Sail Date: April 2019
Like the maritime provinces and wanted to see more. Embarkation was somewhat disorganized; we arrived in Boston on a redeye at 7:30 am but couldn't board until 11:00 am. Spent most of this time on folding chairs. Enjoyed room ... Read More
Like the maritime provinces and wanted to see more. Embarkation was somewhat disorganized; we arrived in Boston on a redeye at 7:30 am but couldn't board until 11:00 am. Spent most of this time on folding chairs. Enjoyed room service breakfast EVERY MORNING! My husband went early to Lido Deck each morning for his favorite SMOKED SALMON! Puff pastry sweet rolls every morning, also! Lido Deck pool area was great, 2 hot tubs and pool 81 degrees F. Never too crowded. I sat at a table for lunch occasionally; taco bar/hamburger/french fries stand open until 5pm. Service was exemplary. Sometimes a bit too obsequious, but staff were very well trained. Magician show and ventriloquist shows were very, very funny. Disappointed that the organ recital was recorded; thought there would be an actual organist (was not made clear). Met some interesting Canadians on the cruise who were familiar with the area, but still enjoyed the cruise!! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
OVERVIEW I usually cruise on luxury lines like Seabourn (SB), either solo or with DH, but a cruise I had booked got cancelled short notice. I was in cruise withdrawal and determined to use the time off I had arranged to cruise. Four ... Read More
OVERVIEW I usually cruise on luxury lines like Seabourn (SB), either solo or with DH, but a cruise I had booked got cancelled short notice. I was in cruise withdrawal and determined to use the time off I had arranged to cruise. Four years ago I had surprisingly enjoyed a HAL cruise to Alaska in a Neptune suite on a large group themed cruise, so thought I would try HAL again, this time as a solo in a vista ( basic balcony) cabin, and with no group to bias my experience. The HAL website price for a vista cabin ( private balcony and bathroom with a jacuzzi bathtub, which I greatly value) seemed fine per diem, especially for a solo, $2200 for one week, ( though non- nclusive), compared with 2-3x that for a luxury line solo offering ( “inclusive” of beverages, i.e., fancy coffees, basic wines and cocktails). I embarked in Boston after enjoying two cold and wet days there seeing sites and eating great food (had brought two umbrellas, in case one broke :). This was a cold weather cruise, 40’s with icy wind, ( some unmelted snow was piled up in parts of Quebec City) . In hindsight, it was a bit too early in the season to best enjoy this area but fortunately most days were clear. It was a lot like northern CA, though colder, and also like Alaska, but without as much dramatic scenery. The beauty here is more subtle. Ports visited included Bar Harbor ( lovely for walks and fresh seafood ) , Halifax ,Sydney,Charlottetown ( Anne of Green Gables fame) Quebec City, and Montreal. Quebec City and Montreal are a bit like going to France, but closer, cheaper, and people don’t mind if you speak English or broken French. The old and new contrasts, history, and great food make this area must-see, at least once, be it on a cruise or land tour. The cruise was supposed to end in Montreal but the river had high water, so we had to disembark in Quebec City and got bused to Montreal, ( three hours on a crowded old bus with torn and non-reclining cramped seats, but we got there). Overall despite some service problems I enjoyed myself and am glad I went, but have to rate the cruise around 3.4, so round down to a 3, even after adjusting for the costs. I had expected MDR and Lido food and service quality differences compared with SB, and there were plenty, though they had not been obvious to me on my 2015 HAL cruise where I was happy. I was impressed with the efficient cabin layout and comfort ( it reminded me of the small balcony suites on Crystal but here there was a bigger balcony, better closet space, and a more comfortable sofa).The main issue of concern was the indifferent or annoying service attitude by too many crew, on top of obvious understaffing ( see below). GENERAL AMBIENCE The ship holds 1400 pax and about 500 crew, ( higher ratio than on SB, and it showed). It seemed pretty full but other than on the main deck and Lido, was quiet at night with few rowdy partiers. Public sitting areas are a bit old-fashioned in style but I loved them, they were wonderfully comfortable for my muscles and bones, nicer for me than on SB, with soft couches and padded, high backed chairs in most venues. Pax were mostly seniors, with quite a few superseniors, only a few kids ( note there is a separate kids and teen area) , some extended families, a few solos. Unlike SB which caters to (on average) an affluent and/or special occasion splurge crowd, people on this short cruise generally appeared to be more budget conscious middle class vacationers ( nased on overheard conversations). Pax were primarily from the U.S. ( and by accents, many were from the northeastern U.S. which had convenient embarkation, Canada, some from Mexico, a few from Germany, and Australia. Some pax were Chinese-speaking. The good-sized