware that signs will point you to a phantom laundry room on deck one that does not exist. Activities: A wide variety of more sedate activities are available (bingo, movies, trivia, cooking demos, wine tastings), but there are some fitness options available with an occassional free workout class in the gym. The gym is functional. Avoid the port shopping talk, as this was 45 minutes of time I will never get back- I wanted to know what eash port's unique items were, not about diamonds international or other generic stores found in any port worldwide. The talks about destinations were somewhat interesting. Service: The service was typically excellent on an individual staff level, but I had to wonder if staff had been cut since we last sailed Holland America. They were eager to please but at times had problems with promptness or personalized service due to being overtasked. For example, while wondering while dinner was taking so long I noticed that our waiter was literally speed walking between tables. Room stewards do a typically good job, but do not seem to have the quirks of individuals passengers in mind as much as in the past.On the other hand, the ice cream lady Elly was very nice to my daughter and had her name memorized. They were too business oriented as a rule, although perhaps they had to be to complete the required tasks. Port & Shore Excursions- We did not book through the ship. We booked family air in Ketchican and for 200 less than the similar cruise ship excursion, had a small private float plane with a personable guide. Highly recommend them as a great way to see Mysty Fjords from the air. Travel To Port of Embarkation- By plane on Southwest. Highly recommend them as there are not as many fees and your luggage actually arrives. Used a towncar $45 for roughly the same price of a taxi, but with the benefit of being picked up by bag claim vs toting suitcases up stairs to wait for a taxi. Stateroom: Oceanview. In May it is typically too cold to fully enjoy a balcony and when cruising glacier bay the promenade is probably you best viewing spot as you can change sides based on view. My only complaint- Room 1958, was that at one point a strong diesel smell was in the room and we woke with major headaches. My concern was if diesel fumes can get into the room, can co as well? The front desk did deodorize the room but a quick check with a co gas monitor should have been performed for safety (this is coming from a firefighter). Room had two singles joined together and a couch that converted to a bed. The toddler actually enjoyed this as it was fairly close to the ground and was like a big girl bed. One feature we enjoyed was the bath tub- a must for young kids. We did miss the refridgerator (none in the room). Dining: Open, which is a mixed bag. Excellent for Alaska as port times are sometimes random, but a negative as the waiters do not learn your quirks. For example, with a toddler serving in a glass vs a goblet and removing extra silverware is a must. Typical fare at the Lido buffet, on par with just about every cruise line and nothing to write home about. In spite an occassional dud in main dining room, rumors of food quality going down seem to be only that. In general the food in main dining rooms seemed to be cooked well, with lobster and crab legs correct vs. rubbery on other lines. Lobster was actually a decent size. Ingredients were of a good quality. Do avoid the salmon- dry and overdone. Children's Clubs: Nothing for under threes or unpotty trained. For two year olds, I do like NCl's policy where they will page you if your child needs to be changed vs. no acess at all with Holland. They did offer to loan a book or toy, but in general was treated as if she had the plague and was not even allowed to play under adult supervision. In room sitting is offered, but we are somewhat hesitant to use strangers. Just a couple hours small group sitting would have been appreciated. Entertainment: Average stage shows. We did enjoy a few of the music groups that played dance music. Movies that were recently out on DVD were available. Disembarkation: Fairly smooth. Out in under 15 minutes after assigned disembarkation time. Summary: Excellent cruise for money that visited scenic ports. Ship was not a destination in itself, but still provided an enjoyable getaway. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
I have been reading the reviews concerning this ship, and I want to put some of my comments down. This was the fourth cruise for my two sisters and me, and it was our second with HAL Our ages are 82, 78, and 66. I'm the youngster!! ... Read More
I have been reading the reviews concerning this ship, and I want to put some of my comments down. This was the fourth cruise for my two sisters and me, and it was our second with HAL Our ages are 82, 78, and 66. I'm the youngster!! I'll have to admit that we loved it. Yes, the ship needs paint and some other repairs (one of the forward elevators wasn't ever fixed)as mentioned by other reviewers, but the cruise was wonderful. In fact, we like HAL and enjoye ourselves so much that we booked our next cruise while we were onboard. We'll be doing the Panama Canal cruise departing San Diego next April 15th. It's on the Statendam, so I've been reading reviews about that ship and sincerely hope they have solved all the problems it seems to have!! This cruise was very special for us, because our cousin, her husband, (in their 60's) his mother (91), their daughter and her husband (in their 30's) and their son (aged 3) joined us. They live in California, and we're from Texas We drove from Anaheim and arrived at the pier and unloaded our luggage. Then they parked their vehicle in the lot across the street. Checking in was very easy. The three of us had booked a deluxe verandah suite on the navigation deck (Deck 7), and our cousins had upgraded to the penthouse after receiving the offer (not free) on Friday, so our check-in was right at the front of the big warehouse where CI takes place. There was not a long line for suites, and we were checked in and on our way to board the ship in a matter of minutes. Their daughter and her family flew in later in the afternoon. Even though they were not in a suite, they said that check-in was a breeze. They were in a verandah suite just down the hall from us. Since we are HAL Mariners, we asked where the embarkation lunch was being held, but the crew members we asked had no clue. We didn't give up and finally made our way to the Rotterdam Dining Room (Lower Level) where lunch was being served. We didn't think there were too many people there, and having read the reviews, I can see that many Mariners didn't persevere—they just gave up and went to the Lido. It was a very nice luncheon. On the next cruise, we'll just go straight to the Rotterdam. STATEROOM: Having had a deluxe verandah suite on our Alaskan cruise aboard the Volendam, we didn't even consider a lesser category cabin. (We've had those with small verandahs on Disney and RCCL) Once we traveled in this deluxe manner with a large cabin and living room area, big bathroom with tub/shower combo, a large dressing room with an extra lavatory and three nice closets, complimentary laundry, dry cleaning, and pressing, access to the Neptune Lounge and all the concierge service that entails, priority boarding of tenders going to and coming from shore, etc., etc., etc., the three of us really wouldn't want to sail any other way. In