Sail Date: September 2006
The Zaandam Alaska cruise (Sept. 15-22) was also our first cruise. We arrived in Seattle a day early and found the airport personnel very helpful in arranging a towncar transfer to the downtown Seattle area for $35 (approx. the same price ... Read More
The Zaandam Alaska cruise (Sept. 15-22) was also our first cruise. We arrived in Seattle a day early and found the airport personnel very helpful in arranging a towncar transfer to the downtown Seattle area for $35 (approx. the same price as a taxi). We had reservations at the Sheraton downtown and had no problem checking in early (approx. 11:00). We got our luggage situated and took off on foot to see the sites of Seattle. We found everything to be within easy walking distance and would recommend planning a good amount of time for Pikes Market which was a lot of fun. We walked to the Space Needle late that afternoon and enjoyed the view from the top as the sun set. We took a taxi to the pier on embarkation day (about $10) where we were promptly greeted and our luggage quickly taken care off. There were plenty of representatives on hand to help direct us and we found ourselves onboard very quickly. We took time exploring the public areas of the ship while waiting for the rooms to be ready and upon the announcement that we could proceed to our rooms had no problem finding our way there. Luggage arrived a piece at a time and was all accounted for within the first hour. The room was very well prepared and there was no shortage of space to stow our clothing and other belongings. Our room steward introduced himself fairly quickly and we requested that the twin beds be put together which was taken care of before we returned to the room later that evening. We decided to handle our shipboard account with cash rather than a credit card which presented no problem, we simply went to the front desk where it was taken care of very quickly. The ship is beautiful and very clean. We had no problem finding our way around. We rarely felt crowded and only occasionally found elevator waits to be somewhat long. We did make frequent use of the stairways when only going up or down a couple of decks. We had an outside room on the lowest deck (Dolphin Deck) and very near the front of the ship (1810). We did receive notice the night before arriving in Sitka that the ship would be dropping anchor approx. 2:00 am and to not be alarmed at the sound of the anchor dropping. I did hear the anchor drop but only because I happened to be awake, my husband slept thru it as I no doubt would have, it was not nearly as loud as we expected it to be. We were a little surprised at the number of photos taken onboard. The first formal night we were required to go thru several photo lines before reaching the main dining room but there is no pressure to purchase the photos. We waited until the last night of the cruise to make our way to the photo gallery where we gathered all of our photos and determined which ones we wanted to purchase. The food onboard was plentiful and very good. We ate all of our dinners in the main dining room where we received wonderful service every night. We found the dining room staff to be most attentive and felt pampered like never before. We ate most breakfasts and lunches on the Lido deck where the buffet was plentiful and the food was well prepared. We never had a problem finding a table by a window even on the most crowded of days. We did order room service for breakfast on a couple of mornings and the food always arrived exactly as ordered and was always hot. The service aboard the ship was outstanding. The crew was amazing and several crew members were greeting us by name within the first couple of days of the cruise. These people work incredibly long hours and are on the move constantly yet never fail to greet you with a warm welcome and a big smile. Gratuities are automatically charged to your onboard account but we did tip certain individuals above that as we felt their service went beyond standard. The onboard entertainment was good, the cruise activities staff were energetic and a lot of fun. Be sure not to miss the crew show where they will present you with a little bit of their home culture. It is obvious that they put a lot of work into this in addition to their normal duties and really is a wonderful experience. Ports of call  Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria B.C. We did not book any excursions in advance thru the cruise line. Upon arrival in Juneau there were plenty of vendors with booths set up with which to book excursions at a fraction of the price charged by Holland America. We booked whale watching with Captain Larry from the pier and had a wonderful time. Very knowledgeable staff and we had the opportunity to view many whales. Definitely recommend this tour. Glacier Bay was quite an experience, had no problem finding viewing areas on deck, plenty of warm blankets, and the U.S. National Park Rangers narration thru the ships loud speakers was very informative. Sitka and Ketchikan both presented rainy days, we donned our rain jackets, purchased rain hats on shore and spent both of those days exploring the cities on foot on our own. Victoria was a little disappointing as we did not arrive until 8:00 pm and only had four hours in port. There were busses available for shuttle into town at the cost of $5 per person. We were advised that it was easy walking distance so we choose to walk. When it became obvious that it was not going to be a quick walk we choose to return to the ship and spent that evening enjoying the ship activities. Debarkation day came way too soon. The evening before we were presented with luggage tags which were coded by color and number. We were allowed to remain in our cabins until our code was called, and within fifteen minutes of being called we were off the ship and thru customs. Could not have been handled any better. I would advise marking your luggage to make it stand out, we painted ours with large yellow stars so they were quite easy to find, could have been difficult without markings which stood out. Taxis were waiting at the pier and we quickly found ourselves back in downtown Seattle where we had reservations at the Summerfield Suites for the night. We were allowed to check in at 9:00 am which was a pleasant surprise and had another day to explore Seattle before we had to leave. A word of advise about flying out of Seattle, we had an early flight (6:30am) and arrived at the airport an hour and a half before flight time. Got bags checked easily and made our way to security where we were astonished to find an amazingly long line waiting to pass thru security. It seems that they were training security staff and it took a long time to get thru security, made it to the gate just in time to board for our flight. We would definitely recommend Holland America to our friends and would not hesitate to book with them again. We are in our mid 40's and while we were among the younger cruisers we never felt out of place, there really is something for everyone. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
We were on the Zaandam Alaska cruise June 2 - 9. We flew to Seattle on June 1 and by the time we got to baggage claim our luggage was there. We went to a courtesy phone near door 16 and dialed 55 to speak to ground transportation. We ... Read More
We were on the Zaandam Alaska cruise June 2 - 9. We flew to Seattle on June 1 and by the time we got to baggage claim our luggage was there. We went to a courtesy phone near door 16 and dialed 55 to speak to ground transportation. We opted for a limo to our downtown hotel - cost is $30 and that is about the price of a cab. We told them what door we were at and were informed that the driver would arrive within 4 minutes. He arrived promptly and took us to the Homewood Suites. A limo is a great way to start off a cruise. The Homewood Suites on Western Avenue is within walking distance to the Space Needle and we had planned to ride the Monorail to get downtown but it was out of service until sometime later this summer. There was a bus stop near the hotel so we took the bus to the downtown area, had lunch and walked around, went to Pike's Place and ended up calling a cab to go back to the hotel due to a heavy rainstorm that came through. Homewood Suites is owned by Hilton and we got an internet deal that requires full payment at the time of booking but saved some money. The rooms are very spacious with a separate bedroom, a nice living room with large sofa, chair, microwave, coffeemaker, refrigerator and a TV in both the bedroom and living room. A bag of popcorn and coffee is provided in the room. Breakfast is included and the variety was good with fresh fruit, cereals, eggs, bacon, sausage, juice and Starbucks Coffee. Coffee is available in the lobby all day. If you stay Sunday through Thursday, dinner is also included. They had a nice (small) salad bar, two types of chicken wings, potatoes, and fresh fruit - plenty of food plus free wine and beer with dinner if desired. We were satisfied with the quality and quantity of food and happy to stay in since it was raining quite hard. The only downside of this location is that it is not really close to a lot of the areas tourists like to visit but we had a nice view of Elliot Bay from our bedroom and actually say the Celebrity Mercury coming into port just before 10 a.m. (we found out later from our cab driver that the ship was supposed to dock at 7 a.m. but was three hours late and that was creating a mess trying to get people to and from cruise ships). There is a Safeway within walking distance if you want or need anything. DH wanted a Friday Wall Street Journal to take on the cruise. USA Today was outside our suite door in the morning. The Hotel also has an arrangement with someone to provide shuttle service to both Pier 66 ($4) and Terminal 30 ($6). When we checked in on Thursday I saw the sign but it said the shuttle only operated on Saturday and Sunday. I asked why they didn't provide a shuttle for Friday cruises and was told that this was the first year that Friday cruises were offered out of Seattle. We decided to call a cab in the morning when we were ready to leave. The shuttles are advertised as first come first served starting at 10 a.m. so I imagine they run only when full and go to both terminals. When checking out Friday morning we saw that they had added Friday to the shuttle schedule but we decided to take a cab anyway. The front desk clerk called a cab and we were told it would be there in 10 minutes but it took closer to 25 minutes - the cab came from the Zaandam and took us back out. The driver was very apologetic but explained the problem with Celebrity Mercury arriving late and mentioned that the Friday schedule was a little harder considering the competition with work traffic that doesn't exist on weekends. He got us to the pier by just before 11 a.m. but it cost $15 plus tip primarily because the meter keeps running when sitting in traffic! When getting out of the taxi a couple of men told us to take our luggage directly to the security bay (like they have at airports now) instead of standing in a line where porters were placing luggage on the carts. Fortunately our entire luggage was on wheels and stackable so we got in a very short line and sent the luggage on in less than five minutes. Then we went to stand in the line to check in and that took maybe 10 minutes or so. There were several very efficient volunteers directing traffic and keeping things moving. The lady in our line said to tear out the contract; have the immigration form in hand along with passport, credit card for onboard account and accompanying form. She didn't let anyone go to a counter who hadn't done that! When checking in the clerk had DH and I fill out a form that asked whether or not we had any vomiting, diarrhea or other illness in the past three days and a signature is required. She then informed us that we had been upgraded from an Outside D (deck 2) to Verandah A (deck 7). This was our 5th cruise with HAL. DH and I were shocked. The clerk seemed a bit surprised as well and told us that we would need to go to the front desk as soon as we got on board and have them notify housekeeping of our new cabin number so luggage could be diverted. We each had our photo taken with a web cam and we were given our key cards. I noticed when we used the card to log on board our photo showed up on the security computer screen. This also happened each time we went onshore in ports. They didn't require us to show passports at any time since a current photo pops up on the computer encoded in the key card. We spent almost 10 minutes waiting in the embarkation photo line which was annoying to just about everyone. There is a fairly long walk from the shore to the ship but no steps are involved and no need to rush. Once on board we went to the front desk first to tell them about our cabin change and then we went up to the Lido to have lunch. DH and I had huge grins the whole time. We walked around the ship a little after lunch and rooms were ready a little after 1:00 p.m. We had booked this cruise in April and had the 3rd seating (7:45 p.m.) and were seated at a table for 8. We went to the Queen's Room on the 5th deck to talk to the wait staff to see if we could request a change. We arrived there about 2 p.m. and we had to talk to one of the bus boys who wanted to know what we wanted to talk to Mr. Johnny about. Then he gave us a number written on a post-it note - #35 and directed us to the Explorations Cafe to wait. The room was packed and they were only on #15. We were told they would stop at 3:30 p.m. and then resume again after the life boat drill at around 5:00 p.m. DH was not thrilled to sit and wait so we took turns wandering around. We stayed together at 3:15 p.m. and were concerned that we would not get a chance to talk to Mr. Johnny. Many of the people waiting wanted to change dining times - some where scheduled early and wanted later dining times and vice versa. Only a few wanted to change table assignments to eat with friends. When someone met with Mr. Johnny, he or she would come back out through the crowd and some would say, "did you get what you wanted?" 95% did not and a few were rather vocal about it. Our number was called at 3:25 p.m. and we had to walk this long walk to the head of the room where Mr. Johnny and a helper behind a computer were seated. It felt like being in a B movie. I had put on my biggest smile and politely explained that we were interested in finding out if we could possibly be moved to a table for 2 and at one of the two earlier sittings. Mr. Johnny had his partner pull up our information and said, "You just booked this cruise in April! Why would you expect to get an early sitting now? Early sittings are reserved for families with children or those who have medical conditions that require early meals!" Wow, I was shocked. We have always had the early sitting and never knew there were such rules. Likewise, we have always seen numerous empty tables on every cruise. I am 50+ and DH is 68 and we usually eat at 6 or 6:30 p.m. However I could see that nothing was going to happen to have our time changed so I asked if he would consider giving us a smaller table. He said he would see what he could do. I told him that we had planned to eat at the Pinnacle Grill that evening. The next morning when we got up we found an envelope that had been slid under our door saying we had been moved to a table for two but kept at the same dining time. We decided to try the later dining time and it was rather difficult to be finishing dinner at 9:15 p.m. which is normally the time we start thinking about going to bed (we are early risers). On the night of the dinner show, the new concept by HAL, there were only two dinner seatings 5:30 and 8:15 so DH and I decided to eat at the Lido that night. We went to dinner at 6:00 p.m. and found tables covered with table cloths, excellent food, the best dinner we had all week, and no crowds. We had a window seat and actually saw several whales while we ate. Meals in the main dining room were OK but nothing was really spectacular except the soups. I was surprised about a few items that I ordered because I expected one thing (based on the menu description) and got something totally different. The last formal night there was a long delay between the entree and the baked Alaska parade - more than 30 minutes. Several people got tired of waiting and left. On the final night when we docked in Victoria dining times were changed to 5:00 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. because of shore excursions starting at 8 p.m. I saw a table of 4 come in at 7:15 p.m. get up and leave at 7:30 p.m. because the steward hadn't been by to take their order. The dining room had many empty tables each night but especially on the last night and it seemed as if the service was slower, the drink refills were absent and no extra pampering that had been present before. Ironically, Mr. Johnny was our Head Waiter and stopped by every evening to make sure everything was OK. A couple seated behind us at dinner found something to be critical about each evening. When the cruise director (a female) was doing the talk preceding the parade of the Baked Alaska the husband yelled at her to stop shouting and after the event the cruise director came over and told him he was very rude and the three of them got into a heated discussion. The dinner in the Pinnacle Grill was good but not as good as on other HAL ships. I had wanted to try the rib eye but the waiter said, "no, a filet is more appropriate for a lady." I was speechless. We have had at least 2 meals in the Pinnacle on all other cruises but not this time. No half price at the Pinnacle for the first night either. We had a couple of breakfasts in our room and the order was correct and served promptly. The other days we went to the Lido and were satisfied. The waffles are not as good as on the Oosterdam (they were Belgium waffles on the O) but there are plenty of choices. We ate one lunch in the main dining room and decided not to go back. Stay away from the Classic Ruben Sandwich, not classic and not at all what we expected. We stuck with the Lido the rest of the time. The pasta was always good and the bread pudding was great. They did have a carving station most every lunch with chicken, lamb, ham and beef. The breakfast sausage patties and round potatoes are excellent. Our luggage arrived in our stateroom before the life boat drill but I was dismayed to see stewards on some decks literally pushing luggage off the carts used to transfer the luggage from downstairs up to the various decks. One steward saw me looking and stopped it but I had to wonder if anybody had broken items in some of the bags that were forcefully pushed. We were scheduled to depart at 4 p.m. but by 4:15 we were still docked. The captain announced that we were waiting for one person so we ended up leaving during the life boat drill (4:45 p.m.) so couldn't take pictures of Seattle or do the usual sail away celebration. The Zaandam is a beautiful ship with a Music theme. There is a huge white organ that rises up in the atrium area and plays at 12 noon, 2 and 4 p.m. yet it was always about 10 minutes late. Some of the carvings are animated and move with the music. There are saxophones, guitars and other music related items all throughout the ship and the wall treatment in the hallways of each deck are replicas of musical scores. Look closely or you'll miss it! The showroom drink table lights all have small musical instruments encased in the class/plastic with the colored light coming through. There are some worn spots in the rug here and there but we did not see any major physical problem. We had a beautiful room on the port side and it was probably the biggest of the verandah suites we have had. Easy to move around and laid out very efficiently. Plenty of storage space and closet space. I had several empty drawers left over. The safe in the closet does not require a code but rather you need to use a credit card with a magnetic strip to open and close the safe (the room key will not work). The bed is heavenly and the new upgrades make it feel like you are sleeping on a feather bed. Robes were roomy and comfortable and we had two wool blankets available to use on the balcony. We got the impression that our steward was fairly new at the job because he was inconsistent from day to day on some items but all in all he did a good job. We had towel animals on four or five nights and always got the schedule for the next day before dinner. DH put his dress shoes out to be polished the evening we boarded and they were back in the room the next morning in time for formal night. Our room was across from a pantry used by the stewards but there was minimal noise. On rare occasions the door to the pantry was open and we could see dishwashers and glassware. We were about 6 cabins from the elevators and stairs (one deck up to the Lido deck) and again, we heard very little noise. At night with the curtain pulled across the hallway to the bathroom and the curtains pulled over the balcony it is very dark and no outside light gets in until you want it. We had some rough seas during the first night and I had some seasickness from 6 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday then was fine. I have only been seasick twice and both times were the first day out from Seattle. Several passengers were feeling the effects but I never saw any seasick bags near the elevators nor any bowls of green apples and crackers like were seen on the Amsterdam. I felt better in the afternoon and everyday afterwards went fine. We had rain every day except in Ketchikan where it was nice and sunny. We did not do any shore excursions this trip because we have done them before and wanted time to shop and walk around. Our first stop in Juneau it was pouring rain and helicopter tours were cancelled due to poor visibility. Sitka it rained a little but it wasn't too cold - sweat shirt under a rain poncho worked fine. We did not bother to get off the boat in Victoria since the time at port was 8 p.m. to 12 midnight and we were still eating at 9 p.m. The tender experience to Sitka was the first time we ever spent a long time in line waiting for a tender. Those with shore excursions were given priority to take the tenders and about 9:45 a.m. the cruise director announced that tender tickets were no longer required