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Sail Date: April 2012
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home ... Read More
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home to the pier. We booked this cruise through an local agent.On the day of embarkation we met the guide at the pier. Before we checked in we had to carry our luggages to the rear of the pier for collection which is quite a walk. Then we went upstair for checkin. The was a long que and the process took about 30 minutes. The room was ready when we were on board. We booked an outside but were upgraded to a veranda. The cabin was spacious ,similar to the Westerdam we were on 2 years ago. The bathroom was big with a full bathtub. After we unpacked we went to Lido for some food.It was difficult to find a table. The ship was chartered by the Japanese and 90% of the passengers were Japanese. Even the announcements were in English and Japanese. It was a direct cruise from Hong Kong to Kobe without visiting any port. Food in Lido was good. Lots of variations, international and Japanese. However food in MDR was mediocre, cannot compare with Celebrity. But our waiter from Indonisia was excellent. One setback about HAL is their entertainment. We did go the shows every night but found that they are very amateur. I almost fell asleep. The second day we were hit by a big storm with 60mph wind and 8meter wave. About half of the passengers were sick. It lasted for over 10 hours. Surprisingly there was no announcement from the captain. It was pretty bad as we couldn't even walk without holding the wall. I used the gym every day. It is quite spacious with adequate equipments and not crowded. There were 2 ping pong tables and my son spent a lot of time playing with other kids. Zaandam is an old ship but it was kept very well and very clean.We could hardly notice any wear and tear. I was told it will be refitted this Octobein in Vancouver. Disembarkation was a breeze but getting through Japanese immigration was a nightmare.They have only one line for foreigners and it was extremely long. We stayed in Kobe and Osaka for 2 more nights, did sightseeing and flew back to Hong Kong. All in all we enjoyed Zaandam. We loved the library, the pool and the basketball court. All the staffs were so friendly and always with a smile. We definitely will go back if the itinerary is attractive. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Our trip began in Hong Kong after a long flight from Kansas City. We added the extra night at Holland America's hotel of choice which was a great hotel but we were there for a very short time due to travel time that it hardly seemed ... Read More
Our trip began in Hong Kong after a long flight from Kansas City. We added the extra night at Holland America's hotel of choice which was a great hotel but we were there for a very short time due to travel time that it hardly seemed worthwhile. We were at the hotel by midnight and left to go to the ship at noon the next day. Comment about the Zaandam: We think that Holland America and the ship personnel would agree that the ship needs some work to restore and update the ship. A lot of rust, faded carpet in common areas, plumbing issues, safe malfunction, dated decorations, etc. We think that it is scheduled for dry dock in several months... good deal! We loved the size and format of the ship due to it being easy to get around with only 1500 passengers it was not crowded in any of the common areas. The deluxe veranda suite had a awesome veranda. The concierge at the Neptune Lounge could not keep my traveling partner and spouse separate from us so he was constantly referring to me as him and mixing our arrangements. It got more than a little annoying after a awhile. Room Service didn't seem to talk to the concierge very well so our orders for appetizers were mixed up several times. Comments about the Holland America 14 day Asia Explorer itinerary: We enjoyed the itinerary going to Halong Bay in Vietnam, then Sanya, Hanien island China, Nha Trang, Vietnam, My Phu, Vietnam, Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Laem Chabang,(Bangkok), Thailand, Koh Samoi, Thailand, Singapore, Singapore. All of the ports were very interesting with much to see and do. A bit crowded from a Midwesterner's viewpoint but very negotiable. We went on Holland America tours in all of the ports except Saigon, Bangkok, and Singapore. The boat ride and cave in Halong Bay was exceptional. The key sights in Sanya tour was drawm out too long... the tour could have ended after 4 hours instead of the scheduled 7 hours. Nha Trang city tour was great a nice mix of temples, beach, and city tour. Not much to see in Sihanoukville, Cambodia if you are not interested in coconuts, suggest making this a beach day. The elephant village was touristy but very much fun and we wouldn't miss the elephant ride... also a very nice lunch. In the other ports of Saigon, Bangkok, and Singapore we utilized a private guide with a van and driver. This went very well and allowed us to see the sights that we wanted to see at our own pace. The driver usually was able to pick us up at the sight with very little waiting and queuing so familiar to a bus tour. The guide were knowledgeable and spoke good English. The vans were great except for the one in Singapore which was totally unacceptable, due to size and lack of visibility. These tours were arranged by ReadyClickandGo.com. This is a Great Britain company which contracts the guides and vehicle with local companies. This worked OK but I would recommend also talking to the local company representatives to manage the details. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Talking to fellow cruisers as we were transferred from the airport in Hong Kong we felt that the ship was going to be sparkly and exciting, a big step up from our previous cruises (that were both excellent) with Thompsons. Embarkation was ... Read More