casino was usually busy, and though I overheard frequent discussions amongst pax about pricing, discounts, sales, budgets, and deals, and the shops were large, there were thankfully very few overhead announcements, and no hard sells on merchandise. There was photography service, but it was subtle. Oddly, there also seemed to be ( compared with other cruises) a disproportionate number of couples who tended to argue with each other, (perhaps they were on a first cruise, as this was only seven days and cruising turned out not suitable for them).The average Body Mass Index was clearly higher than on SB, for whatever reason, which created a bit of a problem on the tight and packed excursion buses in that as a solo, I got to share more personal space and body parts with males next to me than I would have preferred ( especially when people were sneezing or sweating). If I cruise HAL again, I will absolutely avoid the crowded bus excursions. Luxury lines usually limit the number of people on buses, so pax can spread out more, but then pax pay more up front even (if the excursions are similar in price, as they use comparable vendors). DRESS Casual. “Elegant Casual” officially at dinner for MDR. But even on the two “gala nights,” many people preferred the same jeans and sneakers they wore during the day, even in MDR (allowed) while others dressed up in something prettier. Waiters were in waiter black, however. The most common MDR evening and show male attire was mid-way, non-jeans comfortable trousers and a simple collared shirt. A man in front of me at a show, however, had on gray sweat pants like from a gym, which fell down below his buttocks when he got up. I had an unavoidable view of them before he hitched them up and was on his way. Many people wore T shirts, caps, and sweatshirts with logos or messages on them. If you are looking for a special ambience to match a special evening on a special trip, or enjoy looking at creative special outfits as part of the evening cruise scenery, this was not the cruise to be on. Many people love an anything-goes dress style these days (I am from CA so I know), and even on luxury lines the trend is towards more and more casual and requiring less care and attention, but so far waiters are still dressed up, which I found especially odd on this cruise. FOOD AND BEVERAGES You can pick open seating or fixed seating for dinner ( early or late), share or not share . I joined communal tables twice, once for tea and once for dinner, that was enough as I really did not want to risk hearing more one-sided political monologues within five minutes of sitting down to dine, much less hear lore about cannibalism. Maybe I was just unlucky this cruise, but I was definitely not in synch with the tablemates I tried. So I mostly dined solo, which was not a problem except for the fact that food area crew young enough to be my grandkids automatically addressed me by my first name, repeatedly, without permission. I was told by a senior crew member that they are taught in Holland training to address pax by last name unless instructed otherwise, but many probably assume American women like to be first named by crew they do not know to create a (false) sense of friendliness, but I do not, many do not (overheard), and neither do most older Europeans. In contrast, SB does not first name pax without permission. I did not have the first-naming experience in 2015. Food and beverages offered were abundant and variable in quality, with some outstanding dishes in the upcharged specialty restaurants ( steak tatar and dover sole in the Pinnacle Grill on the french themed night was even better than at the Thomas Keller grill on SB). The Lido cafeteria also regularly offered fresh hearty farmers bread which I loved, and is hard to get on SB ( unfortunately there were only sad and limited meats and cheeses to put on the wonderful hearty bread on this cruise. So this was not a ship for people who like European breakfasts with interesting cold meats and cheeses. There were omelette stations, pasta stations, and grill stations, some pre-made entrees at dinner, or crew would grill a steak. There was not much in the way of interesting salads, but there was some greenery, and vegetables in MDR and specialty venues were well-prepared. Canoletti, the Italian specialty venue ($15 upcharge) had great gourmet food but irritating invasive service and ambience at a late dinner. Six crew people, within ten minutes, asked me how my food was (of course using my first name), usually right after I had filled my mouth with food, one even looked over my shoulder at my ipad messages and asked what I was reading, presumably to make conversation. But they then ignored me when I stated the only thing I did not like about my meal was the loud screeching rock music in the background playing songs with lyrics like “ I want to get away, yeah, yeah, yeah”. So I did, and did not come back. The restaurant manager had come over but all he was interested in is going through the motions to have me tell him everything was great. His tone changed when I mentioned the music, and he said he would check with his “production manager” , then disappeared. The $38 surcharge ( more on French