and there was no waiting. Apparently a lot of us had the same idea to go ashore at the same time because DH and I got in line at 10:00 a.m. and it was 10:45 a.m. before we boarded a tender to go ashore. They were running at least 3 tenders and we were never told what the delay was. The day at Glacier Bay was wonderful. We picked up 3 or 4 park rangers from the National Park who served as guides and stayed on the ship from 7 to 4 p.m. The ship spends a long time at the major glacier and the captain rotated the ship so people on both sides had close to one hour of viewing from the balconies or public rooms inside. It is always a spectacular sight. There were plenty of activities on the ship to keep people occupied. The midship pool on the Lido deck was busy all the time. We did not go to the spa on this cruise. We did use the internet and the Explorations Café area is very nice, large windows, comfortable chairs that people used. The internet connection was always very fast and there are plenty of computers and lots of WiFi spaces so those who take their own laptops had no trouble finding a spot to work. Try one of the coffee drinks from the Explorations Café. A good selection, the price is excellent and the quality superb. Better than Starbucks. We went to High Tea and to 4 other afternoon tea sessions - all were held in the upper level of the Rotterdam dining room. One day we had trouble getting the attention of one of the waiters and didn't get any of the small sandwiches offered to have with the tea but overall it is always great fun. We went to the Ocean Bar every night before dinner for a drink and to listen to the live band. They were excellent but are on a three month vacation now so don't know who is there now. The hot appetizers were excellent. There was a piano player and two violinists that often played in the Explorer Lounge and they were great. We did not go to any shows in the showroom due to our late dinner sitting. We did miss doing that because we always took in a few shows on prior cruises. We spent a lot of time enjoying our cabin and played card games, scrabble and enjoyed the view. The new LCD televisions in the rooms are excellent and the reception on the few stations we had was generally quite good. One night we were watching an old Jimmy Stewart movie on TCM Mr. Smith goes to Washington and the signal went out just at the end of the movie! We did attend the Mariner Reception which was 15 minutes late getting started and it wasn't as well attended as others we have been too. People didn't seem to have a lot of patience on this cruise. The disembarkation form was in our cabin when we first went in the room but they had a 2 day timeframe before it had to be turned in. We asked to disembark at 9:30 a.m. and they called our number about 9:10 a.m. No problem getting off the ship and once we got our luggage and went through customs we asked for directions to the area for taxi cabs. We had less than a five minute wait and they had plenty of cabs available. By the way the RCCL Vision of the Seas was disembarking at the same pier at the same time and everything went well. It took maybe 15 - 20 minutes from the time they called our number until the time we were in the cab. We were at the airport and checked in our luggage by 10 a.m. for a 1:45 p.m. flight. A few final thoughts: 1. It was difficult to hear announcements in the Lido buffet all week and especially during the disembarkation time. I don't know what that was about. It is better to stay in your cabin and turn the radio over the bed to channel 5 to hear what is happening. There was not a lot of banter by the Captain during this cruise and announcements were kept to a minimum. 2. If 80% of the passengers on any HAL cruise are Mariners then the other 20% may not be happy campers. We heard some complaining here and there but that is to be expected on any cruise. 3. Overall we had a wonderful time and certainly the surprise upgrade added to our experience. We have no major complaints and frankly feel that once you have a few cruises under your belt you tend to prioritize what is important and not sweat the small stuff. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2006
We have talked about doing a Panama Canal cruise for a long time, wo we looked forward with great anticipation to our 17-day east to west transit aboard Holland America's Zaandam. I was just a little concerned about spending such a ... Read More
We have talked about doing a Panama Canal cruise for a long time, wo we looked forward with great anticipation to our 17-day east to west transit aboard Holland America's Zaandam. I was just a little concerned about spending such a long time on one ship, but as it turns out, there is evidently no end to the amount of pampering I can put up with. Packing for such a long trip was tricky, however. This was our fourth cruise and the third with Holland America, having sailed on the Maasdam and Statendam before. We immediately felt very much at home on the Zaandam as it is a lot like the others we had been on. We like the smaller yet less crowded feel of that class of HAL ships. Embarkation was complicated by some kind of computer malfunction, but passengers and staff alike remained cheerful. We were among the first passengers to board, so things may have gotten a little testy later on. Our room was not quite ready. Only one robe was available, and we suspect it was one left from the previous passenger. The famous little bowl of fruit was not there. We later found out from our room steward that there had been a changeover, and he was very apologetic for the lapses. One major disappointment was finding that we had been assigned "Lower Main Seating" in the dining room at 8:30. We immediately went to speak to the Maitre D' and literally had to "take a number". When our turn came, he graciously assured us he would "do everything he could" to respect our request--the same thing he told dozens of other people. We booked five months in advance, and had just assumed we would get what we wanted! We've always eaten at an earlier seating before. Later we actually talked to several people who were at the earlier seating and had not requested it. Many people never eat in the dining room, and it seems wrong to have empty tables sitting there when there were so many who much preferred eating earlier. It was kind of amusing to hear everyone standing around grumbling about the late hour each evening right before the doors opened at 8:30. As it happens, there were a few advantages to eating later--including having a nice long afternoon to enjoy an ice cream cone by the pool and still having plenty of time to get dressed for dinner. And we were lucky to have very pleasant dinner companions. So we ended up eating in the dining room almost every night. Since the complete transit of the Canal is not one of the more routine itineraries, I won't try to give a day-by-day critique, or even port-by-port. I will just say that every port was interesting and beautiful in its own way. And the day spent going through the Canal itself was fascinating from dawn to dusk. A list of the "high points" would have to include the day at beautiful Half Moon Cay, HAL's "Private Island" in the Bahamas. The beach is just unbelievably clean and white and the water is that luminous turquoise color of the Caribbean. There were bright flowers everywhere, and a barbecue lunch was efficiently served in a pavilion just back a ways from the beach. We did our own thing in Puerto Rico and found much to see and do within short walking distance of the ship's dock. One of my favorite moments was standing on the deck as we sailed away from Puerto Rico at midnight, gliding past the lights of "Old Town" and the ancient El Morro fort. Another memorable "sail away" was spent in the Crow's Nest Bar at sunset as the ship did a 380 degree turn leaving the harbor at Puntarenus, Costa Rica. A member of the Crow's Nest Band played soft "New Agey" music as we watched the panorama of shore and rocky islands go slowly past until we were turned to sail directly into the sunset. We also often enjoyed having predinner drinks and hors d'oeuvres in the Explorer's Lounge listening to live strings and piano. To me, it's those "little moments" that make a cruise such a wonderful vacation. I have read some critical comments about the shows on Holland America, but I have to say that we enjoyed each of all 17 evenings. The line-up included three "full-out" singing and dancing shows featuring a very talented group. Then the official on-board orchestra provided live back-up for a variety of other musicians as well as comedians, magicians and other performers. The "Mondriaan Lounge" theater is, to me, the most beautiful of the three HAL ships we've been on. Almost every seat has a good view of the stage. Another small "advantage" of late seating in the dining room is that the lounge was almost never crowded for our shows. We were a little disappointed with the piano bar on the Zaandam. The way it was laid out was kind of like a wide spot in the promenade--very open. And the pianist didn't seem to get much participation from the people around him, but rather was more of a "performer". I've been in piano bars on other ships that had more of a cozy, intimate feel where people could interact and sing along. The food was almost always very good, with plenty of choices for each meal. My husband was a little critical of the lack of variety at the Asian station at the Lido for lunch. Service at the Lido Buffet was courteous and efficient, and lines didn't get too long. However, sometimes the people just ahead of us seemed awfully slow. But that's just the way buffet goes, I guess. All in all, it was a wonderful cruise. Holland America is known for the little touches like fresh flowers everywhere. The wait staff is outstandingly pleasant and friendly, and everything is kept sparkling clean. We hope to sail with HAL again, soon, and wouldn't mind a bit if it was on the Zaandam. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
My wife and I took the Mar 5th sailing for seven days to Road Town, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. We are around 40. This was our second cruise (Royal Caribbean 3 day before). Overall, we loved our cruise. It was extravagant, yet ... Read More
My wife and I took the Mar 5th sailing for seven days to Road Town, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. We are around 40. This was our second cruise (Royal Caribbean 3 day before). Overall, we loved our cruise. It was extravagant, yet comfortable. The service was outstanding. The Indonesian staff were very friendly and seemed genuinely eager to be helpful. We got to know those that had been waiting on us and were sad to leave them. The food was also outstanding. We opted to eat most meals in the dining room (no extra charge) rather than the Lido deck. The appetizers and soups/salads were exceptional. There was plenty of variety. I cannot name a meal that I did not like. The entertainment was very good. We saw two very energetic singing/dancing shows, a magician, a singer impersonator, a comedian, and a ventriloquist. The ventriloquist act contained sexual language and swearing, which we didn't care for. Our inside cabin had plenty of room and was more than adequate with a king sized bed, flat screen TV with DVD, and small couch. Our cabin, and the rest of the boat were very clean. The public rooms and lounges were nicely designed. Many times there were only a handful of people there during after dinner hours, which made it a small but comfortable setting. A classical trio, a piano lounge singer, a ballroom dance quartet, and a soft rock group all played very well. We especially liked the classical music. The interdenominational Sunday service was very disappointing. The atmosphere was generally relaxed. Most people were at least in their 50s with many in 60s and 70s. Some might complain that this type of cruise is for older folks, which is generally true, but we found the conversations with the older folks to be engaging. We certainly learned a thing or two from an older generation about how to ballroom dance! We did not hear any cursing or see any drunkenness. The staff didn't press us to purchase alcoholic drinks or have someone constantly offering drink specials near the pool deck, which was the case on Royal Caribbean. This was not a "party" boat. The port visits were good although Half-Moon Cay was exceptional. At Road Town, we rented a car and found that we had much more time to spend at a much cheaper price than if we would have taken a shore excursion to see the view at Sky World and to spend time at Garden Cane Beach, which were both worth the trip. Traffic was a bit of a problem in town. At St. Thomas, the ship docked 1/2 hour from the town center, while most ships were docked at the town center where most of the shopping and attractions were. Traffic was a problem here, too, and some areas did not seem safe. At Half-Moon Cay, the small island is a picturesque spot for relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, and enjoying their barbecue lunch. If you are looking for a relaxing, non-party type cruise, this would be an excellent choice. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
We really enjoyed our cruise on the Zaamdam. This was our 4th cruise and our first on a Holland ship. We traveled with another couple and we are in our forties. First the really good points. The food was great. The dining room selection ... Read More
We really enjoyed our cruise on the Zaamdam. This was our 4th cruise and our first on a Holland ship. We traveled with another couple and we are in our forties. First the really good points. The food was great. The dining room selection and quality was very good to excellent. Breakfast and lunch was great in the Lido Restaurant. The only knock here was the waiting in line sometimes, but not a big problem. There was a wide variety of selections at lunch. As other have warned, beware of the scrambled eggs! Service in both the Lido and the dining room were superb. We chose an inside cabin and it was by far the best we have had as far as layout and space. The pillow and sheets stand out as far as comfort. The television was good, and our cabin steward did a great job as well. The shows ranged from OK to really good. I will point out that we do not live in New York city and are not accustomed to Broadway Shows as some have pointed out, but we know what we like and these were good. We particularly liked singer/impressionist Paul Tanner and the ventriloquist as well. Some have complained about the size of the Casino, but we found it to be adequate and never crowded. The Ports Of Call were all exceptional and we really enjoyed the Baths at Virgin Gorda! There are always some negatives. The ship did seem to move and vibrate more than we remembered others doing at times. We also purchased a Soft-Drink card for $35.00 plus gratuity. ($80.50 Total!)A piece. This was not worth it! Diet-Coke was often given to us in small glasses, it was hard or impossible to find in the mornings, and the bar staff (for the most part) seemed irritated to Serve it to you. Holland needs to address this and do a better job. Bottom line, it was good cruise on a good ship. The staff and service was wonderful and it is a good value for the money. We would definitely cruise on Holland again! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
Our March '05 Zaandam cruise was fabulous. We'd had plans to go skiing, which fell through suddenly, so we went online, typed in "last minute travel", and booked 2 Verandah Suites (6212 & 6218) for our family of 5 - ... Read More
Our March '05 Zaandam cruise was fabulous. We'd had plans to go skiing, which fell through suddenly, so we went online, typed in "last minute travel", and booked 2 Verandah Suites (6212 & 6218) for our family of 5 - less than a week before sailing. My in-laws decided it sounded pleasant, and came along too. We're in our mid 30s, with 3 kids ages 8-12. My wife and I played with the kids, relaxed, and had twosome dates. The kids played, rested, watched movies, swam, and enjoyed ClubHAL. My college-professor father in-law graded papers and swam with the kids, while my mother in-law, read, took cooking classes with my wife, and enjoyed the beaches. Our week on Zaandam provided a perfect mix of different activities for all of us to do together and in various pairings. The Ship & crowd. Zaandam is big enough to provide plenty of space and things to do and to handle the ocean well. It's clean and classy, but not stuffy. A previous cruise on RCCL was more like a week at a giant indoor outlet mall during the Thanksgiving sales (crowds, lines, noise, commotion - this is fun?), while Zaandam offered a comfortable, refined atmosphere - without the chaos. Our fellow passengers were pleasant to be around, with the average age "energetic 50s". Furthermore, they were gracious to our children, often lending a hand if one of the kids needed it. Cabins. Our 2 suites were simply lovely. Quiet, comfortable, perfect temp control, lots of storage. Fresh flowers were a welcome touch. Flat screen TV and DVD/CD player were a real plus, especially with the kids (satellite TV with cartoon network; plus 945 DVDs in the library). I appreciated the comfort of the bed - think Westin or Ritz Carlton. Every evening the sofa in the kids' room was converted to a bed, which my daughter thought was cozy. The verandahs were really pleasant; clean, quiet, not windy - definitely worth the extra money. Our room steward, Laode, was incredible - always greeting us with a warm smile, keeping our rooms neat, replenishing our fruit, and making a special point to fuss over the kids. Requests were never an inconvenience, and his follow through was 100%. I'm convinced he was genuinely glad to have us as his guests. Dining. Steak, escargot, venison, duck, perch, lobster, crab, chicken, salmon, pasta, shrimp, lamb - and that's what my kids ate! We were flat out spoiled all week. We took our breakfasts from the Lido restaurant out to the aft deck and up one flight to a quiet table (actually, a server helped carry the kids' trays). Perfect. You name it, you can have it for breakfast. Personally, I went for omelets, lots of mango, mueslix, and glasses full of fresh squeezed OJ. It doesn't get any better. Lunches were casual in the Lido or by the pool. The 2 times we ordered room service we were impressed. One was a late night snack of fruit plates and glasses of milk: 6 minutes. The other was when we ordered Dutch High Tea for on our verandah one afternoon (15 minutes). Simply lovely. Dinner was at 5:45 at a window table overlooking the stern. Our waiter, Mr. Yodiarta, was attentive and on the ball! He addressed the children by name, treated them as if they were the #1 VIPs on board, and when he sensed one of us couldn't decide which dessert to choose, he brought both. One evening our oldest son wasn't keen on the appetizer selection and said that what he'd really like was some mango. Presto. In 5 minutes a plate of golden slices was sitting before him. For our last night, we requested a special Filipino family meal, and the Philippine galley staff went all out with the most delicious platters you can imagine. Kids. If your kids are polite, and know how to behave in a 5 star resort environment, by all means, bring them. There's plenty to do, it's safe, and the crew could not have been kinder. Summer greeted my 3 (8, 10, 12) as we stepped aboard and she invited them to a Club HAL orientation after the life boat drill. At the orientation, they were given wrist bands identifying our lifeboat #, and lanyards with water-proof pouches to carry their key cards. My kids chose to remove the pouches and ask the front desk to punch holes in their cards so they could wear them on the lanyards. Club HAL is organized in 3 age groups (Kids, Tweens, and Teens). Kids under 8 need an adult to sign them in/out, with 8 & up free to come & go as they please - if their parents approve. We're fairly conservative, and very deliberate about our kids' whereabouts; at no time did we ever feel concerned. They did tie-dye shirts, candy bar bingo, free-play on arcade games, scavenger hunts, mini Olympics, Cranium and more. The Club HAL facilities are great, with 10 Play Station 2s, and even a special deck with hammocks for Teens. One morning my 12 year old took his book to the Crow's Nest to read quietly, ordering a bitter lemon soda to drink. When he and I went back to play a game later in the afternoon, the server addressed my son by name and asked if he'd like another bitter lemon! By the way, not 10 minutes later we watched a pod of porpoises race the ship, jumping in the air. Ports. We visited Tortola, St Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. At Tortola we left the ship early, and walked 12 minutes to the local ferry terminal where we boarded a high speed ferry for Virgin Gorda, and took a taxi to the Baths. We hiked past all the tourists and found our own private beach – loved it. Great snorkeling, but watch out for the strong current. St. Thomas is an over-touristed, jewelry selling, t-shirt hawking, booze distribution island to which we do not need to return – at least not when there are 6 other ships in port. But if you find yourself there charter a boat over to St John (our original plan until the kids were too tired from Tortola), or take a cab 5 minutes to Brewer’s Bay. We learned of Brewer’s Bay from the immigration officer who recommended it as a local’s beach with calm clear water, great shells, and NO facilities. It lived up to all of his description, and was perfect for our needs. Half Moon Cay is the tropical isle you’ve dreamed of. More than a mile of powdery white sand, clear, shallow water for snorkeling, hammocks, and a really cool water park for playing. Skip the excursions – we lost 2 hours waiting around at various points for the sting ray swim & feed. Just go way down the beach, snag that last hammock you see, and forget what day of the week it is. We took our own snorkel masks & gear for the family to use and were glad we did. It filled a canvas LLBean bag, but gave us tremendous flexibility to go wherever and do whatever we wanted. We also took along cold water bottles which you can buy as you leave the ship. Embark/Debark/Luggage. In a word: EASY. Boarding was a simple. Porters took all our luggage and had it in our rooms within 2 hours. Check-in had no lines and took 15 minutes. At the end of the cruise, we had breakfast in the Lido, then waited in our suite until we were called to disembark. Our bags were waiting for us and easily sorted by colored tags. A porter took all 10 of them to the curb for us. Holland America and the Zaandam staff outdid themselves to provide a wonderful week for our family. If I had to pick one thing that made the week, I’d say it was the service. It was always personal and genuine. Never aloof, never indifferent, always sincere. We’ve taken the kids all over the world, staying in many fine hotels and resorts, and I travel heavily for work. We have a lot to compare Zaandam to. Zaandam nailed it, and we can't wait to go back. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
