19 Holland America Zaandam First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

After booking the 14-day round-trip cruise (first cruise, first time in Alaska) I became a little nervous after reading reviews on Cruise Critic and wondered if we'd made a mistake. Happily, we did not and will take HAL again for ... Read More
After booking the 14-day round-trip cruise (first cruise, first time in Alaska) I became a little nervous after reading reviews on Cruise Critic and wondered if we'd made a mistake. Happily, we did not and will take HAL again for another cruise. Our stateroom (Verandah deck with balcony) was much more spacious than some reviews had led me to believe--certainly larger than some "boutique" hotel rooms we've stayed in in NYC. Although I've heard that some of the bathrooms need remodeling, ours did not. It was in very good shape, clean and roomy, with countertop and a a shelf below the sink. The in-bathroom hairdryer was old, and I'd brought my own, but a newer model portable hairdryer was in a drawer in the sitting area desk. The sitting area was big enough for my husband and me to sit and read or watch closed-circuit tv without any discomfort. There is only one real outlet, located in the sitting area, but I'd brought a small extension cord and that suited us fine--could charge electronics and use hair dryer all at the same time if necessary. The service was excellent. Our cabin steward was attentive and available. On the first day, we'd asked for fresh fruit which was delivered quickly and everyday thereafter until we asked for deliveries to stop. Ketut was concerned that we would not get enough fruit and so we compromised with every other day deliveries. We alternated between the Rotterdam dining room, where we selected open seating, and the Lido deck, which we used for occasional breakfasts and lunches. We never had trouble being seated, even though we rarely reserved ahead of time, and usually were able to dine alone. Only once did we have to share a table (although we chose to do that some nights) rather than wait for twenty minutes or so. The food was excellent as was the service. Many choices on the MDR menu and we thought as good as the Pinnacle Grill (also excellent) where we ate only once. The waiters were attentive and friendly and we enjoyed talking with them about Indonesia, where most of them were from--even learning some Indonesian words. We alternated between HAL shore excursions and making out own way. Dave's DYEA in Skagway was a private tour that was excellent and, because the weather was not so good, Dave took us further into Canada than we'd originally planned. The HAL excursions were a little pricy, but fine. Whale watching in Haines was particularly exciting and the boat was comfortable and not too rocky. The trip to the Mendenhall Glacier was also fine, although the bus driver left without us to return to the ship, much to our dismay. We were at the stop on time, or a minute or two later--no more--and we saw the bus pulling away, with my wallet and purse on it. A second bus, also from a HAL sponsored tour was leaving a few minutes later and we were able to get on it and the driver radioed so that my purse was at the ship when we arrived. This was the only real down spot on the whole cruise. We loved playing trivia every night, met some great people to team up with and brought home lots of lapel pins to give our grandchildren. Although we had a beverage plan, we did add a little on to it, since my husband loves lemonade which, free in the Lido, had a charge in the dining room and in the bars. Things we weren't so happy with: lots of selling--diamonds, watches, jewelry, perfume. No announcements were made in our cabins and we could have had a lot of free champagne if we'd wanted to sit through a sales pitch. We didn't, but we still had enough free champagne in other venues (the Captain's meeting, for example). We weren't thrilled with the art and, once seeing it, we decided to forego the auction (even though champagne was available there) and buy native art one we were in port and out of the jewelry store/schlock shop atmosphere on the main streets of most towns. By walking a little, we found stores run by locals with much less of the "Made in China/Philippines" tags and were thus able to by souvenirs made by local artists, our preference when traveling. The entertainers were energetic, but I confess to being a little snobbish about entertainment, living near some of the best professionals in the world. So after the first introductory night, introducing us to all the entertainers on the ship, we didn't do the evening performances, preferring instead to sit in the bar. The average age of passengers was well above "senior" level, although there were younger people and a handful of children, but it's not a "party" boat by any means. We were planning to stay in Vancouver for a few days and chose a late disembarkation, which worked out fine, although I gather there was a little delay in Vancouver, which might have inconvenienced some passengers. The disembarkation was smooth--our luggage was waiting for us when we got off the ship and a porter came immediately to help us get our several suitcases through customs and to a cab. No problems there--although next time, I will take the advice of other cruisers and pack a lot less. Finally, in early September, the weather is bound to be wet--we were prepared for it and knew that it would be that way, but couldn't choose another date. So c'est la vie. Layers of clothing with rainproof light coats kept us reasonably dry and warm enough, and I'd recommend the same, no matter what the date. Alaska--beautiful, breathtaking, magnificent--is also wet. In short, it's a trip I'd recommend. We were thoroughly satisfied and will take another cruise (not something we'd planned) and will travel again with Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
I booked the 7-day cruise in suite class along with land 6 months in advance and looked forward to our first cruise. Our journey began in Fairbanks where after arriving off our flight we were greeted by Holland American staff who pointed ... Read More
I booked the 7-day cruise in suite class along with land 6 months in advance and looked forward to our first cruise. Our journey began in Fairbanks where after arriving off our flight we were greeted by Holland American staff who pointed us in the direction of the luggage team and our bus to the hotel. The staff (from beginning to end of our 14 day trip) did a wonderful job with moving people and baggage. I was surprised in Fairbanks, Denali, and in Anchorage that our accommodations (part of Holland America's Westmark Properties) were subpar at best; a step above a Super 8 motel. The hotels in both Fairbanks and Anchorage were dirty, loud, and just quick stop over for 1000s of cruisers - and it shows in the staffs’ customer service attitude (or lack there off) and in the facilities themselves. I would have expected to have a similar level of service and accommodation based on the level that was paid for on the ship - i.e. Suite Class would afford a few additional luxuries (for example a bathroom with soap and shampoo that were in individual bottles rather than a few soap pumps hanging on the wall in the shower!). Two highlights prior to boarding the cruise were (1) the Kenai Forge National Park and (2) the train ride from Denali to Anchorage. In Kenai Forge, we booked a 6-hour boat tour of the park and glacier through Kenai Forge Tours - well worth the time and money as we saw whales, otters, birds, eagles, orca, and some of the best close up scenery of the glaciers. Wonderful Cruise and Crew. We truly enjoyed the rail journey from Denali to Anchorage - booked as part of the Holland America Cruise. Other then having to wait for 40+ others to have lunch on the train (finally getting to my wife and I close to 2pm) the journey was wonderful. We boarded our cruise in Seward following our afternoon cruising the Fjord. The process was quick, simple, and easy - from start to finish it took less that 5 mins for my wife and I (we did do all of the necessary pre-boarding online). Once on board we found our stateroom, met up with our luggage, and began to get our sea legs. Our stateroom was good sized, only it lacked today’s required hotel features (i.e. more than one working plug in the room). In today’s environment of electronics, charging phones, iPads, camera, and camcorder batteries you would think that the rooms would offer more than one plug. Our bathroom was good sized and included a dressing room with ample closet space. The bathroom itself was dated and needed a complete make over. Just as in our rooms on land, the bathroom did not offer any shampoo or bath soap besides the plastic canisters hanging from within the shower, akin to a Super 8 motel. Certianly not what is expected from a cruise line that prides itself on A Signature of Excellence. I was disappointed in the dining options on the ship - only two specialty restaurants, the main dining room, the buffet, and poolside snack bar. On one night of the cruise one of the restaurants was transformed (Holland America’s word, not mine) into NYC Le Cirque and for an additional $49 per person. The plates changed, some of the decorations were changed, and a different menu. Certainly not worth the $100 up-charge. The staff in each of the restaurants was attentive - but when asking about specific menu items or options were ill informed or just didn’t understand what we were asking. The buffet did not met expectations whatsoever – from tired décor’ to a lack of diversity in options. I was surprised that I could not find a cocktail waitress during our dinner at the buffet. Our only option was to get our drink at the bar, drop it off at a table and fight the buffet line… only in my evening, when I returned to my table my drink was gone, my seat was taken by someone else and I was left standing with my plate in my hand, no table, and no drink! The main dining room offers two options – set seating time and open seating. We opted for open seating and ended up having dinner only twice in the main dining room (night one and night 6). The food was good, plenty of options, and best of all the opportunity to sit next to a window and watch for wildlife. The entertainment on the ship was average at best...comedian, ships dancers, and a Dancing with the Stars Competition. In the main show room we found it impossible to find a cocktail waitress any of the nights. A highlight of the week in the show room was some of the presentations while we were cruising though Glacier National Park. We took advantage of the embarkation special in the spa and purchased the Thermal Spa package… allowing for unlimited usage of the hot top, sauna, steam room, and locker room throughout the voyage. It was WONDERFUL the first few days as we sat in the hot tub while cruise to Glacier Bay… but after that, the word got out and folks began to come to the thermal spa with beers in hand – hard to believe that the ship would allow this. We did mention this to the staff – but no action was taken in front of us. Booking in the suite class we were able to take advantage of the Neptune Lounge. After boarding we were able to get a free glass of champagn, meet some of our fellow passengers, and check on dining reservations. The team in the lounge were very helpful in getting dining reservations and making last minute shore excursion bookings. I would be hard pressed to rebook on Holland American, until they upgrade their boats. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We did a land sea tour to Denali followed by the cruise through Glacier Bay to Vancouver stopping at various ports on the way. We booked all our tours through HAL. The embarkation was a breeze. Quick friendly and efficient. We ... Read More
We did a land sea tour to Denali followed by the cruise through Glacier Bay to Vancouver stopping at various ports on the way. We booked all our tours through HAL. The embarkation was a breeze. Quick friendly and efficient. We arrived at our cabin and our bags were delivered with half an hour. Well done. The ship is in good shape. The appointments are relatively tasteful and overall, I found her easy to navigate and there were plenty of areas to enjoy. The Lido Deck was all about food. I have never seen so much food and quite frankly, I found it unappealing however, I am in the minority. The buffet seemed to go on forever and this area always seemed busy. I quite liked the outdoor pool area as it was nice to sit in the sun and enjoy the peace. The Observation Deck was also quite good with huge lazy chairs and good service. At night, this turns into a dancing/music venue but not too loud...quite good fun. The Pinnacle Restaurant is excellent. Great food and good array of wines. I liked the service staff but the Maitre D was curt, arrogant and unpleasant. I did not like her or her attention. I preferred the waiting staff who were really lovely. Canaletto's was OK but just OK...I'd dodge this one next time. It is an Indian chef's interpretation of Italian food. The shows were awful. Honestly, I dragged my husband to one and we left after 20 minutes...it was so bad. One night, they had a comedian and he seemed OK but the singing and dancing was very basic. We did attend a wine tasting lesson and that was superb. Well organised and we learnt heaps from the Cellar Master, Raj. As to the tours, we did not have a bad one. All of them were brilliant. Well organised and all exceeded our expectations. My favourite was the trip to the Arctic Circle. Such a wonderful experience. I am so happy we booked through HAL as I found everyone of the tours superb. The downsides: the butlers we had drove me insane. They were basically annoying. I found they were over attentive and it doesn't appeal to me. Intrusive. The suite was noisy...one night it was so bad that the banging and clashing from upstiars went on for hours. To be fair, we complained and they did address the issue. They also gave us a USD$400 credit off our bill for the inconvenience. Also, the Managers don't consider passengers when doling out the duties to staff. We had five days in port and two at sea so they choose a sea day to grind paint outside the Explorations Library. It was so loud, you could not sit and read. Crazy!! Why not do it on a port day when most people leave the ship?? I have done a personal blog with full details and pics on all tours if it helps. ineverfeelthecold.blogspot.com Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Overall, we had a great trip. I did the inside passage in the 1960's, and the whole trip was foggy with cold rain; definitely no fun. As a result, we did not pre-book any excursions until we got on board and knew what the weather ... Read More
Overall, we had a great trip. I did the inside passage in the 1960's, and the whole trip was foggy with cold rain; definitely no fun. As a result, we did not pre-book any excursions until we got on board and knew what the weather would be. The weather was great, so we spent a lot on shore excursions. Some were worth the price, others not so fun. We would have saved a lot if we pre-booked them independently before the trip, but I didn't want to pay for a trip in the rain. We prefer outdoor, hiking type things which would have been awful in 54 degree rain. The rooms are old. We had a veranda room. Some things definitely need updating. There was only one outlet in the room, very inconvenient if you want to charge things. The water in the shower was cold if I waited too late in the morning - I really needed to shower before 7:00 if I wanted a warm shower. The ventilation system was inadequate - we slept with the patio door blocked open, which they said not to do, but we made the choice to breathe fresh air. Other people said their room were too hot and stuffy, and some said they were too cold. Obviously, Zaandam has an old HVAC system. The bathroom sink was cracked. The room steward was great, and the room service was impeccable, and the room was always clean. Dining was okay, not super. The Lido deck for breakfast was good, but if you wanted an omelet, the wait was a joke. One cook, no helper. The attendants in the Lido were very good. The main dining room was okay, but the food was certainly not deluxe. Do not order the halibut - it will come overcooked and tough. Waiters were inconsistent - some were great, some were very inattentive. HAL has a policy of allowing one bottle of wine to be bought off-ship. That means at the embarkation port - if you buy a bottle at one of the other ports, they confiscate it, and give it back to you when you leave. Entertainment: We really enjoyed the piano/violin duo. There was also a combo band that wasn't bad. We saw a short part of one of the nightclub acts. It wasn't our style, so we left. On board WiFi is really expensive and really slow. Disembarkation at Seward happened at 6:00 A.M. Way too early, and left a bad taste. We took the train to Anchorage, which I would recommend over the busses. It takes longer, but is much more scenic. Overall we enjoyed ourselves. Zaandam is an older, smaller ship, and does need some updating. It isn't for the younger crowd who might want more entertainment. Most of the passengers were over 60, and there were very few children or families. If the weather had been bad on the trip instead of gorgeous, it would have been difficult to enjoy the ship with its lack of things to do. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We were a group of three adults in two cabins: my parents (aged 70 and 64) and myself. My parents had cruised once before on the Norwegian Dawn and loved it. They were the ones who picked this cruise. My flight into Vancouver was the night ... Read More
We were a group of three adults in two cabins: my parents (aged 70 and 64) and myself. My parents had cruised once before on the Norwegian Dawn and loved it. They were the ones who picked this cruise. My flight into Vancouver was the night before, due to the distance and lack of direct flights. I booked a hotel near the waterfront, took the Canada Line, and simply walked six or eight blocks to the dock in the morning, with my luggage. Coming back, I stayed closer to the airport, so I took my own luggage off the ship, hopped onto the Canada Line again, got off on Marine Drive, and trundled my salmon-stuffed suitcases a mile or so over to the hotel, which provided a free shuttle to the airport the next morning. As long as you're physically capable of lifting, carrying, and moving multiple suitcases quickly, this is a piece of cake especially with wheeled luggage. But I do not recommend it for anyone who uses a wheelchair. The curbs in Vancouver are extremely high, the sidewalks are often narrow, and it's hilly. Yet I spent perhaps CAD$13.75 on ground transportation, total, including generous tips to anyone who had to handle my luggage. There was about 100 pounds of it, including carry-on, after I'd committed the last smoked salmon run. The windows on the Zaandam never seem to be cleaned on the outside. They wash the outside of the ship while they're in port, but not the windows or the lido cover. It rains most days in Alaska, but on clear port days there's no reason to not at least wipe down the outer windows in the public areas so that people can get a clear view of the fantastic scenery at least for a while. The hallways and public areas tended to be very noisy, especially in the restaurants, which were always crowded and extremely noisy. There's always some canned music playing in the lido area, and the noise and acoustics were bad enough to make both my parents turn off their hearing aids. Conversation became almost impossible. I'm not a huge fan of standing in line, which was always necessary at the Rotterdam, but having to stand in line several times for just one meal at the lido buffet is tiresome. There was almost always a crush of people, and although the Club HAL program seemed to be attractive to people with kids, there was no game plan for dealing with children at mealtimes. So they tended to get lost in the lido buffet and panic. They would also fidget, shout, cry, and act out during the two-hour meals at the Rotterdam main dining room. I