night) dining area Pinnacle Grill was easy to get into and was a true fine dining experience. I should have eaten here every night. Breakfast in the quiet MDR was available 7:30-9, but I am not a big sit down breakfast eater unless there is something special. I ate early local lunches mostly off the ship, so my food disappointments were mostly in the MDR and Lido cafeteria style area at dinner. Room service choices were limited without upcharge but met my needs, e.g., , continental breakfast was fine, including two fluffy small pastries, no food wastage. In hindsight, if not dining in the Pinnacle Grill, just getting a burger to my balcony room for dinner would have been better than dining in the Lido cafeteria buffet or MDR ( note there is upcharge for a better room service burger or hot dog , but you can get a basic one free) . Neptune Suite guests can breakfast in Pinnacle Grill, as I did three years ago on another HAL ship, and they have a separate small snacking and drinking area accessed by key cards, with a dedicated concierge. There is a decent wine list on board with a wide range of price options, so I was happy enough with that. However, wines were marked up 2-3x from retail, that is just part of HAL business strategy. The couple sommeliers I dealt with seemed a bit unhappy and did not add much to my wine pairing ideas, and did not seem to enjoy their jobs, maybe they were just tired. Note you can bring one free bottle of wine per person on board with you. Fee is $18 corkage if not drunk in your room, same for more than one per person or if purchased at ports, unless part of a wine tour ( there were lots of packages and rules to get discounts that I did not bother to learn but would if cruising HAL more). There is also a coffee bar that opens at 7 am , charges $6 or so for a cappuccino style drink in a paper cup. Room service coffee was surprisingly drinkable and arrived when requested. I actually had better room service consistency here than on SB, ( everything ordered came, as expected, at correct temperature, and on time) but they are not set up for customization, unusual requests or big selection options like SB is. You can get vegetarian and gluten free, however, and other health food accomodations reportedly can be made. “ Orange juice” was unfortunately a thin diluted substance that tasted like Tang so I stuck with cranberry. Bacon in the Lido I tried once was perfectly crispy, and they do basic American style breakfast food just fine if you like that, many pax do. Desserts were not very interesting or worth expending calorie budgets on even in specialty areas. Ice cream was bland, sorbet worse. Salad choices were minimal as was fruit variety ( every time I had the room service continental breakfast it had nice watermelon, which I fortunately love, and a few berries, which I also enjoy, yoghurt, and two mini-danish, perfect). Apples and oranges were available, berries not so much. No fruit was brought to my room, but there was a bowl, presumably you can ask for it. Bartenders varied , from excellent at the beautiful but cold water ( 81 F) aft pool and kidless Sea View lounging area, to friendly, or sullen and borderline rude at times elsewhere . I had ordered a $7.50 spanish coffee in the Crows Nest bar which is supposed to come with whipped cream. It arrived without whipped cream ( that is the key part of the drink!) and the bartender just shrugged, said he was out of whipped cream ( not even squirt top or cool whip)and did not even try to apologize. It would have been nice to be warned as I would not have ordered it without the whipped cream . He then unhappily offered me unwhipped cream, which made the coffee lukewarm. A German couple nearby immediately left when they heard there was no whipped cream ( they understood the problem!). :) Drinks in the Ocean Bar, however, were lovely, and one day during “Happy Hour” included a delicious asparagus mousse canape I engulfed, and a smoked sausage that I would have liked on the farmers bread buffet. Tipping is included, as aa 15% service charge automatically added on to beverages and other charged extra services , plus I had a $16/day hotel service charge. So there may have been little incentive to do more if crew sensed I was not a regular and not likely to fuss. The crew quality variability I experienced was striking. Fortunately no one stuck their hands out for extra tips. You can remove the charge if you complain about bad service, but most pax are apparently happy and do not. MDR was closed for lunch every day, only Lido and Dive-In burger stand were open, so there was no quiet table service option. I was off the ship anyway at lunch seeking out local cuisine, except on the sea day, but it would have been disappointing on a cruise with many sea days not to be able to have a quiet full service lunch, DH and I greatly enjoyed those on luxury lines. SERVICE I had frequent English communication issues with both the cabin team and non-Pinnacle dining area crew (mostly Filipino or other Asian personnel) more than on the sister luxury line SB. With one exception, several guest services crew were indifferent to sullen with me, maybe because I reported problems and did not just