1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
We have cruised over 30 times, but this was our first on HA. I had wanted to try HA, but had heard several times that they were boring. I wish I had listened. Since HA has so many good itineraries, we decided to give it a try on this 10N ... Read More
We have cruised over 30 times, but this was our first on HA. I had wanted to try HA, but had heard several times that they were boring. I wish I had listened. Since HA has so many good itineraries, we decided to give it a try on this 10N to NE/Canada. We booked about 2 weeks ahead and got a good price. Embarkation in FLL was a breeze and the easiest we have ever experienced. We booked an interior guarantee and were not told our cabin number until we checked in at the pier(we always book guarantees and have always been told almost as soon as we book our cabin number). Our cabin was fine, bigger than most interiors. It was on level one, and it was a sideway cabin. These are not the best because it is difficult to get into the closet, but otherwise it was fine. The ship seems to be in good shape. It is the smallest ship we have ever sailed on. It was very quiet and we never had to wait for elevators and we never had problems finding seats in the theater. At the taste kitchen you had to go early or there were no seats, also at the computer classes there were never any seats. The entertainment, or lack of, was one thing we disliked. It was BORING!! A typical day looked like it was full of activities until you see it was just sales pitches for acupuncture, jewelry sales, etc. There really was nothing to do on sea days. There were usually two trivia's a day, sometimes 3. A few computer/photo workshops. But, nothing that involved any fun really. There was a morning trivia, which we attended (we attended every trivia because there was nothing else to do). They did not even give a cheap trinket(pen, cards, magnet) for the winners!! That was shocking. The assistant cruise director, Nick, worked hard to make it fun. Tino, the cruise director, not so much. The other entertainment on the ship was rest home type. A few live music groups, but it was very sedate and could easily put you to sleep. There was a piano player, Styker, who was very good and personable, his shows were filled everynight. He was the only thing to do in the evening after the shows. They had an orange party to celebrate King's day...it was to be the funniest party ever........it was the WORST party ever. Boring, boring boring. They should take lessons on how NCL does their white hot party. The main shows were good for the most part. The stage band only joined the cruise on the 7th day. One the first day, on the main stage was a movie! Also on the last day......what kind of entertainment is that? Casino, save your money!! I never saw anyone win. There was no sailaway party, no game shows(one toward the end, totally boring), no dance instructions, nothing. Literally nothing to do at all. We ended up watching TV!!! That is a first on the cruise. Even then, they had Jaws on!! Jaws, over 35 year old movie!! Come on! The other big problem was the buffet. There was very little variety. The worst was at dinner, there would be long lines and one side of the buffet would be closed (they had to use it for their specialty restaurant that had maybe 10 people in it and make the other 200 people wait in line). One night to get a main course the line was 40 people long with one server! I complained to the manager in the dining room, he said it couldn't be helped. If they are going to insist on serving people instead of passengers serving themselves, they need to get more people to serve. I waited 25 minutes to get a salad!! Another problem with the buffet was the hours. They closed at 2pm, right when people are returning to the ship from shore. Finally, after many complaints I am sure, they kept a few areas open later, maybe 2:30, but then the lines were very long. The dive in hamburger place was good, but it was 20-30 minute wait after ordering. The taco bar was good, but it always was messy and unappealing to want to eat the food and the food was never to temperature. I am surprised we didn't get sick eating there. Then the buffet closed at 8pm! 8pm, really? Right when the show let out. So, if for some reason you wanted to see the show at 7pm, but didn't eat before the show because of the very long lines, there were no other options. I could not believe this. I complained to the hotel director in the notes left in the atrium. I never heard a thing from him or his staff. Why have the notes if you aren't going to address the problem? HA must really not care about customer service at all. There was a fire on the ship the second night. The captain came on at 1am to tell us about it. I thought he did a good job keeping us informed. We were not able to sail to Montreal, our final destination due to high water in the River and the ship could not safely sail under it. It was announced on Thursday at 5pm when we were about to sail away that we would be transported to Montreal via bus. The following day was a sea day and since we did not have internet it was hard to adjust our travel plans. I can understand not being able to sail, but it seems like the staff at guest services gave out different information to every passenger. We even got 3 different answers to the same question. So, it was frustrating to us to not know for sure what was happening and more stressful to have to get up at 4am, and take a bus to Montreal from Quebec. The port fees from Montreal were not reimbursed, which was also a first for me when missing ports and ports being replaced we have always been reimbursed. Needless to say, first and last HA cruise for us. It was all true what everyone said about HA...........boring, no fun and no customer service. I wish I would have spent my cruise money else where and will do so in the the future. You missed out HA, we cruise a lot, are young and have the money and time to cruise. See ya! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