can't say I blame them: two hours at a table is far too much for a toddler. Also, at times I felt like shrieking myself. The Rotterdam food was very well presented but generally cold by the time it arrived, and although steak cooking instructions were generally followed, language barriers prevented the use of special instructions such as "dressing on the side". The lido food that was prepared on the spot, such as the eggs Benedict, was great. Things that had to sit under heat lamps were generally tepid. There was a lot of starch: plenty of noodles, rice, potatoes, and a neverending supply of bread. There were a lot of sugary things to eat. Most of the available food is what I call "fat people food": heavy on the starch, sugar, grease, and especially salt, and low on actual nutritional value. I solved the problem by either eating salad at the lido (which is quite healthy, if you skip the dressing and cheese), generally skipping the hit-and-miss desserts, and choosing food that is supposed to be greasy, salty, and cold. I pigged out on fruit, rolls that are more cake-like than bread-like (very American but not in a nice way), and smoked salmon. So despite seven days of enforced sedentary activity while surrounded by an obesogenic system designed to make people pack on the pounds, I didn't actually gain an ounce. I need at least a couple hours of hard exercise every day, but there's no running track or lap pool, and for some reason we're not allowed to run or jog on the outdoor promenade. There's a miniature toy basketball court, shuffleboard floor, and toy tennis court for the kids, but they're on the top deck. They're not usable in bad weather, nor is there-- for example-- a tennis pro on board so I could book and pay for a lesson. There is a gym of sorts, with extra-fee yoga classes and a few free group exercise sessions, and the gym has some ancient Nautilus-type equipment and a few treadmills where you can look out through the filthy windows at all the fresh air you're not getting. We stuck our noses into the gym facility right away, but the sales pitch started immediately and just didn't let up. Sometimes you just want to work out and not have a bunch of papers pushed on you. No, I don't want a body fat analysis, personal training regimen, or one-on-one "consultation" about extra supplements or therapies. Supplements and therapies are pseudoscience bunk, and I already have a trainer I pay for the rest. Can't we just work out in peace without being huckstered to buy-buy-buy a bunch of products we don't need, don't want, and can't use? No? Fine, I'll get out of your hair. We never went back. Since I had to leave my guitar at home and couldn't practice, I needed something to do with my hands, but very little was available. I ended up getting a lot of knitting done. Between the three of us, we tried out just about every activity on the ship, and eventually concluded that there was nothing to do, except sit around and watch other people do something. Dance classes don't exist-- you can't pay someone to teach you to samba-- but there's some kind of TV based "Dancing With The Stars" contest with some classes attached. We checked it out, but it was just a bunch of people sitting and watching a video of a dance class. Apparently people who can already dance have a competition of some sort while everyone else sits and watches them. We did the 5k charity walk for cancer, and were able to get the laps done with minimal disruption from the ship photographer who does not understand the words "No, no more, please don't. Please stop snapping that flash in my face." By the end of the ship I was so sick of having black spots on my retina from her flash bulb that I seriously considered grabbing that camera and tossing it overboard. The salesmanship and pitchmanship just never seems to end. There's paper, paper, paper left on your bed or next to your door, hawking this future cruise or that spa special. Every day, in addition to the program, there are so many bits and scraps of coupons and whatnot that it's hard to locate what you really do need to read and understand. It's safe to say that I got more junk mail on the ship than I did at home, and I sincerely doubt that they recycle any of it. Every day, especially at sea, there are intercom announcements hawking some activity or other. The "informative" lectures and presentations are generally thinly disguised sales pitches for overpriced geegaws. My mother bought a pair of earrings, but I've always hated shopping. Even at the spa, where we each paid about $250 (after the mandatory gratuity) for extremely mediocre massages, we still had to sit through a sales pitch at the end where we were pressured to buy the greasy, pore-clogging oil used on us instead of light oil or lotion. You'd think that, after $250, a person would have earned a bit of freedom from the high pressure sales. But... no. Everywhere you went on board, there was a neverending drumbeat of Buy-buy-buy-buy. Stage entertainments exist, but are extremely amateurish. We went to the Northern Lights show and sat through a song-and-dance presentation that featured some good voices, some mediocre choreography, and content that was downright offensive. My Canadian mother did not care for the slapstick presentation of the Mounties as buffoons, and as a bi person I see no point in calling public attention to my orientation. Nearly half of the songs were thinly disguised gay anthems. I like "True Colors" well enough, and it's a lovely song in its own right, but Monty Python's lumberjack song and Queen's "Don't Stop Me" both have lyrics that the performers elected to not sing, because of the second verse. If you're going to do a gay anthem, then do it and own it. Don't sneak it in and try to be cute about it, like we're all part of some inside joke. That got old with the Village People's "Don't Stop The Music" movie. The musicians were very skilled, especially the classical duo that performed in the Explorer Lounge every night. That became our favorite hangout in the evening, because we were able to have a drink and a conversation without being interrupted, bumped into, or having to stand in line. The classical performers understood the basic reality of playing background music: the idea is to not drown out everything else. In all the other lounges, the volume of the music was set far too high to allow conversation. Result: people who wanted to socialize mostly left. One stage show that can't be missed is a late-night presentation by the Filipino crew. They do some traditional dances and songs from their home, and some of the people you see serving your drinks or working at the front desk are extremely talented. To be honest, they out-performed the professionals. I'd have liked to have seen them earlier in the evening, when more people could attend, instead of at 11 PM. These folks, who rehearse entirely on their own time, received a well earned standing ovation. I think I'd have enjoyed the sedentary, mostly passive activities if I'd been 80 years old, or confined to a wheelchair, or perhaps a newlywed who'd brought my entertainment with me. The ocean view cabin was immaculate (like the rest of the ship interior), with a spacious bathroom. Our two stewards were very attentive, and we made friends with one of them in particular. It turns out that stewards, wait staff, and many of the service workers put in 15-hour days, seven days a week, 10 months out of the year. That's why so many of them move slowly and seem to struggle with basic tasks: they're physically exhausted and burned out. There are economic reasons why these employees consider their jobs worthwhile, and they're too complex for me to get into here, but it turns out there's a sizable humanitarian cost to all this luxury. So we made sure to not impose on our stewards, or anyone else, with special requests. I found it hard to be happy and upbeat in the midst of so much human suffering. If this is what cruising is like, I don't think I care for it. I can stand in line and be part of a crowd pretty much anywhere, and spend substantially less. Next time, I'm going to fly into Ketchikan and book some kind of deep sea fishing expedition, with lots of pointy hooks, waves, and physical exertion. Perhaps if there's some kayaking or other adventure I'll feel like I'm actually having fun. I want to be so worn out the end of the day that I'm not sure where I am. That's my idea of a vacation. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
Had a great time on the MS Zaandam. I was with my mother ( a senior) and she was thrilled to go on her first ever cruise on a Dutch ship ( she is born Dutch). The MS Zaandam has a musical theme with the multi level organ in the Atrium. ... Read More
Had a great time on the MS Zaandam. I was with my mother ( a senior) and she was thrilled to go on her first ever cruise on a Dutch ship ( she is born Dutch). The MS Zaandam has a musical theme with the multi level organ in the Atrium. It also has a figure of Queen ( now Princess Beatrix and the now new King and Queen's photo is there in the lobby. She was emotional seeing them. Our room steward Edwin was wonderful. Super professional and personable. We had a balcony suite. The bed is top notch. Super comfortable. I was impressed. Full breakfast room service ( no extra charge). Buffets were great. Very good with cleanliness and the first 48 hrs you could not serve yourself. For health reasons, they pass you the food that you request for everything including tea. A bit of a slow down but I understood the need. The evening entertainment was ok. Nothing to spectacular. A song and dance group doing a western. One night did have a comedian / impressionist. She was good. Then they also had the philipino song/dance group. There was a small band outside by the Lido bar which seemed to attract some louder types. The band moved to the Crows nest at night. There was music all over the ship during the evening but mostly lounge style. Piano, harp. Not my style but geared to seniors. We are not gamblers and did not use the casino. The day had a cooking demonstration and it lasted about 15-20 minutes. My mother enjoyed it. Again a bit sleepy for me. This trip for us wasn't about the entertainment though. It was about relaxing and spending quality time with my mom. Dress code is more than business casual except for the Lido buffet. Although I worried about Formal night and bought a dress it turns out I could easily have worn dress pants with a glitter top or jacket. Many women did just that. For those of you not participating in formal night, you are not banned to your rooms. You can still hit the Lido. Although this mid ship attracts more seniors at this time of year and the entertainment matches, I would definately consider them again. The service and room exceeded my expectations. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