automatically reply that everything was great. A surprisingly common theme everywhere was annoyance at polite negative feedback with constructive criticism I offered. For example, when I noticed that the Gala menu I was handed was covered with food and grease spots, after I ordered ,I quietly pointed it out to the waiter and suggested he tell his team to clean it before the next guest. He acted perturbed and just shoved it back into the pile of clean menus. There was also a tendency not to apologize for anything that was broken or an error, ( exceptions) and to either get defensive, dodge the issue, ignore me, try and bluff a way out by pretending I don’t understand technology ( a common phenomenon in my solo female travels even on luxury lines or hotels) or otherwise avoid resolving the problem, and frankly act like low level government employees, secure in their positions. As the world gets more affluent, it is getting harder to get good crew without paying more and more, so it likely takes a lot for a crew member to be let go. EX: The second time a waitress swooped in and hurriedly topped off my (separately paid for )sparkling water with regular water, I politely asked her to be careful and not mix them. She denied having mixed, and argued with me that she had not. I calmly told her she had indeed mixed them up , I just wanted to let her know, since she asked how my meal was, to improve. She did not apologize, but then decided to bring me a new bottle of sparkling, even though I was not asking for free stuff, I was just trying to help avoid the same problem. ENTERTAINMENT I repeatedly enjoyed the Adagio piano and violin duo which sometimes included classical music, though they were not world class musicians. A bar pianist ( Stryker) in MIX bar was also a crowd pleaser. In room TV service was mediocre to bad (for this day and age) ,small poorly positioned screen , fuzzy, only two music options ( Musaak and Musaak), you cannot go directly to a channel of choice, and have to scroll through all channels including blank ones . There are no on demand in room movies ( have to call for a Dvd from front desk, from a non descriptive list, but then after delays it turned out I had a broken DVD player ). There were protracted service comedies trying to get anything fixed. Other tech also did not go well. The HAL website is not user friendly, and the morning of my cruise when I logged on to see if the ship was in port, the website erroneously told me my ship had already sailed! This created some needless anxiety, as did the later failure to accurately scan my room card during the muster, resulting in a written warning I would be disembarked for alleged failure to do muster ( no call or knock on door) though I had done it, attentively, and been scanned. SB, a five-start line per Berlitz, also has a poor website, so HAL is not alone ( both run by Carnival). There were two stage performances in one week with four singers and six dancers, one called Classique ( had loud piped in music that drowned out a lone violin player) , the other was called Variations ( with a small live band). The costumes and young bodies were nice to look at but both shows lacked coherence. Everything was overly dramatized which made nothing dramatic, and always passionate which made nothing passionate. Focus was on old saccharin love songs, some Broadway tunes, but it was hard to suspend reality when the singer microphones were very big and obvious and glued with visible tape to the singers’ cheeks. If you cruise for shows, there are better options. Other ship entertainment options were the usual puzzles, yoga ( fee), board games, trivia, basketball court ( brrr), gym, spa, an Oprah book club discussion, big screen movie options including a story about Ruth Bader Ginsburg cases, a library, shuffleboard. Crows Nest, the high forward observation bar, had recliner chairs which were very, very popular for lounging, especially on the sea day. There were also performances by a ventriloquist ( lame) and an illusionist ( better but long-winded). Shows on SB Odyssey, a much smaller ship with a smaller cast, were to my taste much better just a few months ago. CABIN I was happy with the vista “suite”, ( no suite lounge privileges, however, just a room with areas) except for the archaic and broken TV and DVD system. Only 225 square feet , but with a balcony, all nicely arranged, big bed ( a bit hard, so I got a topper), soft linens, long sofa, lots of storage, fridge with a fee minibar, and a cozy solo jacuzzi tub (shower above it), one sink, lots of closet space. Only one electrical outlet. All the fluffy towels I wanted were provided as were six pillows on a bed designed for two. A Bible was in a drawer. You can get your shoes shined. Cruise information was well laid out though some of it had seen many fingers. Overall it was clean enough, except for a dirty remote, a greasy DVD information cover, and corner dust accumulations. A lot of the ship areas could have used a good scrubbing, more frequent public toilet servicing, and more touchup paint, which would take more labor, but overall at least the visible parts were adequately clean for hygienic purposes. The Do Not Disturb sign was