The Suite Life! This was my 7th cruise w/HAL and they finally got it all exactly right. No kidding. And this was following a cruise on the Maasdam that was so bad that we swore 'Never again!'(a little more on that later). Our ... Read More
The Suite Life! This was my 7th cruise w/HAL and they finally got it all exactly right. No kidding. And this was following a cruise on the Maasdam that was so bad that we swore 'Never again!'(a little more on that later). Our travel agent talked us into trying HAL 'just one more time' and we are delighted that she persuaded us. Once again we took an S-Suite (an extra large veranda suite w/a long list of perks) and this time all the extras were actually there. Wonderful mattress, outstanding linens and pillows, towels and robes of the first quality were waiting for us, along w/a bottle of mediocre champagne, a mini-bar, whirlpool tub (that I'm sure most people don't use) a dressing room (w/vanity, great mirrors, small sink and hairdryer - Judy liked the dressing room a lot, I could care less) and the Neptune Lounge. A note about the lounge - fantastic! The 'goodies' changed all day long (presided over by Pinnacle Grill staff) and always included candies, pastries, fruit and usually various finger foods, sandwiches and cheeses. Most outstanding was the cappuccino machine -- I must have had about five coffees a day, it was like having my own Starbucks right outside my cabin door! Also the concierge was straight from heaven. Anita made it a point to know us all by name and was doing little things for us, like getting us on tours after the deadlines, long after her shift was over. Embarkation was a nightmare and there was something of a feud going on between the Coast Guard and the cruise line. The 'perceived' security lapse kept us waiting from 11:30 till 4 as they brought in dogs and marched the entire crew off the ship and through the metal detector. Talk about stupid!! Watching a chef come off the boat, walk through the metal detector, set the alarm off, remember the chef's knife in his sleeve pocket, hand it to someone, walk through again, the knife was put through the scanner and returned to the chef and he went back on the boat, called to mind all the foolish time wasting, ineffective security stories I've heard since 911. What could possibly be accomplished with this show? Did they think a crew person would bring his gun/bomb off the boat to walk through the metal detector with it? Later we got to speak to the Captain and some other officers (in some private/perk suite parties) and they felt that the Coast Guard was angry about something in HAL's 'attitude' and decided to 'teach them a lesson.' Of course the only ones put out were the passengers. We were waiting so long that they HAD to bring out food and water because some of the oldies were starting to faint. No one felt more secure, nothing productive was accomplished and we all lived through a version of 'dig a hole and fill it back up' military logic. The extra insult was the Coast Guard crew people who wandered among the crowd to 'answer questions.' They wouldn't answer any questions and stood behind us and applauded furiously whenever the CO got on the horn to tell us it would be a few more hours - 'just to make sure.' Coast Guard crew told me that there was nothing they were looking for and that what they were doing was 'just being extra careful.' It was obviously a load of bull. It may sound too good to be true but everything, after embarkation, was better than the last time I'd been on the Zaandam, and in fact the best I ever have ever experienced. Food was better everywhere (we didn't do the Lido much, thought what we had there was bland but the ethnic food stations and the 'made to order' dishes were quite an improvement over the cafeteria style offerings of earlier times). The formal dining hours have been broken up into four seatings and that seemed to speed the service up. All, and I mean all,of the waitstaff were cheerful, friendly and, to a person, seemed concerned that we were having a good time. And room service, the blessed 24hour room service! Terrific food! The steak sandwiches from room service were memorably good, and I'm talking 2am orders that got to us fast and hot and delicious -- and the servers (middle of the night or anytime) all seemed like the happiest people on earth, and that bringing us food was the fun-est thing they could think of. We also have to mention Michael, the mgr. of the Pinnacle Grill (the pay-per upscale restaurant), who consistently went above and beyond to make our cruise special and memorable. Entertainment was also a notch above, excluding (perhaps, since we didn't see them) the 'legs at sea' revues (we never go to those, not to our taste). And, although it was the normal selection of singer, magician and comic...they were all good at what they did and all had the crowd involved and cheering (no small feat given the average age of the cruisers). The magician's special close up show was held in the movie theatre venue and was full, out-in-the-hall-full, well before it started so, you've been warned! Also the cooking demos filled up fast. The Zaandam just came out of drydock and not only is the ship gorgeous but the enhancements were all to our liking. The Internet/library/coffee shop/card room/music room area is tastefully done and was well used but never crowded. There were grumbles because the internet was down a lot but, hey, we're in the middle of the ocean, com'on now, you're on vacation! But you know how some folks are... The demonstration kitchen in the movie theatre is way cool, the movies were a little better than previous HAL fare (Sideways was one). And the spa area was really, really improved. We both got weekly passes for the thermal spa ($60 per/wk) and it was a great investment. We love the sauna/steam room and this (multi-fragranced, serene w/heated lounge chairs, new age music and private whirlpool & veranda) one has GOT TO be seen. Judy did a tooth-whitening there that she swears was the best ever (and does look great) at less than half of what her dentist charged. HAL cruisers are still pretty old overall (we are early fifties and felt youngish) but there were some young honeymooners and a few kids who seemed to be having a great time. The kid's facilities were hugely updated and expanded but...we didn't investigate. Overall it still is the HAL white-gloved elegant laid-back experience. NOW, TO THE LAST CRUISE!! On the Maasdam about a year ago, the website promised new mattresses and dry-cleaning and upgraded linens and none, NONE, of those were available. The mattress in our S-Suite was not only NOT the promised 'Euro-styled, pillow-topped' jobber but was the nastiest, stained, lumpy and sprung piece of crap that ever escaped from a Econo-lodge. Dry cleaning was broken, staff seemed unhappy, getting on and off the boat in Norfolk was a nightmare and, bottom line, HAL lied about what they would provide. Further the food and service in the main dining room were so bad that we ate seven out of ten dinners at the Pinnacle. I have some back problems, so before booking I really asked about the mattresses and got the word back that they had just been replaced. They weren't and it really hurt me and ruined our vacation. I wrote to HAL complaining, sent photos of the filthy mattress and pad, copies of their webpage (showing what they were still promising) and explaining that I asked specifically about the bedding and was lied to and all that I got in reply was a note thanking me for my feedback!!! We are still stinging from that one but this cruise was great. We dislike new tipping policy ($10 per/person/day automatically charged to room and split w/everyone including cooks, dishwashers and officers [doesn't that make it salary?] and if you have the auto-'tips' removed they take your individual tips away from whoever you gave them to and pool them! So much for individual recognition! Why HAL doesn't just charge $70 per/person more and just be a classy 'no-tipping' line is purely beyond me.) but we always used to tip more so, bottom line, we shrugged our shoulders and paid less. Anita had sad look when we shook her hand and thanked her and mumbled 'new tipping policy'. We guessed that she didn't like the new policy either. We're not drinkers but I resent the change in policy that doesn't allow passengers to take bottles of liquor to their rooms (like before) and when I did get to talk to different staff people I heard a number of downbeat comments & sad head-shaking about what "Carnival is doing to us." Hard to know what the future will bring but in the right here and now, the Zaandam is a happy boat of a convenient size that is hard to beat for a wonderful vacation if you are the laid back cruiser. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
This was our 4th cruise. We did have a great time on this sailing (December 11th through the 18th). We have sailed NCL (the Seaward before its elongation), then Royal Caribbean (Rhapsody of the Seas), and 4 years ago, the Dawn Princess. I ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise. We did have a great time on this sailing (December 11th through the 18th). We have sailed NCL (the Seaward before its elongation), then Royal Caribbean (Rhapsody of the Seas), and 4 years ago, the Dawn Princess. I would give this Zaandam sailing an 8 out of 10 (a 4 out of 5) and my wife an 8.5 or 9 out of 10 (she didn't experience a particular problem I did). I would agree with many of the previous statements in other reviews concerning this ship: food was excellent, cabin noise *between* cabins was very minimal, dining stewards "became family members" as one so accurately put it. But there were a few surprises that would cause us next time to choose Princess or RCI. Namely, cigarette smoke, which I'm sure is somewhat of a problem on every ship, and the inexplicable noise the crew makes working above and outside the cabin starting at 4 a.m. every morning. But an 8 out of 10 is a good score none the less. We loved visiting Virgin Gorda and the Baths, and Half Moon Cay reflects accurately the raves mentioned on the boards here. It was a most gorgeous setting. In spite of very rough seas on our day at sea coming up from St. Thomas, and expecting not to be able to tender in to the island, as is mentioned in the catalogue, "Conditions permitting," which my wife suggests means that about 1/3 of the time the seas are too rough to transfer from ship to tender. But we were blessed, and enjoyed most of the approximate 6 hours allowed ashore. We just paid the $9 for a clamshell and enjoyed a spectacular morning with new friends made at the late seating in the Rotterdam. The clamshells were very available and you couldn't reserve one until you showed up and paid for it. But I suppose if you get ashore early you'll have no problem acquiring one. The shops on the island only take cash, which we didn't know until we wanted to buy something! If we had known, we would have taken cash with us, but we hadn't heard, not attending any of the excursion meetings in the lounges. It probably should have been mentioned in the daily paper. We sought no further excursions than the trip to Virgin Gorda upon landing in Tortola, as we wanted to economize. And we had seen St. Thomas a few times already. For us the best part of the trip was dining. The Rotterdam Dining room was very nice, and seating at 8 p.m. on the upper level was fun, but our table mates were the best. At first quite well behaved though talkative, the gang of 10 individuals, from Newfoundland, Canada, San Francisco, North Carolina and upstate New York, grew increasingly raucous. We probably made the most noise and stayed the latest while the stewards patiently and good naturedly waited for us to finish our merriment and depart. Our master waiter (or whatever you call the person responsible for the table, working for the white coated station chief) was a blast, and enjoyed tormenting us during the dessert presentation with the "wiggling Jello." We wondered did ANYONE ever order the Jello when so many other incredible delights were available? Was there even any Jello available at all, since surely no one would order it; there probably only existed that one lone demonstration plate, and they just changed its color every evening! We answered the question one evening as one of the young women at the table ordered a Jello and, upon receiving it, cut it into 10 equal parts and passed it around the table for consumption. The next night I ordered a Jello myself just to prove they were prepared to supply whatever demand, and sure enough, it came. The staff was not at all shy to granting multiple dessert requests, you could definitely order more than one. Until more people do this, of course, and they put a stop to such frivolousness! Another evening my wife spotted a young lady at a nearby table entertaining her table mates with the old "spoon hanging from your nose" trick and showed us at our table that it really could be done without smoke and mirrors! To everyone's delight of course. Yes, the dining experience was special! The ship, being about 5 years old, 4 of those in service, was smaller and more closed (rather than exuding an open feeling walking around its interior public areas) than we have experienced before, such as on the Dawn Princess and the Rhapsody of the Seas (its 1st year in service). But it was pretty well kept for being so "old." It was a beautiful ship. My wife and I both love the ships rocking motion while at sea, and the smaller ship seemed more apt to move. Though, for you who hate this, it is not at all excessive, so don't worry on that account. The third day at sea, when we hit gale force winds and rough seas, the movement was almost like an amusement park ride. I loved it especially sitting in the Crow's nest fully forward and as high (deck-wise) as possible. My wife will be writing a more detailed summary of the week. I've posted pictures here ( http://mywebpages.comcast.net/theislands/ ) (and I hope our table mates don't mind this display). Now, about the noise and the smoking. And the elderly. We too had heard it all about the age range of HAL, and as others have mentioned, were still a bit surprised and the seemingly large number of very elderly, and in wheelchairs, and using walkers and others just moving slowly. But we both recognized that it was fabulous that those at such an advance age could actually get out and enjoy a cruise. We think everyone should! It just surprised us, is all. Being non-smokers we had a harder time on this ship trying to escape the filthy smoke floating in our direction as if a magnetic attraction existed. We'd have to get up a lot and move to avoid the filthy smell and toxin. There just seemed to be more smokers around than on other ships. I believe if one chooses to indulge in a bad habit it should be kept to oneself. Smoke all you want just keep it IN you, don't share it with me. I know, I'm fighting a losing battle. It's not that I get ugly with people about it (other than a dirty look as I am forced to get up and find a better place). But why should I, a paying passenger, be forced to do this just so someone can spread their cigarette, or cigar smoke with everyone else on their deck? Explain that to me! And our cabin, while very clean and roomy, had an appalling smell of cigarette smoke in it. We heard someone mention that they had the same problem, and was offered the "deep cleaning." This helped immensely but I think, talking with our cabin steward, that they just sprayed the walls, carpet, and fabrics with something to mask the smell and exchanged the bedspreads. I don't think they actually replaced the drapes, and you can't do much more with the furniture and carpet. But it did help, and one should feel free to mention it to the Customer Service personnel as soon as you discover the problem. They were quite happy to please their customers. The last problem I'll mention I had, which, interestingly, my wife didn't have (and neither of us drank much onboard, so it wasn't that!), was an early morning noise problem. I was awakened just about every morning at around 4 a.m. to very loud banging and things bumping and crashing into other things. It must have been the ship's crew doing what they needed to do to run and maintain the ship. Sometimes this meant high pressure spraying of the decks and outside walls to clean off the saltwater, or what ever. (This I noticed at 4:30 one morning -- after getting awakened I walked around the ship exploring; virtually no one else was up -- except the working crew -- spraying down the deck, walls and underside of lifeboats). Other loud banging noises were more inexplicable. It sounded like they were just moving around large pieces of equipment, like boilers or lockers. This might be the problem with a cabin like #3397, an outside stateroom very far aft. Maybe if we weren't upgraded from the K cabin, this wouldn't have been an issue. But I found it annoying in the extreme. I didn't complain to anyone about it (except for our table mates) because I knew I would be spending the day napping anyway. But I never experienced this on the previous 3 ships. I don't know how to explain it. I must add that this noise is not the same as noise between cabins. I only heard brief faint talking from one adjoining cabin on two occasions. So I think the walls between cabins must be very well insulated. I guess I can't say the same for the outside walls! I'll stop there. I've written too much already. But there is so much more to say, as anytime you travel to the Caribbean on a cruise ship it is magical. I could talk about the small movie theater on board that showed VHS editions of new movies, and all seats will have someone's head blocking part of the screen (that must be fixed when the ship goes into dry dock in 2005!), or the really cool ships itinerary map on the wall near the Casino, or the interactive map allowing one to explore history's more famous and important voyages while showing their routes on a huge wall map, or the really cool models of ships on display throughout. Maybe next time. For our twenty-fifth anniversary, my wife wants to board the RCI Brilliance for an upper Mediterranean cruise. We have to start saving now! On a last note, we booked early through a cruise vacation agency and got an unbelievably fabulous price for this cruise. And my wife found a very inexpensive third party for the cancellation insurance. Very recommended. Why not save money if you can? We did this by using the "guaranteed cabin" thing, it being more expensive to choose one's own cabin. But we moved up from the Main deck (deck 2) to the Lower Promenade Deck (deck 3), from a K to an HH. The cabin was a little more roomy. Though note the caveat I describe above. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
This was my fourth cruise (third on HAL), and by far my best overall cruise experience. I chose this itinerary and ship based mainly on the low single supplement for an inside guarantee cabin. My trip began the day before when I flew ... Read More