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
Sail Date July 2013
Having no experience on which to gauge anything cruise related...well, except the reviews on this web site, I had only my own set of expectations to act as guide. Embarkations/Disembarkations. Very well managed and executed - obviously ... Read More
Having no experience on which to gauge anything cruise related...well, except the reviews on this web site, I had only my own set of expectations to act as guide. Embarkations/Disembarkations. Very well managed and executed - obviously done all this millions of times, and learned how to do it well. Well done HAL and partners! Safety procedures. I have to say I found this process somewhat chaotic! Thank goodness it was never needed in real life. Passengers were talking above the crew, who were trying to get some sense of organisation in place on decks, Those crew whose first language wasn't English, had difficulty being understood, and, of course some passengers were either in the wrong places, or not there at all. Not a good first impression to a first time cruiser...or any cruiser for that matter. Cabin/Stateroom. Bijou, but with plenty of storage for 2 people for a week's stay. Needed to stay tidy though throughout the ship!! Bathroom - again, more bijou. Unforunately the toilet system went out of action for about a day...one of the days we were ashore thankfully. Both cabin and bathroom could do with a make over decor wise, as looked somewhat tired. Room service very efficient - no complaints. Compulsory tip added to the bill....no say in that matter then! Dining. We had an open dining arrangement, which I thought meant you could wander into the dining room during the evening and just sit anywhere you wanted! Not so......first register your request at the restaurant front desk...then wait. Sometimes as much as 30 minutes before you were 'allocated' a table. In the meantime, nowhere to sit, have a drink in the area...just standing, with lots of others. The Pinnacle Restaurant was very good...but at a premium of $25pp, not something I'd budgetted for. Interestingly, the officers ate there.... Dining waiting staff were generally very polite, helpful and efficient. But, the noise level in the Rotterdam, was quite staggering...if you are hard of hearing, your aid would have been working overtime to cut out all the chattering noises. Not pleasant. The Lido was ok food wise - plenty of choices, just finding a table could be the morning challenge! The formal evenings were a bit of a joke really....if what some people wore as formal, wouldn't like to see their day clothes. Smart casual would better cover off this requirement I think. Spending your money. On top of what I paid for this 'inclusive' cruise, I ended up spending another 1,000 (2 people) on extras. By the way, this way not wild extravagances like bottles of champagne ....just the odd cocktail, glass of wine with meal type of expense. And, everything you paid came with a hefty service charge - that certainly wasn't in my budget! Didn't like the idea that you couldn't even make a cup of tea in your cabin...sorry, stateroom. Maybe that was against health and safety, perhaps....! A lot of the activities also came with a fee, and of course the service charge too. All these expenditures mounting up over the week, didn't particularly want a 'surprise' on the last day when the bill arrived, which meant keeping a reasonable tally of what expenses were going out each day... Entertainment. You could be 'entertained' from 7am to late, if you wanted what was on offer. I found it quite difficult to find a quiet space on board. Even the Discovery Cafe area wasn't particularly quiet as it is situated in a through way to other areas. The best entertainment I found was in the Piano Bar of an evening...though some of the best 'slots' were quite late into the evening. General ship's management. Just about every hour of every day, staff were cleaning (outside and in), the public areas were kept pretty spick and span. Crew were mainly polite and helpful throughout the voyage. Summary. Not sure if the above is just a HAL experience, or whether my expectations were/are generally misplaced particularly in relation to dining, 'optional' extra expenses on board, 'busy-ness' and noise levels and the hefty charges. Maybe the cruise environment isn't for me - having said that the locations on the voyages, were certainly places I wouldn't normally have had access to, so maybe that what any future cruise needs to offer me and the rest....well, do others 'do cruising' better than the HAL group, which I'd been led to believe was one of 'the better Lines' The jury is obviously still out. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
This was our first cruise. Out trip included a land tour which started in Fairbanks and we traveled by train to Denali, then on to Anchorage and Seward. Because of an excursion to the Portage Glacier, we were the last group to board the ... Read More
This was our first cruise. Out trip included a land tour which started in Fairbanks and we traveled by train to Denali, then on to Anchorage and Seward. Because of an excursion to the Portage Glacier, we were the last group to board the ship and the process was very fast and efficient. Our cabin was on the main deck, mid-ship, and comfortable, we were not bothered by excessive engine noise or vibrations. It was clean and the service was excellent. We had room service breakfasts, lunch at the Lido buffet and dinner in the Rotterdam main dining room. The food in the Rotterdam was much better than the Lido. Portions were smaller that what we Americans have come to expect, but we always came away feeling satisfied. We did not eat at the grill by the pool, nor did we go to the Pinnacle Grill or the Italian restaurant. We had open seating for dinner and some evenings were able to eat by ourselves and other evenings we were seated with others. Service was excellent and some of the servers were helpful in selecting wines. Entertainment in the lounge varied each night, and some nights were better than others. there were other activities such as art auctions and jewelry and watch events but we did not attend. The casino apparently is the one area where people can smoke, you could really smell it. We enjoyed the Explorations cafe for coffee and a snack. Internet access was pricey, we bought a plan for 100 minutes for $55 and then needed to get some additional time on the last day so we could check in and print our boarding passes. They also charged an access fee and then a continuation fee, and 25 cents for each page when we printed our passes. expensive paper. Disembarkation in Vancouver was efficient and we arrived at the airport in plenty of time to check in and go through U.S. customs and immigration before our flight. All in all this was a very good experience for us and we will not hesitate to plan another cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
I was exhausted from my trip due to the lack of sleep from the extremely warm room and bad beds. My body suffered in pain. The beds threw my body out of alignment. Both beds were worn out with a deep depression in the center and lopsided ... Read More
I was exhausted from my trip due to the lack of sleep from the extremely warm room and bad beds. My body suffered in pain. The beds threw my body out of alignment. Both beds were worn out with a deep depression in the center and lopsided in our stateroom. HAL did not offer a solution to my problem. I have never been to any establishment with such worn out beds and not offering a solution. Walls were stained and I used pillows to separate the me from the walls. The room was very warm with poor ventilation. The AC was not working. The food was ok. I did not care for the majority of their desserts. Even their vanilla ice cream did not even taste right to me. Overall service in dining was good. However, the service in the Rotterdam were slow at times. I would avoid the shopping lectures on board. It was a waste of my time. You are better off sightseeing. The shopping they recommended were all tourist traps, esp. the jewelry stores using high pressured sales tactics. I did not find any bargains as Dani claimed from the trunk sales, but overpriced jewelries. When I was in Effy, Dani, the shopping ambassador for the ship came in and for the longest time tried to pressure me into buying a flower like 14kt gold pendant with tiny rubies.They wanted about $5000 with their discount and I went to their website and it is being listed for $2895: http://www.effyjewelry.com/women/jardin-bloom-ruby-and-diamond-pendant-2-49-tcw.html. Stay away from these vultures. This will be my first and last cruise with Holland America. Their response after the cruise was they update their ships every 2 years and offered me a 2 category upgrade with in my stateroom type. This will be my first and last cruise with them!!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
I was uncertain as to what to expect of a cruise, but given the cost as a solo traveller, I expected some luxury, fine dining and excellent service. I wasn't disappointed. True, the new reservation system for the main dining room ... Read More