always respected. Cabin was made up quickly every morning and evening. Towel animals came, some cute, some just looked like someone forgot a cleaning towel on the bed. Laundry service was wonderful and timely, reasonable pricing for an “unlimited” plan. Internet was — well, ship internet quality, even with the upgraded plan, unreliable and variable, like on all ships including SB, but good enough to get some work done and to prevent pax insurrections. I used my LTE in ports for major internet. ENRICHMENT An excursion rep gave short but helpful talks about ports. I wished they were longer. There was not very much about the history, so I read on my own. There is a library, plus your internet for this. PORTS PORTS Bar Harbor This was a great walking around DIY town, though we did need to tender to it. Along the shore from port is a 45 minute walk. I had “lazy lobster” ( shelled, drawn butter) at the unlikely fun Route 66 restaurant, with comfortable booths, 50’s memorabilia, and home made fries, not frozen. The ladies’ room was demarcated with a frilly pink prom dress, mens with Castrol, so feminists beware. There are fun shops, historic little buildings, and excursion options to Acadia National Park ( I suggest doing it independently as I had done in the past, so as to savor) and other scenic areas. Halifax A larger city, and though there are things to do in town, but best is to travel outside. You have to take a short shuttle ride from the ship to the terminal, people lined up. I did a packed ship’s excursion to Peggy’s Cove, Lunenberg, and Mahone. The restaurant at Peggy’s , Sou’est, had wonderful seafood and great service in a stunning setting, is a lot like northern CA. Lunenberg is a cute town with Germanic history and a sad memorial to hundreds of local men who died at sea, but most venues were closed, as it was too early in the season. It would be lovely in warmer weather and independently. Mahone did not have enough to justify a 50 minute stop. Sydney Not much to do near port in this blue collar town trying to become a chic international cruise port. There is a giant fiddle at the terminal. Irish Triangle nearby had good lobster, and an Irish coffee with cream :). I had pre-researched this town and took a cab two miles with a colorful local to a hidden nature area, Baille Ard, ( good instructions on Internet on how to get there) walked along a stream, snacked on a scenically located bench, then walked back to town. This is a great place to have a calm picnic and get some exercise, 3 km loop, or mix it up. It was junk pickup day, with some interesting Canadain junk set out in front of modest unfenced homes, like a lobster trap, a bidet, and pieces of an old canoe. Excursions out of town into nature were available through HAL, that is where most people went. Charlottetown Great for walking and quality shopping in town but a main attraction is the Anne of Green Gables museum. My excursion had been cancelled, so I did a substitute afternoon crowded Island Tour and museum excursion. The best part is the woods behind the house, there is a 40 minute scenic loop, and there are picnic tables, beautiful, but the guided did not tell people about them. So pax complained the one hour stop was too long, I thought it was too short as I wanted to walk more. Best to come here on your own. Quebec City French is the main language, easy to tour on your own or jump on a hop on type bus. Many great food options, shops, history. We spent the night here as could not sail on to Montreal. DISEMBARKATION, QUEBEC CITY, BUS TO MONTREAL Done efficiently, by group, no long lines at port. There were some pax on the bus back who complained about unloading delays when we got to the cruise terminal in Montreal, which were not HAL’s fault, e.g., yelling at the bus driver, “What’s the game plan?” People lined up in a long taxi line, I called an Ueber, which arrived within 10 minutes and was on my way to my hotel for a couple days enjoying wonderful Montreal. CONCLUSION: I enjoyed my vacation overall, the ports, and my good value vista balcony cabin, the Sea View pool area, and the Pinnacle Grill. I did not care for most of the entertainment, and did not like how service problems were handled. I despised the crowded buses. I also did not like crew familiarity, e.g., automatic first-naming me. Even though there are also issues on luxury lines, there is an expectation there that they will be dealt with, and they are, here they often were not (they simply have less staffing, because they are cheaper). The passenger mix and style here was also annoying at times, and the general ambience was less than inspiring or elegant. But it may be different on longer HAL cruises with more experienced cruisers on board. The price was definitely low, especially for a solo, a major benefit.. I would consider HAL again, especially with DH, on a port intense good itinerary (they have many), but would focus on Pinnacle dinner dining as much as possible, and private excursions. Meanwhile I will continue to to seek out higher rated lines as a first choice (HAL is rated 3 start by Berlitz). Read Less
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
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