We book the cruise from Ft Lauderdale Fl to Montreal with stops in Boston, Bar Harbour, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, and Quebec City. The Ship is a smaller vessel the rooms are good and the stewards are friendly and did a good job. ... Read More
We book the cruise from Ft Lauderdale Fl to Montreal with stops in Boston, Bar Harbour, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, and Quebec City. The Ship is a smaller vessel the rooms are good and the stewards are friendly and did a good job. The entertainment is also fairly good depending on your tastes. There was a couple comedians, a magician, movies as well as piano bar entertainer and Holland Americans regular entertainment events. The food was not up to the standards we expected. We experienced over cooked, undercooked, many variations on the menu. For example the menu would say polenta and we would be served white rice. The salad that was listed as beet and goat cheese had less than a teaspoon on goat cheese in it. The service in all food venues was lacking but especially in the Lido (buffet). Due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to go all the way to Montreal via ship so we were disembarked in Quebec. This we understood and accepted however we were required to be off the ship at 6am to bus to Montreal for a 4:30 pm flight. This left us in the Montreal airport for 8 hours. They did not offer any later departures from the ship to get us to Montreal. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
My review is written from this perspective: During our forty-two married years together my wife and I have previously cruised twenty-four times. We’ve been on Holland America four times already, plus multiple cruises on Royal Caribbean, ... Read More
My review is written from this perspective: During our forty-two married years together my wife and I have previously cruised twenty-four times. We’ve been on Holland America four times already, plus multiple cruises on Royal Caribbean, Windstar, Uniworld Europe River Cruises, and once on Oceania. We enjoy cruising, especially the at-sea days. We liked this itinerary for its two up-front at-sea northbound days from Fort Lauderdale as our opportunity to decompress from our everyday lives at home, plus the anticipated at-sea day towards the end of the cruise while watching the St. Lawrence shoreline glide past. Spoiler Alert: We had a really nice cruise! Embarkation & Disembarking: Getting on the ship in Fort Lauderdale was one of the most efficient and fast processes we’ve ever experienced. Even though we arrived a bit early for our posted boarding time, we were able to get right on the ship. A great start for our cruise. Disembarkation day was unusual. The St. Lawrence River was very high and overflowing its banks because of the combination of a late snow melt from the shoreline mountains together with recent heavy rains. That kept our ship from sailing from Quebec City to its final destination in Montreal because the ship couldn’t fit under a bridge between the two cities even at low tide. So we stayed moored in Quebec City overnight instead of moving on to Montreal. Holland America had to put all of us on coaches extra early on disembarkation day for the 3-hour ride to Montreal. We saw lots of flooding along the way to Montreal, but we arrived at the airport with minimal hassles. Good for Holland America, since they also had the nightmare of getting all of the incoming passengers transported from Montreal to meet the ship in Quebec City, too. The ship: ms Zaandam is looking terrific for being nineteen-years-old. I’m not sure when she had her last major refit/refurb, but there was hardly any rust anywhere on her exterior, and the interior and outside public spaces looked great. No worn-out seats, carpets, railings, decks, pools, etc. Well done Holland America. There was one surprise. On our first night, at 1:15 AM the ship’s emergency fire alarm blared loudly: “FIRE! Passengers remain in your cabins and await further instructions!”, which was given in that official loudspeaker voice we all heard at the mandatory lifeboats drill before we set sail. My wife and I could visualize all of the passengers and crew sitting bolt upright in their beds (like we did) waiting for the next announcement. Then there was a second announcement calling for the fire crew to report to a coded location. In another few minutes the captain came over the loudspeakers to announce the fire emergency was over. He said an unoccupied smoke-filled incinerator area had a detector that set off an alarm which was relayed to the ship’s bridge. The dispatched fire team discovered there was a fire in one of the incinerator’s “silos” (whatever that is), and the automatic steam fire extinguishers had quickly dealt with the problem. The captain apologized for the early morning “inconvenience”, said the crew had properly responded to the situation as they’d been trained, and then he said everyone could go back to sleep. He ended his speech by promising to give