I was uncertain as to what to expect of a cruise, but given the cost as a solo traveller, I expected some luxury, fine dining and excellent service. I wasn't disappointed. True, the new reservation system for the main dining room was confusing people,including the booking staff, but I was able to take it in stride. I had been advised at least twice to reserve my table in advance(I had opted for open seating at a table for two-no sharing), and as I have dietary allergies I was keen to have that clarified with the kitchen, too. Admittedly, there were a couple of glitches but recovery and compensation by the staff were immediate and gracious. Of course, people were curious, and some openly sad, that I was travelling alone, but I explained that it was my choice and that I was thoroughly enjoying my own company. I did accept once or twice the kind offers to join others for dinner or dessert, but most often I declined the invitations. The wait staff were most attentive and kind. The Pinnacle and Canaletto restaurants were well worth the extra cost. The only complaint I have is about the spa. I had a wonderful massage on the second day at sea and no complaint about that experience. My manicure was another thing altogether...not recommended. The spa seemed disorganized and the nail salon was poorly equipped with questionable hygiene standards. The horseback riding excursion in Pt Vallarta on Christmas Day was fabulous. The sailing and snorkelling excursion in Cabo was fun, but the water was too cold to stay in for long and it was clear that someone had been feeding the fish in order to have them congregate in the area we were told to snorkel. Small things in the larger context. Ultimately, I enjoyed this cruise so much that I have booked another cruise with HAL for June and am taking my daughter and her husband along for the ride! Thus far, I am sold on HAL and reluctant to try another cruise line for fear they won't live up to my newly formed expectations. I'll post a review of the Mediterranean trip post-cruise. Happy cruising. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
This was my second experience sailing, and my partner's first. I want to make clear that we did enjoy ourselves. So it isn't necessarily that it was a horrible experience. But it was definitely less than I expected. First, the ... Read More
This was my second experience sailing, and my partner's first. I want to make clear that we did enjoy ourselves. So it isn't necessarily that it was a horrible experience. But it was definitely less than I expected. First, the good. Zaandam is a small ship. I had previously sailed on a large Royal Caribbean ship, and I had a hard time getting to know people. On this sailing, we made a lot of friends. Because the ship is smaller, you see people more frequently and thus there are more chances to make connections. That's a good thing if you are sociable, like we are. The cabin steward was a real gem. He had this knack for knowing exactly when we had left the cabin without seeming like he was hovering, waiting for us to leave. He always greeted us with a smile and called us by name. The front desk crew was also very professional. I felt that embarkation was a lot easier on this line than my previous experience on Royal Caribbean. The fact is that the ship pulls into port at 7 am. From 7 until roughly 8:30 they are waiting for port clearance. And the rest of their passengers are not off until around 10 am. And they start boarding new passengers at noon. That gives them only about 2 hours of time to get the ship ready. Given that, it is simply amazing what they do. The nighttime shows were particularly good, particularly the comedians. I haven't laughed that hard in years. They also have a pretty decent movie theater, and showed a selection of pretty good movies at night. Now the bad: First, from the start it seems like everything is about money with them. I would be interested in more seminars on interesting stuff, but apart from the cooking classes and fitness classes, it seems like most of their activities are really only thinly disguised attempts to sell you something. If your idea of a good vacation is not constant attempts to sell you things, then the day can be a bit boring, until nighttime, when the ship does start to come to life. There are movies, shows, and the bars come to life at night. So the nights were definitely far more entertaining than the days. During the day you can use the pool, but that gets old after awhile. They need to plan more interesting daytime activities. Before you reach the port, Holland America will offer you information on the ports. This is really a spoiled opportunity. They could have taken this chance to tell us about all the "off the beaten track" sorts of things you can do in these truly interesting ports. Instead, for the most part they use the information session to promote their own favorite shops in the ports. And how does one become one of Holland America's favorite shops? Simple. You give Holland America money. We found this out in a really interesting way. We took our little Holland America port map into town, and one of the proprietors tried to get us into his shop, telling us that he is one of "Holland America's Guaranteed Shops". We told him that he wasn't on our map! He said, "really, can I see?" Sure enough, he wasn't on our map. He was furious! "We paid them a lot of money to be on that map!" He told us, "we should be on there!" On ship, his story turned out to be true. The Holland America port director told us that his shop had accidentally been left off, but that his shop, "The Real McCoy" was one of their guaranteed shops. So there you have it. The man's credibility was confirmed: Their "guaranteed shops" is just a synonym for their advertisers. I gave the owner of "The Real McCoy" my map so he would have proof, and I truly hope he gets a refund. Service around the ship for the most part was pretty good, and people were pretty friendly. But on several occasions ships staff were rude to us. This seemed more common at the drink station in the Lido. At one point, a crew member scolded me for grabbing something myself rather than waiting for her to give it to me. (Keep in mind, the Lido restaurant is a buffet!!!!) And another crew member blatantly refused to give me an empty cup at dinner time when I requested it. I then asked for a glass of water, which I then poured into a bowl and handed the bowl to him. One shouldn't have to go to such lengths to get an empty cup. I got another lecture from a crew member respecting some sort of "tender ticket." I still have no idea what that was about. Apparently, they have some sort of odd, nonsensical procedure for getting off the boat in Cabo, which they poorly explain to passengers and then try to cover for by scolding passengers who don't know what to do. The Main Dining Room was an atrocious experience for us. We ate there only one night, the rest of the nights preferring the Lido restaurant. Our first night in the Main Dining Room They chose to seat us right next to a server station. There really is nothing more uncomfortable than sitting right next to the server station. You feel constantly like you are in the way, as waiters fly by with trays only a few inches above your head. You feel like you are in the way. Service was beyond slow. And while the food quality was decent, the food arrived in such small quantities that we were left hungry. Granted, we could have ordered more, but given how long it took them to bring everything, we opted to simply go to the Lido afterwards and eat a little more. On top of all that, the waiter treated us rudely because we didn't want to pay $10 for a carafe of water. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer and made us feel like we were bad people for refusing the offer. The ship is gay-friendly because it is small, so you get a chance to really know the other passengers. But Holland America doesn't really do much to help that. On our voyage, there was an LGBT meeting only one night. And now, for the ugly: debarkation. I have heard that debarkation is bad in San Diego. But nothing prepared me for how bad. Ok. I understand. This is not totally Holland America's fault. They are dealing with the government. When I complained to Holland, this was the answer I got. Fine. I understand. But that is not all there is to the story. Holland America may not have the power to control the government, but they certainly can put pressure on them. Holland America could go to the port of San Diego and tell them, "Hey, you guys need to get your act together and stop being so rude to our passengers. If you can't get it under control, we won't be coming here anymore." If San Diego wants the tourism dollars, (and they do!), they would make it right. I will say this: foreign ports always make you feel welcome. For some reason, our country has got to the point where we are so xenophobic that we are even suspicious of U.S. citizens who travel. U.S. ports are by far the least friendly of any in the world, and San Diego is the worst of all of them. How is this Holland's fault? Well, it isn't ALL Holland's fault. But we did have a particularly horrible experience that was all Holland's fault. My partner is a Mexican citizen who happens to be a U.S. resident who has a green card. I am a U.S. citizen. On the final day, non-U.S. citizens have to go through an additional screening. So my partner had to report to the Mondriian lounge before debarkation. I went with him, in part just for the security of it all. If they gave him any trouble, at least I would know what was going on. Well, one of Holland's officers forced me to leave the line. I was told that U.S. citizens are not allowed to accompany their non-citizen family members. However, this appears to be a very selectively enforced rule. In fact, only the gay family members were separated from their families. The people in front of us and behind us both had U.S. citizen husbands who were permitted to stay with them. When I brought this to the attention of the crew member who separated us, she said that she did not know, and that if she had known she would have forced them to leave as well. That was a blatant lie. I overheard her discussion with the man behind me, who was a U.S. citizen who made it