This was my fourth cruise (third on HAL), and by far my best overall cruise experience. I chose this itinerary and ship based mainly on the low single supplement for an inside guarantee cabin. My trip began the day before when I flew into Orlando, the closest large airport to Port Canaveral. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport, and then took the hotel shuttle back to the airport the next day to catch the Holland America ship transfer. The cruise line reps were friendly, as well as knowledgeable. The trip over to the port is a boring 45 minute drive through swampland, so either bring a good book or use it as an opportunity to chat with your fellow passengers, if they're so inclined. With multiple buses arriving at the terminal simultaneously, the check-in and embarkation process could be categorized as organized chaos. Lines were long, but kept moving, albeit slowly. My cabin was ready by the time I finally boarded the ship, and I was personally escorted to it by a uniformed steward wearing white gloves. After checking out my room and freshening up a bit, I proceeded to the Lido deck for lunch and then did a self-guided tour of the ship before the muster drill and sail away party. My luggage arrived an hour or two later and I was able to unpack before dinner. The Zaandam is a beautiful cruise ship, and a cut above the Statendam and Maasdam that I cruised on previously. My inside aft cabin on the Dolphin Deck was clean and quiet, and my room steward Agus was attentive and friendly. The new mattresses and sheets that are part of HAL's Signature of Excellence upgrade program are absolutely heavenly. A couple of observations...of the 3 HAL cruises I've done, this one had the widest range of ages and "types" of people. I'd say the average age was 60, but the 20's, 30's and 40's were well represented. Out of a total of 1,440 passengers, only 40 were children. Another plus to cruising during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was a large group of secular humanists onboard that held seminars and meetings every day. My encounters with them were always pleasant and enjoyable. They in no way monopolized or took over areas of the ship. Their organized activities were pretty much limited to the Half Moon room. The Zaandam's captain, Master Olav van der Waard, is young, handsome and personable. If I could meet an attractive, well-spoken, sophisticated man like him, I would definitely consider changing my marital status. Food and service were superior, with only a few minor misses. My favorite meal of the entire cruise was dinner in the dining room on the last night. I chose hot crab and artichoke dip, conch chowder, Greek salad, osso bucco (braised veal shanks Italian style) over mushroom risotto and key lime pie for dessert. Two lobster tails were featured as an entrEe on the second formal night. Our waiters offered on more than one occasion to bring us additional appetizers and entrees. Dutch Night, a HAL tradition, is gone but Nasi Goreng (Indonesian rice dish with a variety of grilled, spiced meats) was on the menu one night. My dining companions were totally enjoyable, and made dinner really something to look forward to. I was at a table for 6, but only 5 of us showed up. We had the 8:00 seating which was perfect for me -- not too early and not too late. Besides the dishes I just mentioned, I also enjoyed the Caribbean paella, Oysters Rockefeller and steamed mussels (appetizers), and the filet mignon with BEarnaise sauce and a crab cake and asparagus bundle. I ate lunch in the dining room when I could, and especially enjoyed the wiener schnitzel and the beef short ribs. While I'm on the subject of the dining room, the breakfast and lunch hours were very limited. Most days it was 8-9:30 a.m. for breakfast and noon until 1 p.m. for lunch. I wish the Rotterdam was open at least 2 hours for both breakfast and lunch. One day I tried lunch in the Pinnacle Grill for $10. It was OK, but the food and service was as good, or better, in the regular dining room. I had gingered carrot soup as an appetizer in the Pinnacle, and it tasted like cold Gerber's strained carrots to me! The worst thing I ate was the scrambled eggs. They were terrible. I tried them in the Lido, in the dining room and through room service. The venue didn't seem to matter. I ended up having to reorder eggs over medium. I did ship-sponsored shore excursions at our 3 ports of call -- Tortola, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. As a single woman, I feel more secure on a group tour rather than going off on my own in an unfamiliar place. Plus shore excursions are a great way to meet other people. The ship's shore excursions were poorly organized for Tortola. Everyone met in the Mondrian Lounge and only one staff member was present to hand out stickers and give directions. For St. Thomas, they simply let us off the ship, and then we located the appropriate sign for our tour on the pier. Much simpler and less aggravating. Tortola was rather interesting, with cows, goats, pigs and chickens roaming freely. I hope it's able to maintain its native island charm, and not become another crowded, overly commercialized island like St. Thomas. I couldn't wait to get back to the ship from downtown Charlotte Amalie. It was hot, humid and crowded, with the much touted duty free shops offering little more than overpriced trinkets and junk. Sitting in a massive traffic jam inhaling exhaust fumes is not my idea of a vacation. With 7 ships in port that day, it was just too much for the city to handle. In contrast, my first visit to Half Moon Cay was like being in paradise. I'm not a sun and sand person, so for me to be impressed with a beach, it has to be something special. As far as onboard activities, I played Bingo, watched some movies in my cabin, took a bartending class, attended the Rock 'n' Roldies show, went to most of the late night cast shows and the Indonesian crew show, sampled the offerings at the dessert extravaganza and Dutch High Tea, had wine and hors d'oeuvres at the Mariner's reception and just plain relaxed. It was nice being able to stay in my stateroom until my disembarkation number was called. I've never enjoyed being herded into one of the public areas and then waiting hours to get off the ship. With the exception of a few very minor glitches, this ship and its crew are winners. If you're interested in a relaxed, sedate and more refined cruise experience, Holland America's Zaandam may be what you're looking for. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
We approached our first cruise with some trepidation after hearing stories of stomach ailments and unavoidable weight gain. Our fears were unfounded. Our experience on the elegant Zaandam was most enjoyable and relaxing. The ship is ... Read More
We approached our first cruise with some trepidation after hearing stories of stomach ailments and unavoidable weight gain. Our fears were unfounded. Our experience on the elegant Zaandam was most enjoyable and relaxing. The ship is luxurious and scrupulously clean. It never seemed crowded. The staff was always helpful, attentive, friendly and never intrusive. We chose HAL for its accommodations. Our suite was large and comfortable with more storage space than we could possibly use. The verandah was a great place to eat and read. A bottle of champagne was waiting in our suite when we boarded. We frequented the modern gym, ate gourmet meals and enjoyed a few theatre shows along with a couple of movies in the cinema. Many of the bars had live music and dancing in the evening. The coffee bar outside of the cinema was very popular second only to the casino where some of the older passengers happily disposed of their Social Security. Dining in the Rotterdam where we ate most of our meals is superlative. The service is excellent. Dinner was a gourmet affair often lasting an hour. We looked forward to the varied menu our steward brought to our cabin every evening. Portions were just the right size, well prepared and tastefully presented. We often skipped the tempting desserts and repaired to our room for wine on the verandah. The ship allows you to bring wine on board. We also brought port and sherry. Although we did not run a bar tab we were never lacking for an after-dinner drink. Our efficient and unobtrusive steward kept our room immaculate and replenished the bowl of fresh fruit every day. There is also a buffet restaurant with a pasta bar on the Lido deck. A hamburger, taco and pizza stand always seemed to be open by the pool. Coffee and tea were always available. We could order room service at any time. We once ordered High Tea and got enough desserts to last us the rest of the trip. The ship is quite stable. It slowed down during the day for a smoother ride. Rocking was noticeable one day when we ran into gale force winds. I rather enjoyed it but the motion disturbed my wife. She felt better when she could see the horizon and preferred to be on the verandah despite the wind and spray. Most people seemed to purchase shore trips from the ship but we opted to try it on our own. The ship first stopped at Road Town, Tortola. We ignored the dockside hawkers, asked for directions then walked a couple of blocks over to the ferry landing. We were just in time to catch Speedy's motor catamaran to Virgin Gorda. The round trip for two cost $50 including a taxi to the Baths. The ride was fun. The Baths are a national park that charges $3 per person. Fortunately we brought some cash. Down the hill at the end of a forested path was a beach strewn with large boulders. The swimming and snorkeling were good there. We took off left clambering through the rocks following wet footprints to a great beach. Snorkeling was great. Colorful fish were everywhere. Many sailboats were anchored offshore to enjoy the diving and swimming. We stayed a few hours before heading back. Too late for the Hilltop restaurant we headed back to the ship and ate at the Lido buffet. The next stop was St. Thomas. We were unimpressed by the town of Charlotte Amalie. It looked like a slum. The much vaunted shopping area was more like an over-priced run-down outlet mall. We compared prices of brand-name items and found them to be double the prices in the US. The stop must be a US government requirement. Smart travelers can tour the island for $1 simply by walking to the bus stop and taking advantage of the public bus. The final stop was the HAL private beach, Half Moon Cay, on Little San Salvador in the Bahamas. It is simply paradise. We took the first tender over, enjoyed the beach, the barbecue and stayed as long as we could. We greatly enjoyed the cruise. It is amazing how efficiently the staff meets the needs of so many different people. The ship was superb and HAL really pampers its passengers. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
As would-be first time cruisers, my husband and I debated for several weeks whether or not we should even take a cruise vacation. Weighing concerns over claustrophobia (a red herring worry) and seasickness (ditto, except for some weird ... Read More
As would-be first time cruisers, my husband and I debated for several weeks whether or not we should even take a cruise vacation. Weighing concerns over claustrophobia (a red herring worry) and seasickness (ditto, except for some weird feelings of suspended equilibrium the first night) and the feeling that we would be big losers not to take a cool vacation for once in a long time, we finally decided to give it a shot. But then, next big decision! Where to go, what cruise line, when, how long? Our nearest embarkation port was Jacksonville, serviced primarily by Carnival. After a little research on this website and others, we decided that Carnival was not the way to go for us. We are thirty-something professional types with no kids, but being the party animals at our age when we weren't at 21 is not our idea of a fun way to spend a vacation. Visions of dressing up for dinner and "adult" music and beautiful public areas kept popping up in our head. In all fairness, we have not cruised with Carnival, so it may be the place for you, but from what we researched, it would not have suited us. We looked farther afield, and discovered that the selection was much bigger in Port Canaveral. Disney, Carnival, RC (we think), and Holland America (HAL) all sail from there, and to boot, the port was only a four-hour straight shot from us down I-95. Again, the Internet was very helpful, and HAL emerged as the victor. We liked the fact that all the reviews raved about the good food and classy interiors, and we appreciated the fact that while some complained about a slower night life and social calendar, that was just our speed. OK, feeling very proud of ourselves for completing two of the four requirements for booking a cruise -- port and line -- we then narrowed it down to Thanksgiving week so we wouldn't have to take as many vacation days off from work. The only route available from HAL for that week was Western Caribbean (Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios, and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, HAL's private island). So far, so good. Of course, our only frame of reference was prior to last Saturday the Internet reviews and the experiences of friends and family on other cruise lines. When we finally turned off of I-95 last Saturday afternoon, and came to the cruise terminal, we yelped with joy. How beautiful! How majestic! The signs for HAL's terminal were clearly marked, and it was a piece of cake to get there. The shore baggage handling functions similarly to outside check-in at the airport, but we were not happy with the surly guy taking our luggage. I doubt he's a direct HAL E/E but probably an independent K/R type. Once we parked the car in the lot ($10 a day prepaid and very easy), we went inside the HAL terminal where we waited in a LONG line for about 50 minutes to check in and show our ID credentials. My only complaint -- provide some water or lemonade for us while we wait. The HAL folks were very nice and courteous (as was our experience throughout the entire cruise). Onward to the gangplank -- watch out for the photographers unless you really want a picture to purchase. We found out later it wasn't required; our mom had taken a cruise with Norwegian, and had to take a photo for her ID card, not so with HAL. The interiors of the Zaandam are very understated in a very hip European manner with lots of interesting unexpected but quite tasteful color and texture combinations. I'm told the ship is not as large of some others, but I wouldn't have known. Tucked away are lots of little lounges with great places to chat with new friends or read a book. But more about the interiors later. Our room (#3308) was off by itself in the middle of the Lower Promenade deck close to the front of the ship. We were concerned about vibration, which as landlubbers were experienced the first night, but we got used to it, and would probably take the same room again. Oh, don't worry about getting an outside window unless you are farther up in the ship -- the windows on the Promenade deck were always curtained b/c everyone walks past them and peers in on their exercise circuits around the deck. We had a windowless inside room, so no worries on that count. The room was arranged with conservation and maximization of space in mind, and we had plenty of space for our things. A word about our cabin steward. I wish I could take him home. Our room was spotless the first day and throughout our entire cruise. Saephul is a quiet and diligent young man who obviously takes a great deal of pride in his work. It shows. Any time we needed new towels, we'd leave them to be picked up, and we'd return a few hours later for new ones (this was several times a day if we went swimming and then changed for dinner). The bathroom was immaculate at any time of the day, and our beds were turned down at night with chocolates on the pillows. (I agree with other reviewers -- bring sodas b/c they are $1.75 a pop on the ship -- $2.00 for mineral water. We brought a six pack of Sprites with screw on caps and made liberal use of the ice bucket and glasses. Next time, I'd bring more.) Saephul got an extra tip for his performance above and beyond the call of duty. Food. When you first get on board, don't make the mistake I did as a newbie cruiser, and think that the only food available is at the Lido Pool (tacos, burgers, hot dogs). Wrong! Continue to go aft, and you will run smack dap in the middle of buffet heaven -- the Lido! Yum! The Lido ended up being our breakfast stop (great European muesli and chocolate croissants), and our sometimes lunch place (the main Rotterdam dining room was a little slow if you came back to eat during a port of call day). PLEASE, PLEASE eat in the dining room for your evening meal. My husband and I felt like a king and queen each night with "Budi" and Wheni. Elegance, refinement, sophistication. The food and atmosphere in and of themselves were well worth the price of our ticket. That kind of meal would have cost us easily $100 to $150 in a local upmarket restaurant. The soups were excellent, as were any appetizer you cared to mention. My husband had the best lobster of his life, and I dearly loved the desserts (especially the mango-based ones). All I can say is "Baked Alaska" -- you'll see what I mean if you sail on the Zaandam. Only item that we had to work around was our late seating (8:30 p.m.), but you get used to it; we just went to the late shows and took a nap or rested in the afternoon.) Also, try to make the afternoon teas (around 3-3:30 p.m.) -- the pastry chefs throw out all the stops, and you pretend you are in a movie with Helena Bonham-Carter or Kate Winslet. The food again is extraordinary (and my husband and I are tough culinary customers). We don't care a thing about gambling -- can't really comment on the casino except to say it was always busy when it was open. Zelda in the gift shop is a dear, and was never without a smile or kind word --a beautiful person inside and out. Lots of opportunities for formal pictures (there are two formal nights in the dining room -- about 30% tuxedos and the rest nice suits and ties with some evening gowns and mostly ultra nice dresses) -- the photographers are nice guys from the former Yugoslavia. The evening shows were pretty good -- my husband is more the one for Vegas style shows. I prefer classical music and old ballads, so the Atlantis Strings (the Zaandam chamber group) were really FANTASTIC. Some nights after the older passengers had gone to bed (10:30 p.m. or so), they played to an empty room. But don't believe other reviews that there's absolutely NO night life on HAL ships -- just go to the Crow's Nest or the Piano Bar. Karaoke night was loads of fun, and as shy as I am about singing in public, I actually participated! (It's nice and sweet to have your better half cheering you on!) Ports of call. If you speak Spanish and you've been to Mexico before, Cozumel can be lots of fun. If you don't, and you're scared to haggle, you might be overwhelmed. Juan, our taxi driver to San Miguel from Puerto Maya was very friendly, and pleased that we spoke conversational Spanish with him. There's a set rate of $6 to take you to San Miguel, the main town, but Juan let us have it for $5 after we had a big conversation with him all the way to town in Spanish. Most of the stores have the same tourist kitsch in Cozumel -- T-shirts, beach knickknacks -- and more valuable jewelry (diamonds, etc.) than I would ever need or want. We highly recommend the Museo del Cozumel -- it was very well done with modern exhibits. Don't miss the Maya Casita in the courtyard of the museum -- the explanations were really fantastic if you are near fluent in Spanish, but not bad just in English. The exhibits have dual language explanations with good English translations. Also stop by the Church of San Miguel -- the first Mass in Mexico was celebrated on that spot in 1519 by Cortez's priests. I regret that I did not go to the "local" grocery store (I love doing that in foreign countries) and buying some Mexican vanilla. I will next time. I heard from others that snorkeling on your own at Chankannab park was great. Grand Cayman -- lots of lingering hurricane damage and clean up. We were restricted to George Town as a result because 75% of the island was closed to tourists, and walked around to the shops a lot. I got bored just looking at jewelry so I went to observe a court proceeding at the Grand Cayman courthouse; make sure you are dressed appropriately (no shorts or jeans), and they will let you in if the trial or proceeding is open to the public. Same good behavior is expected there as it would be in the States; it was fascinating to me because they follow English common law as a British possession. We wanted to go to Pedro St. James, but that was also off limits. Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- what an experience. Within 15 minutes of walking from the Reynolds pier (next to the bauxite factory and about a ten minute walk from the main town), my husband was offered marijuana and prostitutes (female and male). EVERYONE wanted a tip for some minor act -- no problem, mon. We took our only shore excursion of the trip, a van ride to the "Enchanted Gardens." In reality, the gardens were the grounds for the now defunct Shaw Park Hotel (which our singing guide Anne told us is owned by a former Jamaican prime minister...ahem). Lovely and strikingly verdant but a little run down. I had never been in a tropical rain forest before, so I enjoyed it. What I did not enjoy was the guilt trip our tour videographer (Anne's sidekick) gave us to buy her video (at $25) -- nice girl, but again, it's that Jamaican tip thing. Quite frankly, I was glad to have taken a shore excursion in Ocho Rios (see comments about my tall and strong husband's experiences above), but at $29 a head, I think it was a bit much, considering the Lonely Planet Jamaica guide in the ship's library quoted $4 a head for entrance to the gardens. Granted, we were paying for a van, too, but gee whiz. Also disturbing to me was the fire eating man that our driver just happened to come across on our way to the gardens. Of course he ate fire and rubbed it across his hands, but ramming it down his shorts was too much for me. It repulsed and saddened me. If I never go to Jamaica again, I would be OK. Hopefully, though, "Ochee" is not like the rest of Jamaica. Half Moon Cay is the most pristine beach I have ever been to -- we had a little delay in getting there because of the weather, but I'm glad I hung in there. My husband, the trooper, walked the Columbus trail to the coral reef, and saw lots of cool natural scenes, including cranky crabs, and lots of fish and birds; 80% plus of the island is a dedicated natural preserve. We had a beach BBQ there that was very organized and tasty. The water is GORGEOUS, and so CLEAR!!! Wished we could have stayed MUCH longer. We sailed back through the Bahamas and saw the lights of Freeport and Nassau, and made it to Port Canaveral on time. We got off later because we were driving home and didn't have a plane to catch. Only complaint about disembarkation was the lack of any carts or porters at the luggage pick-up point before we got to the customs desk. A number of quite elderly passengers were struggling with several suitcases, and no one was there to help them. (Even we younger folks were straining a little bit.) One very nice surprise and plus to HAL is the type of fellow passenger that it tends to attract. We met in the last week some of the most urbane, intellectual, exciting, and NICE people we have met in a very long time. International passengers as well as those from all over the US are not few and far between, and being able to dine with them or just strike up a conversation with them on the promenade was a great pleasure and bonus. The fact that HAL takes the trouble to deliver a mini daily newspaper in your language, suited to your nationality (NY Times for Americans; London Times for UK citizens, etc.) says a lot about HAL's outlook. The little extras that HAL offers are wonderful -- a java bar with unlimited speciality coffee drinks, popcorn with movies, and star gazing with the navigation officer. Try HAL, you won't be disappointed. We are already looking for our next trip with them! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
This was our fifth cruise and second with Holland America. Our previous experience with HAL was in March on the Zuiderdam. We booked this cruise about 3 weeks after returning. Some of you may have read our Zuiderdam review and are aware of ... Read More