more information in his noon announcements later in the day (which he did). Passengers and crew had lots to talk about at breakfast, albeit sleepy-eyed. Our cabin: Excellent. We were fortunate to be able to book a Neptune suite on deck 7. It had lots of daylight from the wall-to-wall windows, with enough room for a sofa sitting area. There were plenty of closets and drawers, fresh/clean fabrics, carpets, and soft goods, a king bed, a vanity area, a fully-furnished mini bar, a big verandah with table/chairs and two lounge chairs, an efficient air conditioner/heater that we could set to our preference, and a nice bathroom with a brand-new-looking Jacuzzi-style tub and a toilet that flushed every single time. (Yay!). Our cabin stewards were excellent. We were never in need of anything for the whole cruise. The Neptune Lounge, reserved for Neptune and Pinnacle suites guests, was just down the corridor. It was a great place to get a snack, coffee, check email, read, socialize a bit with other passengers, have a drink from the honor bar before supper, or ask either one of the two excellent Concierges for assistance with anything simple or complex around the ship. We were definitely spoiled with our Neptune suite. Dining: Overall very good. The Pinnacle Grill (“PG”) was the single disappointment. Our incentive package included one PG supper which was to be scheduled at HAL’s discretion. At first we were surprised when we discovered our PG invitation/reservation was set for 7:00 PM on our departure/first day. After seeing “Pinnacle Grill 25% discount first night” coupons all over the ship when we boarded, though, we realized HAL must have a need to fill seats in the Pinnacle that first night, especially with those of us who had an incentive package visit. We’ve really enjoyed our Pinnacle Grill experiences as an upgrade/extra-cost treat on our prior HAL sailings, and that’s what we were anticipating this time, too. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. Although the room was nice, and the staff was friendly, the food wasn’t up to the “Wow!” quality we’d experienced before. Our filet mignon entrees were “okay”, but our side dishes weren’t served hot. That wouldn’t have been a problem if someone had come to check on us after our entrees were served, but nobody came back until our plates were being pulled at the end of our meal. It seemed as though the PG’s galley couldn’t keep up with what was required, which was surprising because the room was only half occupied when we were there. We politely thanked our servers as we left, but we never returned to the Pinnacle Grill for the remainder of our cruise for a supper (or for no-extra-charge breakfasts offered to suites guests). To be fair, the PG manager later heard of our experience that first night, and offered to comp us another supper to make up for it, but we chose not to return, mainly because we were more than happy with everything in the Main Dining Room. “Open seating” for supper in the Main Dining Room (“MDR”) initially seemed to be problematic when we first tried to phone in a 6:00 PM seating request for the night after our Pinnacle Grill supper. “Unavailable” we were told. When we showed up at the MDR check-in desk on deck 4 at 6:00 PM that evening, though, we were immediately seated at a 2-person table as requested. Our server, assistant, wine steward, floor manager, and food that evening were all excellent. On our way out of the MDR after this first supper we asked if we could be seated at the same table at approximately the same time every evening. “Absolutely” was the response. We enjoyed our suppers at the same table with the same staff every evening after that. What a terrific time we had. There seemed to be something on the changing daily menu for each of us, but even when there wasn’t, we always had the “available every day” alternatives. Our server, assistant, and wine steward were cordial, professional, conversational, and happy every single supper. They certainly made us feel special and welcome. Well done, MDR. The Lido Market was, well, a typical Lido. Always crowded, as anticipated on at-sea days, but even at breakfast and lunch on port days when we tried it. The food was good with a nice variety. There’s always the same passenger confusion on where to enter the buffet food service lines, but that’s to be expected. We enjoyed the made-to-order omelets and Belgian waffles at breakfast plus salads at lunch, and the soups and breads at lunch. The room seemed short-staffed for clearing tables and offering water/coffee/tea/lemonade/etc., but staff did their best. After a couple breakfasts here we decided to just awaken a bit earlier every morning, and we had really nice breakfasts served in the MDR. On this cruise we didn’t take advantage of any of the several other places around the ship to get food, or try around-the-clock in-cabin service. Maybe next time. Activities around the ship: We enjoyed most of the evening entertainment in the two-decks-high The Main Stage. Our MDR suppers were completed most nights in plenty of time for a leisurely stroll through the ship to the 8:00 PM shows. Get there before 7:30, though, if you want to easily find a pair of seats together. There was some of the usual, “These seats are saved” going on, with one person showing up to grab six or eight vacant seats together for their last-minute family/friends, but it wasn’t too bad. We didn’t make it to any of the well-attended lounges/clubs around the ship, although we did stop to enjoy the classical piano/violin duet one