Talking to fellow cruisers as we were transferred from the airport in Hong Kong we felt that the ship was going to be sparkly and exciting, a big step up from our previous cruises (that were both excellent) with Thompsons. Embarkation was fast and efficient, but the initial impression of the ship was poor. We were due to sail at 11pm on the following evening, nothing happened till about 12:30 am as some Russians had not cleared customs. Then an extra port charge was added to everyone's onboard account!!! Was this because we had overstayed our time in Hong Kong because of the Russians? I wonder!! Other people have mentioned the cold - we were too hot, obviously the heating had been turned up too far by the time the ship was back in Hong Kong. Others have also mentioned the drabness and overall run down appearance of the ship, I totally agree. They have also mentioned the unexciting menus. I will add that I had always thought you were able to eat whenever you wanted 24 hours a day on a cruise. Not so on this ship. Unless you wanted burgers, cake or ice cream you had no chance as the main dining room closed at 9:30 in the evening for anytime diners, and the Lido closed its hot buffet section at 8pm. Also if you came back onto the ship mid afternoon expecting to get a late lunch the same limited choice was all that was available. The menu changed little from day to day and meat was often well undercooked even if requested as well done.We felt that entertainment could and should have been of a far higher standard. Guest entertainers were excellent, but only performed for about 3/4 of an hour at most so really should have been part of the night's show not the only act. The ship's own singer/dance troupe were very poor, often seeming to mime and when they appeared to be really singing were very out of tune. There was no glamour or glitz to these shows. The best shows were by the Vietnamese artists and the Indonesian staff. Entertainment during the day, even on days at sea was too specialised and had to be hunted down. The band playing on the Lido deck were good, but it was far too hot and humid to sit in there for long. We enjoyed the destinations though many excursions were badly organized as far as getting off the ship to the coach was concerned. The staff at the Front Office did not seem to care or want to help anyone in any way, and there was often a queue of people complaining about something. On the final day our transfer from the port in Singapore to the hotel room we had at the airport was unbelievably bad. We had pink 1 labels, our cases went in the truck labeled pink 1. We were going to The Crown Plaza Hotel at TERMINAL 3. We found the coach with the label for this hotel, sat on it for over half an hour as those in charge rushed around aimlessly. We were then told it was not our coach. The coach we were on was in fact blue 2 (no label to tell us that) so we had to get off and eventually found the right coach(that had no label at al) We were then dropped at Terminal 1 and had to pick up our own cases and get ourselves to the hotel in Terminal 3!!! Such wonderful service and organization has made us decide never to even think about Holland America Cruise Line ever again. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
We have taken several cruises, all in different parts of the world, as we like to cruise to enjoy different cultures. We arrived in Hong Kong a few days before the cruise and stayed in the very convenient Marco Polo Hotel right at the ... Read More
We have taken several cruises, all in different parts of the world, as we like to cruise to enjoy different cultures. We arrived in Hong Kong a few days before the cruise and stayed in the very convenient Marco Polo Hotel right at the cruise terminal. On the morning of embarkation, we arrived at the terminal at 10.30am to find they were already opening up. We were among the first passengers to embark and were on the ship before 11am, in our cabin by 11.30 and shortly afterwards in the dining room enjoying the Marine's Welcome back lunch. The ship sailed 30 minutes late at 11.30pm the following evening due to some Russsian guests not understanding the immigration announcements, but it was a spectacular sail out of the Harbour and the mist that had been around for the last few days cleared so that we could see the lights. The demographics of the passengers on this cruise was different to previous HAL cruises. On the whole, the age group was a lot younger than normal....We in our 60's felt we were some of the older passengers. There were also a lot less US passengers. I believe the makeup of the passengers was approx 500 from UK, 250 Australians, 200 Canadians, and 150 from US, a Russian group and the rest was made up of various nationalities. We chose a verandah stateroom this cruise on the Starboard side...so that land would be on our side most of the time. Our cabin was under the overhang of the Lido, which turned out well as the weather was very hot, so it provided some shade. However, we are not people to sit for long...there is always something interesting to see or do! We have previously cruised on several other HAL ships, and really enjoyed the Zaandam. It was immaculately clean...the crew work 24hours day to keep it that way. We loved the decor of the ship, felt it was very tasteful...the music theme continuing throughout the ship with many valuable relics. We felt that the food on this ship was up with the best we have had on a Holland America Line ship...it was always fresh and served hot in the Main Dining room where we had fixed late dining at a table for two, which we requested when booking. We always feel that if you are hungry on a cruise it is your own fault as there is always somewhere to eat, and plenty of variety!! The crew as always were amazing! Always smiling and helpful. Special mention this cruise to the Front Office staff who were incredibly busy, as there were always long lines of people waiting to change money for the many countries this cruise visited. There always seemed to be a few people there to complain too! I am really not sure what about because we certainly did not find anything to complain about. Our only slightly negative observation was that we didn't feel that the Travel guide on this cruise was as knowledgeable about the ports as she could have been. We did not attend many shows as we have late dinner and after a big day in port 10pm was just too late for us! However the group that was brought on in Saigon for the Vietnamese show were fantastic. We did attend Trivia most days, and did very well with our International team! We did enjoy the ports. However as we have travelled in Asia on land quite extensively before, we did not do any excursions other than the ship's transfers into Bangkok and Saigon. We enjoyed our time wandering, particularly in the local markets. One port that we especially enjoyed was Sanya in China. The shuttle dropped us at an exclusive shopping centre that we had no interest in. However on the way we had seen what looked like a fair or market with several large marquees and many red balloons. It was about 2 km back so we decided to walk back to it as we love seeing local events. It turned out to be some sort of Chinese expo and was great fun see all the demonstrations of products! We even bought a few!! Sihanoukville in Cambodia was another new place for us and after walking around the market, we negotiated with one of the very persistent Tuk tuk drivers who gave us a wonderful tour for over an hour into the countryside and to many of the main sites of the town. The other ports we visited were Halong Bay and Saigon in Vietnam, Bangkok and Koh Sanui in Thailand before arriving in Singapore. Disembarkation went as efficiently as the rest of the cruise, and we stayed in Singapore for a few days afterwards. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