This was our fifth cruise and second with Holland America. Our previous experience with HAL was in March on the Zuiderdam. We booked this cruise about 3 weeks after returning. Some of you may have read our Zuiderdam review and are aware of Diane's phobia on flying. Well, there was no wine on the plane to go with her "feel good pills" so she drank champagne. Let me assure you she will NEVER try to replace wine with champagne again. The flight was an utter disaster. We flew into Orlando a day early, rented a car and stayed at the Clarion near the airport. The room was nice. They had a complimentary cocktail hour and breakfast. The breakfast was supposed to start at 7 a.m. but was not set up until 8 a.m. It took me 30 minutes to check in and 45 minutes to check out. We had reservations for the end of the cruise but we canceled them. Saturday morning we drove the 45 miles on 528 E to Port Canaveral. Again, Diane's fear of traveling in anything moving faster than "It's a Small World After all" ride at Disney World resulted in an 1.25 hour drive. Anybody else can make this trip in 45-50 minutes. Embarkation: Holland America makes this process so easy. There were porters there taking our luggage from the shuttle van onto their cart and we walked into the terminal. No hauling luggage at all. We arrived at the pier at 11:45, security check line took 20 minutes and check in took 5 minutes. There is a separate line for suite guests. Itinerary: Anybody ready to be confused: At booking the itinerary was: Cozumel; Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and Half Moon Cay (HAL's private island). Before cruise: Due to hurricanes Grand Cayman was dropped and sea day added. Day of cruise: Grand Cayman back on itinerary and drop extra sea day. Day 3 of cruise: Pick-up shipwrecked Cubans (3) and drop Ocho Rios from itinerary and add a sea day. Yeah you read that right. The captain got a distress call and spent 8 hours sailing around looking for the people. He found them at 3 a.m. That took care of the 8 hours we were to have on Jamaica. The Bahamian government refused to take the Cubans so Thursday day night a Coast Guard cutter took them off our hands. The Ship: You who have cruised know how you feel when you first board a cruise ship and so you know what we were feeling. We have been so blessed being able to cruise three times this year. Boarding just brought us into a totally different world. The Zaandam is not what I would call a beautiful ship. It has all the amenities you can expect but on a smaller scale than the bigger ships. It is clean and well maintained. There is the centerpiece pipe organ in the atrium which plays 4 times a day, a harpsichord which I told Diane was "half a piano" which she believed, guitars signed by numerous musicians, etc. Rotterdam Dining Room: This is the main dining room. It is a two level affair with two dinner seatings for each level. We had a table for two early seating on the lower level at 6:15 (upper level early seating is 5:45). This was the first time we have not been seated with at least 4 other guests. We missed the companionship and conversation with other guests and will probably not do this again. Service was poor. The first night I got tired of looking at my empty coffee cup after 10 minutes so we went to the Lido Restaurant and got our own coffee. The next night the steward, waiter and assistant waiter were very apologetic and bent over backward to take care of us. But on the second formal night the same thing happened. This time we waited and the steward and waiter again apologized for the delays. Worst service I have ever had on a ship. The food is well presented and very good. However, I was not impressed with the selection. We had dinner menus in our room each day. With this knowledge we only ate in the dining room 3 nights. We ate once at the poolside on BBQ Night and at the Lido Restaurant the other 3 nights. The same meals served in both places (big disappointment) but at least we did not have to wait. Lido Restaurant: The food in the buffet style restaurant is very good for breakfast and lunch. While there are not the multiple stations like other ships the lines ran smoothly and quickly. I was disappointed with the dinner menu however. The food is good and well presented but it's the same thing being served in the dinning room. It seems to me there should be a different menu in each dinner venue. The other disappointment was the juice availability. On other ships the juice is available along with ice tea, tea and coffee. With the exception of breakfast the only way you could get juice was to ask one of the stewards who would get the juice from the back. Grill/Pizza: Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos and pizza available by the pool. Very tasty. Pinnacle: Sometimes I think cruises are over too quickly. We had planned to make reservations but never got around to it. Our loss. Others said the food and service were terrific. Stateroom: The main requirement we had was a verandah. We prefer to relax and enjoy each other's company and this is most easily accomplished in our stateroom and on our balcony. We booked an S suite 7012 on the Navigator Deck. The balcony had two lounge chairs and a table with 4 chairs. Great for breakfast while in our HAL robes. The room itself is very spacious with a separate dressing room with lighted make-up mirror and a small sink. Diane loved this and had me take 4 pictures of her sitting there during the cruise. The bathroom has a water jet tub. There is one sink verses two on the Zuiderdam. Lounges: Bunches of these each with its own atmosphere. We are smokers so we were limited to which lounges to visit and where to sit. For you non-smokers this should make you very happy. The entertainment varied and was enjoyable. Casino: We aren't gamblers so the fact that this was the smallest casino we have ever seen was not a problem. This was the first time I have won at slots on a cruise ship. To you big time gamblers my $45 winnings are probably laughable. Diane won $183 at Bingo. Mandarin Lounge: The entertainment was varied, pleasant and enjoyable. The usual cruise ship fare. Activities: The Cruise Director and her staff put on a number of activities throughout the cruise and there were around 7 different movies offered throughout the week. Photography: This continues to be my pet peeve as on every cruise we have taken. We enjoy pictures of our experiences. On each cruise I take between 200 and 300 pictures and purchase many of the pictures of the ships photographer. We purchase an album and additional pages on the ship to display the photos. The embarkation picture starts off each of our albums. All I want is a simple 5x7 picture but no-o-o-o I have to also take the folder and a 5x7 picture of the ship and pay $19.90. Then the photographers on Formal nights don't know how to take a picture of a tall person (I'm 6'2") without cutting off the top of my head but leave 2 inches of the bottom of the photo for the ship's carpeting. I have mentioned this twice before taking the picture and they still get it wrong. Excursions: Cozumel: We were to snorkel but due to strong winds, all water excursions were cancelled. We just shopped at the market place. Grand Cayman: We just did a little shopping here. Let me say one thing about a restaurant named Breezes By The Sea. It is near the tender drop off. The pricing is in GCD NOT USD. The conversion is $.80 GCD to $1.00 US. The only way you know this is if you read the small writing at the bottom of the menu. Also at the bottom of the menu it mentions a 15% gratuity is added to the bill. Two Pina Coladas, a serving of peel and eat shrimp and a cheeseburger w/ cole slaw (no fries) came to $48.56 U.S. All the stores were priced USD but not this rip-off joint. They were doing a fantastic business the day we were there. Ocho Rios: Swimming with the Dolphins cancelled as stop here was canceled. Half Moon Cay: There have been a number of excursions added since our visit in March. Because we had missed out on snorkeling in Cozumel and swimming with dolphins in Jamaica we decided to snorkel with the sting rays. This offering had just begun the week before. It was great fun and we enjoy laughing at pictures of ourselves in the gear. Staff: With the exception of the wait staff in the dining room the staff was great. Our room steward, Shaq was excellent. If we had an issue we simply left a Post-It note and it was addressed. When we entertained in our room it was cleaned as soon as we left. I am sure he was watching for us to leave so he could do his thing. Conclusion: While there were a number of disappointments with this cruise it has not lessened our love of cruising. On a scale of 1-10 we give this an 8. We were never for want of food but the Lido dinner menu and juice availability have a lot of room for improvement. After the Zuiderdam cruise I was hooked on Holland America but now I think it's time to try Princess and RCI. Keep on Cruising Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
This was our 8th cruise, but first on Holland America and we are ready to go again! The Zaandam was in excellent condition and definitely a cut above the ships we had sailed on NCL, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. Service was outstanding ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise, but first on Holland America and we are ready to go again! The Zaandam was in excellent condition and definitely a cut above the ships we had sailed on NCL, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. Service was outstanding and my husband and I found the crew to be friendly and helpful. We had a category E large outside cabin on the Dolphin deck and it was very comfortable with the new high beds, wonderful new linens, a sofa, easy chair, desk/makeup table, and bathroom with a bathtub. Our steward did a fine job, but not timely in that our cabin usually wasn't cleaned until early afternoon; this was different from our previous cruises where our cabins were always cleaned during breakfast. Embarkation was painless and we arrived at Port Canaveral at 11:30 a.m., parked our car in the attached lot, and were on board by noon. Lunch was served at the Lido Buffet and we found the food there to be the best cruise buffet we've ever experienced, with many choices and not the same food day after day. Our cabin was ready by 1:30 and our luggage had already arrived before that. So, we were unpacked and ready to rock and roll by mid-afternoon. We had terrific tablemates for dinner and they made the cruise very special for us. We only ate in the dining room for dinner, preferring to have breakfast and lunch in the Lido. Dinners were, for the most part, pretty good, although there were some items that weren't exactly as described in the menu. The lobster tails were good a size and I had two while hubby had three. We spent my birthday dinner in the Pinnacle Grill and that restaurant is not to be missed. Definitely a five star experience! Our waiter and assistant waiter were pleasant, but did not engage in friendly banter with us at all during the week. The wine steward was very friendly every evening. We had ordered the wine package (6 bottles for $125 plus 15% tip) and he took care of it for us every evening. The weather was perfect all week except for a little rain the morning of Half Moon Cay which later cleared up. Everyone I talked to wished that HMC was a longer visit! Jamaica was a new stop for us and we enjoyed our mini-tour of Dunns River Falls, etc. with a taxi driver and a shopping trip to the Island mall near the dock. Beware of Margaritaville.....expensive drinks and very poor service. Grand Cayman and Cozumel are old hat to us now and we usually just shop and eat lunch at a favorite restaurant. We didn't swim with the stingrays this year, but have several times and it's an exciting excursion and highly recommended. GC has a lot of construction going on due to Hurricane Ivan's devastation, but the stores were open downtown and busy. I didn't go to any of the evening entertainment, but played in the casino instead. Very small casino which disappointed me, but the staff was very friendly and helpful. Hubby said some of the entertainment was ok, but nothing special. The only negative of the whole cruise was the awful behavior of children at the Lido Deck pool by the bar. There were 250 kids on board this cruise and they ruined the pool experience for me (an avid swimmer) every day with their horseplay, jumping in the pool, doing cannonballs, etc....everything posted right there they weren't supposed to do. I don't know how parents can be there and not witness the distress of adults trying to swim and/or converse. The most disgusting thing was seeing kids in diapers in the pool.....come on folks, surely you saw that prohibition on the signs posted by the pool or at least use some common sense. HAL needs to enforce the pool rules and I would prefer they have one pool for adults and one for children, as we have experienced on other cruise ships. Disembarkation was a little slow, but we drove and so we were in the last group called. A person kept being paged by Immigration for almost an hour and I believe that is what slowed down the process since passengers can't leave the ship until Immigration says so. We had a porter take our luggage right to our car and we were on our way home about 11 a.m. People for the next cruise were already arriving and did we ever want to turn around and join them for another week on the Zaandam! Overall, I would rate this cruise very highly and certainly do recommend it to future cruisers! It was a very relaxing week and we will definitely cruise on Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
My husband and I are in our late 40's/50's. We were looking for a quiet getaway - to read and relax and found it on the Zaandam. A small ship by new standards, but the best service from the cabin steward and dining staff that we ... Read More
My husband and I are in our late 40's/50's. We were looking for a quiet getaway - to read and relax and found it on the Zaandam. A small ship by new standards, but the best service from the cabin steward and dining staff that we have experienced in our 15 cruises. And by far, the best food. Of particular high quality were the beef entrees and the soups. I wasn't thrilled with the desserts other than bread pudding and banana's foster. As I said, the ship is small, and doesn't have all the amenities as the larger newer ships, but if you want a higher standard, a high quality passenger, a relaxing atmosphere then this will be great. If you are looking for party atmosphere, don't go here, as you will be disappointed. We still can't get over the quality of service. Everyone we encountered was absolutely top notch. I don't know how they do it, but my husband and I commented on it daily. The spa is a bit small - no inside whirlpool/spa, which I would have liked. Our room was Verandah deck 6, room 6207 and it was very nice. The sheets and towels were of very high quality, along with the carpeting, etc. We could not hear anyone from the other cabins. This is an older crowd, which was fine with us, as we said, they are well heeled, polite and quality people, unlike some of the rude crowds we have run into on the "fun" ships. There isn't a lot to do, in my opinion, which was just fine with us - we read, slept, sat on the deck by the pool and relaxed. There was the standard bingo, pool games, board games, etc. The casino is very small. We had the 8 p.m. seating, which was perfect - on the second level (desk 5), which I preferred - more intimate and quieter. We had a table for two which we requested. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill the first night, for $10 per person, instead of the $20 and I found no reason to go back. Nothing outstanding - the food in the dining room was equally as good for no extra $$. There were only 15 kids on board - yahoo. This was a plus, as we didn't want to be around kids. I would not recommend this ship at all for children. It was also nice that you didn't have to wear yourself out getting around the ship. Even though the ship is smaller, we were never crowded, and there were never lines for anything. Great! I can highly recommend the Zaandam. The ports of call were Tortola, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay, which were outstanding. In both Tortola and St. Thomas we rented private day sails, which really made our trip. After all, you have to spend time in the gorgeous water - heck I can shop at home! The water in Half Moon was even more beautiful - take advantage of the powderlike sand. Great ship if you want to relax in a quality atmosphere. The ship was spotless. Good luck. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
I am a retired city attorney and my wife is a homemaker - never retired! This was our 13th cruise; and second on HAL, having done the Western Caribbean on Veendam last March. We selected this cruise because we had only a shortened stop in ... Read More
I am a retired city attorney and my wife is a homemaker - never retired! This was our 13th cruise; and second on HAL, having done the Western Caribbean on Veendam last March. We selected this cruise because we had only a shortened stop in St. Thomas 3 years ago, and had never been to Tortola or a Bermuda Cay. This was a relaxing, if not overly exciting cruise on a very beautiful, well maintained and well designed vessel. The ship. MS Zaandam is now 4 years old, but except for a couple of worn spots on the wooden handrails, is in excellent shape. At 63,000 gross tons, with a passenger complement of slightly under 1400, it has a high space ratio. Our cabin was on Deck 6, a verandah "suite" which is basically a good sized cabin of about 285 square feet, including the verandah. It was provided with a full sized sofa, decent sized desk, Jacuzzi tub/shower and more drawers than we could ever have used. In addition, the closets were large and there were plenty of real wooden hangers. The room has three art works and was a very pleasant place. One could hardly ask for more than what we got for a reasonable price. In addition, the location was perfect. We had only to walk up two flights past one passenger deck to reach the Lido Deck with the spa, gym, Lido Pool, outside pool and Lido Buffet Restaurant. One flight down was the Upper Promenade Deck with the Upper Rotterdam Restaurant, Library, Explorer's Lounge, several meeting or card rooms, internet room, Piano Bar, Ocean Bar, Casino, shops and upper Mondriaan Theater. Deck 4, one flight below that, had the Lower Rotterdam Restaurant, Pinnacle specialty restaurant, Java coffee bar, Main desk, Excursion Office, Photo Gallery, Wajang movie theater, and lower Mondriaan Theater. Thus almost everything was reachable by going up or down two flights. Zaandam is as compact and easy to get around as any ship we have experienced. It also had a nice display of artworks in the public areas and stairwells, as well as displays of musical instruments everywhere. There also is a full walkaround teak deck on Deck 3, with real teak lounge chairs. Food We ate once at the Pinnacle Restaurant, a specialty restaurant with a $20.00 per person cover charge. The service was outstanding and the food excellent. We would definitely recommend it at least once on any one week cruise. Everyone else we talked to who had dined there was similarly impressed. For our other dinners we had the "late" early seating for dinner, meaning 6:15. This was a great deal more convenient than the "early" early seating at 5:45 which we experienced on Veendam. With the exception of one lamb chop entree, all our meals were quite good. I especially enjoyed the traditional Indonesian dinner and the venison. Edith usually has the vegetarian menu which she thought was okay, but a trifle bland. The desserts are a little weak, but the soups were fine. Overall the service was good, but not as personal as on Celebrity. While I would rate Celebrity's food and service (based on six of their cruises) as 9+, HAL gets a 9-. We ate all our shipboard breakfasts and lunches at the Lido Buffet. The breakfasts were standard, without some of the offerings presented on Celebrity. The lunches were prepared immediately behind the serving line, with grills, a rotisserie and cooktops for vegetables. I thought that the fish, which I had each day, was very good, hot off the grill and tasty. Hot vegetables are nice also. Entertainment The entertainment we enjoyed most was a trio of young classical musicians, the Atlantis Trio, playing flute, violin and cello at all afternoon teas and in the Explorer's Lounge, a very attractive venue, every night from 9:15 to midnight. The typical revue was presented by four male singer/dancers and six young women singer/dancers. They did a brief opening night sketch and two full length shows, all with a high degree of enthusiasm. The Mondriaan Theater is not as sophisticated as the theaters on Celebrity and (we suspect) other larger vessels. It does have pretty good sight lines, although the chairs are not models of comfort. We thought the comedian was pretty bad, the male singer/impressionist fair, and we left the magicians quickly. We did not go the last night to see a juggler paired with the comedian. The Ocean Bar had a pleasant dance music trio with a singer. We have been impressed with only one or two entertainers in all our cruises, so we were not shocked or disappointed at the mediocre quality presented. Excursions We did not do any ship excursion. Our major venture was a six hour trip on the ship Winifred out of Red Hook on St. Thomas. This is a beautiful, 43 foot sailing vessel captained by Sharon Allen with one "chief mate". We sailed over to St. John and went snorkeling for over an hour, and then returned; with lunch on board. It was a little pricey at $110.00 (cash) per person, but offered a great trip. I was a little disappointed in the quality of the snorkeling, but perhaps I have been spoiled by Molokini in Maui and Aruba. Her website is www.sailwinifred.com; and e-mail address: winifred@sailwinifred.com On Tortola we walked about five minutes to Speedy's Ferries where, for $25.00 per person we bought round trip tickets to Virgin Gorda. This price included jitney transportation to the Baths at Virgin Gorda. The price of admission to the Baths (if you are not on a tour which includes it) is $3.00. The legal currency in Tortola, which is part of the British Virgin Islands, is the US dollar. The walk down to the baths is hot and crowded, and the beach not large, but I could snorkel and swim, and it is a very pretty area. We had a cold bottle of water at an open air restaurant on the top with trade wind breezes cooling us off as we waited for the return jitney. We spent $60.00 for both of us, and the ships tour for the same trip; not including the restaurant drink, was $57.00 per person. On Half Moon Cay, owned by HAL, I walked