evening. Because we both brought our Kindles, after the evening entertainment in the main show room we instead read either in our cabin or in the Neptune lounge. The weather: We anticipated two seasons, a warm beginning at our embarkation in FL, and getting cooler as we sailed north. On our second at-sea day the huge sliding dome cover over the Lido pool was closed for the remainder of the cruise. Then it turned really cold, (upper 30s F to low 40s F) and windy (20-25 mph) beginning with our first port call in Boston, but every day had clear blue skies and full sun. At each port there was at least one local who told us it was the first time they’d seen the sun in weeks. Only our last port call in Quebec City was rainy. Our seas weren’t overly active, but the winds did blow pretty hard a couple of times, which gave the ship a gentle rocking motion which we enjoy. One overnight there was heavy fog, which meant the ship’s loud fog horn boomed every few minutes for hours on end, but only that one night. We were so lucky with the weather on this cruise. Ports and Shore Excursions: Holland America offered a good variety of (mostly-expensive) excursion choices in each port. We discovered beginning at our first port stop we were the very first cruise ship from any company sailing a US East Coast and Canada itinerary this “summer” season. That was both good and bad. The good: there were few crowds/tourists anywhere except for Boston, which is a busy city in any season, and in Bar Harbor it was really easy to find a warm jacket on winter clearance sale to wear on this cruise. The bad: everywhere other than Boston it was still “winter season”. That meant most store fronts and tourist/excursion sites were either still shuttered for the winter, were undergoing late-winter-delayed construction or just cleaning out the winter cobwebs and not ready for tourists, or they were significantly reduced to only a minimal operation compared to what was said to be available beginning in mid-May. For us, Boston was a fun day with lots to see and do on our own with hop-on-hop-off trolley tickets we’d purchased before the cruise. Our Bar Harbor excursion was cancelled by Holland America, but that was okay with us because we’d been there before, and we enjoyed just strolling around the Norman Rockwell-like streets while stopping in one of the local pubs for a delicious lobstah roll. Halifax was a very long day due to our choice of a 7-hour coach excursion to Peggy’s Cove (beautiful but mostly closed for our less-than-an-hour stop), Lunenberg (also a beautiful waterfront village but still mostly closed for the season during our hour-long stop), and Mahone Bay (beautiful, too, but really closed during our forty-minutes stop). In Sydney we went to the restored Louisbourg fortress which was historically interesting, but disappointing because only three of the many buildings were open, and only a small handful of reenactors were around. We absolutely loved the Charlottetown/Prince Edward Island excursion for its drive through rolling hills, expansive farmers’ fields, and the Anne of Green Gables House stop. Quebec City was interesting even in the rain. On our walking excursion around both the old and new parts of the city there was a constant drone of loud construction and traffic noise, along with competing noise from other early-season tourist groups. It was impossible to hear our excursion guide, but it was still an interesting port stop. Conclusion: If you’ve survived to the end of this too-long review, you’ve seen why overall we had another great cruise experience. Zaandam and her crew/staff were top notch, and this itinerary had interesting ports. Will we be more aware of the potential good and bad characteristics of a “shoulder season” cruise in the future? Yep. And we’ll certainly cruise with Holland America again. Cheers! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2018
My first cruise!...And the first question asked by almost every other passenger we visited with was “How do you like cruising so far?” My honest answer each time was “What’s not to love?” ...Start every day with coffee delivered ... Read More
My first cruise!...And the first question asked by almost every other passenger we visited with was “How do you like cruising so far?” My honest answer each time was “What’s not to love?” ...Start every day with coffee delivered to your room; go up a couple of decks to find a huge selection of breakfast items; return to your room to find your bed made; check your newsletter for what you’d like to do today; stay onboard or disembark depending on where you are but at lunchtime onboard there is always a ton of food choices; enjoy a lecture or movie, go in the pool, spa, etc.; dinner is another huge selection of food options and venues, too; and after some entertainment and maybe a cocktail in one of the many lounges you return to your room to find a turned down bed with a mint on your pillow! “What’s not to love!?” Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
We've always wanted to do the Panama transit and Curacao has been on our bucket list for a very long time. Overall, the cruise was pretty good. The crew were amazing!!! The ship is a little smaller so we got to know a lot of our ... Read More