We joined Zaandam in Hong Kong. Departure was delayed by 2 hours because a few Russians on board could not understand English & therefore did not go to immigration clearance. After 2 hours of broadcasts looking for those guest the ... Read More
We joined Zaandam in Hong Kong. Departure was delayed by 2 hours because a few Russians on board could not understand English & therefore did not go to immigration clearance. After 2 hours of broadcasts looking for those guest the officials decided to translate the message in Russian & only then we finally set sail. They knew which room numbers were missing, surely they could have made the broadcasts in Russian earlier. In our stateroom on arrival was a notice warning of a vomiting bug on the ship. The sewerage smell mainly on deck 3 was disgusting. This went on for about 7 days. Complaining from numerous passengers got us no where. My husband ended up with a sinus infection & consulted the Doctor onboard, $95.00 USD later & then another $70.00 USD for 14 antibiotic tables ie $5.00 USD per tablet. Absolute daylight robbery. He ordered room service for dinner one night he was particularly sick & it took over 1 hour to arrive cold. No refrigerators in rooms either. Rubber matting to avoid slipping around the pool was way to short. Numerous falls. One lady even broke her ankle. On the whole the food was very plain & mostly cold as was the coffee. Coffee was really only available at the Lido which is 5 levels up or you could purchase it on one of the lower decks. Air-conditioning was either freezing or hot. Stage shows obviously designed for people over 70. Guest artist were good though. Wait staff & room attendants were great. But we will never sail with Holland America Again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
My wife and I both active seniors were extremely disappointed with the ship and many aspects of the cruise. In our opinion Holland America is no longer a "Premium" line and should cease advertising itself as one! The cruise was ... Read More
My wife and I both active seniors were extremely disappointed with the ship and many aspects of the cruise. In our opinion Holland America is no longer a "Premium" line and should cease advertising itself as one! The cruise was my seventh on HAL and will likely be my last on this line! The ship is in very poor condition, generally dirty, carpets threadbare and badly stained in places. Our stateroom suffered at various time during the voyage from, no heat, no water, no hot water, no toilet, unserviceable DVD player and at times a very bad sewage smell. Bed linen was was worn and at times stained. The whole ship badly needs a refit which apparently is scheduled for October of this year. Our cabin stewards were excellent and made every effort to please and to ensure our comfort. The Indonesian crew members continue to be HAL's best asset. The deck chairs and chez lounges were very dirty and during the whole time aboard the Zaandam I did not anyone cleaning them. The chairs were carefully stacked and secured each night but never cleaned!The food on the ship was at best mediocre. It appears that the food budget continues to be reduced for we sailed last year on the Rotterdam with the same Executive Chef and enjoyed excellent food. Food in the Dining Room was often received cold and the service sometimes good and sometimes poor. I understand that the staff levels had been reduced which might explain the sometimes poor service. The menu was repeated on the second segment of the voyage and became repetitive. The choice of fruit and vegetables was limited, green beans were served night after night! Food handling in the Lido Restaurant should be improved. I saw a number of times under cooked and bloody beef being cut on the same board as chicken and pork and with the same knife. Entertainment was generally of a poor standard in our opinion. I was disappointed to find that there were no educational lectures provided on this cruise, no doubt another cost cutting measure. Too bad really, for we were sailing in an area rich in history and culture. The offered enrichment of "How to decorate your HAL tote bag" and similar was hardly a substitute. The Shore Excursion Department left a lot to be desired. There seemed to be a total lack of organisation and information on the ports visited was lacking in useful detail. The tours we took we found to be overly expensive for what was offered. There was one exception however,the Orchid Sheraton Hotel in Bangkokprovided the best meal of whole cruise! The very limited 'Happy Hour", in one bar, for one hour, at between 4.00 pm and 5.00 pm now charges one dollar for the second drink, nothing appears to be sacred at HAL! Towards to end of the cruise the Captain wrote a letter to each passenger advising that an extra charge of $11.31 would be added to the bill to offset "revisions in government fees and taxes". Front Office staff appeared either unable or unwilling to explain which government increased their charges or how the charge was calculated. Overall, an interesting itinerary but a disappointing cruise experience. I think the Zaandam should be avoided, at least until the refit is completed. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
Stayed at Langham Place in Hong Kong prior to cruise for two days, really nice hotel great service and handy to shops etc. First sight of Zaandam and we thought what have we done as its more than showing its age, first part of check in ... Read More
Stayed at Langham Place in Hong Kong prior to cruise for two days, really nice hotel great service and handy to shops etc. First sight of Zaandam and we thought what have we done as its more than showing its age, first part of check in was a breeze but then deteriorated into a free for all to get on board when boarding was announced.No organization just people every where. Once on ship we went to stateroom, four star ship had cracked sink in bathroom, torn valance that stayed on bed the whole cruise even after being pointed out to members of staff, the whole stateroom was tatty, and to top it all off the air conditioner didn't work either really hot, or really cold. Food is subjective and we choose to eat in Lido and the food was always either lukewarm or cold, even after pointing this out to chef no improvement, plus quality has dropped dramatically since we last sailed with Holland. Ports of call Shanghai we missed altogether because of fog,Beijing we did a two day private tour which was great, but there was a debacle over passports with the ship letting people off knowing they needed there passports for hotels,but no information given out. Korea was fine, but once again confusion as they said shuttles would be available when we got ashore none. Overall we paid a premium price for a four star cruise that should be rated two at most,will be complaining to Holland America. Oh nearly forgot they don't change smoke detectors batteries till they go off, so we had screeching noise one night rang reception no answer, so went to front desk who sent some one up to remove battery, this was going on all over the ship. We will never sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