very clear that he did not want to leave his wife. She knew full well that he was a U.S. citizen. The only explanation I can give for this is that I wasn't a "real" family member because I am gay and they were straight. If there is another explanation, I would love to know what it is. On top of all this, the officer led me to an area where I could at least observe the proceedings. After a few minutes, a member of U.S. Customs came over and was verbally abusive to me and threatened me, ordering me to leave the area. I can think of nothing I was doing to deserve this treatment. I was simply sitting silently watching the proceedings trying to make sure that my loved one had gained entry. And how did Holland react to this? The only proper thing for her to do would have been to stand up to the Customs officer, and say, "Excuse me! You do not speak to our Passengers in that manner! What is your name and badge number!" Instead, she meekly ushered me out of the area, muttering her apologies under her breath. When I was out of the lounge, I asked to speak to the Captain, since I had been verbally threatened and treated abusively on the ship. The Captain refused to see me. When I said I was never sailing with Holland again, then another officer came up to me and tried to explain that the poor treatment wasn't Holland America's fault, it was the fault of the U.S. Government. Sorry. That doesn't cut it. Holland let it happen, and it only happened because I had been forced out of line in the first place, something none of the straight spouses were forced to do. Overall, we do not recommend this cruise line. Although we had a good time overall, there were far too many glitches. 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Sail Date November 2012
As a first time cruiser, we booked months in advance and were very excited. We were cruising with four other experienced cruisers. The first impression upon boarding the ship was that everyone seemed to move very slow. It soon became ... Read More
As a first time cruiser, we booked months in advance and were very excited. We were cruising with four other experienced cruisers. The first impression upon boarding the ship was that everyone seemed to move very slow. It soon became evident at the supper meal when all the wheelchairs and walkers showed up. It wasn't long before my wife commented that it felt like we were in an old-folks home. A couple of days later a senior officer commented that 70 percent of the passengers were over the age of 80!! We are retired in our late 60's and were have many friends that are over the age of 80, but when it comes to an expensive cruise for 16 days, I think that Holland America should have let us know in advance the passenger demographics of the cruise. The food in the buffet was excellent whereas the dining room was so packed with the oldies that it took one hour to two hours to get fed. As for the entertainment we had 3 good shows out of 16. The other activities were very laid back as you would be needed for people 80+. We had been upgraded to a veranda stateroom and it was great as was the service of the crew...but who wants a 16 day holiday in a old folks home. Eventually we all will end up there, but lets not rush it. Another thing that we found annoying is that everything cost extra. We had read reviews on CruiseCritic and were aware of the costs of the no-host bar, but there was no sign in the stateroom when we arrived so we didn't know that the bottled water cost $4.00/bottle. The sign went up the second day and then we understood why everyone was filling up their containers in the buffet. We may have taken an excursion or two, but we chose to get away from the other passengers as it was too depressing being around them. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
This was our first cruise and we had saved over 2 years for it. It was a late 40th anniversary cruise for us. We had been told many nice things about Holland America and were looking forward to the cruise and 2 week land tour of Alaska. ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we had saved over 2 years for it. It was a late 40th anniversary cruise for us. We had been told many nice things about Holland America and were looking forward to the cruise and 2 week land tour of Alaska. This has been one of my wife's to see places on her "bucket list". When we boarded the ship I noticed several large rust spots on the ship and primer paint around several of the portholes. The carpet was worn in several locations and the ship was just not very appealing. Where they had painted around the portholes the paint covered part of the window and there were several window on the ship that had paint droppings on them that interfered with your viewing. One wooden bench that also held life jackets had the lid broken on it so you could not set on it. This went the whole cruise without being fixed when all it needed was to have the hinge screwed back on. After checking into our stateroom we noticed that there were the chocolate strawberries and a bottle of champagne. We had request a sparkling cider as we do not drink. We mentioned this to our steward and he told us it was not his job to talk to the front desk. He had just gotten through telling us if we needed anything to contact him. A little later we were by the front desk and I mentioned it to them and they told me I would have to bring the bottle to them as they were shorthanded and they would do something about it. The next day they told me that the cider was $5 more than the champagne and I would have to pay the difference. Must be real cheap champagne. Anyway they took the champagne and on the third day at sea brought us a few cans of Sprite. The service in the dinning room and on the Lido deck was poor I had to ask several times to get my water glass filled, it took way too long to deliver the food, and where the staff spoke English most of them did not comprehend it so they did not know what you were asking for. My wife saw a meal she wanted on display and asked for it and 3 servers did not know what she wanted until one of them keyed on the word pasta and went and got the display and the sign and asked her if that was what she wanted. Their coffee bar was nice and the attendant made very good drinks, however the first morning out we go to get a mocha, at 10am, and they were out of mocha. Now I know there was some in storage down below but no one went and got any and we had to wait till the next day for the coffee bar to be restocked, oh yea they were out of whip cream that day. Then the next day the machine was broken, only one on the ship. They got it fixed by the next day but were out of carmel that day. I am sure someone could have and should have gone and got those supplies so that we who paid so much for this cruise could pay even more for a coffee. The sailing of the ship was fine and at no time did we feel that the ship was unsafe and sailed in a dangerous manner. However their service fell far short of the reputation that we were lead to believed they had and strived for. The two additional weeks we spent on the HAL land tour did live up to the expectations we had and even exceeded them. This along with the nice excursions we went on during the cruise portion made up for the disappointing and poor service we received on the ship. To sum up my feeling I will have to say that I was lead to believe and feel that I paid for a 5 star hotel and got a Motel 6 instead. I will not be cruising HAL anytime soon. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We took the Alaska-inside Passage on Holland America Zaandam in mid-May of 2012. Sailed from Vancouver, which is a really nice city. Should have planned more than a one-night stay. Stayed at the Mariott Hotel the night before. Hotel ... Read More
We took the Alaska-inside Passage on Holland America Zaandam in mid-May of 2012. Sailed from Vancouver, which is a really nice city. Should have planned more than a one-night stay. Stayed at the Mariott Hotel the night before. Hotel was clean and quiet and nicely located-$180/night. Walked to the ship at noon. Getting on the ship was easy and well organized (about 30 minutes in all). On the ship, we stayed in room B6199 (with balcony). Nice room, fairly quiet, clean, but smoke from neighboring balcony. The staff was excellent and friendly in dining room, Lido, and room service. Food was average. Pinnacle was nice but not over the top. Had coffee, juice, and a treat delivered to the room each morning at 6am. Later, we went to breakfast! Nice people, a great string quartet, no pressure in buying things, friendly passengers. The Holland crew tried to do some fun things like line dancing, the polar bear plunge, a comedy show....all worth it. Much to our disappointment, we were a bit queasy, especially on the two open sea days. It put a damper in our trip. The "helicopter-glacier-dogsled trip" was cancelled in Juneau (Holland is extra cautious). It had snowed the night before. Probably could have arranged something on the dock at Juneau but instead went to see Mendenhall Glacier by bus. This is well worth the trip. You can sign up at the dock for the round trip for $16. Skagway was beautiful...took the railroad trip up the mountain and back. This trip is well worth the $120. Seward (the port of disembarkation) was also beautiful. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to explore. Glacier Bay was excellent. Took a land tour from Seward to Fairbanks. The bus and train ride were very picturesque. Saw bears and wolf and other wildlife in Denali. Fairbanks was fun with the gold panning and steam boat ride. While these activities sound touristy, it was first class and very enjoyable and a highlight of the trip. If I were to do it again, I might just rent a car and explore the Kenai Peninsula before heading out toward Denali and Fairbanks. Had I not gotten a bit seasick on the ship (the drugs made me feel worse), I think my review would be more glowing. Spent a bit of time in bed, but never missed a meal. Wish I had tried the wrist band for sea sickness. Alaska is beautiful and the cruise/land tour was a good deal. Try it! Oh, I made my own plane reservations early, so I got good flights and good seats. If there are two of you, usually, calling a taxi to get to the airport from the hotel is cheaper and easier. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