around at some length and went swimming in both the lagoon and the Caribbean. The beach is very long and pretty, and the southern end not crowded at all despite the fact that HAL's Zuiderdam, with more than 1800 passengers, was there also. Basically Half Moon Cay is a beach, with some shade, and a variety of water based activities. If you are not into water sports, and don't have a large supply of sun screen, there is not much here. Edith's yoga class was moved to the beach, which she enjoyed; and I like swimming in the sea, although there is absolutely no surf. Sea Days This cruise had three sea days, the first two out of Port Canaveral, and the third between St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. Frankly HAL does a poor job in our estimation, of providing appropriate activities on their sea days. They have no lectures or guest speakers as does Celebrity and Princess, not to mention Oceania and Crystal. They seem to rely on a variety of Trivia type games while heavily promoting Bingo by means of obtrusive and noisy announcements. If you want to read a lot, and spend time relaxing either on deck or in your cabin, this cruise provides the opportunity with no sense that you have missed some great activity. Embarkation-Debarkation. Neither were great experiences. We had spent the night prior to sailing near Sarasota, and drove to Port Canaveral easily on Saturday, arriving at the car rental agency at about 12:30 or 1:00. Our shuttle got to the pier at about 1:30 and we faced an immensely long line. It took more than an hour to get through, but at least the room was out of the sun. On our return we were delayed for some reason, getting to tie up at about 8:00 instead of 7:00 as promised in the brochure or 6:00 as promised by the Captain the night before. We waited in our cabin until after 10:00 before being cleared. We had hired Art's Limousine service to take us to the Orlando airport for $56.00. This was a little higher than the ship's transfer service ($24.00 per person), but we though it worth it for the speed and security involved. Officers and crew. We actually met the Captain as he was having a light lunch by the Lido pool on our first sea day. I thought he had a lot of stripes on his shoulders, but he looked very young. I went up to him and said he looked like someone important and he laughed and pointed to his badge which said "Master". He seemed very pleasant, and like all his Dutch countrymen, speaks English very well. He is only in his early 40s. The crew members are normally a smiling and friendly group. We almost never saw our cabin steward, whereas on Celebrity and Princess they always made a point of coming around the first day and introducing themselves. Perhaps this is a product of HAL's decision to add $10.00 per passenger per day to your ship's bill as a "gratuity" charge. Our dining room waiter was good, but rushed, and his assistant was very competent and should rise to waiter soon. The front desk staff were pleasant and helpful with the few matters I brought to their attention. We did not use the Casino or any of the bars except the Java Bar at which the service was competent, but not overly friendly. Overall Impression Zaandam is an extremely attractive ship, both as to layout, care and comfort, with cabins that equal any we have ever had on any ship. The food service is good and the quality quite high. The entertainment is routine, better than on NCL, about equal to Princess and marginally below Celebrity. The daily activities are HAL's weakest point and would therefore not lend to a repeat of this cruise. Edith said she has no interest in returning to HAL unless they provide better on-board enrichment activities on sea days. But overall we were pleased with this cruise and feel that it was a good value. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
A wonderful cruise!!!! This was our 7th cruise and first Alaskan cruise. Service aboard ship was great..from the steward carrying your carry on luggage when boarding the ship to your stateroom to the waiter carrying your buffet breakfast ... Read More
A wonderful cruise!!!! This was our 7th cruise and first Alaskan cruise. Service aboard ship was great..from the steward carrying your carry on luggage when boarding the ship to your stateroom to the waiter carrying your buffet breakfast tray to your table during breakfast. First cruise I was on where a waiter would come around asking if you wanted coffee or tea..nice touch. Food was abundant and plentiful and of good quality and taste. This ship caters to an older generation..this is their primary market...some of the previous negative reviews reflect this....it is so important to know your ship before you board..the type of passengers, services etc. For us, it was a great change of pace from some of the "fun" ships out there :-) Where else could you get a great "High Tea Service" in the middle of the day and classical musicians playing wonderful music during meals in the main dining room??? This is a formal, elegant ship where things are done in a planned fashion..set times for dining etc...same folks and wait staff every night...which was quite enjoyable...made a lot of new friends. If you are a social rebel and hate organized anything..then this ship is not for you. If you need to eat every hour of the day and night..then look elsewhere..to the larger freestyle ships that cater to your every whim, 24 hrs a day. The biggest problem on this ship was controlling yourself..and not overeating...which was near impossible..the selection and variety of food was awesome.. Personal Hygiene was greatly emphasized...by crew staff...with wipes being distributed through the day and night. Our cabin was well maintained and cleaned several times a day..and very spacious..plenty of drawer , closet and storage space. The Captain and his staff made great efforts to allow passengers to see the Alaskan wildlife as we cruised along...park rangers were aboard ship as well as a resident naturalist..giving a running commentary as we visited certain areas of Alaska...bring a good pair of binoculars..and camera..and warm clothing..it does get cold in certain areas of the cruise...layered clothing...jackets, sweaters..that can be taken off if the weather gets warmer.....good ship...good crew...good food....can't ask for more than that :-) Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
HAL Zaandam Alaska - Inside Passage June 19 -26, 2004 We just returned from a 7-day cruise on the HAL Zaandam and wanted to post our review of the trip and itinerary. For general information, this was our tenth cruise so we are by no ... Read More
HAL Zaandam Alaska - Inside Passage June 19 -26, 2004 We just returned from a 7-day cruise on the HAL Zaandam and wanted to post our review of the trip and itinerary. For general information, this was our tenth cruise so we are by no means experts, but we have cruised enough to be able to make general comparisons based on our personal experiences. Prior cruises have been on the Carnival Inspiration - Southern Caribbean, HAL Veendam - Western Caribbean, HAL Veendam - Alaska Inside Passage, Sea Princess - Western Caribbean, RCI Radiance of the Seas - Pacific Coast, Celebrity Millennium - Eastern Caribbean, Sun Princess - Mexican Riviera, RCI Enchantment of the Seas - Eastern Caribbean and HAL Rotterdam - Southern Caribbean and Panama Canal. This was our fourth cruise on HAL and our second this year, having been on the Rotterdam in January. We had previously cruised the same itinerary four years ago on the HAL Veendam, but this was a family cruise with parents and brothers. My parents selected the cruise. I prefer the Caribbean, but Alaska is also enjoyable. We always fly in a day early, but we love Vancouver, so we flew in two days early to give us more time there. We were able to get a great rate of $69 per night on Priceline for the Downtown Hyatt Regency. I had called the hotel directly to request a room with a view of the port and they put us on the 17th floor with a great view. We booked the cruise through our travel agent but booked our own air. We flew on American and had no problem with our connection at DFW and arrived in Vancouver by 1:00 p.m. I should note that there was a long, long line to get through Canadian Customs. In fact, it took us almost 45 minutes to get through this. It seemed like a lot of planes were landing at the same time and this could be formidable for anyone who is uncomfortable standing in line. My mother had requested a wheel chair and was able to go out through another area and avoid the wait. If you have any concerns, you should definitely go that route. It was a $25 (w/tip) cab ride from the airport to our hotel and we spent the afternoon in Gastown and Robson Street. Weather was warm and sunny so we were really able to get out and enjoy the city. On Friday we spent the entire day exploring Stanley Park. We went to the aquarium, which was a bit disappointing. They have a great beluga whale show, but other than that it consists of one dolphin, one sea lion and a bunch of aquariums. I would not do it again. We then hiked around the park on the sea wall. This is a very enjoyable walk, but will take a couple of hours. The park is beautiful and they have a nice totem pole exhibit. Views of the city and port are incredible. That night we enjoyed dinner in Gastown at the Spaghetti Warehouse with my parents and brothers. Saturday morning I got up early and walked down to Canada Place to get pictures of the Zaandam. It was a beautiful day and we were looking forward to the cruise. At 11:30 a.m. we took a short cab-ride from the hotel over to the port terminal. Bags were dropped off to the porters and then on to check-in. The entire check-in process took 20-30 minutes and we were on the ship with very little waiting and no standing in line. It had previously helped that we had pre-registered on the HAL website, but there were no lines anyway, so it really didn't matter. The staterooms weren't ready but they let you check your carry-on in the Half Moon Room so you wouldn't have to lug it around with you. This was a nice touch. Cabins were available at about 2:00 pm. I always enjoy getting as many pictures of the ship as possible before the crowds arrive so we started at the top and work our way down getting familiar with the ship layout and where things are. Of course, once we hit the Lido, we stopped to eat and enjoyed lunch with my parents and brothers. The Ship: As most of you know, all the HAL ships have a similar layout, with the Zaandam being slightly larger, like the Rotterdam, than the Veendam. The ship is obviously well maintained and is in good shape with only some signs of wear and tear, especially on the outside. The interior of the ship was very clean and there was an ongoing effort by ship's staff to keep things polished and clean. We noticed a lot of crew members constantly wiping down hand rails and door knobs to help prevent the spread of bacteria. They also give you antiseptic hand wipes each time you come back on the ship from shore excursions and new this time, they also gave you antiseptic hand wipes in the Lido dining room before giving you the tray. There were several announcements regarding the need to avoid transmitting viruses, so HAL is really on top of this. The public areas, including lounges, Atrium, Mondriaan Lounge, Ocean Bar and Explorer's Lounge are in great shape. There are several shops but we did not find the staff as friendly or as helpful as on previous cruises. There were no real bargains so I would do your shopping off the ship. They have an internet room, but we didn't use it because it was grossly overpriced - $.75 per minute. (Your best option here is to hit the internet cafes in port.) The casino is small and fortunately there were not many smokers on this cruise so it didn't get as smoky as other cruises. Slots seemed really tight and we saw few winners on this cruise. We're not big gamers but people seemed to be having a good time. My favorite place on the HAL ships is their outside Promenade Deck, but this was Alaska, so it didn't get as much use as normal. The deck goes all the way around the ship and the lounge chairs are padded. We also enjoyed the Aft Lido Pool in the back of the ship with its comfortable deck chairs. Nice thing about Alaska is you never have any problem finding a deck chair outside, even on warm days, of which we had plenty. And HAL still provides unlimited pool towels on deck and on the Promenade. It is so nice not to have to worry about keeping track of your towel. We booked an Inside Cabin Guarantee and were given 2855 on the Main Deck. As everyone knows, HAL has the best cabins on the seas. The cabins are much larger than we've had on Celebrity, Carnival, Princess or RCI. We've had a mini-suite (1), balcony cabin (1), and outside cabins (3), but we prefer an inside cabin for cost and convenience. We actually sleep better in an inside cabin and since we spend so little time in there, we probably will keep booking them. The safes on the Zaandam require a credit card or other card with a magnetic strip. We prefer the numeric keypad safes on Princess. There is one electrical outlet in the room and also one in the bathroom. There is a hairdryer in the bathroom and a lighted makeup mirror in the cabin. Soap, shampoo and hand lotion are all provided. Excellent storage space everywhere. Our cabin steward was friendly and did a good job, but we hardly ever saw him. The important thing is that he did a great job. Again, with HAL you probably won't see any towel animals, but you will get great service. Since we had an inside cabin, we did not have a bath, but only a shower. I actually prefer this because the small HAL tubs are just a nuisance to get in and out of. We only shower anyway. Easily the best feature of these cabins is the new beds and linens that are part of the overall HAL upgrade. The mattresses are terrific and the beds stand higher than normal cruise ship beds, so there is more room for storing underneath. The pillows and high thread-count sheets are also similar to what you would find in a 5* hotel. HAL has really raised the standard with these improvements. It will be interesting to see if other cruise lines follow. You will sleep better than you've ever slept at sea in these beds. They're good enough to bring home. Entertainment: The on-board entertainment was reasonably good. In my opinion, we've seen better singers on other ships, but the shows are very energetic and the cast makes a real effort to provide an excellent show. Again, it is obvious that the featured singers sing live but there appears to be a "sweetener" track so that the dancers are just lip-synching. We noticed this first on the Rotterdam, so I'm assuming it is the same on all HAL ships. Our Cruise Director was Michelle Rickert and she did a good job. Her support staff was also good. Day 1 - we had a short presentation by the cruise cast and then comedian, Danny Storts. The comedian was only okay, but the cast introduction was good. Day 2 the cruise cast presented a tribute to Broadway - Ultimate Broadway. Day 3 - was a comedian/juggler, Max Winfrey. He was very good and worth the attendance. Day 4 - was a singer/entertainer, Steve Hites. He is a local and is probably more interesting for his tales of Alaska. Later that night was the Indonesian Crew Show. Also very good. Day 5 - was Bruce Block, a magician and comedian. He did a great job, but his rabbit stole the show. When you see it, you'll know what I mean. Day 6 - the ship's cast presented "Party Gras" a salute to world cultures and traditions. Day 7 - was a real disappointment as the ship had no entertainment show other than the movie, Seabiscuit. This was the first time this has happened to us on a cruise. Usually, the last night is a very enjoyable show and farewell. We were disappointed. There were also two different movies shown on a daily basis in the Wajang Theatre throughout the cruise. Food: We ate all of our breakfast and lunch meals in the Lido or at the grill by the Lido pool, so I can't tell you about breakfast and lunch in the dining room. At breakfast you can expect the normal cereals, fruit, eggs cooked to order, pancakes, waffles and French toast. They also have an omelet bar, which was hardly ever busy. At lunch they will have heavy buffet meals but also offer alternating pasta bar, deli bar, and stir-fry bar. Around the back-side of the Lido restaurant is a salad bar which was excellent. And don't forget the ice cream station, which is open much of the afternoon and early evening. We have enjoyed the Lido in the past, but I found their food a bit lacking on this cruise. I was most disappointed in their dessert offerings in the Lido. The great Bread Pudding is still there, but the other dessert selections were not up to par with what we've experienced on other ships, including HAL. Decent burgers, hotdogs and Mexican fare are available out by the pool grill. For dinner, we were scheduled for the Main Seating and asked for a large table so our family could be together. I would classify the food in the dining room as simply good. Again, we didn't feel it measured up to the food we've had on Princess or Celebrity, or for that matter even our previous HAL cruises. Selections were not always that good, there were no cold fruit soup offerings, and the desserts were unimaginative and mediocre. Our table service however was excellent. In fact, service continues to shine as a strong HAL characteristic. We did not eat in the alternative restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, but we heard many good things about it. We never saw this restaurant busy, so getting reservations shouldn't be a problem. Spa Facilities: After using the spa facilities on the RCI Radiance of the Seas and the Celebrity Millennium, these facilities looked a little small but they certainly accommodated the number on board. I never saw this area crowded and there were always available treadmills and weight machines. One of the nice things we've noticed on HAL is that this area doesn't seem to get very busy. Treatment rooms were nice but very small and I had a great massage from Dee on board. There is a sauna and steam room in the men's changing room and the area was never crowded. The steam rooms are great on HAL and I enjoyed this area almost every day. They have lockers, towels and showers in the changing area. Staff was very nice. The Ports: We enjoyed incredible weather and record warm temperatures on our cruise. We didn't even see a cloud until our last day coming home when it got foggy. Every port was warm, really too warm. We're probably not the best to offer opinions on ports because we tend to avoid the ship excursions and do mostly things on our own, but here's my take. : Juneau - we booked a whale watching excursion on our own with Captain Larry at Orca Enterprises. We did this on our last trip to Alaska and we loved it. We couldn't wait to do it again, and we were not disappointed. It was almost 90 in Juneau, so we didn't get around in town as much as we normally do. There is plenty of shopping and in my opinion this is the best place to get your souvenirs. Easily the best prices and best selection. Skagway - here we booked the White Pass Railway trip through the ship. This is a popular excursion and there were four other ships in port, so if you want to do this book early. We had also done this on our earlier cruise, but the whole family wanted to do this and we certainly enjoyed it. Beautiful scenery and worth the trip. Because of the warm weather though, it was a very warm ride. The train did provide bottled water for the trip which was very nice, and much needed. Since we didn't leave on the train until noon, we hiked through town to the cemetery. This is worth the effort, because there is a beautiful water falls just above the cemetery. It is Turner Falls, and it is a wonderful place to take pictures. Don't miss this hike. Glacier Bay - obviously, there are no excursions here, but I did want to offer some advice to those who want to view the glacier from the comfort of their stateroom balcony. Book a room on the port side of the ship. Yes the cruise ship turns around so that both sides get a view of the glacier, but the port side definitely had the longer look. We were out on deck so it didn't matter, but this might be important to some. Again, we had a beautiful, warm and sunny day in Glacier Bay. Shorts and a sweatshirt was needed only in the shade. The sun was very warm. Ketchikan - an unbelievably perfect sunny day. Temperatures in the low 70's and not a cloud in the sky. We did our own walking (and unfortunately shopping) tour here after making a quick stop at the internet cafe. $5 for one hour. Hard to beat that. You can get a great map at the tourist information office and we walked all through town and up to the Totem Park and Fish Hatchery. Don't miss Creek Street. This is one of the great areas of Ketchikan and it's just outside of the immediate port area. We regretted not signing up for the kayaking tour of this area. You can walk up some stairs at the end of Creek Street to an area just above downtown for some nice views. Ketchikan was our favorite stop; it was unfortunate that we were here for such a short time. Disembarkation: Disembarkation was a breeze and easily the best we've seen. HAL let's you wait in your cabin until your number or letter is called. Our letter was called at 8:30 a.m. and we walked right out of our cabin and off the ship with no lines and no delays. We easily found our bags and walked right through customs and right into a cab that was waiting. Not a single line anywhere. Unbelievable! And after a quick taxi ride to the Vancouver airport, we walked right up to the American counter and checked in. Again, no line. Now how unbelievable is that. By the way, they didn't weigh our bags in Vancouver, so you might not have to worry about the weight restrictions. Even better, they have US Customs right there, so you get cleared before leaving Vancouver. When you arrive at your US destination, you don't have to re-claim your bags and go through customs. From the time the taxi dropped us off, if was less than fifteen minutes and we had received our boarding passes, cleared customs, checked our bags and arrived at our gate. AA even put us on an earlier flight. We were scheduled to leave at 1:25 p.m., but they put us on a 10:45 a.m. flight. Needless to say, we connected through DFW and there were many delays and overbooked flights there, so we didn't get home until 11:00 p.m. We really can't complain though, because it could have been worse. This was a great trip and even though it was our second trip to Alaska, we had a wonderful time. If you've not done Alaska, do it. In summary: Pros: 1. Any cruise is a great cruise and HAL provides a good product. Great cabins and excellent service. 