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
Choose this cruise for the itinery and appeared good value. Cabin fine we choose interior and are happy lots of storage. The itinery was good and we saw lots the highlight was transitting the Panama canal AWESOME. Yes there were senior ... Read More
Choose this cruise for the itinery and appeared good value. Cabin fine we choose interior and are happy lots of storage. The itinery was good and we saw lots the highlight was transitting the Panama canal AWESOME. Yes there were senior passengers on board but we were treated as aged and any entertainment past 9.30 pm was considered to be a disturbance to those asleep in bed according to the entertainment Director Tino We asked for 50s 60s night party told NO we asked to change music on lido deck which was on a loop and told NO asked to have an announcement when crossing the Equator and told NO after going through Panama canal no cheers no horns no nothing. Even Easter Sunday passed without any acknowledgement. Easter Monday late bought round some trays of chocolate. All passengers I spoke to English some USA and Australians said they were bored had never read so many books on holiday or been in bed so early. The Captain sails the ship the engineer keeps the ship going the chef feeds the passengers. The Entertainment director and assistant should keep the passengers happy and entertained well it didn't happen 4 shows from cast in 21 days hardley ever saw the entertainment Director no people skills bad jokes telling us to take clothes from people's cases left in corridor night before departure !!!!!. Very inexperienced person did not know the passengers feelings never asked how things were? Deputy Erica needs to change her job not happy does not speak or acknowledge passengers is not part of the team that makes the ship work. Some people had been like us on many cruises 5 plus and could not believe the lack of entertainment on offer. No sail away parties and the disco should be closed and used for something else. Very sad to be writing this as had high hopes for this cruise the itinery saved the day. And finally the main entertainment areas were freezing main stage theatre wajang theatre, Dining room, people got colds coughs and All the throat sweets were sold out. We would sit in the main stage theatre with body warmers on. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
We recently travelled on the zaadam for three weeks although we enjoyed the cruise It was spoilt by the lack of entertainment at night, not much going on in the day either, no sail away parties, no fun around the pools, the ship was like ... Read More
We recently travelled on the zaadam for three weeks although we enjoyed the cruise It was spoilt by the lack of entertainment at night, not much going on in the day either, no sail away parties, no fun around the pools, the ship was like an old folks home! We are entering our 70's but that does not mean that we want to be in bed by 10pm. The ship was like the Marie Celeste after dinner. There were 4 shows with the ships singers and dancers in 20 nights, the only time we saw them after this was eating, other ship we have sailed on we have seen the dancers taking part in the daytime activities, what a job they have 4 shows in 20 nights. Our evening entertainment one evening was the blue planet which has been on TVs at home it was a pleasant hour as the ships band accompanied the action on the screen. We tried the disco on several occasions only to find Erica propping up the bar with her iPad there was no acknowledgement that we were there which seemed a little rude as there were of six other people, she made no mention of what she was going to play just touched the iPad screen. The one evening we stayed in the disco until 12 midnight with four other people only to find the bar staff closed the bar switched off the lights and said goodnight! The ship was very cold in the public areas, deck 4 & 5 and particularly the theatre were guest were wearing body warmers, cardigans, shawls and jumpers, when I complained to an Officer I was told that it would get warmer closer to the equator, it didn't. Surely in would be in Holland Americas interest to have guest staying in the bars and discos longer rather than most people being in bed by 10pm . Will we travel with them again very doubtful it would have to be an exceptional itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
I think I should start with what I did like. The new (i had not seen these before) hand wash system in place and the covers over the dining selection in the Lido dining room. Its a pity that guests do not adhere to using these and it is ... Read More