fact, the Neptune Lounge is actually why we prefer HAL. While other cruise lines have deluxe cabins, no other offers this special concierge service in a private lounge close to your stateroom. Let's face it, it's nice to be treated like royalty, and that's how Cris, our wonderful concierge in the NL made us feel. Our stateroom stewards were Bangun and Widodo from Indonesia. You couldn't stay in the doldrums for long with them around. Bangun came into our stateroom the minute we walked in, and he had a big smile on his face. (We never saw him during the cruise that he wasn't smiling and laughing!) He introduced himself and told us that we were to let him know about anything we wanted. So, I asked if he had a long extension cord for my CPAP machine. (I sleep on the sofa and the only outlet is clear across the room by one of the beds, so I had brought one along, but it wasn't long enough.) He was back in no time with that cord which I was allowed to keep for the entire 15 nights. Then I told him that I didn't want the sofa sleeper bed made up each night. I explained that after one night on that bed during our Alaska cruise I had come up with a better idea. So, at my request, he got two extra duvets and a set of sheets, and he and I made my bed. He removed the back cushion, folded the two duvets in half and placed them on the sofa as pads. Then he made the bed on top of them. It makes a very comfortable bed. I told him just to make it neat in the mornings, as I wanted access to it during the day!! He thought that was funny, but he followed my instructions explicitly. It took a few days to convince him that one of my sisters didn't want all of the top bedding tucked in at the foot of her bed. I think it really went against his inner-self and all of his training to leave a bed partially unmade. But he did it (finally) and got a great extra tip at the end of the cruise! Another reason we like the deluxe verandah suite is because we spend a lot of time there. We're not too "socially active" on cruises. We use it as a time to unwind and rest, read, etc. We have a Christmas business, and we work very hard in the months before our vacations.) DINING: We had "As you Wish" dining, so for the first two evenings our whole group went up to the Lido. After that, we had Cris make a standing reservation for us to dine in the Rotterdam Dining Room at 6:00 p.m. We always had the same table and the same wait staff. However, if we did want to do something different, we told her and she let them know that table would be vacant that night. It was so much nicer than the Lido. My sisters and I decided to go there for breakfast one morning, but never did that again. Our experience in the Lido on the Volendam in 2007 was wonderful. We often had breakfast and/or lunch there. But that was when they had trays! Now HAL has decided to do away with the trays, and you have to carry a plate of food which you take to your table. Then you have to go back for anything else you want like bread, drinks, etc. Being the youngest, I did a lot of that walking for my older sister. By the time you get everything to your table, most of it is cold! On the Volendam, there was always an attendant ready to carry the tray for you, but alas, no more! It was an absolute pain! I was worn out at the end of the meals, so we stayed away from there for the rest of the cruise. It was NOT as enjoyable as it was on our Alaskan cruise. I'm not even sure that the food was good or bad, because the whole experience of getting your food to the table was terrible! The Rotterdam Dining Room was a much nicer experience. We got to know our servers and they got to know us. Each evening we would arrive, and they would already have our little three year old's (I'll call him "A." from now on) high chair in place. "A." is very well behaved—many people commented on that. He is also very cute and personable. We eight adults became known as " 'A's' party." Each evening, the moment we were seated, the head waiter would come and bring "A." a plate of fresh fruit. Then he would tell him what was on the child's menu and ask him what he wanted. He had a choice of spaghetti and meatballs, a hotdog and fries, macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. All of our wait staff knew that he would end his meal with sugar free vanilla ice cream, a treat that he doesn't get often at home. They knew my older sister would want the kind with sugar! Baba was our waiter and Nanda was his assistant, and they were really, really good. (On a Disney cruise in 2008, the assistant waiter could never remember what we liked.) These two men knew all of our likes and dislikes. We never had a bad dining experience there. The food was very good. It's so much fun to be able to order anything you want, because it gives one the opportunity to try things you would never order in a restaurant. Cruising is how I found out that I love escargot! We had some very rough days at sea on this cruise due to the weather. One evening as we got up from the table to leave, the ship lurched and my older sister was falling. Baba grabbed her and kept her upright. He didn't let go of her arm until he had walked her to the elevator. He escorted her out of the dining room every night for the rest of the cruise. As I was making a monthly payment back in November, the reservation agent commented on the fact that the middle sister would be having a birthday in April. He said that HAL would be happy to help us celebrate. So, on the 19th of April, a chocolate cake with a lighted candle was brought to our table in the Rotterdam and waiters from all over the dining room joined our waiters in singing an Indosian birthday song to her. Then Baba came with a plate piled high with scoops of vanilla ice cream which he served to all of us. All nine of us ate at the Pinnacle Grill on the last night of the cruise. That was wonderful. Everything was delicious and beautifully presented. The service was impeccable. Once again, "A." made a big hit. All the girls who were on the staff there hugged him goodbye as we were leaving. We had one other occasion to dine in the Pinnacle Grill. The Captain hosted an Indonesian luncheon during the first week of the cruise. The penthouse and all deluxe verandah suite guests were invited. We were thrilled, because we were invited to sit at the captain's table (it's the penthouse that did it!). However, JoJo, the Guest Relations Manager came to our table and joined us. She extended the captain's apology, because he was unable to attend the luncheon at all. We knew that the ship had been rolling for a while that morning, and it turned out that one of the stabilizers had gone out. So we understood why the captain missed lunch. The Indonesian food was wonderful. Even my older sister who is the world's pickiest eater liked it!! The Neptune Lounge always has food available. That is where we all ate breakfast most mornings. They always had an array of food available like cereals, muesli, fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries, cheese, cold meats, all kinds of bread, and I could go on and on. The fresh orange juice is the best I've ever had. Coffee, Cappuccino, Latte, Espresso, hot tea, hot chocolate, iced tea, cold water—all are available all day. All kinds of little finger sandwiches and other goodies were there to tempt us. (Yes, I gained weight!) Who needs the Lido if you have the Neptune Lounge. Of course, you do have to book a deluxe suite! I