My husband wanted to return to sailing the high seas as he had served in the U.S. Navy and missed the ocean. I had been a Navy dependent growing up in the Pacific region and wanted to return to the islands. In those days my girlfriends and ... Read More
My husband wanted to return to sailing the high seas as he had served in the U.S. Navy and missed the ocean. I had been a Navy dependent growing up in the Pacific region and wanted to return to the islands. In those days my girlfriends and I had greeted the P&O cruise ships when they came into port--we spent the afternoons giggling with the young British crew members and having high tea. I had also sailed aboard many military ships as a dependent traveling to and from the U.S. My husband found the HAL 17 day Circle Hawaii Cruise online on the ms Zaandam and we signed up. HAL itself provided excellent pre-cruise service from calming my jitters re. documentation, booking arrangements, and delivering us to the ship. As first time cruisers we were tremendously excited about our upcoming journey and for normally quite rational folks, we slowly discovered that our (fairy-tale) expectations of the cruise did not meet reality. My husband did enjoy being at sea once again--but his daily sunrise strolls around the decks were not my cup of tea. We didn't realize it was the last day of the cruise season when we departed Vancouver, B.C. Why was it the last day of the season--because of the weather. We spent the first three days of our cruise in true high seas with grey skies skirting a storm. Not a good start and unpleasant for us landlubbers. As a result of having to follow a different route at slower speeds, we missed our first port of call in Kona. We called at our second port instead, Honolulu. The next port of call was Nawiliwili, Kauai, where we rented a scooter from Kauai Mopeds (808.652.7407). We had a thrilling time zooming around the island, getting lost when we literally ran out of land and ended up on a small dock, being pelted by warm rain, and visiting the Kauai coffee plantation. Did we feel like kids again, discomfort and all? Yes! We missed our next port of call, Lahaina, Maui, apparently because of rough seas. The tenders or small boats that were to ferry us from the ship to Maui could not anchor/connect with the ship properly. The captain wasted no time in continuing on to the next port of call, Hilo, Hawaii. I was ready to lead a mutiny as a couple of people actually boarded the ship from a tender--why couldn't we volunteer to release HAL of any liability, board a tender to Maui and fly to the next port of call to join the ship. Maui was my symbolic return to the islands and all I could do was watch the land disappear from my sight. In Hilo we walked to an isolated black sand/rock beach where I finally swam in the ocean for a couple of hours. We meet a Hawaiian family and passed a very pleasant afternoon with them just talking and swimming. We were invited back for a family luau in March 2012 and we may return, but not by ship. The ship headed for our last port, San Diego, California. Because of unfortunate circumstances, an ill crew member, we forged ahead at top speeds through the tail-end of yet another storm. (I don't know whether the crew member recovered--I truly hope so.) At this point I felt like a prisoner and just wanted to get off the dam ship. The only place aboard ship where I felt at peace was lying in the kids' area hammock (negating the always present lateral and vertical movement) at night and watching the stars and satellites go by. On the downside, I found the captain and officers of the ship quite aloof and unfriendly. They did not return greetings nor interact with the general passenger population. I had the feeling that the passengers were secondary to the ship: I was cargo being transported from point A to point B. I really felt that the captain and crew would have been happier without passengers aboard. The highlight of being aboard ship was the courtesy and service of the Indonesian and Filipino crew members. I watched a significant number of the passengers treating the dining crew with disdain. The crew in general spoke English phrases but did not have a comprehension of the language. I saw that lead to discourteous passenger behavior. During my second day on the ship the man in front of me in the open serving line berated the dining crew member. All she did was continue smiling at him because she did not understand what he said. I did and I sailed into a cold argument with him until he left. In short, the pleasing ambiance of the cruise was highly diluted by the attitude of the captain and staff and the passengers themselves (median age was over 70 years of age). I spoke to many passengers aboard and we were the only first time cruisers I found. Most people averaged four to five cruises with one couple having completed 17 cruises! My husband and I concluded that we were not really cruisers. Both of us were distressed by the disconnect with the environment, including the ship itself. Personally, I wanted knowledge, not entertainment. Because of this experience, my next cruise will more than likely be through my college--where a professor is assigned to passengers to explain and discuss the environment. That type of cruise has value to me. Overall, I would recommend a HAL cruise. Now that I think I know what to expect--and do--I will probably return to the ms Zaandam for a short cruise as it has a home in my memories. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
My partner and I did the HAL E2S cruisetour from August 23 thru Sept. 4. This cruisetour allowed us to stay in Denali National Park at the end of the park road at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. I can't say how happy we were that we ... Read More
My partner and I did the HAL E2S cruisetour from August 23 thru Sept. 4. This cruisetour allowed us to stay in Denali National Park at the end of the park road at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. I can't say how happy we were that we selected this option, as staying in the park was exceptional. The Denali Backcountry Lodge was clean and comfortable. The food was quite good and the staff was very accommodating and helpful. We saw lots of wildlife on the way in and on the way out; got to see the big 5 (yes even a wolf). The highlight of the land tour was being able to hike inside Denali. We did guided hikes each morning with staff from the Backcountry Lodge, and hikes on our own each afternoon. We had exceptional weather that allowed us to see Mt. McKinley out in full view on two separate days! To get to the Denali Backcountry Lodge, we took the train from Fairbanks and then a bus (just like the park buses) into the Lodge. The train was very comfortable and the food (which you buy) was very good. The bus ride was long, but because you're looking for wildlife, and because the scenery is breathtaking, the time passes quickly. The bus ride in is very similar to the Tundra Wilderness tour, except it goes further into the park (right to the end) and you don't pay extra for it. The driver stops for all wildlife sightings and makes extra stops for bathroom and snack breaks. Again, I would highly recommend doing the land portion of your cruisetour this way if you're booking through HAL. Leaving the Backcountry Lodge, you take the bus out (which gives you another chance to view wildlife) and then we took the train to Anchorage. Again, train was comfortable and food was good. Stayed overnight at the Anchorage in Hilton which was fine. Next day took a bus to Seward and did the Kenai Fjord cruise as an excursion. This was a fun excursion. The weather was good and we saw whales, puffins, sea lions, porpoises and calving glaciers. The excursion ended and we were bussed less than a mile to the Zaandam. Boarding the Zaandam was quick and easy. We were on board in less than ten minutes. Went to our room, a veranda room and our bags were waiting for us. Because it was after 6:00 pm, we went up to the Lido deck for dinner. We set sail at 8:00 pm. Our cabin was quite clean and comfortable. The bathroom was a bit worn, but very clean and serviceable. The toilet and shower worked perfectly every day and really, what more do you need from your bathroom. The bed was very comfortable. As a matter of fact, the entire ship was clean and showed minimal signs of wear and tear. Imam, our cabin steward, was a sweetheart who took excellent care of our cabin and made it a point to try and meet our every need. First day of the cruise was a sea day. My partner and I had a couples massage in the spa. I'm sorry to say I can't recommend getting a message. Both of us felt as though the massages we received were probably the worst we've ever had. That, combined with the constant hard sell of products and spa services combined to make this a less than ideal experience. No matter, it didn't bother us in the least. We had purchased the well-being package prior to embarking on the cruise. The massages were included in the package, as was the thermal suite. After our massages, we went into the thermal suite to lounge on the heated chaises and soak in the mineral hot tub. It was quite relaxing. Had dinner at the Pinnacle Grill that night, which was formal night. The food and service in the Pinnacle Grill were both outstanding. Attended the singer/dancer show after dinner which was delightfully cruise shippy. It was a lot of fun! Day 2, Glacier Bay. We spent most of the day out on the deck or on our veranda, watching the scenery and glaciers. Got to see Margery (sp?) Glacier calve. It was a peaceful, relaxing day. Dinner in the MDR food and service both very good. The show was a magician who was quite good. Day 3, Haines. Disembarked after breakfast and walked around Haines for a couple of hours and did a little shopping. Haines is a quaint little town that