Ship - Internally and externally TIRED. Food - repetitive after first 14 days. Second 14 days food portions in Rotterdam greatly reduced and service also went downhill. Cabin - tired and desperate for re-fit. Bedding needs replacing ... Read More
Ship - Internally and externally TIRED. Food - repetitive after first 14 days. Second 14 days food portions in Rotterdam greatly reduced and service also went downhill. Cabin - tired and desperate for re-fit. Bedding needs replacing asap. Many had air con/heating problems. Main complaints: Ship Freezing for the first 14 days - 13 degrees C. in restaurant - had to wear jackets whenever we went about ship. Management seemed totally incapable in dealing with immigration issues at certain ports, it appeared as though this was a first time experience for them. We never got to Shanghai - sat at sea for a day and a half in 'fog' then told we were going to Shanghai but when we got up next morning realised we were going north!! Beijing - were sent ashore with only passport copies - HAL refused to give us our passports despite being told we were staying in Beijing. Ended up being refused to check in at hotel as we did not have our passports. Tried to resolve this by various telephone calls but ship staff totally unhelpful. Ended up waiting in freezing cold -5 degrees C for first train and taxi back to ship where we received half hearted apology. Never went back as it took us 24 hours to get over the trauma. Guest relations manager would not meet to discuss problems. This totally ruined our holiday as we only booked the first 14 day cruise so that we could visit Beijing and Shanghai. Ship Captain - he made very few announcements - only ship's position and weather every day - never saw him around ship. Cabin and restaurants staff - excellent, shame management did not take some training from them!!! Shore excursions - far too expensive. Entertainment - Third rate - apart from occasional visiting artist. Had much better on other cruise lines. Overall Opinion. Our holiday was totally ruined by the Beijing passport debacle. Not at all impressed by HAL. We were told before we booked that they were the best (5*) I would suggest 2* was a better description. Never again will we go HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
We have enjoyed cruising with Cunard and Princess and we were looking forward to the Zaandam for the China/Korea cruise out of Hong Kong. The ship and the cabin was extremely cold. Forget the high quality bedding it is just hype. We ... Read More
We have enjoyed cruising with Cunard and Princess and we were looking forward to the Zaandam for the China/Korea cruise out of Hong Kong. The ship and the cabin was extremely cold. Forget the high quality bedding it is just hype. We borrowed blankets from the pool deck. The cabin is very dated and the toilet was smelling. This ship is well past its prime according to other Holland America cruisers. Having stated that the ships crew were friendly and the food was fine. Comparable to Princess and Cunard. The Pinnacle restaurant is extra cost but worth it once per cruise. In addition the various workshops for sea days were well presented. The Culinary Arts was well received and the Digital Photography workshops were well presented. Others enjoyed other programs The Library is very dated and the magazines offered are rejects from your local dentists office. The shows were very mixed is both quality and in style. Some of the small music groups in the bars were excellent. One of the disappointing features was the person who presented the shore orientation programs. It went like this " My old Computer is acting up, Here are some vague facts" "There is nothing at this port at Jeju "South Korea" In fact most staff and cruisers found it quite delightful and it was easy to walk in into town. There were both weather and immigration issues on this cruise and the captain gave consistently poor information. We were granted "mariners status" although we have not cruised with this line before. The reason I mention it is that we were invited to the Captains lunch. This was a major PR disaster. A few words then run away!!! He had been getting criticism for his poor communication before. If Holland America is asking people to attend this thing then surely the captain and first officer should circulate and talk to the guests. Finally, I will be looking at other cruise lines and please don't use this ship for Alaska you will freeze! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in ... Read More
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in immediately - on board - early lunch - room ready around 1pm. We were sent the wrong way around the deck as the entry to the ship was the same as our cabin, and when a steward let us through a doorway back to where we started, the security staff almost screamed at us that we shouldnt do that and "how did we get there !!" When I pointed to the steward, the guard lowered the volume of his voice to the steward and promptly ignored us - charming chap Information for our ROV was not in the cabin as specified and the knock on the cabin door was a steward standing there with the flowers for the ROV. With no info on when it was supposed to be and the fact the flowers for the ceremony had arrived, I hot-footed it to the front desk to enquire when the ROV will be taking place. I was told by the front desk that the flowers were for the room but when I pointed out there was a card with the flowers saying ROV gift he changed his mind and said they were sent in error and an invitation to the ROV will be sent to the cabin when they knew when it was scheduled to take place. Later that evening a letter arrived with the date set for later in the week and to expect an invitation on the day. DW on the day went to the obligatory hairdresser and we both started to preen ourselves for the event and realised there was still no invitation. Hot - footing it down to the front desk with letter, I asked if it was still