We've always wanted to do the Panama transit and Curacao has been on our bucket list for a very long time. Overall, the cruise was pretty good. The crew were amazing!!! The ship is a little smaller so we got to know a lot of our fellow passengers and it was easy to get around. We really enjoyed the Lido for the late night snacks opportunities. The food is always amazing on HAL but this cruise had WAY too much kale/Swiss chard. Every single meal had this greenery. Blecght! We realize the ship had just come out of dry dock so there were some issues, but the worst of it was the plumbing. Pipes were rupturing and MANY toilets were overflowing or plugged. We were lucky and only had one "plugged" moment towards the end of our trip. Our friends had to move cabins 3 times due to overflowing toilets, leaving sewage on their cabin floors. Another woman, with mobility issues, was told to use the toilets near the library as her cabin toilet wasn't working. Great idea except the toilets near the library were NOT working and overflowing water constantly. Overall we had a great time but the plumbing issues all over the ship were problematic. The entertainment in the theatre was terrible - lackluster, amateurish, repetitive. The crew shows were absolutely fantastic! The dancers and singers were horrible. We walked out of all shows. We really were hoping that we'd see more crew shows as they were truly great. Very talented!! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
Spouse wanted to transit Panama Canal and this cruise was the right time, ports and price. However we found out Zaandam was coming out of dry dock for this cruise from Cruise Critic, not HAL. It was not ready. Our cabin reeked of ... Read More
Spouse wanted to transit Panama Canal and this cruise was the right time, ports and price. However we found out Zaandam was coming out of dry dock for this cruise from Cruise Critic, not HAL. It was not ready. Our cabin reeked of construction adhesive for the while 23 days as the bathroom had been completely remodelled (looked great, smelled horrible but love the new shower which replaced the tub). The ventilation was hanging and the floor was covered with lumps of adhesive. A fine coating of dust covered the flat surfaces in the room, especially in the closets. Our toilet had issues of flushing fine and then overfilling, once flowing into the bathroom and flooding into the cabin. This seemed to be an issue in port. We became paranoid and would count to 5 once the flush took place to insure the overflow situation did not happen again so we could call immediately, although our phone did not always work. The service in the main dining room was at best uneven. We spent many evenings at a table for 6 at anytime dining waiting for the main course to be served. It did not appear to have enough staff in the dining room. Waiters seemed to have 6-8 tables to work on by themselves with no staff to assist. Food was uneven. My lobster on the first gala night was undercooked but rather than wait another half hour for a new one and delay my dining partners, I said it wasn’t cooked. The Lido Market food was also just okay. The fresh items, such as salads and Asian food, were fresh and flavourful as were the cooked veggies, but the other offerings were hit and miss. Trying to figure out hiw to get served was frustrating as lines were often confusing and non existent, if the server liked you or knew you, they would serve you, otherwise you could get told to go back to the end of what appeared to be an arbitrary line. At least a few times I had to go back to the meat line when all I wanted were sides. With no signage, it was confusing. The cruise director, who was moving to a new ship after this cruise was rarely present at the events we attended other than the beginning of the nightly shows. It wasn’t like many activities were ongoing during the day aside from an evening trivia which was emceed by the assistant cruise director as were most of the sports events. Cruise director seemed to loosen up toward the end of the cruise. The activities such as America’s test kitchen or nightly shows were okay, but once we reached San Diego started repeating for the last 6 days of the cruise. We had expected better. The singers and dancers were good but we had expected to see them more often. The galley tour and backstage tours were nice additions as we the coffee talks with members of the crew. The port talks were informative to a point but outside the venue, the person seemed somewhat disinterested in talking. No pool games aside from ‘swimming in the Panama Canal’. Celebrating Kings day was a disorganised mess at tea when many more people than expected showed up. I evnturally left. Shore excursions were as always overpriced with more time spent on the bus than at the activity. The where when which told the daily activities often had errors as did the online Navigator version for use on a cell phone. This free service allowed texting with others on the ship as well as access to the bill and NY Times for free. A nice try, but inaccuracies meant I often missed the start of activities. I really liked Curacao, (where we booked an independent tuk-tuk tour), Hualtuco (with a beach right off the ship and great snorkelling nearby), and Manzanilla, (with a great fresh produce/meat market within walking distance) best. We skipped Nicaragua due to political unrest which was fine. We did SAN Diego, SAN Francisco and Vancouver on our own and had a great time. The docks in these cities were close to local transportation. The gym was great with what appeared to be new equipment, except for mats. Pilates, yoga and cycling classes at $12 each were available but not for my pocketbook. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