2. Many have commented on the noticeable age of passengers on HAL and I would guess that at least 90% of our passengers were in their late 60's and up. We are in our 40's and love to cruise with this older generation. We find them gracious, engaging and excellent conversationalists. 3. We love the size of these smaller ships with plenty of room, but fewer passengers. We felt that we got to know a lot more people and the lines moved quickly. We could always find a seat in the Mondriaan Lounge and a deck chair at the Lido Pools, (not to mention the unlimited supply of pool towels). 4. I said it before, and I'll say it again: The Promenade Decks on HAL ships are simply the best place in the world to read a good book and catch a quick nap. I could spend every day out there. (My wife won't let me, but I could do it.) Padded deck chairs are a real luxury. 5. The HAL steam room (just wish it opened earlier). What a life! 6. The new beds and bedding. Best sleep on the seas! Cons: 1. HAL ships are usually a bit more formal than many other cruise lines; although we thought this was a very casual crowd for HAL. On formal night, we saw very few tuxedos, but most men were wearing dark suits. Several however wore sport coats or no coat at all. Semi-formal night is also a "jacket required" night but there were several who appeared to ignore this dress code. I'm more of a casual wear kind of guy and while I observe a cruise lines dress code, I am more comfortable with the Princess or RCI standard. This was the most casual HAL cruise we've ever been on, so I guess for us this was actually a positive. 2. Food was disappointing on this cruise compared to what we've experienced on other ships, including HAL. Lido food and desserts were the biggest disappointments. They are definitely cutting back in this area. 3. Spa prices are still way too high, but the staff in this area was exceptionally friendly and I couldn't believe how quickly they learned my name and remembered it throughout the cruise. This ship has an exceptional spa director, so that should be listed as a positive. And though the steam room opened at 8:00 a.m., that is also the time they turn it on, so it doesn't really warm up until about an hour later. 4. There really are limited eating options on this ship. By that I mean that there are times during the day when there is no place to get something to eat. For example, the Lido closes from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm. We boarded late in Ketchikan at 8:30 p.m. and there was simply no place to eat except room service. We were hot, tired and hungry and I didn't want to have to sit in my room and eat dinner. I love the fact that on Princess and RCI, I can find pizza or a late night dessert at almost any time of the day and show up as I am. 5. No outdoor whirlpool tubs other than those in the covered Lido Pool area. Worse, the pools don't open until 10:00 a.m. This is just plain stupid. We love the outdoor whirlpools up on deck in the cool air for sunrise, and how about an early morning swim. 6. All in all, the schedule for venues and activities on this ship is very regimented and is a bit restrictive. On Thursday, they announced an exciting and fun filled day for our Friday Sea Day; all beginning at 10:00 a.m. In my opinion, this is a late start and there really wasn't much going on. I prefer a more active and flexible approach to vacationing. And finally, for what its worth, some updated comparisons (based on our own impressions): HAL can be a great cruising experience, but RCI and Princess may be more in line with my casual and flexible vacation lifestyle. Princess and Celebrity provide a better dining experience, but the service on HAL and RCI is much better. RCI, Celebrity and Princess have the most beautiful ships. Entertainment on HAL is equal to or better than anything we've seen on RCI, Princess or Celebrity. In my opinion the friendliest people cruise HAL, Princess and RCI. Based on our experiences, I would rate these lines: 1) Princess, 2) RCI, 3) HAL, 4) Celebrity and 5) Carnival. Now we're looking forward to our next Caribbean cruise in January, 2005. We will be looking at Princess or RCI. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
The bottom-line is that the Zaandam is a great ship and we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. This was the second year in a row where we took the Zaandam cruise over our Easter break. Last year it was a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas, this year ... Read More
The bottom-line is that the Zaandam is a great ship and we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. This was the second year in a row where we took the Zaandam cruise over our Easter break. Last year it was a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas, this year it was a 7 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We drove down from Charlotte to Port Canaveral the Friday before we left and stayed at the Days Inn Cocoa Beach. I would not recommend this hotel. They were supposed to hold a cot for us and they didn't, so I got to sleep on the floor (joy). They did have the deal where you can leave your car with them for the week while you're on the cruise and Art's shuttle picks you up and takes you back. I was happy with Art's shuttle very prompt and timely. Embarkation was not the best we've ever had. We had to wait in line about 45 minutes or so and got on about 1:00. I was disappointed that there was no line for filling the forms out online ahead of time. It seemed to help a little when we got to the counter, but we still had to bring hardcopies of the forms we completed online and had to sign them in person. We also had some issues with our room keys when we first boarded. Of our five cards (wife and I and 3 kids), only two worked and we had to keep going back to the front desk to get them reprogrammed. Once on board we went to the Lido for a nice lunch and relaxed by the pool. We could get into our rooms by about 1:30. That night and the next two days were at sea days and we enjoyed the quiet ambience of the Zaandam. The kids liked the kid's club activities and my wife and I and our oldest daughter played the daily team trivia games (we won twice!). We also enjoyed the library, crows nest lounge and hanging out at the pool. The shows were good (great magician one night, pretty good comedian and the Zaandam singers were just OK). On Tuesday we pulled into Road Town, Tortola. We got off the ship about 8:15 and walked over to the marina to catch the 9 AM Speedy's boat to Virgin Gorda. We were at the Baths by about 10 AM and had a blast there. That place is so unique. It is really easy to walk down the steps to the baths. You can also walk down a different path (also easy) to the Devil's Bay beach which is gorgeous. Crawling thru the Baths was a little more difficult, but still worth it. Just so beautiful inside of there. We hiked thru the Baths and made it over to Devil's Bay and hung out there most of the morning. We took the Speedy's taxi/shuttle back at 12:30. We were back onboard the ship by 1:30, went to the Lido for a quick lunch and got back off the ship and took a taxi to Cane Garden Bay for the afternoon. The beach there was beautiful and it had some neat shops and restaurants right along the beach. We stayed there till about 5 PM and got back on the ship at 5:30 just in time to sail away. The next day we stopped in St. Thomas. We were off the ship by about 9 AM and took a taxi over to the American Boat Marina to do a private day sail on the Winifred. Many people have posted how great this was and we agree. It was definitely the highlight of our entire cruise. We boarded her boat about 9:30 and sailed the whole day until about 3:30 or so. We were back on the ship at 4:30. We sailed over to St. John and did some great snorkeling. We saw turtles, eel, sting rays and even an octopus, which is very rare to see during the day. We would highly recommend the Winifred to anyone wanting a private sail. What was nice about it was that we're a family of 5 and it only takes 6 passengers, so we had the boat all to ourselves. When we left St. Thomas, we had another day at sea, which was nice after we spent two days running like crazy on the islands and soaking up a lot of sun. We needed the time to chill out and relax! Finally on Friday we made it to Half Moon Cay. We got there late due to some storms overnight (we didn't feel anything and slept like babies!). We didn't get off the ship until 9:30 and had to be back on at 12:30, but the time we spent there was great. Did some good snorkeling over by the rocks and the weather was nice so we caught some sun and relaxed on the beach. We got back into Port Canaveral Saturday morning, but again got off a little later than I would have liked. We didn't get off the boat until about 9:30 Am and by the time we made it thru customs (not too bad) and found Art's shuttle to take us back to our hotel and get our car, we weren't on the road back to Charlotte until 11 AM. I forgot to mention it, but the food in both the dining room and the Lido were outstanding. Everything our family had was good. We did not have a complaint about any of the food. All in all, this was a fantastic cruise and we're ready to make this an annual Easter tradition! If you have any questions, feel free to email me. Thanks. Jeff DeMaria Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
Easter 2004 Cruise on HAL's Zaandam, April 10-17 Introduction: This review will be long and detailed. Prior to our last cruise I enjoyed reading such reviews and researching cruise options. I kept a journal throughout our cruise in ... Read More
Easter 2004 Cruise on HAL's Zaandam, April 10-17 Introduction: This review will be long and detailed. Prior to our last cruise I enjoyed reading such reviews and researching cruise options. I kept a journal throughout our cruise in order to document our experiences, adventures, observations, helpful suggestions, likes and dislikes. Who Are We?: My wife Leslie and I have been married for eighteen years. I'm forty-three years old and she's forty. Our son John is fifteen. I'm in sales, and Leslie is a CPA. We both have our Bachelor's Degrees. We are very active in our community, son's school, church, and we enjoy our involvement in Republican politics. We are from the Charlotte, NC, area. Prior Cruise Experience: My wife of 18 years, our 15 year old son John and I set sail from Port Canaveral on April 10, 2004. This is my fifth cruise. All were with my wife Leslie. Three cruises were during the 1990's onboard the now defunct Premier Cruise Lines. That was a very family oriented cruise line which we liked. Our son, then five, joined us for one of those. In 2000 my wife and two couples sailed together. That was a seven night cruise on board Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas from Miami to San Juan, PR. Our Royal Caribbean cruise in 2000 was all we could ask for. We flew to and from Miami. However, there was one overwhelming source of irritation. There were prevalent and frequent references of a sexual nature, and inappropriate humor. For example, the cruise director suggested several times that the rocking ship was due to people having sex in their cabins. On the two formal nights we dressed for dinner, and then were exposed to sophomoric crude humor from the theater stage. The belly flop contest disturbed my wife's rest beside the pool one day. We knew that we'd want a more mature and sophisticated experience on our next cruise. Why Cruise? Cruising makes our perfect vacation. We enjoy researching and choosing our cruises very much. We not only love the large ships and the beautiful tropical destinations, but the fact the trip is one all-inclusive price. Of course alcohol, gambling, shopping, professional photographs and tips are extra. My family and I enjoy the fact that we don't have to spend any time or energy evaluating the cost of various options. Professional Photography Deal: HAL made all passengers an offer that we felt was excellent. For $99 you could select any fifteen photographs. There is a gallery with all pictures displayed throughout the week. Organized On Board Activities: HAL offers whatever you'd like with regard to organized activities. My son and I like the contests like golf putting, ping pong (we were both champions on different days), shuffleboard, team trivia and team name that tune. Team trivia competitions were held each day we were at sea in the lounge. There is no need to bring your own team. Players are very friendly and some teams will need another player, or sometimes teams will split to accommodate additional players. The more the merrier. The prizes range from HAL logo'd coffee mugs, to travel alarm clocks, to a visor. For me the best part of the activities is getting to know more people. I always try to remember names and to use them throughout the cruise. It fun for me and people like having their names remembered. Selecting HAL and Zaandam: First we identified our possible cruise dates. Our target date was to depart on the Saturday when our son's spring date started. As long as the port was within driving distance, we knew we preferred to drive to the port instead of flying. This was to both save money, and to give us more travel flexibility. Plus with the hassles of travel to and from the Orlando airport and the port, and possible flight delays, driving made sense for us. Therefore, we wanted the port to be as close as possible to our Charlotte, NC, area home. There are limited cruises from North and South Carolina ports, and we found no match. Port Canaveral became our first choice of ports. Once we selected the port, we used various web sites to see what cruises were available. We eliminated Carnival Cruise Lines because as I mention earlier we wanted something even more sophisticated that Royal Caribbean. We eliminated Disney Cruise Lines because we knew we did not want that many small children. We also knew we liked the large cruise ships, and we like the Eastern Caribbean. My wife did not care to visit Mexico. We knew we wanted a six or seven night cruise. We found HAL Zaandam Eastern Caribbean Cruise departing on April 10. Of course each cruise line had its own web site. I particularly like reading cruise reviews on several of the numerous sites. Simply do a google search of "cruise reviews," or "cruise reviews Zaandam" to find these sites. We were at first concerned that this would be a senior citizen's cruise. We also wanted to make sure that there were youths onboard that our 16 year old son would enjoy. Since the Easter break is a popular time for Spring Break we were confident there would be plenty of people his age. We were pleased with the wide variety of age groups. Yes, there were plenty of teenagers. Yes, the average age of passengers is older than Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines. We enjoyed the other parents of youths that were onboard. Many onboard were families traveling like we were. There were many groups with three or even four generations traveling together. If you are a young single person looking to find a mate, this cruise is not for you. I'd imagine that if this were a regular fall or winter cruise there would have been a disproportional number of senior citizens. He found the ages were a healthy mix. Before the Cruise: We shopped prices. We reserved level MM, which was an inside cabin. Our full price with port charges and taxes was $1,856. We reserved about ten months in advance. We purchased the cruise insurance as well. This was because my mother has not been in the best health, and we did not want to risk loosing our money should we need to stay home with home. However, all was well and the insurance was not needed. We knew we wanted the early dinner seating. On HAL this seating is in very high demand due to the older passengers and the many families. A month before the cruise we wrote to HAL's headquarters and requested a complementary cabin upgrade. We were advised by our travel agent that we had been upgraded to a large outside cabin. We also researched our destinations: Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, and Tortola, British Virgin Islands, plus the two private island days. We knew we would not purchase the cruise line shore excursions. Rotterdam Dining Room Service- Poor: On most cruises the dining room service is excellent and passengers have a chance to really bond with their servers. That was not the case for our table. Our primary server was Rachmat. He displayed little or no personality. He never attempted to know our names and frequently made mistakes. He also offered few good suggestions. Rachmat was assisted by Nur Aziz who also did not impress us. Those at other tables served by this team agreed. I'm sure their tips and reviews reflected the lackluster service they provided. Friday, April 9, 2004: The three of us drove from Charlotte, NC, to Jacksonville, FL, for the night. This allowed us to travel at a leisurely pace and get a good night's sleep. We reserved the hotel well in advance due to this being Easter weekend. We each had prepared a small overnight bag that would allow us not to unpack our entire car trunk for our one quick night. Day 1, Saturday, April 10, 2004, Embark From Port Canaveral: We made the final ninety mile drive at a relaxed pace. Our bags were already labeled with the tags HAL had sent us. We arrived at the port at 12:30 p.m. We were thrilled to see huge ships in port. Large signs directed us to Holland America. We were pointed to an unloading parking space. Our luggage was taken away to soon arrive in our cabin. I drove to the nearby parking area, which was uncovered. I paid the $10 per day in advance. The check-in went smoothly. Documents were checked. They collected credit card information so that you're on-ship purchases can be easily charged at the end of the cruise. Room keys that also serve as on board charge card are issued. The first of many posed pictures were taken. Only one hour after arriving at the port we were enjoying lunch at 1:30 p.m. We were very pleased with our cabin. The two twin beds were moved together. Our son would sleep on a sofa that converts to a cot. There was a desk with chair. The bath had plenty of room for us. There was a large window. Prior to our arrival we'd been upgraded from an inside cabin on the Dolphin deck to a large outside cabin on the main deck. We then explored the ship including the library, spa and pool decks. I visited the concierge to make sure we were being seated at a large table for dinner. We prefer to sit with a large group instead of our just sitting as a party of three. We were assigned to a table for eight, perfect. My son and I visit the basketball area. There we meet a father and son that live within fifty miles of us. George and his son "G" were very friendly. I somehow knew our paths would cross many times during the next week, and I was right. We really hit it off with them. Late in the afternoon we had the muster drill, which went smoothly. Then we went to leave our son at the Bon Voyage Party. He was eager to say good-bye to us, which was fine with us. Leslie and I went to the top deck to waive good-bye to Florida. Then we went to prepare for dinner. The dining room is two stories. There was a pianist near the entrance. Very elegant. We were the last to arrive at our table, which was next to a large window. We were with a good group. There was a family of three, which included a seven year old daughter. We immediately enjoyed her parents Rick and Angela, both about age thirty-five. They were from Tennessee. The other pair was a seventy year old grandmother named Del traveling with her thirteen year old son, Zack. They were from Florida. We all spoke openly and all participated in the conversation. We knew we'd enjoy meals with these people. If we had not felt this was the case I would have immediately ask to have my table assignment changed. After dinner our son went to Club HAL (youth program). Leslie and I went to the auditorium for the show. The entertainment was a comedian named Dwayne Cunningham. His show included juggling and wholesome humor. We enjoyed it. As we wandered the upper deck hallways observing the art work I visited the restroom. When I tried to exit the slipping door wouldn't budge. I knocked on the door, and shouted. No one came. This was a fairly remote area. After about fifteen minutes my wife heard me. She told me through the door that she was getting help. Ten minutes later she returned, and then ten minutes later an engineer arrived to remove the door. Forty minutes after entering I was freed. To add insult to injury my wife advised me while I was locked in that I was in the women's room, not the men's. Fortunately this mishap was not a sign of things to come. Day 2, Sunday, April 11, 2004, Easter Sunday, At Sea: At seas days, my wife would tell me, is her favorite day ever on a cruise. We rose at 6:00 a.m. and went to Interdenominational Easter Worship in the Waging Theater. It was a full house. A retired Navy Chaplain led the service. After breakfast John and I played ping pong. Leslie and I got chairs and lounged by the pool. We read, chatted, and napped. We went to find John for lunch but he was eating with some new friends. Leslie and I went to our cabin and changed from swimsuits and went to Rotterdam dining room for a more formal lunch than the Lido Deck Dining Room offered. We were seated with a charming older couple. We talked until we were nearly the last guests in the room. If it's service and atmosphere you want then the Rotterdam dining room is the best choice for meals. After lunch Leslie had hair styling appointment. I took the occasion to enjoy an afternoon nap in the cabin with the ocean moving swiftly by our window. Leslie awakened me and I went on deck. John was in an organized basketball free throw contest with other passengers. I joined in too. It was very windy on deck. You had to shoot a free throw three feet to the right to have a chance of the wind blowing it in. It was fun watching and cheering. We then played