must give kudos to the ladies who make the lounge so special—Cris, the concierge, Mary Rose, her relief, Made (Ma day) and Rose, who kept the food replenished and fresh all day. They all went out of their way to make sure that everything was clean and attractive and that the suite and penthouse guests were happy and well taken care of. Made and Rose also work in the Pinnacle Grill. It is amazing the hours that the crew works each day. You see them in different places at different times of the day, and they are always happy and courteous. ENTERTAINMENT: My two sisters and I went to every evening show in the Mondrian Lounge. We are singers/entertainers, so we love the shows, but can be a little critical. However, the shows were okay. We don't expect Disney entertainment quality or New York Broadway quality. We were disappointed to find that the production shows put on by the HAL singers and dancers were the same ones we saw on the Volendam three years earlier. Since they encourage repeat cruisers with their Star Mariner Rewards, etc., I would think that they could develop some different productions and not make us sit through the same ones. I guess we'll see them again on the next cruise in 2011. Or maybe we'll find something else to do on those evenings. However, the special entertainers who were on board to perform were really good. We thoroughly enjoyed each one. Only one complaint about the HALcats band and the recorded music used in the theater—IT IS TOO LOUD!! Tone it down for Pete's sake. Those young people must all be losing their hearing from being around all that loud noise constantly. At our age our hearing isn't what it used to be, but we can hear that!! Thank goodness I carry ear plugs for my sisters and me to wear. . SHORE EXCURSIONS: We booked all of our excursions through HAL. We enjoyed them all—some more than I thought we would. I wasn't too excited at the thought of going to the Tsunami Museum in Hilo, but it was very interesting and informative. That tour, called Waves and Waterfalls, took us to Akaka Falls State Park. The walk through the rain forest down to the waterfall viewing area was beautiful. I got some really great photographs. In Kauai, my sisters and I took a tour called Waterfalls and Movies. That was the most entertaining excursion of all the ones we did. There were only ten people on our little bus, and we had a wonderful tour guide. As we traveled from place to place, she showed clips of the movies and TV shows. We were taken all over the island to the locations where these were filmed. We also saw the waterfall featured in Fantasy Island. The most meaningful tour we took was the one to Pearl Harbor. Due to construction taking place there, we were unable to go out to the Arizona memorial, so we changed our tour to include the battleship Missouri, known as the "Mighty Mo." We stood on the deck right where the Surrender of Japan took place. From the "Mo" we were able to see the Arizona Memorial very clearly. Due to very high winds and rough water, our day in Lahaina, Maui was canceled. We had all scheduled a luau there, but HAL refunded our money. Instead we sailed along the north coast of Molokai which was beautiful. Once again, we stayed in our cabin on the port side and enjoyed the cliffs, waterfalls, and waves crashing on the shore from our verandah. We kept the door open and could hear the commentary on the P.A. system. I took fantastic pictures! This is the website for the Captain's blog about that day. It includes pictures. http://www.hollandamericablog.com/2010/04/16/captains-log-postcards-from-molokai/#comments Our last excursion at Kona was to the Kahua Ranch. Since the three of us own a cattle ranch here in Texas, we thought it would be interesting to see how they do it in Hawaii, and it was. It's not very different except their view is a lot prettier! The hour trip back to the pier took us through the lava flows. That sight was awesome! My only regret is that the bus didn't stop and let us take good "still" photos. I got lots, but all from the moving bus. KID'S CLUB: My sisters and I are single, so no children with us. However, our little cousin, "A." loved Kid's Club. His mom and dad took him there for the first couple of evenings after dinner, and stayed with him. After a while they felt comfortable leaving him there. I think that says a lot about the program and the crew members who were in charge. EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATION: Both were easy. We like to get to the pier early before the crowds arrive, but that is really not an issue in San Diego where they had lots of people working to get people checked in. I always take advantage of Online Check-in, so we only had to fill out the medical questionnaire. Getting off the ship was even easier, because we kept our luggage in our rooms, and special ship's porters came and got them about 9:15. All nine of us were then taken down and out an exit that opened right at ground level on the pier. That was convenient since our cousin's mother-in-law used a wheelchair. SERVICE; I think I have already praised the people who were in charge of serving us. They were fantastic. We never, ever met a grouchy crew member. Everyone outdid themselves in giving service. We left the $11 a day service charge/tip on our bill, but we handed out envelopes with extra tips for those who had served us so well. VALUE FOR THE MONEY: Well, that might be debatable. The deluxe suites are very expensive, unless you get a free upgrade or one for minimum $. The people in the stateroom next to ours got it free. Wow, what a deal! I make our reservations 10 to 12 months early, and we're willing to pay for the deluxe accommodations. It might not be worth it to everyone. We went on board as One Star Mariners and left as Two Stars. We hope to make it to three some day. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
This was my family's first-ever trip to Hawaii - so we were looking forward to this trip w/ much anticipation. We went with a group of experienced cruisers - some had cruised to Hawaii before aboard Zaandam, others had been to Hawaii ... Read More
This was my family's first-ever trip to Hawaii - so we were looking forward to this trip w/ much anticipation. We went with a group of experienced cruisers - some had cruised to Hawaii before aboard Zaandam, others had been to Hawaii but not aboard a ship, and others had cruised but not to Hawaii. Our friend and travel agent made the arrangements for our group and also for our shore excursions, pre-cruise hotel, Bon Voyage dinner, Meet and Greet - plus she procured HAL luggage tags for our group! Can't say enough good things about her. Embarcation was fine despite the fact that the [I]Carnival Spirit[/I] was embarking on her 8 day cruise the same day - the hotel across the street where we were staying was full and the lines on the pier were tremendous: We were glad to stay at the hotel for a couple extra hours to enjoy breakfast on the terrace and a couple of drinks at the bar as the lines on the pier dissipated. One thing to note is that HAL no longer takes your CC for the shipboard account on the pier - either you do it online or you must swing by the front office to set up your account: I waited a couple days to go to the desk to do this to avoid the lines. Service was splendid and the staff and crew were outstanding - I cannot say enough about how wonderful the crew are aboard Zaandam: CD Anthony is the best