going ahead and he confirmed that it was and the dept that dealt with the invitation had forgotten to send it out. We arrived in The Crows Nest and were joined by quite a few others with invitations in hand, captain present and chapagne flowing. After about half an hour we realised there was not alot happening regarding the ROV and spoke to another guest if she was waiting to have her vows renewed and replied that she was with a party of 26 there for the captains Dutch cocktail party. I collared a hotel manager, showed him the letter and he started to apologise and said the ROV had been moved to the following week. Uh..Oh, DW rather angry and disappointed at this point, promptly stormed down to front desk and told them how she felt. We had arranged the Pinnacle that evening anyway and thanks to Andrew the manager, he forwarded our distress to people and he certainly gave us a meal to remember. Two days later the front desk manager called and admitted it was all a mistake on their part and would like to make ammends and rebook. The moment had been spoilt but we were offered the ROV, dinners, wine, hairdresser free of charges and in the circumstances couldnt really do anymore so we accepted and she would rebook the Pinnacle for us. A couple of days later we returned there for another meal and thanked Andrew for what he had done but then said "its not over yet" - the restaurant was fully booked and he couldnt fit us in but managed to book Canaletto for us and would send some wine up to compensate. The day finally arrived, hairdresser - preen etc., invitation arrived - off we went. greeted with chapagne and wait..... another hiccup !! The printer for the photographs was broken !! We had a very nice photo album with the ROV certificates and words in there and a CD ROM. The ceremony no doubt was a very nice one and brought DW to tears so no complaints and when finished we went to Canaletto for our meal but guess what? No wine - that had been forgotten too. When we finished the was over half a bottle left so we had it sent to the MDR for the next day, and they even forgot that too. It finally arrived half way through the main course. As mentioned the main reason for our cruise was the CNY celebrations. We left the day free on the day itself as we were not sure of the crowds etc for the night parade that evening so kept things flexible. An announcement over the tannoy at 9.20 that morning saying that the muster drill was at 5pm and that HK immigration needed face to face passport checks meaning we could not leave the ship after the drill. We were disappointed that we would miss the night parade as this was one of the reasons we came. To our disgust it seemed that the excursions arranged by HAL were allowed to come back late and all those who left before the announcement came back after the parade finished too. Thanks HAL. We thought there was something peculiar happening as on embarkation they didnt take our passport as they usually do. The whole pre-cruise experience with HAL was mismanaged especially when in came to Visas - Sanya for instance. The night before Saigon after dinner about 10pm, there were 8, yes eight immigration forms to fill in with the message they had to be handed in by 5pm the following day. We were going to Saigon for the day at 7am therefore they had to be filled in that night or at the crack of dawn, yet the example of how to fill them in had a date of 3 days before. Last minute again. The MM grade cabin quite acceptable with the exception of banging in the night sometimes, sound like something was rolling around. Was informed it was the stabalisers flexing... hmmm. Motor noises quite loud about an hour before we docked and for about an hour after we sailed but we were the last but one cabin at the front on deck 2 and didnt disturb our sleep so was bearable THe food was mediocre and at times not cooked or kept correctly. The exaggerated descriptions tended to excite when reading and dissappoint on arrival , having said that Canaletto and the superb Pinnacle grill to a point compensated The wait staff and stewards we thought were very good indeed, its just a shame that on the questionaire at the end of the cruise, it seems to be geared to critisising them for the trivial of things yet the front desk and management who seem to be at the heart of any problems, dont get a mention. We cancelled our onboard tips in favour of giving to our steward/waiters directly once it was announced that only 70% of what we give, goes to the people it said, and that 30% goes to behind the scenes people. I know tipping is an immotive subject but I will only tip those that have served me in a deserving manner and the "behind the scenes people" who I cannot judge for myself should be paid appropriately by the cruise line. Even at 70% with the cabins our steward has to do, he would make over a $1000 a week. I dont believe HAL or anyone else paying a Phillipino that sort of money, so I pay him myself. Other than any involvement by the front office, the cruise was a nice one. We may go on HAL again but it would only be to the Alaska/Carribean/Americas as they obviously cant cope outside their bubble Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2012
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, ... Read More
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, tickets, credit card details etc etc is always a bit fraught, so when a handful of forms are added to the mix, it's not conducive to you remembering to read all the small print. It wasn't until much later in the cruise that we found out that by signing those documents without question, we were accepting an automatic on board charge for two Vietnamese visa's and a further visa for Cambodia -- regardless of whether we were getting off the ship or not. My annoyance is not in whether the laws of each land visited forced Zaandam to make these charges, it was that the first we knew of it was at embarkation. HAL seriously need to get their act together and provide customers with these details at time of booking. Our cabin was ready as soon as we got on board, and our luggage arrived very soon after. The overall impression of our cabin was one of refined elegance but you couldn't help noticing that the fabrics were in need of upgrading. The balcony was roomier than most I have had in the past with two chairs and a recliner along with a small table. The bed was the comfiest I have experienced on a cruise, and in the bathroom, the shower pressure was just right. I liked the large soap, shampoo and conditioning dispensers on the wall in the bathroom -- saves all that fumbling with small plastic bottles that invariably fall at your feet once opened. One niggle: I have never seen a cabin with so much drawer space -- at least 16 in ours! But not one of them was easy to open -- nail breaking stuff. And once you'd stored items away, it took an age to remember which drawer you'd put them in! That might be age related, but hopefully a re-fit will make the space more user friendly. The only other problem we had was shared by nearly all cabins on the starboard side of Deck 6 and also affected the toilets in public areas. On at least 3 occasions during our cruise, the toilets stopped flushing. Some cabins were even flooded. The problem was addressed and corrected quite quickly each time, but the accompanying smell wasn't nice whilst it lasted. Our first night on board was berthed in Hong Kong harbour. We were lucky enough to be there for Chinese New Year and particularly to enjoy the New Year Parade. On checking our cruise personaliser a couple of months prior to sailing, Zaandam were not offering any tours to the parade, so we (along with quite a large number of fellow Cruise Critic Roll Call members) decided to pre-book with a local HK agent for a tour which included Dinner & reserved seats for the parade which were in close proximity to Ocean Terminal where the ship was berthed and due to sale at 11.00 p.m. the same night. All was fine until we received in our cabin "Special Embarkation Arrangements" informing all passengers that HAL and the Hong Kong authorities required everyone to be on board by 5.00 p.m. on the night of the Parade, so that passports could be checked personally -- deck by deck -- and that once this had been done, nobody would be allowed off the ship. Did I say everyone? Well I should have said everyone EXCEPT all those passengers who had paid for a HAL arranged tour (including a Parade tour which had been organised at the last minute!!). They were allowed to return any time up to 10.00 p.m. !! You can imagine how busy the Front Desk became with irate guests who had similarly made their own plans for their last night in Hong Kong. It was well after midnight and during my fourth trip to the Front Desk that I received a glimmer of hope that our prior made independent arrangements would be honoured and dealt with in the same manner as the HAL trips. All it required was a list of names of the persons on our independent trip and a note of their cabin numbers -- job done. So common sense prevailed at the end of the day, but how many fellow passengers did HAL upset? I definitely got the impression that we were an annoyance to them -- how dare we -- as mere passengers -- interfere with their arrangements. In my opinion, the Zaandam is either being very badly advised, or else HAL as a cruise line feel they no longer need to put their passenger's enjoyment first. Zaandam's staff were great. We couldn't fault their willingness to help and friendliness when called for, but there was just something lacking, compared to staff on other ships we have enjoyed. Maybe HAL have cut back on numbers which means their willing staff have less time to pay attention to small detail and interact with passengers. We were "Anytime" dining in the Main Dining Room, but it soon became apparent that the ship isn't built to easily accommodate this system. As on other cruise lines, the system operated when a table is not available when you arrive is to be handed a "buzzer" which shrieks at you when a table of your required size does become free. Unless you are happy to stand around at the entrance to the Dining Room, the closest place to sit and enjoy a pre-dinner drink while you wait is one floor down -- and then it is only a Lounge which requires a further walk towards the Atrium of the ship to obtain drinks. Invariably, by the time we had walked to the Lounge, and then waited for our partners to obtain drinks and return to the Lounge, the "buzzer" would sound! This noise then accompanied you (to the amusement of fellow passengers), whilst you collected your drinks, walked back through the Lounge, up two flights of stairs (or one stop in the lift), and arrived back at the entrance to the Dining Room. Larger and newer ships offering the "anytime" option invariably have bars on the same level and closer to the entrance to the Dining Room -- much better. Our normal practice on any cruise is to pre-purchase & pre-pay for a Wine Package. This we did with HAL -- but beware anyone thinking of doing the same thing. We have no complaints about the choice of wines, nor even the price, but there is a total lack of organisation in being able to obtain a bottle of your pre-paid for wine, and have it delivered to your table anytime sooner than half way through your main meal. Indeed, we were three days into our cruise before we even managed to get a bottle delivered to our table AT ALL ! Yes, we did complain -- in as polite a way as possible so as to not cause embarrassment to fellow diners. We eventually involved the Head Sommelier who personally took our order, and returned just a few minutes later to say that they had run out of our particular choice!!! His replacement recommendation was very good however, so not a real issue. Things were looking up, but because the wine was so late in arriving at our table, we were unable to finish the whole bottle. No problem, we were informed. They just write your cabin number on the bottle and keep it for the next night. Now this system works on every other ship we have been on, but yes you guessed it, it doesn't work to well on Zaandam. It may work on other HAL ships, but this one seems to lack any kind of organisational skills. The staff on the ground are only as good as the organisation behind them, and the food and beverage wait staff are being badly let down. After complaining again to a senior wine waiter on the eighth night of our cruise (and only 3 1/2 bottles into our package!!), we were told that our best course of action in future was to look for him personally each evening and ask him to find our wine. Otherwise, he informed us, you will keep encountering the same problem!! It was nice of him to try and personally avoid any further problems for us, but he shouldn't have to. Instead, we decided to avoid any further angst in the MDR and enjoyed a few evenings in the Buffet Restaurant where we encountered a wonderful wine steward who had no problem finding our wine and delivering it to our table in good time for us to fully enjoy it with our meal -- result! To be fair, the wine steward in the Buffet wasn't exactly overworked, so I put it to you HAL, give your employees sufficient time to do the job correctly and they will. In fact, we found the food served at Dinner in the Buffet Restaurant to be of excellent quality and beautifully presented. Our only complaint in this area was that half of it closed around 7.30 p.m. each evening, and the shutters came down