This was our first cruise on HAL. I had pretty high expectations and was not disappointed. Embarkation was late starting due to Coast Guard not having cleared the ship. We learned it was just returning from dry dock and required Coast ... Read More
This was our first cruise on HAL. I had pretty high expectations and was not disappointed. Embarkation was late starting due to Coast Guard not having cleared the ship. We learned it was just returning from dry dock and required Coast Guard inspection. There was not too much of a delay and embarkation went smoothly. Dry dock refurbishment updated the ship with brand new carpets, upholstery, decking, beds, and decor features. It was beautiful. First thing we noticed were fresh flower bouquets everywhere and orchids on all the tables. There was an air of elegance throughout. There were a few glitches and some took a couple of days to get fixed, but the crew was "on it" and even some of the dry dock crew remained on board to complete the last details. The plumbing in our room did not work - toilet or shower. Sink worked with low water pressure. A talk to maintenence officer in the hallway got the water on almost immediately. Water pressure in sink resolved after two days, but not a real problem. Air conditioning was sporatic for a couple of days, but not unbearable and it, too, got fixed. At least in our room and public rooms. Nice touches were apparent throughout the cruise. The food in the MDR and Lido exceeded expectations. The service really stood out as superb. The crew seemed happy and eager to please. The itinerary was just what we wanted, second time through the canal with visits for four new ports for us: Cartegena Colombia, Corinto Nicaragua, Puerto Quetzal Guatemala, and Puerto Chiapas MX. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
The rating of this ship is generous according to reviews. Service was awful to non existing. Out of 14 nights in dining room my husband only had one night where his iced tea or water was refilled. Gone are the days where customers ... Read More
The rating of this ship is generous according to reviews. Service was awful to non existing. Out of 14 nights in dining room my husband only had one night where his iced tea or water was refilled. Gone are the days where customers mattered. Asked for condiments when I ordered dinner so I would have them. Never came with dinner either. Again, ignored and didn't give a damn for their customers. Worse cruise I have been on. As a seasoned cruiser we know the difference. Every thing is a cost center and they don't work too well. Pinnacle specialty dinning was no different. Nothing special there!!! Lamb chops were too fatty to consume and Steak was way over cooked after ordering Rare came well done with no pink at all. Got two horrible meals with no reimbursements and they didn't even care if we ever came back. Should have offered a try again to "win" us over and satisfy their customer but did not bother! Still charged the $29.00 up charge. Went away hungry and dissatisfied. Not good if you want to keep clients coming back. One review is one thing, but every evening was the same. Food not prepared as ordered and server never did call backs or cared if we were satisfied. Many meals were delivered and thrown in front of us. I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly would not serve rotten fruit in an appetizer. I would not serve what I would not eat!!!! Waiter never bothered to even look at what he was serving and had many meals messed up between different people at the same table. This was a Wow moment for us. And we won't ever do that one again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
We have about a dozen cruises...eight of which have been on Holland America...three of which have been 30-day cruises. We are inveterate researchers and try to get the most out of each port opportunity. We had not previously been through ... Read More
We have about a dozen cruises...eight of which have been on Holland America...three of which have been 30-day cruises. We are inveterate researchers and try to get the most out of each port opportunity. We had not previously been through the Panama Canal...but had been to about half of the South America ports we visited. We had not previously sailed on MS Zaandam and she had just come out of dry dock the day before our sail date. There was still a large group of dry dock workers who sailed with us on the first half of this "connector cruise" (from Ft Lauderdale to Valparaiso), continuing to work on the ship as we sailed. As one would (or should) expect...there were some "growing pains" as the first days of the trip were essentially a shakedown cruise for the repairs and also for the crew...many of whom were new on the ship. This condition was most noticeable in many air conditioning/heating glitches reported, plumbing difficulties, and service snafus. However, things smoothed out as the cruise continued and both the ship and the crew "got in the groove". The Zaandam is certainly starting to show her age, though still a pleasant enough décor and ambiance. We are particular fans of the Exploration Café/Lounge and the library on HAL ships. It is a great place to hangout, and the library is well-stocked for a long cruise. Like the ship, the demographics of the guests on board were also skewed dramatically toward the mature side...more so than we have experienced on previous cruises. This demographic tends to influence the feeling of all functions and activities on and off the ship. Activities on this cruise were very typical of those of all the Holland America cruises we have taken...they