I've ever experienced. Edy, Geoffrey, Wayou, Rafael, the guys in the Crow's Nest, the Ocean Bar and Lido Bar and our cabin stewards as well as the spa staff and Kris and Iris at the Front Office took really great care of us. The band was good and the activities were plentiful, if one wished to participate - otherwise, there was plenty of time and space to relax and read a good book (for this itinerary I recommend "Letters from Hawaii" by Mark Twain - available thru Amazon) I also cannot say enough good things about our waiter's conscientiousness regarding my Gluten-Free diet. Scotty and I also caught sinus infections (it seemed to be going around) on the return trip and we both went to the infirmary on separate days - and we were both dealt with kindly and professionally by the staff and the same Doctor we met last year aboard Noordam. Iris helped us have two Meet and Greets in the Crow's Nest - which I highly recommend, particularly on a longer itinerary, as folks seem to have so much more to share at the end of the cruise. I was also invited to a tea w/ our HM, Fierman, and GRM, Iris, who asked us group leaders how we felt about the cruise - I thought this was a nice touch and showed genuine concern for our well-being. The ship did schedule some LGBT unhosted meetings in the Crow's Nest but they weren't well attended. Seems that our group was nearly all the LGBT that were aboard and we knew one another already. Never went to a show. The very idea of scheduling the main seating show before dinner during cocktail hour is ridiculous - and scheduling the Ocean Bar band to take their break during cocktail hour is even dumber! The trio in the Ocean Bar was good despite the drummer's apparent surliness for the first half of the cruise - Thankfully he managed to get himself thrown off the ship in Hawaii during a Coast Guard inspection and the remaining duo seemed much happier without him. The HAL Cats were rather good - but as with most HAL Cats combos, they need to turn down the amplification... The itinerary was wonderful and we saw so much - every Hawaiian port was truly enjoyable. Some highlights of the trip included encountering a huge herd of dolphins mid-ocean westbound who raced to meet the ship in such great numbers as if we were offering free crack in the ghetto. We also saw a great many whales frolicking off the port of Lahaina, Maui all about the ship all day long. Our friend, Mary, rented a van and drove a number of us around Honolulu to Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace and the state government buildings, and afterwards to the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki for a delightful lunch (I could stay there forever...) Kona is a lovely port just to wander around: much better than Hilo where one must take a taxi or bus to get out of the former Military installation and into town, and Kauai is a gorgeous rustic island which is very much the way I imagined Hawaii to be. I think of my short time in Hawaii, I'd have to say that my favorite ports were Kawai, Honolulu and Kona. Sadly - [I]Zaandam[/I] herself was not up to the standard of what I expected a HAL ship to look like after the recent January drydock (I could see it from my apartment here in SF for two weeks so I know it was there!) The cabins were in good condition, and the dining room chairs were brand new - but other than that, I could not tell you what had been done: Hull and Superstructure are in desperate need of paint - Rust streaks are everywhere, the paint was scraped away beneath the bow anchors to such an extent that it appeared more rust than blue (Some painting was done on the portside bow while we were in Kauai - nowhere else) and paint is bubbling and peeling around the windows and hull-doors so that one can easily see the rust streaks on the white superstructure from pier or tender. Lightbulbs burnt out all over the place - and of the 6 chandeliers in the MDR, 1 was never lit for the entire cruise. Lamps in the Lido were broken or crooked. Torn and frayed upholstery in the Lido and certain public rooms on Upper Promenade Deck. Broken out windows in the Lido. Filthy windows, including the Magrodome itself until after we had had some rain in Hilo and Kauai. Decorative decals that wrap around the bulkhead surrounding the opening for the Magrodome are decayed and peeling off in the central areas. Ships clocks are unsynchronized, and the TV channel that gives time and date was often wrong. Forward Lido clock under the Magrodome is correct - Aft Lido clock under the Magrodome is off by 3 1/2 hours. Scuffs and scrapes in the hard flooring around the Lido bar. (It wouldn't take a couple hours one night w/ a floor polisher to get rid of those scrapes, says the Old Military man...) Cracking and peeling finishes on the wooden tables near the Lido Bar. Broken chairs in the Lido Restaurant (I pinched my finger in the loose arm joint of one chair while pulling it beneath me - nearly fell through the broken seat of another...) Hair Salon only had one cape to cover clients - the beauticians had to share back and forth while doing Mother's hair and mine. Also, a chair in the salon had broken brakes: After Mom had her hair washed, the ship rolled and she rolled helplessly towards the windows scaring her half-to-death! Dirty tile in the Thermal Spa - I could take my hand and wipe the dirt away from the tile around the T-Pool. I really wanted to take a scrub-brush to the place! Frayed and poorly laid carpets in the corridors - I could easily see the concrete between the gaps in the cuts! Of the 8 lamp standards around the aft pool: 2 had new lamp globes, 4 had yellowed and filthy globes, and 2 had no globes at all! Damaged artwork: One of the carved marble sculptures outside the Sports Bar was tied up with rope to hold it together throughout the cruise, and the great circular painting at the top of the midship stairwell had gilding from the frame peeled off from what appeared to be tape that had been applied here & there. Broken Lifeboat Davit? Portside-Aft davit was left extended throughout the return trip to California - Didn't notice if it was extended for the entire cruise... Broken Granite floor tiles in the elevators and a huge gouge in the door of one elevator. When I asked the Captain during one of his talks what happens during a drydock, he mentioned that there's quite a lot of maintenance that goes on - cleaning the hull, polishing the propellers, etc - which is all well and good. I later asked our kind Hotel Manager, Fierman, about the poor condition of the ship to which he replied, "I know". He did say that many ports prohibit painting and window-washing nowadays - but again, one would think that the floors and tiles could have been scrubbed, lightbulbs could have been changed and a good coat of paint could have been slapped on the ship as she sat in the drydock for two weeks, don't you? Yes, it's a 10 year old ship, but it's not going to make it another 10 years unless Seattle puts some time and effort into the condition of this ship - Ryndam and Statendam were in better condition last fall than Zaandam today! IMO, who cares about new showroom furniture, rearranged cocktail lounges and shops and the sliding glass door staterooms that are being installed on the ships when the basics go ignored? Would I go to Hawaii again? In a heartbeat. Would I take a Hawaii cruise again? I believe that seeing Hawaii by ship is probably the best way to go - I wouldn't know which island to go to first and think that I might get bored had I been on only one island. However, I honestly don't think that it's worth the time away to only spend 4 days in port and not 5 - All those days at sea got to be a bit much on the return trip that a mere 4 ports just wouldn't be worth it unless an overnight were planned someplace like Honolulu. I'd either book the one 15-day cruise in January 2011 that still includes Kona or the 30-day Polynesian/Pacific Cruise that includes Hawaii - but I wouldn't do the 14-day Hawaiian cruise from San Diego. ...and despite the exceptional staff and crew - whom I've realized is very much the reason I continue to sail HAL - until HAL gets its act in order and cleans up the ship and does some necessary repairs, I wouldn't book any cruise aboard Zaandam as the sad condition of the ship was the most disappointing aspect of the entire cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