seems more authentic (less touristy) than the bigger ports. Back onto the ship for lunch and then did the Wilderness Safari tour in the afternoon. This consisted of a boat ride to a small island or peninsula, a short hike to canoes and then a canoe trip to a glacier. It was amazing to see a glacier so close. The guides for this trip were top notch and it was a fun excursion. Day 4, Juneau. Breakfast than off for our Photo Safari by Land and Sea excursion. This was a great excursion. First we hiked (really more like a walk)to the visitor center at the Mendenhall Glacier. The view of the glacier was spectacular. The hike was pretty and the guide gave lots of photo tips and lots of info about the area. Then we went on a whale watch. Saw some whales and again, the scenery was spectacular. More photo tips from the guide and more info about the whales and their habits. I would highly recommend this excursion. After the excursion we had lunch at a local restaurant - halibut and chips - excellent! Did some shopping and back on the ship. Dinner in MDR - formal night. Day 5, Ketchikan. Breakfast and then off ship to do a little shopping in Ketchikan. Back to ship for lunch and then off on Snorkeling excursion. This was also a great excursion! You are outfitted with wetsuit, hood, booties and gloves and snorkeling gear. Yes, the water is cold, but the wetsuit keeps you pretty warm. I was fine and my partner, who is always cold, was one of the last ones out of the water. We saw brilliantly colored starfish and sea urchins and sea cucumbers and some fish - it was great. Back to the dock, a little more shopping and then back to the ship. Dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, excellent again, show was comedian who is a ventriloquist -- very funny! Day 6, Sea Day. Day 7, Disembark in Vancouver. All in all, this was a great ship and a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Personal Information Couple in our forties on our 1st cruise Live in Downtown Vancouver Both employed - Government jobs Travel to Port of Embarkation Took a cab that day because of the rain, would normally just walk to ... Read More
Personal Information Couple in our forties on our 1st cruise Live in Downtown Vancouver Both employed - Government jobs Travel to Port of Embarkation Took a cab that day because of the rain, would normally just walk to Canada Place Waterfront. It is about a 10 minute walk from our condo. Embarkation Holland America Zaandam We got there about 1:00 pm and there were huge lineups. It took about 45 minutes to get through. We didn't care as we were pretty excited. Stateroom We were in cabin 3389 - lower Promenade deck. Our cruise was almost ruined because of our lack of sleep caused by having to listen to the galley noise all night long. The galley was above on the 4th floor next to the Rotterdam Restaurant. We expected noise such the ship, people etc. This was unacceptable noise- just extreme and constant. Holland America is very aware of the hell their passengers go through when booked under the galley. And yet, they still book people there. I have seen reviews of this very problem from the year 2000. Surely they could try and soundproof the floors and have their staff wear soft soled shoes only. The carts rolled around like rolling thunder and the staff walked around all night. It sounded like bowling balls on top of your head. I begged to move, but they said the ship was full. It is apparent that the staff and the front desk are very used to dealing with the constant complaints regarding this stretch of cabins. They gave us earplugs but that did not help. Had we been on land, we would have moved hotels whether or not we received a refund. Here you are held captive on a ship. The PR person sent us a note saying they would "monitor the situation" So basically they have been "monitoring the situation" since the inception of the ship!! So disappointing for our 1st cruise. Needless to say, our last cruise with Holland America. Now that we understand the importance of cabin placement, this will not happen again. The not so funny thing is we were orignally booked on the Dolphin deck between two floors of cabins. Holland America moved us up to 3389. If we had stayed on the Dolphin all would have been well. We had dinner with people on the Dolphin deck who said it was very quiet. What an upgrade! Boy have we learned valuable lessons from this horror. Dining We opted for the anytime dining which worked well for us. We had been told that we could make reservations for this type of dining, but no one answered the phone when we called. I heard other complaining about the same thing. We didn't mind too much though. The food was very good. They had one vegetarian option on the menu each night,so that worked for me. My husband had steak and chicken. We dined at night in the Rotterdam Restaurant. We had room service in the morning in our cabin, it was excellent! Activities I had avoided going a cruise because everyone I talked had said they gained weight. I soon realized that did not have to happen. The Promenade Deck has a walkway made of teak wood. Beautiful surface to walk on. So, we walked and walked and walked! Four times around was a mile. We also did the flights of stairs as well. So needless to say, we gained nothing and got more exercise than ever. We also watched what we ate, and did not overeat at all. I know people go on cruises for the food, but we did enjoy enough of the tasty food. Staff and Service The staff is very friendly and welcoming on the ship. Our room attendant was wonderful. You don't have to tip because it is charged on your credit card at $11.00 per person per day. However we tipped because we wanted to. It did take a very long time and another call to receive a package of 6 beers to our room. After a half hour my husband called again. They did seem a little confused as to the order. But on the whole everyone was great. Entertainment We went to see the comedian - Sean O'Shea one night. Song and dance fellow - He was hilarious! We really enjoyed that. We also played slots at the casino. The only drawback is that smoking is allowed. So if you are non-smokers like us, you may be bothered by it. It was also allowed upstairs in the Crow's Nest, so we did not go up there at all. Shore Excursions The shore excursions were great. We had lots of time to explore the cities and return to the boat. Disembarkation We were told to be ready at certain time and were called to leave in order. It was so well organized and so quick to get off the ship. Really amazing. Summary We had a wonderful time with the exception of the cabin. Unfortunately being very sleep deprived does not add anything positive to a holiday. Make sure you pick your cabin and check the deck plans to make sure you don't have areas above you such as a galley. It is really unethical that these cabins are sold to anyone. Disgraceful! We have booked another cruise on Princess to LA in September. Booked directly through them and picked our room......and specified no upgrades.....live and learn! Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
My wife and I have planned our cruise to Alaska for several years. Originally it was a Double Denali! Well our checkbook convinced us to look at a more conservative plan. The bad? The food? Well, it was better than Golden Corral. The ... Read More
My wife and I have planned our cruise to Alaska for several years. Originally it was a Double Denali! Well our checkbook convinced us to look at a more conservative plan. The bad? The food? Well, it was better than Golden Corral. The ship? The emblems indicated the ship was either christened or re-furbed in 2000. It's time for another re-furb. Our room had a sewer smell, the stairway landings had fluid leaks (source unidentified) and there was an abundance of rust on the exterior edges surrounding the ship. Overall the condition of the ship would indicate 10+ years of heavy usage. The furniture and carpets showed lots of wear. The linens wear heavily worn. I know that expectations can be easily dashed and ours were. We had visions of plush, decadence. A common mans chance at feeling like a king. Instead of the experience of grandeur we experienced an RV experience of a low degree. Another issue was an inconsistent method of communicating with the passengers. One the disembarking instructions for the port of call were announced via ships PA then others they only gave you instructions in the nightly flyers outside your room. Then the cruise director managed to make me feel like a nuisance when I asked what was going on with the tenders in Sitka. Now let me tell you the good: The crew made us feel as if we had known each other for years. The dining room manage greeted us and escorted us to our table every meal. I felt that he genuinely took an interest in our well being. The wait staff while totally under staffed spoke and treated us with respect and courtesy. They never slacked off. Our room steward made sure our room was straightened every day and asked about the condition of my wife who was sea-sick most of the voyage. The small things helped overshadow the others. As I asked they provided a fresh bucket of ice every day at 4:00 PM. I was ecstatic over the towel creatures ( I know simple things for simple ... you know). We did our research and felt for our style Holland America was the best choice. We wanted a smaller ship, fewer children and our hope was that the food would be outstanding. The first two we got. The ports of call were great. We found that we would have rather had more time on shore to explore Alaska vs the stinky old ship. So, we have come to the conclusion we are not "Cruise People". On a more positive note: I recommend using Captain Jack and the Scania for a better than you can imagine whale watching in Juneau. Thank you Captain Jack. It was beyond our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.5 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 3.5 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 3.5 3.7
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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