are focused toward a more mature crowd. This includes the HAL Cats, the Adagio Strings, the Neptunes, and the piano player. We are fans of the Culinary Arts Center feature of HAL ships. Most activities are low key...including the "Olympics". There are lots of participants in the variety of trivia contests that take place nearly daily. Service was sporadic at first (see comments about ramp up coming out of dry dock), but settled into a nice routine. The crew and staff were uniformly enthusiastic and friendly and committed to doing their best to satisfy the needs and desires of the guests. This was especially true of the Lido restaurant staff, which one of the best groups we have seen. Our room stewards did a good job, but they were SWAMPED!! Our pair had over thirty rooms to maintain. It is impossible to maintain the formerly experienced personalized service with this kind of work load. We always book cruises based upon itinerary...rather than cruise line or ship. This was no exception. We were amazed by the engineering feat of the Panama Canal and spent nearly the entire day on exterior decks trying to take in as much of passage as we could. As mentioned earlier, we are extensive researchers and tend to book independent excursions as we try as often as we can to book "private" tours--with just two people. We were a little surprised by the amount of grumbling at the South American ports...primarily because almost all of the ports were "closed" ports (usually dual use--cargo and passenger), so one could not "walk off" the pier--but rather had to take a shuttle bus to the pier entrance. This led to a lot of confusion and griping--and Holland America did not handle the situation well in the first few ports. However, the complaints got through and they did a better job on the last several ports. I was also surprised by the large number of guests who apparently had done NO prior research or investigation into the ports of call and therefore had no idea what to expect or do in any given port. Several of the ports we visited were particularly uninviting from the ship/pier...with little or nothing to do pier side and were uninviting visually (stark and deserted). However, we were able to find several options at each port that intrigued us...though it was necessary to make arrangements in advance, as in several of the ports it was virtually impossible to book any kind of an excursion pier side. We made highly unexpected discoveries in Manta, Ecuador; Trujillo, Peru, and Arica, Chile that were in many ways the high points of our cruise. Our cabin was 3353 on the Lower Promenade (walking deck). We enjoy walking on the promenade deck and often select cabins on this deck. Our cabin was typical of others, slightly smaller than some other ocean view cabins on other decks because of the promenade. However, it had plenty of space for us including ample closet and storage space. We always like having both a shower and a bathtub. Other than some initial air conditioning issues (apparently a factor from the dry dock), we had no problems or issues with our cabin. We elected "open dining" as we prefer to meet a variety of people on the cruise and this is a good way to do that. The dining room food was uniformly excellent and well presented. I am always amazed at how they can serve this quality of food on this scale under the extremely cramped conditions aboard ship. The dining room stewards did not seem to be up to the standards of our previous cruises and I am not sure if it was a product of lack or training/experience or also impacted by the dry dock layoff. We were disappointed by the service of the wine stewards and sommelier (as we enjoy wine). The service (and personality) of the stewards and sommelier were distinctly lower than previous experiences and made a noticeable impact on our enjoyment of the dining experience. Entertainment was about the standard we have experienced on previous cruises. We are ambivalent about attending the entertainment events (which could be a reflection on the quality). HOWEVER, the HAL Singer and Dancers that performed the Broadway style stage productions on board were without a doubt the best we have seen in any of our prior cruises. There were no weak links in the group and we looked forward to attending each of their productions. Good job. Disembarkation in Buenos Aires was a drawn out affair because of the need to bus passengers from the ship to the terminal building--and as "independent" travelers we were some of the last to debark. As in most cases, patience goes a long ways in these situations and everything went very smoothly once our group was called. In summary, we had a great cruise with only minor hiccups along the way. HAL maintained their steady performance of providing a somewhat upscale experience at a reasonable price. We were able to visit some remote and largely unknown ports of call, which added to the experience. If you want to do something a little out of the ordinary with unique experiences possible (if you take the initiative to arrange them)--this is the cruise for you. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2006
We have talked about doing a Panama Canal cruise for a long time, wo we looked forward with great anticipation to our 17-day east to west transit aboard Holland America's Zaandam. I was just a little concerned about spending such a ... Read More