BACKGROUND: This was the 8th cruise for my husband, Tom, and me (Laura). We started cruising in 2000 to celebrate our 25th anniversary, the "trip of a lifetime". The trip of a lifetime became the first of many. Joining us on this ... Read More
BACKGROUND: This was the 8th cruise for my husband, Tom, and me (Laura). We started cruising in 2000 to celebrate our 25th anniversary, the "trip of a lifetime". The trip of a lifetime became the first of many. Joining us on this cruise were 2nd-timers, Tom's mother, Dorothy and his sister, Susan. We had decided on this cruise as incentive for Dorothy to get well, who a year earlier was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. She is a survivor, with no reoccurrences, and we all ended up on the Zaandam cruising to Hawai'i! TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION AND HOTEL INFO: We boarded a Frontier airlines jet in Denver the day before our cruise and arrived on time in sunny San Diego. Our reservation at the Hampton Inn-Downtown included a shuttle from the airport and another shuttle to the cruise port. The Hampton Inn is clean and comfortable. The location is approximately three blocks from the cruise port. We made reservations for the cruise port shuttle when we checked in. The shuttle leaves every hour on the half hour. Even with registering early, our choices were limited to either 10:30 or 1:30. The shuttles fill up fast. If you are planning to use this service, make your reservations at arrival. We checked in at approximately 11:30. After checking in, we stashed our bags with the hotel and walked down to the port area. We found a restaurant inside the Holiday Inn right across from the cruise port, Elephant & Castle, with delicious sandwiches and great service. By the time we were finished eating and had walked back to the hotel, our rooms were ready. The Hampton Inn has a free breakfast, free wireless internet connection in the lobby, and is within walking distance to the pier and to Rite-Aid for last minute necessities (including wine). The hotel is adjacent to the trolley/train tracks. The trolley/train provides quick transportation to many parts of San Diego, but also has a loud whistle that bothers some. The whistle did not bother me. I slept well. EMBARKATION: The next morning, following a breakfast of bagels and fruit, we were on the 10:30 shuttle to the port. There were employees in abundance to guide us at check-in. Because Dorothy uses a walker when she cruises, our group was able to accompany her to the handicapped boarding. This process bypasses the Embarkation Photo and the steep gangway. You board after taking an elevator to the top ramp. I kind of missed not having the Embarkation Photo taken, sometimes that is the only one that we buy, but we did save a lot of time with handicapped boarding. Once aboard, which was a very simple and speedy process, we were taken by elevator to the Lido deck for lunch. There was a place near the pool to check our carry-ons, so our hands were free as we walked around the public areas after lunch. Our rooms were ready at 1:30. The life boat drill was held promptly at 4:15. The drill ran smoothly and was over quickly. SERVICE AND DINING: The quality of service aboard Holland America ships is outstanding. Most of Tom and my cruises have been on HAL and we have always been pleased with the service. On this trip it seemed as though the room stewards had more rooms assigned to them, which made our room cleaning delayed a few hours over other cruises we have taken. Our dining room stewards had more tables to take care of, making our dining time longer. But the service each provided was up to the high standards that HAL is known for. We choose traditional assigned dining at 5:45 at a table for eight. We sat with a family from the Sacramento area (Katie, Meredith, R.K. and Greg) at an oval table. Each night at dinner was a celebration. We talked and laughed so much that we were noticed by other diners who did not have such lively times. The fun was enhanced by our table stewards, Ridwan, Rudi and our wine steward, Geoffrey. The Zaandam has a new restaurant that began operation (I have read) on the cruise right before ours. It serves Italian food, and is called Canaletto. Tom and I ate there one night and highly recommend it. Reservations are required but there is no extra charge. Dress is casual. For lunch there are options of the grill by the Lido pool, the Lido buffet, and the dining room. My favorite was the grill, serving hamburgers, cheeseburgers, veggie-burgers, brauts and hot dogs. They also have a taco bar. For breakfast, choices are the Lido buffet and the dining room. There is a wide variety of breakfast foods. The Lido is also available for dinner as an option to the dining room. The Zaandam has another restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, a for-charge restaurant that we did not try on this trip. Room service is open 24 hours for no extra charge; however it is customary (but not required) to tip. ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment in the show lounge was adequate for a diversion. The most enjoyable entertainer that we saw (we didn't go to every show) was Jeff Trachta. Jeff was formerly on the soap "The Bold and the Beautiful" from roughly 1988 to 1999. He did impressions, told jokes and sang. We both enjoyed his show. I really enjoyed listening to talks by the Hawai'ian travel guide, Kainoa. He told of the history of Hawai'i and told of places to visit at each port. He was available daily in the library for questions and answers. And he gave hula lessons. The class graduation was a performance before a full house waiting for the disembarkation talk in the show lounge. The best entertainment of any cruise ship, and especially HAL ships because the outside deck wraps completely around the ship, is being out on deck in the middle of the ocean away from 'it all'. The casino is open when the ship is not in port. Bingo sessions are held at least once and usually twice on sea days. First run movies are shown nightly. If you miss the show, the movies are shown in the staterooms on TV the following day. SHIP INFORMATION: The Zaandam is a beautiful HAL ship. She is going into dry dock in January 2010. We were told on board that besides a little spiffing up the changes will mostly be behind the scenes. The character and charm and musical decor will not change. The Zaandam has capacity for 1432 passengers and 615 crew members. ACTIVITIES: Wii games; volleyball and