on the remaining half at 8.00 p.m. prompt. I should also mention that we could find no fault with the food served in the MDR. Everything was well cooked and well presented. Having previously cruised on much larger ships than the Zaandam, I was concerned that I would find it too small. This was not the case. I loved the overall feel of the ship which gave an air of refined elegance, with lots of extremely comfortable areas to sit and enjoy a book or just relax looking out to sea. The entertainment wasn't as glitzy as RCI, but it was sufficient for this port intensive cruise. I'm not sure it would be sufficiently stimulating on a longer cruise. We enjoyed the Cinema on a couple of occasions, but beware of the "Popcorn Rush". We were new to HAL, so were not aware of this daily ritual where a tray of popcorn is delivered as the lights go down. Anyone standing in the way would be flattened!!! Our British reserve resulted in no popcorn for us, but we were ready for them on our second visit -- another result !! In summary, we actually enjoyed Zaandam. There are lots of things that could be improved, but we didn't let them spoil our holiday. I'm not sure I would take a lengthy voyage on this ship, and I think HAL is struggling in getting ASIA right. I am more inclined to look at HAL for an Alaska cruise which by all accounts is where they shine best.   Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Getting there: We left Dallas at 8:30 on Monday, January 22. Thanks to frequent flyer miles we were able to fly executive class, which makes it so much easier on long flights. We flew Dallas to Tokyo, had a layover in Tokyo, and then ... Read More
Getting there: We left Dallas at 8:30 on Monday, January 22. Thanks to frequent flyer miles we were able to fly executive class, which makes it so much easier on long flights. We flew Dallas to Tokyo, had a layover in Tokyo, and then continued to Hong Kong. We arrived in Hong Kong about midnight, caught a quick shuttle bus into town to the Holiday Inn Express Golden Mile, and nearly 24 hours after leaving home, we were in bed again. Embarkation: The next morning we walked around Hong Kong for a few hours, and then at 11:30, made the 15 minute walk to the ship, where we had the fastest embarkation we had ever experienced. As quickly as we could fill out a few forms, we went directly to a check in station, and were on the ship eating lunch in the Lido before noon. Just after noon they announced that the rooms were ready, and we went down, dropped off our carry on, and went off for a day of exploration that included the Chinese New Year's flower garden in Victoria Park, and a display of floats and illuminated laterns in the area near the Star Ferry. Since Chinese New Year is a week long celebration, we saw these decorations at every port we were visited, with the exception of Cambodia. We were back on the ship by 4:00, and went down for our open seating dinner. Only one show that night, at 7:30,a welcome aboard show, so one show and early to bed. We were fortunate to be in Hong Kong for Chinese New Years. We had obtained tickets by booking a tour through Gray Line, so after sleeping in and having breakfast in the MDR the next morning, we met the tour, and spent the day with them, culminating with grandstand viewing seats in the television taping area of the parade. This was HAL's first sailing from Hong Kong, and I don't think they realized that there would be a conflict between the passengers attending the Chinese New Year's parade , the lifeboat drill at 5:00 p.m.and a required face-to-face inspection by Chinese immigration prior to sailing. We sailed at 11:00, but and the all-aboard was at 7:00. Since the parade didn't start until 8:00, people with parade tickets had problems. I to the main desk,and was told not to worry about it, just to be back on board by 10:30 or so to go through immigration. Luckily the grandstand seats were just about 10 minutes from the ship, so we left just as the parade ended and rushed back aboard to meet with immigration. We got there about 10:15, and were no where near being the last on board. After clearing the face to face immigration, we found a note on our bed asking us to show up in the atrium for a mandatory lifeboat briefing the next morning. It was pretty crowded, as a large number of passengers had gone to the parade. Passengers took the briefing seriously, as did the crew, who at one point yelled at passengers who were laughing and talking during the safety drill. The ship: Yes, the ship certainly is ready for dry dock, but it certainly is not falling apart. Some stained carpeting, windows that seemed to be salt etched, rather than dirty, and a few rust stains here and there, did not detract from the fact that this is a beautiful ship. We were disappointed that the room did not contain a refrigerator. The biggest problem we had was with the room was a strange delay in the flushing of the toilet after you pushed the button. The first time it happened I called down and reported it, and then in a few minutes it flushed. The second time I called, I was told it was a ship-wide problem, and would be fixed shortly. This became a daily situation, and we finally stopped calling, because it seemed to fix itself in a few minutes. We also had a fire alarm go off due to a problem in the laundry, and a 24-hour red alert due to a 7 person outbreak of stomach virus. The ship seemed very empty, even though I know that this cruise was sold out. Both my husband and I commented on how empty the lounges and public rooms were. Food and Entertainment: The entertainment was as good as any I have seen on a ship. We especially enjoyed Preston Coe, a tenor from Texas with a beautiful voice. We also enjoyed the comedian, the Viet Namese cultural show, a classically trained hammer zither player and all of the shows done by the ships singers and dancers. There was a magician, but we did not go to that show. The passengers were a mix of north Americans, Brits, Aussies, Asians and Europeans. Americans actually seemed to be in the minority. The food seemed to be designed to meet the needs of the more eclectic passenger list, but over all was as good as you usually get on a cruise ship. I ate a lot of beef, all of which was prepared well. My husband was disappointed that the variety of fresh seafood, was not better, but did enjoy what he had. There were four formal nights, and it seemed to me that people were dressed less formally than usual. It actually seemed that there were more men in tuxes, but the wives were less formal, wearing more after-five outfits and dressy pants suits than long gowns. Excursions: We did a mixture of independent and HAL shore excursions. In every port we found people who spoke English, so going