We have talked about doing a Panama Canal cruise for a long time, wo we looked forward with great anticipation to our 17-day east to west transit aboard Holland America's Zaandam. I was just a little concerned about spending such a long time on one ship, but as it turns out, there is evidently no end to the amount of pampering I can put up with. Packing for such a long trip was tricky, however. This was our fourth cruise and the third with Holland America, having sailed on the Maasdam and Statendam before. We immediately felt very much at home on the Zaandam as it is a lot like the others we had been on. We like the smaller yet less crowded feel of that class of HAL ships. Embarkation was complicated by some kind of computer malfunction, but passengers and staff alike remained cheerful. We were among the first passengers to board, so things may have gotten a little testy later on. Our room was not quite ready. Only one robe was available, and we suspect it was one left from the previous passenger. The famous little bowl of fruit was not there. We later found out from our room steward that there had been a changeover, and he was very apologetic for the lapses. One major disappointment was finding that we had been assigned "Lower Main Seating" in the dining room at 8:30. We immediately went to speak to the Maitre D' and literally had to "take a number". When our turn came, he graciously assured us he would "do everything he could" to respect our request--the same thing he told dozens of other people. We booked five months in advance, and had just assumed we would get what we wanted! We've always eaten at an earlier seating before. Later we actually talked to several people who were at the earlier seating and had not requested it. Many people never eat in the dining room, and it seems wrong to have empty tables sitting there when there were so many who much preferred eating earlier. It was kind of amusing to hear everyone standing around grumbling about the late hour each evening right before the doors opened at 8:30. As it happens, there were a few advantages to eating later--including having a nice long afternoon to enjoy an ice cream cone by the pool and still having plenty of time to get dressed for dinner. And we were lucky to have very pleasant dinner companions. So we ended up eating in the dining room almost every night. Since the complete transit of the Canal is not one of the more routine itineraries, I won't try to give a day-by-day critique, or even port-by-port. I will just say that every port was interesting and beautiful in its own way. And the day spent going through the Canal itself was fascinating from dawn to dusk. A list of the "high points" would have to include the day at beautiful Half Moon Cay, HAL's "Private Island" in the Bahamas. The beach is just unbelievably clean and white and the water is that luminous turquoise color of the Caribbean. There were bright flowers everywhere, and a barbecue lunch was efficiently served in a pavilion just back a ways from the beach. We did our own thing in Puerto Rico and found much to see and do within short walking distance of the ship's dock. One of my favorite moments was standing on the deck as we sailed away from Puerto Rico at midnight, gliding past the lights of "Old Town" and the ancient El Morro fort. Another memorable "sail away" was spent in the Crow's Nest Bar at sunset as the ship did a 380 degree turn leaving the harbor at Puntarenus, Costa Rica. A member of the Crow's Nest Band played soft "New Agey" music as we watched the panorama of shore and rocky islands go slowly past until we were turned to sail directly into the sunset. We also often enjoyed having predinner drinks and hors d'oeuvres in the Explorer's Lounge listening to live strings and piano. To me, it's those "little moments" that make a cruise such a wonderful vacation. I have read some critical comments about the shows on Holland America, but I have to say that we enjoyed each of all 17 evenings. The line-up included three "full-out" singing and dancing shows featuring a very talented group. Then the official on-board orchestra provided live back-up for a variety of other musicians as well as comedians, magicians and other performers. The "Mondriaan Lounge" theater is, to me, the most beautiful of the three HAL ships we've been on. Almost every seat has a good view of the stage. Another small "advantage" of late seating in the dining room is that the lounge was almost never crowded for our shows. We were a little disappointed with the piano bar on the Zaandam. The way it was laid out was kind of like a wide spot in the promenade--very open. And the pianist didn't seem to get much participation from the people around him, but rather was more of a "performer". I've been in piano bars on other ships that had more of a cozy, intimate feel where people could interact and sing along. The food was almost always very good, with plenty of choices for each meal. My husband was a little critical of the lack of variety at the Asian station at the Lido for lunch. Service at the Lido Buffet was courteous and efficient, and lines didn't get too long. However, sometimes the people just ahead of us seemed awfully slow. But that's just the way buffet goes, I guess. All in all, it was a wonderful cruise. Holland America is known for the little touches like fresh flowers everywhere. The wait staff is outstandingly pleasant and friendly, and everything is kept sparkling clean. We hope to sail with HAL again, soon, and wouldn't mind a bit if it was on the Zaandam. Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.0 0.0
Service 3.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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