basketball games between passengers and crew; "On Deck For The Cure", a fund-raising activity for breast cancer research; culinary classes; napkin folding classes; dance classes; a well-stocked library; card room; computer classes, including an intro to Windows 7. In the evenings many of the bars have musical entertainment. I'm sure I missed something, but there is usually something going on beginning on the hour and half hour especially on sea days. DISEMBARKATION: Based on how you fill out the disembarkation questionnaire that is due at the Front Desk soon after arrival, you are assigned a time to exit the ship. You are asked not to crowd the gangway but to wait in your stateroom or in a public area until the time shown on your disembarkation papers. Your bags, with color-coded tags that you attach the night before, will be in the terminal at your assigned disembarkation time. If you disembark earlier than assigned, your bags will not be ready for you. Enjoy the last morning on board and don't rush to get off. For this cruise, it was a silent disembarkation. There were no announcements telling you when your color-coded group should leave. All instructions were on the disembarkation papers. It seemed to run smoothly except for the bottleneck caused by those who couldn't wait to get off and crowded the gangway. PORT REVIEW - HILO, BIG ISLAND (HAWAII) It rained all day in Hilo, varying from a steady downpour to mist in the air. Hilo is one of the wettest places on earth with 200 inches in the town and 500 inches in the mountains surrounding Hilo. Consequently it is very green. The port is in an industrial area. We didn't get a chance to walk around town after our excursion because the ship arrived almost two hours late due to rough seas slowing us down in route. Tom and I took a ship's hiking excursion in Volcano National Park. The tour operator provided backpacks and raingear for those who didn't have their own. The tour consisted of a first stop at the Thurston Lava Tube for a walk-through. Then we walked back across the parking lot where the tour van was parked and caught a trail that leads through a rain forest and eventually to the Kilauea Iki (small) crater. We saw steam vents with steam so hot you could barely hold your hand over it. We saw a lot of lava, both smooth and rough. Before walking across the crater we had lunch of a sandwich and bottled water provided by the tour operator. We walked across the crater, up a steep trail, and into another part of the rain forest. Our walk ended back at the parking lot. We walked a total of about 4 miles across sometimes rough terrain. It was a pleasant walk. It is probably good that it was raining. If the sun would have been out, it would have been hot. We made a stop at the visitor center where there are lookouts over the park and a museum and gift shop. Because we were so late getting to Hilo, we only had ten minutes at the visitor center before we had to leave and get back to the ship. The cost for this excursion was $149 per person, which seemed high to take a walk in a National Park. If I were going to do this again, I would rent a car and drive myself to the park. PORT REVIEW: HONOLULU, OAHU It was a sunny day with a clear blue sky and about 80 degrees. The four of us had booked a ship's excursion to Pearl Harbor and a tour of the city. It has been said many times that Pearl Harbor is a must-see on your first visit to Honolulu. I agree. Pearl Harbor is a big part of US History and the bombing was the beginning of the US entrance into World War II. We first visited the museum and gift shop. When our tour was called, we were ushered into a theater where we saw a short film on the history of December 7, 1941. Then it was our turn to ride a shuttle boat to the memorial over the USS Arizona. After the Pearl Harbor visit we drove around Honolulu and saw some of the sights including the Punchbowl Crater (the national cemetery of the Pacific), various Buddhist and Shinto temples, and the King Kamehameha statue. We stopped at the statue to take pictures. At that stop there were various street vendors selling shirts, jewelry, and homemade crafts and food items. This tour also makes a stop at Hilo Hatties for souvenir shopping. We didn't get off at this stop, but later took a free shuttle there. They have nice shirts that seem to be well made. There were other items in the store that I saw for up to 50% less at other shops that we visited later. The ship docks right in downtown Honolulu. There are many shuttles at the dock (and at the other ports) that go to chain discount department stores. You can ride the trolley or city bus to Waikiki Beach. There is a combination indoor/outdoor mall at the dock. This is where the Aloha Tower is. It used to be the tallest building in Hawaii at 10 stories until the height restriction was lifted for Honolulu. You can go to the top of the tower by elevator for a view of the area. Note: It closes at 5:00 p.m. PORT REVIEW: NAWILIWILI AND LIHUE, KAUAI The ship docked at Nawiliwili, which is the name of the harbor. The nearby town, within walking distance (approx 5 blocks) is Lihue. Tom and I took a ship's excursion to the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon. It is a 45 minute bus ride from the port. Along the way our driver (who was hilarious) told us about the island and the various towns as we drove through them. The bus made some stops after visiting Waimea Canyon. One stop was at a gift shop where we could taste complimentary Kauai Coffee. It is very mild and tastes good. Another stop was at a blow hole with beautiful views. The ocean waves were crashing into the shore at the blow hole and at another stop where we saw a now-unused harbor. Waimea Canyon is very colorful. It was cold and windy when we were at the lookout and the trail is very steep in places. It is wheelchair-assessable but it would be much easier to navigate if your wheelchair was motorized. Kauai has some very rough landscape. There are areas in the interior that you can only see by helicopter. Many movies and TV shows have been filmed here. It is very beautiful and would be a great place to take an extended vacation. There are colorful wild chickens all over Kauai whose ancestors were brought in by some of the first inhabitants of Hawaii many centuries ago. After the bus tour and eating lunch on board the Zaandam, Tom and I walked to Kalapali Beach. The beach is in downtown Lihue. Many people were swimming and surfing on the beach. All beaches in Hawaii are free to anyone and are open 24 hours. Not all have lifeguards, so enter the water at your own risk. PORT REVIEW: LAHAINA, MAUI This was my favorite port. As we cruised toward Maui we saw so many rainbows I lost count. The weather was sunny and warm. This is a tender port. The streets of Lahaina are narrow and filled with gift shops, small restaurants and tourists (at least when a cruise ship in anchored off shore). The tender pier is right in town. There are shuttle buses available to take you to different places. We did not have a shore excursion planned. We walked around town and took in the sights. There is a huge Banyan Tree in the city park near the pier that takes up a whole city block. Next to the park is a combo visitor center and museum. When we were there they had samples of Hawai'ian pineapple for tasting (very sweet). Tom & I took a walk to the largest Buddha outside of Japan (the brochure said). It is at a Buddhist mission