I think I should start with what I did like. The new (i had not seen these before) hand wash system in place and the covers over the dining selection in the Lido dining room. Its a pity that guests do not adhere to using these and it is not monitored by staff. Only one sanitiser as you come out of the lift and again not many use this either before going to the food counters. I think the comedian on board hit the nail on the head when he said that these things are done to stop guests getting infected and ill. I saw guests drinking the juice from the breakfast selection and leave the now dirty glass on the counter in front. Another leaning on the glass covers on the section making the rolls up, Guests filling water bottles direct by placing bottle inside the dispenser instead of filling a glass and pouring into bottle. Bowls of apricots and nuts etc removed completely from the cabinet when there are spoons to use in each bowl. Guest could not work the tongs on the cold meats and sliced cheese counter so proceeded to hand pick her slices with her hands. The Café a guest took of his hat and placed it on the counter while waiting for his coffee. I think I will leave that there but every day at least once I witnessed something that made me question where are the staff as I challenged on 2 occasions only for the guests to flare up and get angry with me. I did get a stateroom change as 1962 was very noisy and I couldn't get decent sleep. Started usually around 4am to am due to engines and propellers side thrusts when docking. Not recommended. Too many trips down to guest services regarding laundry, I had paid for unlimited laundry package but still had this put this on my bill 3 times and I had to go to guest services to get it removed. Drinks put on my bill in the dining room that I did not have (although) this was removed before I saw it on my bill. Easter came and went with no recognition apart from hot cross bus offered in the bread roll selection in main dining room and 2 mini choc eggs left on the bed instead of squares. No entertainment in the theatre on Easter Saturday and very limited bars. I asked Michael the travel agent on board why no show etc and was told it was because we had 2 late departures and this very often happens? So we went out ashore in the evening but because it was Easter everything closed between 4pm and 8pm so we went back to the ship.We had 20 nights on boad and the Zaanda singers and dancers were only on 4 times? We are booked on the Westerdam in October (this was booked before we had cruised with Holland America) so I asked Michael for some information while we were on board as he said he had just joined Zaandam after 6 months on Westerdam. He told me couldn't help me as I did not have my booking reference with me. I am sure had I been going to book he would have been more helpful. Drinks are quite expensive. Ran out of IPA (bottled craft beer) 7. but not available.7.25 and 7.5 volume too strong for the average drinker. Hand pump for boddingtons . Rekordling cider ran out in Crowes nest. One day of rain and water was leaking through the ceilings into the Lido dining and through a light fitting outside the toilets and Crowes Nest bar. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
This was a tailor made holiday to Brazil and ended with the cruise from Bueno Aries to Santiago. The facilities were fine. Food in buffet was excellant but in restaurant I was underwhelmed. Tendering was a shambles. Missed my private ... Read More
This was a tailor made holiday to Brazil and ended with the cruise from Bueno Aries to Santiago. The facilities were fine. Food in buffet was excellant but in restaurant I was underwhelmed. Tendering was a shambles. Missed my private pre booked trip because the steward would not allow me off the ship although I explained I needed to leave to meet my tour. Even when I booked a ship tour I had to ask permission to leave to make tour. Also price of tours are now so expensive . Not good value. Entertainment on main stage was O.K. Some shows were excellant ,others were not suitable for the main entertainment. Staff were friendly but there was not many on dockside to help when going ashore for trips. This was my second cruise with Holland America , I chose them because last cruise I was very happy with them. This time I felt the standard had fallen slightly, However I would cruise with them again if cruise itinerary was what I required Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
Tried to put new adventure into the cruise life but the main reason was to sail Cspe Horn and see Ushuaua. And..... weather canceled so we went to some backwater ports of little interstate not history. Sad. Do not let yourselves get ... Read More
Tried to put new adventure into the cruise life but the main reason was to sail Cspe Horn and see Ushuaua. And..... weather canceled so we went to some backwater ports of little interstate not history. Sad. Do not let yourselves get booked into cabin 1964. A loud, smelly place really unfit for habitation. Ship was nice for relaxing, cards, stage shows. Happy hours were really necessary to keep the spirits up. Food was amply provided and the variety made for good sets. Guest services was helpful when our room issue was unbearable. Made many acquaintances on the cruise which helped us deal with missing the 2 key planned highlights. Room 1833 was available and a much better quality than that other nightmare. Lots of people caught the a/c hack and remained for the whole cruise. This critique is more or less to ensure that I save someone from the misery called 1964 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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