out on our own was never a problem. Our first stop was Ha Long Bay, a tendered port. We took the Red River Delta excursion which took us to Hai Phong, where we visited a pagoda, and a traditional Vietnamese home, and walked around the downtown area before a lunch buffet at a local hotel. At Sanya, we were not sure that we would even get off of the ship, as we were not sure that we could get off without a Chinese visa. The day before we got to Sanya, I went down to the excursion desk and talked to them about getting off. They said that HAL had obtained a group visa, and that everyone would be able to get off of the boat. In addition, HAL provided a free shuttle service to a shopping area in town. We rode the bus to the shopping area, and walked to 2 to 3 miles back to the boat, visiting shops and malls along the way. At Nha Trang we did the Nha Trang Highlights. We visited the Po Nagar Cham Towers, the Long Son Pagoda, an embroidery shop and a beach front cafe. Then on to Phu My, which is the port for Saigon. Those of us on the tour referred to it by the new name of Ho Chi Minh City, until we noticed that the tour guide was calling it Saigon. Someone asked if the name hadn't been changed, and he said that it had, but that the name was just too long and hard to say, so that the locals now call it Saigon again. HAL has an excursion that drives you the 2 hours into Saigon from the port, drops you off at the Rex Hotel downtown, and picks you up about 4 hours later. You are free to explore on your own, and there is plenty to see within walking distance. We visited the market and the reunification hall (the old presidential palace) and walked around the town seeing things such as the city hall, the opera house and the market. There are a number of buildings that show the French influence on the town, and in places the architecture reminded us of New Orleans. Then it was on to Sihanoukville, Cambodia. It is never a good sign when part of the shore talk deals with the fact that "you may see things that make you uncomfortable" as far as the level of living goes. This was by far the least economically developed area we visited. There were only 2 ship's excursions offered at this port, and they both involved beach time. Not being beach people, we took the ship's free transfer into the market area of the town. Before the bus stopped the guide gave us a warning about the aggressive tuk-tuk drivers and tour guides who would assail you as you got off of the bus, and he didn't exaggerate. We finally pushed our way through the crowd and made it to the main street, where we walked around just looking at the town. At the shore talk, Michael had mentioned that French wines were well priced in Cambodia, so we stopped at a grocery store and bought several bottles of wine to replenish our supply, and then found an unbelievably cheap internet cafe to supplement the time we had bought aboard ship. The town's market is well worth a visit to get a sense of how the people live, however it deals mostly in the day to day needs of the people, and is not much of a souvenir shopping area. I could hardly wait to reach Laem Chabang, as we had made independent arrangements to spend the night in Bangkok. We found that we could make our own arrangements for less money, and have more time to spend in Bangkok, if we did it ourselves. There was one small glitch in our plans. HAL takes your passport before you reach Laem Chabang, and Thai immigration officials come on board and process all of the visas on the sea day before you reach Thailand. You don't get your passport back for a couple of days, and we realized that we would need documentation to check into our hotel in Bangkok. I checked with the front desk, and they told us that we would not be able to access our passport until late in the day on the first day in Thailand. They did offer to get us a copy of our entry card early on the first port day, and we had the photocopy of our passport that HAL gives you. We checked with our hotel, and they were willing to accept these as documentation for check in. Our limo service was waiting in Laem Chabang when we left the boat at 9:00, and 2 hours later we checked into our hotel in Bangkok. We stayed in Chinatown, because of its proximity to the water taxis, which we utilized frequently as we toured the wats, temples and the Grand Palace. A dinner cruise on a restored antique rice barge, with wonderful Thai food, followed by an exhilarating tuk-tuk ride back to our hotel rounded out the evening. The next morning we spent a few more hours exploring the town, until our limo service picked us up and took us back to the ship. Koh Samui was our last Thailand port. It was a tendered port. None of the excursions interested us, so we walked around town, stopping at a waterside cafe for a local beer. As we were walking, we turned down a small road and walked out into the countryside. We came upon a coconut plantation, and stood and watched the trained monkeys climbing the trees to throw down the ripe coconuts. Disembarkation: Like embarkation, disembarkation was the best I have ever experienced. You turned in a card requesting a disembarkation group. We asked for and, received, group 1. Within 10 minutes of the captain's announcing that we could leave the ship, we had disembarked, claimed our luggage, and cleared customs. We took the metro to the airport, about a 25 minute ride, where we stayed at the Omni Hotel which is attached to the airport. We were there before 10:00 a.m., and they allowed us to check in and go to our room. We caught the metro back out, and spent the day exploring Singapore. We went to Raffles, and then to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, where we ate lunch, visited the Sky Tower, looked at the shops, and walked around the casino. Back at the hotel, we walked around the airport, a destination in itself with a full shopping center and numerous entertainment options. It was early to bed, and then up early to catch a flight back Tokyo, and then on to Dallas. It was really great to have only a 15 minute walk from our hotel to the gate area of the airport. Final Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this cruise. I felt that some of the ports, such as Sanya and Shinoukville had been put in just to give another port stop, but even though there were not a lot of touristy things, i.e. temples, palaces, etc., to see, you could still see the culture and observe how the people lived. To a person, the people at the ports in which we stopped seemed glad to have us there, and were friendly and welcoming. Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.7
Service 3.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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