about six blocks from the pier. There are two nice beaches within walking distance from the pier. One is near the Buddhist mission; one is within a block or two of the pier. We spent the afternoon at the one closest to the pier. The water was clear and warm and the sun was bright. In the evening all four of us went on a ship's excursion to the Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Hotel in Ka'anapali, a town about six miles from Lahaina. The Hyatt is beautiful. The luau had the typical foods of roast pig, chicken, fish, lots of salads, poi, and Mai Tais (all you could drink). There was also a dessert bar. Hula dancers put on a show and told of the history of Hawaii. After the luau the tour buses took us back to the pier. The night was so beautiful that Tom & I stayed in town for awhile and took a later tender back to the ship. PORT REVIEW: KONA, BIG ISLAND (HAWAII) It was hot and dry in Kona. This is another tender port. Tom & I did not have an excursion planned for today. We decided to take a shuttle ($5 each way per person) to Turtle Beach, which the Zaandam Hawai'ian guide, Kainoa, recommended for snorkeling. Tom snorkeled here, I sunned and swam and took pictures of the wildlife: a turtle, colorful birds, and fish. It was a nice way to spend a Monday morning. There is not much sand on this beach, nor on any of the beaches that we saw in Kona except one. That one is the Disappearing Sands beach. During certain times of the year there is sand, other times there is not. In early December 2009 there was a lot of sand on this beach. After our morning at the beach, we returned to the Zaandam, showered and ate lunch. In the afternoon I went back to Kona without Tom to check out the town and gift shops. In my opinion there are more gift shops in Kona than in any other port we visited on this trip. They have some great deals, example: tee shirts 7 for $20. I didn't look too close at these and didn't buy any, so I can't tell you the quality. (I did buy tee shirts in Maui for $6 and $7 that have held up well after two or three washings.) The ship did a late night passing of the Kilauea Volcano. Under a full moon with no clouds in the sky, the red hot lava and white billowing steam clouds gave us quite a show. PORT REVIEW: SAN DIEGO Pre-cruise, Tom & I walked down to the pier and took a self-guided tour of the USS Midway. The ship is now a museum but served the US Navy from 1945 to 1991 as an aircraft carrier. We were there approximately two hours. That is not nearly enough time to see it all. On the top deck is a display of military aircraft. On other decks you can tour the jail, officer's quarters, enlisted men's quarters, infirmary, engine room, etc. Post-cruise we booked a ship's excursion bus tour of San Diego. For $75 per person the bus drove us through Old Town, New Town and the Gaslight District while our tour guide gave a history of the city. The tour included a drive over the bridge to Coronado Island and we stopped for a short time at the Hotel Del Coronado. We were able to walk the grounds and go inside the hotel. It is a beautiful hotel with a lot of history. We stopped in Old Town and the four of us ate at the Old Town Mexican Cafe. The food was delicious. The place we stopped was near an area of shops and other attractions. We happened to be in town during one of the rare rainstorms in San Diego, it was pouring so much we didn't tour this area but went back on board the bus after lunch. The tour ended at San Diego International Airport. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 3:10 to take us back to below-freezing temperatures in Denver. The flight finally took off at 7:40, but that's another story unrelated to this cruise review! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
We took a repositioning cruise on HAL Zaandam from Vancouver BC to San Diego in early October. This was our fourth time on HAL and our 23rd cruise overall. We flew from Ohio to Seattle the day prior to the ship sailing and stayed at ... Read More
We took a repositioning cruise on HAL Zaandam from Vancouver BC to San Diego in early October. This was our fourth time on HAL and our 23rd cruise overall. We flew from Ohio to Seattle the day prior to the ship sailing and stayed at the Hampton Inn downtown and then took the Cascades train to Vancouver. We used the Seattle bus system to reach the King Street Amtrak station which worked pretty well but there were several mentally ill street people on the bus one of whom was partially dressed. and raving so we would take a cab in the future. Some passengers headed for our cruise ship had their luggage misplaced/swiped by someone on the train. When the train stops all bags are deposited on the platform with no security so be certain that you get off ASAP and be aggressive in claiming your property. After retrieving our luggage from the train we walked our rollers to the Sky Train platform and used that method to go to Canada Place where we boarded the ship. We could not locate an elevator from street level to the Sky Train platform so we had to carry our bags up a long stairway. It's surprising that there isn't an elevator or escalator, or at least one that we could locate. Also, the ticket issuing machine is not at all user friendly to those using US money or credit cards so I strongly suggest that you get $2.50 C for each passenger prior to using Sky Train. The doors on the cars of this EL close quickly and with some force so be very alert and fast when boarding. When we used this system in 2008 my wife was almost left at the platform and this time it was my turn. The route to Canada Place is on your right at the top of the stairs, the signage is a bit unclear on this. A short ride took us to the cruise ship terminal and we boarded in about fifteen minutes. The stevedores showed little enthusiasm for stevedoring however, so we tagged our bags, rolled them to the pile and departed without tipping anyone for services not performed. These are not HAL employees by the way. The cruising part of the cruise was quite pleasant. The buffet was open and not crowded when we boarded and the food throughout was very good there. A nice couple of features were the sushi at lunch time and not to be missed fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning. RCCL charges $2.00 per glass for this as we later discovered. The tables were quickly bussed and staff moved through the area offering drinks. The meals and service in the main dining room was also very good, superior to RCCL ship we took on back to back cruises when Zaandam landed. As we had noted on our previous HAL cruises, activities on board are insufficient. There just isn't enough to do so that days at sea can seem long. We used the as you wish dining option and had no delays in being seated and met some interesting table mates. We had an inside cabin and our hopes for an upgrade were not realized. The cabin was similar in size and design to those on other ships. We met the cabin steward for the first time the night prior to leaving the ship when he distributed the customer satisfaction survey but the room was well maintained so we can live with that. Disembarkation was a breeze and we walked off with our luggage and strolled to a nearby hotel to spend one night in San Diego (a wonderful town by the way) to rest before boarding the RCCL Radiance of the Seas for a five night cruise to Mexico departing the next day. Back to back trips on different cruise lines provided us with a very clear comparison of each company. I will post a review of Radiance when I post this one in case the reader would like to peruse it. To summarize however, HAL is superior in food, wait staff, overall service, customer focus and cleanliness of the buffet while RCCL is superior in on board activities and equal in entertainment. HAL passengers seemed more refined and frankly older but that is becoming a better fit for us with each cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2009
This is my 23rd cruise, (crossings not included) and my 4th on HAL. I've done a variety of cruise lines from Carnival to Crystal, the most recent being a Panama Canal trip on the Celebrity Mercury in January. Embarkation: The ... Read More
This is my 23rd cruise, (crossings not included) and my 4th on HAL. I've done a variety of cruise lines from Carnival to Crystal, the most recent being a Panama Canal trip on the Celebrity Mercury in January. Embarkation: The commute to the ship was a grueling 7-minute drive from my home. I could have made it in 6 minutes, but there was a red light. I arrived at Pier 91 at 1:15pm, and I kid you not was onboard by 1:30pm. The longest and slowest line I encounter was for the welcome aboard picture, which I by-passed. The Crowd: It is summer, school is out and it was a diverse crowd. Seniors, toddlers, teenagers, large family groups, everything and everyone were represented. Any thought that the Lido (covered) pool was adult only was abandoned immediately. The place reverberated with the screams and laughter of children. It was so chilly in the aft pool area that they had to go somewhere, and I'm not that much of a curmudgeon that I would deny them their fun. If you want a less kid (verses kid-less) cruise book before the end of May or in September when school is in session. Stateroom, Public Rooms, Condition in General: The Zaandam is not a new ship. Are there loose carpet seams here and there and a bit of wear and tear? Yes. Is it tired and dirty? No way. The ship has great flow, attractive public areas, fantastic art and is extremely comfortable with cushy and inviting furniture throughout. Of special note, the mattress in my cabin wasn't a thin piece of foam over a plastic platform (like the Mercury for example) it was a real, honest to goodness thick mattress. My stateroom was functional and clean and kept that way by my stealthy room attendants. Food: My expectations were in check due to a lot of comments about the decline in the quality of HAL's food from the Boards. I'm a foodie and to be honest can be critical of sub-par food and service. With all that said, I thought the food was good to excellent throughout the cruise. I tend to lean more towards beef and chicken so take that into account. The portions aren't huge in the dining room, but with 5 courses they shouldn't be. If that is a concern just order an additional entrEe and the waiters will gladly comply. The service in the dining room was professional and appropriate. The food in the Lido was equally a pleasant surprise. Entertainment: More "ugh" than "awe". Quality entertainment at night on the Zaandam was not so easy to find. The Showroom: I've learned never to expect much from the Production Shows on a cruise. The ships don't pay enough to get top tier talent, the stage isn't big enough, and the production values (props, costumes and special effects) are about squeezing one more season out of what is already paid for then investing in anything new or fresh. HAL exceed my expectations, but probably not the way they intended. The Production Shows were so tired, cheesy, poorly danced and sung I had to wonder if I was missing something. Was this a parody of a production show? The Headliners, a musician billed as a young Kenny G (is that a compliment?) and magician/comic did provide some good moments and was worth checking out. A most welcomed surprise. Lounge Acts: The Zaandam has beautiful Lounges but less than half the Lounge bands were competent and entertaining. Additionally, kudos to the D.J. in the Crows-Nest who always seemed to find the right songs to get people out of their seats and on to the dance floor. From there it falls off the face of the earth. A venue I love, the Piano Bar was a wasteland every night when it should be packed because of a guy that doesn't play very well, sings worse and appears to not to like people very much. At the bottom of the entertainment heap was a very good band, with lead singer so vocally challenged she dragged them to the bottom faster than one of the Zaandam's huge anchors. I really had to wonder if anyone in the corporate offices of HAL even bothers listening to the audition tapes. The other alternative is that they are trying to drive people into the Casino by having such limited quality entertainment at night. Stuff to Do: While the daily program aren't as packed as the most of the recent cruises I've been on, the activities were well paced and interesting. The culinary demonstrations, lectures and computer classes blend well with the regular cruise ship fare of trivia, pool games and bingo. There is no reason to be bored if you want to get involved. A major plus was the Cruise Director Michael who was seemingly everywhere at once, with boundless energy delivered in an engaging and believable manner. The Captain joked at a function that Michael was the best Cruise Director in a 250 mile radius. Personally, I thought he was one of the best I've seen in 23 cruises. Things I should have believed: No matter how hot it is in your part of the country or even in Seattle, be prepared and dress appropriately for chilly weather and rain, fog or drizzle. Remember even if it is 65 degrees (F) with the speed of the ship underway the wind chill on deck is substantial. Don't think I ever was not wearing fleece of some sort. Ports: Personally the trip for me was about seeing Glacier Bay, and it did not disappoint. Imagine if the Teton's or Rockies had an Ocean at 10,000 feet and you were right next to them? It was magnificent. A Ranger from the US National Parks Service who appears not only to have a degree in geology but also drama narrated the trip. Despite his over to top moments of poetry, native flute interludes and asking us to spiritually become one with the Glacier, he kept us well informed of the history and conditions in the area. I was reluctant to pre book excursions due to fluctuating weather conditions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. A floatplane trip in the fog would not be my idea of fun. As for wild life watching, we saw so many Whales and Eagles from the ship that after a few days it became commonplace. I just got off the ship and wandered around without paying attention to the ships shopping guides, as they only include stores that pay huge kickbacks to the cruise line. If I had to do it over I would do the salmon bake in Juneau, which drew rave reviews. What HAL does best in one word: Service. From the Officers to the people who clear the tables HAL gets it right. Here are a few adjectives I jotted down during the cruise: Friendly, familiar yet respectful, impeccable, smiling, seamless and gracious. And in the end: A solid performance, more hits than misses and a comfortable platform to enjoy the sights of Alaska. 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 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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