in ping pong tournament. There were 24 males who participated. There was a wide range of ages. John and I met in the Championship. I won. I went to the room to prepare for formal night. Leslie was beautiful with her new hair style and dress. We went to the Captain's reception early to avoid the long lines for traditional picture with the captain. We were right; the lines were very long later. We enjoyed champaign with other passengers then went on deck for more pictures of our own. We went to the dining room and for the second night waited shoulder to shoulder for the doors to open. (Note: There is no need to arrive early for dinner. They do not open the doors until the prescribed time.) Rick and Angela were late for dinner because she had a spa treatment that went late. They are a lot of fun to be with, and are very funny. For dinner I had lobster bisque, Caesar salad, crab legs (already split) with hot butter, and crusted salmon. The head steward made flaming crepe Suzette beside the table. We invited our table mate Del to sit with is for the show and that we'd save her a seat near the front. She liked the idea and we enjoyed her company. Her grandson Zack was going to Club Hal. The show was "Up on the Roof," the songs for the '50s and '60s. Lights, costumes, dancing. The cast had about ten performers. After the show we went to the cabin to find our son John under the covers watching a baseball game. He's bushed. We then rushed to play Name That Tune in the piano bar. We were not alone. There was a big crowd. We strolled the ship enjoying the art displays and various musical offerings. We visited the casino but did not wager since I am a loser at the tables. We retired at 11:00 p.m. We placed our morning coffee and fruit order outside the door. We agreed that we don't have enough room to comfortably enjoy breakfast in the room. Leslie stated that this has been her favorite day ever on a cruise. Day 3, Monday, April 12, 2004, At Sea: We rose early and get chairs by pool at 7:00 a.m. We had breakfast at 7:30 a.m. I worked out in the gym, which has all cardio machines facing forward toward the open sea. It's a nice view. HAL is known for well equipped fitness centers, and the Zaandam is no exception. John and I participated in ping pong and shuffleboard tournaments. I showered, steamed, and dressed in the spa to give Leslie and John more room to prepare for dinner. I really enjoy this practice. I'm surprised that more passengers don't shower and dress for dinner in the spa. Dinner was informal. One third of men are not wearing jackets. The show featured Paul Tanner who sings and is an impressionist. His finale is Elvis which many men really appreciated since the women were really swooning. Leslie, John and I went to the Crow's Nest Lounge for TV Tune Trivia, which was fun. Then we retired for the night. Day 4, Tuesday, April 13, 2004, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands: We awoke at 6:00 a.m. and could see that we'd arrived at Tortola as scheduled. We were the only ship in port. Our coffee arrived as requested. John and I had breakfast in the Rotterdam dining room. Breakfast is his favorite meal of the day. This breakfast was outstanding. We were eager to visit Road Town. We could see the beautiful island and its beaches. We went ashore and took a cab to a beach we'd read about called Brewers Cove. The driver gave us much local information. The taxi trip to Brewers Cove is $6 per person. He dropped us off at the beach, which had a small snorkel equipment rental shack, which served drinks as well. Chickens and roosters ran wild around the shack and beach. We'd brought our own snorkeling equipment; therefore John and I were ready to go. We had the beach all to ourselves. No other passengers arrived until we'd been there for over two hours. (Note: We'd have felt safer and had a better time if we'd waited until 10:00 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m. to go to the beach with more fellow passengers.) The three of us were all alone for over two hours after the cab driver left us. This is not the best feeling in a foreign land. The water was clear and snorkeling was pretty good. We found a beautiful coral reef. We'd enjoyed the beach and wanted to return to Road Town for shopping and sightseeing so we caught a taxi that was dropping off passengers. John wanted to freshen up on board since he was tired and felt sandy, but Leslie and I wanted to stay in town. He returned to the ship alone. Leslie and I walked the town and went on board an hour later. We purchased forty postcards and BVI postage stamps. We found John napping. Leslie and I had lunch on board. I retired to the Crow's Nest to write cards to friends and family back home. John found me and convinced me to come and play in the shuffleboard tournament. Afterward I returned to Road Town to mail the cards and for more shopping. I ran into Leslie while re-boarding at about 4:30 p.m. Tonight was the big Caribbean Deck Party and BBQ. During the day I'd ran into our table mates and we all agreed that we'd be on deck and would not dine in the Rotterdam Dining Room. A big draw is $10 unlimited rum punch served in a pineapple. Prior to dinner I again showered, steamed and dressed in the spa. There was a huge buffet on the Lido deck and the Caribbean band played. It was a great time. The evening closed with Comedian Dwayne Cunningham in The Mondriaan Lounge. We enjoyed this show as much as the one on our first night on board. Day 5, Wednesday, April 14, 2004, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands: We again rose at 6:00 a.m. It was a short trip to St. Thomas, and we are docked. We could see other mega-ships like the Princess's Golden Princess, and Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. We had to see customs to get a card to go ashore. We wait for our level to be called, which was a mistake. (Note: If you wish to go ashore as soon as possible then get in line with customs as soon as possible.) Our son John is an excellent golfer and we needed to keep his game sharp during the week-long cruise. We'd researched our destinations and learned that there is one golf course in the Virgin Islands. Mahogany Run Golf Course is in St. Thomas and has a driving range. John brought three clubs on the cruise and when we went ashore he took them with him for our visit to the course. We caught a cab with our friends George and "G" who were going fishing at Megan's Bay. The cab dropped the three of us off at Mahogany Run and the driver gave us his mobile number to call when we were ready to return to Charlotte Amalie. The staff at the golf course treated us very well. I'd learned that this course is famous for three holes created on cliffs that overlook the ocean. They are known as "The Devil's Triangle." We wanted to see them. I asked a staff member if I could tale our cart to see the holes. He said no, but after accepting a generous tip he offered to take us personally on a cart that easily carried three of us, plus the driver. What a thrill! The beauty was indescribable. The holes were very challenging. Our driver let John play a par-3 hole. He made a par. We made some excellent pictures. We called our taxi driver and he came promptly to return us to the port. I wanted to walk historic St. Thomas instead of returning to the ship. The driver dropped me and took Leslie and John to the ship. Later Leslie would shop at the ship side shops called Havensight Shops. She bought a bracelet which she wears daily. I walked back to the ship. I tried to find John at a ping pong tournament, and then checked at the trivia tournament, he wasn't there either. The game was about to start with six teams. I joined in and we won. Lot's of laughs and fun questions. Dinner was very unusual. It was an informal night. Rick and Angela were having dinner in the Pinnacle Grill ($20 per person, reservations required). Their seven year old daughter Mattie wanted to dine with us instead, so Rick and Angela invited Del to join them. Her grandson, Zack would dine with us too. Our son was dining in the Lido Restaurant with new friends. So there we were: me, my wife, a seven year old girl, and a thirteen year old boy. Neither child was related to one another. None of us knew each other only four days earlier. The head steward seated a couple with us because there were four open seats. Needless to say they were intrigued. The couple was from Tampa and we came to learn that they were in the cabin next door to us. About the time we finished dinner the three adults returned to claim their children. Leslie had a headache and retired for the evening. I went see The Hill Brothers Show. This is an excellent comedy and juggling show. After the show I checked on Leslie, who was sleeping. I went to the piano bar and joined a Name That Tune team. My teammates were a family we've gotten to know. They had three generations on the cruise. We did well scoring 25 points, while 26 wins. Leslie was still sleeping and it was 1020 p.m. I walked the deck and went to the theater for The Hill Brothers Show. I really liked this juggling and comedy act. The brothers are both in their twenties. Tonight was the dessert extravaganza. They've converted the Lido Dining Room for the midnight event. Many people enjoy taking pictures of the ice sculptures and beautiful desserts. Then they eat again. There is a special flaming Crepe Suzette station. Day 6, Thursday, April 15, 2004 (At Sea): Leslie felt much better. We had breakfast in the Lido Dining Room. We claimed poolside chairs. We enjoyed the sun and Caribbean band music. John and I participated in another ping pong tournament. Since I enjoy the Rotterdam Dining Room and today would be our final lunch onboard, I decided to go to there for lunch. It's a party of two, just me and my book. I've broken protocol by wearing my dry swim shorts, shoes and a collared shirt. For some reason they seat me at an empty table for six. When I'm about half way through a French couple I'd met earlier was seated at the opposite end from me. They wanted to chat. The topic was that they were disappointed at the extremely casual attire many of the passengers insisted on wearing. The wife shuddered when the stated that she had even seen someone at lunch earlier in the week wearing their swim suit. I shook my head in disgust to show my agreement with her. I then remembered that I was wearing my yellow trunks with big blue flowers. The napkin in my lap and table cloth had thus far hidden my faux pas. I knew I did not want them to know, but I was over half way through when they arrived and I did not want to wait for them to finish, at which time I could stay at my seat and avoid them seeing my trunks. Besides they could see I was well into lunch when they arrived and it would have been very awkward to wait for them to finish and then stay there seated until they left. So when I finished I simply rose and said good bye. The trunks were clear to see. I made no comment and did nothing to call attention, though they seemed louder than normal, and I departed the dining room. I hope they thought that my trunks were simply the latest in American high fashion and sophistication. The moral of the story is to avoid under dressing for any occasion. I went to the team trivia contest in the Crow's Nest Lounge. Thunderstorm and rain arrived for the late afternoon. George and our new pal Mike invited me for a few drinks in the Crow's Nest. We enjoyed the view of ocean and conversation. Tonight was a formal dinner night. I streamed, showered and dressed in the locker room. We had more photos taken. This was the best dinner of the week. I had shrimp cocktail, clam chowder, salad with raspberry dressing, lobster tail with hot melted butter, filet mignon and baked Alaska for dessert. After dinner Leslie and I strolled the deck, plus enjoyed the art work inside the ship. We then went to the Zaandam cast show. We sat on the third row. Great singing, dancing, costumes, props, lights, etc. After the show we play a few slots, and then retired to the Explorers Lounge for some classical music. The live trio plays piano, bass, and violin. After this we went to the piano bar. The youth ages 13-17 were having their own casino night. Leslie and I walked by their large room and made eye contact with our fifteen year old. His eyes said hello but do not enter. We moved and retired to our cabin and changed into more comfortable clothes. John came back and he and I went to play some night time ping pong. Then to bed. Day 7, Friday, April 16, 2004. (Half Moon Cay): We rose early because the private island experience is our favorite and we wanted to be among the first ashore. We realized that the last tender returning to the ship left at 12:45 p.m. The "tendering" is scheduled to start at 800 a.m. At 7:00 a.m. we found that no land was in sight yet. We learned that there was a weather delay. High waves were causing concern about the safety of the tenders beside the ship. At 9:10 a.m. we saw the island. Leslie was sunning. John and I played ping pong with friends. We caught a tender at 9:30 a.m., and arrived at 9:45 a.m. We had three hours on the island. We found a secluded part of the beach near an empty hammock. We relaxed and enjoy the sun. Photographers from the ship came by with a variety of clever photo opportunities. We loved the private island experience. Clear ocean water, white sandy beaches, clean, shopping, water sports, Caribbean music and a simple buffet. I snorkeled out to some ship wreckage they've placed. It has barnacles and many fish. Also saw coral reef. Son John and I nap together in a hammock. John went back to the ship ahead of us. Leslie and I strolled the beach. We ran into and visited with a newlywed couple we've spoken to several times. They are both about 55 years old. The groom told me earlier in the week that they would be married on St. Thomas. They were eager to tell us all about it, and we were glad to listen. We sat on the beach and chatted. At 12:15 p.m. Leslie wanted to return to the ship. I wanted to stay and see Angela and Bill (our table mates) ride the banana boat. She went back to the ship and I hang with them. When I'm walking to the tender I chatted with a very tall, attractive and sophisticated fifty year old divorced woman. She had not enjoyed the cruise. She was eager to return home to kill (or at least assault) her travel agent. It seems that she anticipated good activities for single women to meet single men. Boy was she on the wrong cruise. She was surprised at how much I'd loved it. She like many were passengers was upset about the short visit to Half Moon Cay. When I looked at the people around us I could see why she was disappointed. It was nearly all families, many with small children. Certainly not the single men she'd come to meet. The cruise director had told us that there were 250 kids under eighteen on board, and that last week there were 450. He joked that with 450 youth on board it brought the average passenger age down to eighty-one years old. I ran into my pal George and we returned to the ship together. His family left him too. We joined Angela and Bill on the tender. I found John napping in the cabin and Leslie sunning. It was too windy so we went inside. We checked out our photos. We needed to get our 15 for $99. I saw on the daily schedule that there was an event called "Meet the Zaandam Cast." They were charming. Their ages are about 18-25 years old. Many passengers and particularly young girls had questions. They then took us on a backstage tour to see dressing rooms, costumes, wigs and props. This was our last evening onboard. We had a full table since Bill and Angela's daughter Mattie had brought along a seven year old pal. I had artichoke dip, conch and corn chowder, chilled pineapple and banana soup, Greek salad, roast duck, prime rib, and finally bananas flambE for dessert. At our table we all exchanged addresses. Before dinner Leslie and I had prepared envelopes with tips for various staff, which we personally delivered. Our table servers got very little. After dinner we went to a magic show featuring a husband and wife team. It was called DV8, like deviate. I really liked the show. After the show we stayed for Jackpot Bingo. The grand prize of $5,800 was to be awarded. A twelve year old girl won. They also had the cruise lottery winner drawing, again we did not win. Big fun for all. We returned to the cabin to pack for Saturday arrival at port. Our bags must be outside the cabin door by 1:00 a.m. Day 8, Saturday, April 17, 2004: Son John's favorite meal of the day is breakfast, but he's not yet had breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room. He and I went together. It was wonderful, of course. They had about any breakfast item imaginable available including fresh fruits and fresh squeezed juices. We relaxed on deck until our group was called to leave the ship. We quickly retrieved our bags and went to our car. Back to North Carolina. In Closing: You were warned this was long and detailed. I hope it is as helpful and as entertaining for you and those I've read in the past. Happy Cruising!!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
I'm going to try to give my objective opinion about my B2B on the beautiful MS Zaandam. All in all we had a wonderful time and would sail her again in a heartbeat! Transfer: We took Basik Shuttle who picked us up at the Crowne Plaza ... Read More
I'm going to try to give my objective opinion about my B2B on the beautiful MS Zaandam. All in all we had a wonderful time and would sail her again in a heartbeat! Transfer: We took Basik Shuttle who picked us up at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the Orlando airport. They were well on time and we had a smooth ride to Port Canaveral. They were waiting for us upon arrival and I can recommend them without hesitation. Embarkation: A breeze, it took us about 15 minutes to get our documents. No fancy blue or even a plastic cover for them but who cares.....and there we were, onboard the lovely vessel. The rooms weren't ready yet so we had lunch in the Lido and around 1PM the announcement came that we could go to our staterooms. We had cabin # 2657 on the Main deck and it was a spacious outside cabin with plenty of storage space. Our cabin attendant was Banbang and I think he was the most attentive person I've ever met. He took good care of us and our cabin was always spotless clean. Dining Experience: What can I say, we did the B2B which means we had the same menu for 2 weeks in a row but we did not care. We had plenty of choice and did not have had a bad/bland/not so good meal during those 2 weeks. Our table was # 167 on the lower level which meant we had dinner at 8.30 PM. Our waiter for the 1st week was AJ and our busboy was Jaya. Made was our sommelier. ( We took the wine package which was very convenient and they had good wines on the list.) They were great and we had a real good time with them. The 2nd week we had Sinta as our waiter and Agus as our busboy. Also no complaints what -so-ever! We also met Joost Olthof, he's 2nd Maitre D', Dutch like us, so we had a good time with him as well and I think he had a great time too. We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido nearly every day and again no complaints. We went to the Pinnacle Grill twice and it was outstanding Entertainment: We've visited the Piano bar frequently, with Sonia Marie, the Explorer Lounge with the magnificent Champagne Strings, and at the Lido pool the Caribbean Steel Band. High Society played in the Ocean Bar, they were ok. The Crows Nest was fun too. I saw one show which was called Party Grass which was good and there was a comedian who was hilarious but I don't recall his name. But we're not party animals so for us the entertainment was ok. Gym and Spa: We went to the gym every day, it was well equipped. We did sauna twice, very good and very clean. Took a massage and the masseuse had magic hands. The turn over day was fun, like you own the whole ship, there were only 6 of us for the B2B. The only thing which was a bit annoying was, that between 8AM and 11.30AM on the whole ship one couldn't find anything to drink, all the bars were closed, no coffee or tea or ice water because they were cleaning the machines so beware that if you stay on the ship you have to take precautions. Disembarkation: Because we planned to stay in Orlando for a couple of days we had embarkation# 25, we were off the ship by Pam. With pain in our hearts I must admit. Excursions: On all the islands we hailed a taxi to drive us around which turned out to be great fun. On Grand Cayman we had 'Elvis' as our driver, the King's still alive! So look out for him if you want to have a blast! Half Moon Cay: In one word HEAVEN and we were lucky we could visit the island twice. A shame we had to leave at 12.45 PM but better than nothing! Well I think I've covered it all. If you have any questions, ask away. After a day of hard work it's good to think back to a great vacation on board the Zaandam. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
We are inexperienced cruisers and this was only our 2nd cruise, having done an Eastern itinerary on the Zuiderdam in Feb. '03 as our first experience. We were so impressed with HAL's service, the quality of the food, the beauty ... Read More
We are inexperienced cruisers and this was only our 2nd cruise, having done an Eastern itinerary on the Zuiderdam in Feb. '03 as our first experience. We were so impressed with HAL's service, the quality of the food, the beauty of the ship, and the value of cruising, that we could hardly wait for a second chance! When a mailer arrived with great last-minute deals, I was off to the travel agent within the hour! We were lucky to find that one of the best Zaandam deals coincided with Spring Break week...so we were able to take our 3 college-aged kids, plus my son's fiancee, along. We booked 3 cabins in all: a balcony minisuite for my husband and myself, and 2 inside cabins (minimum NN stateroom guarantees) for the kids. With only a month before sailing, we had a lot to pull together...but with the help of the web to prebook shore excursions & our dear neighbors' kindness to offer petsitting, we were ready and EXCITED on Embarkation day! Since we live in the area of West Palm Beach, we are only a 2-hr drive from Port Canaveral and decided it would be far easier---and less costly---to drive & park. This worked out extremely well, especially at disembarkation when we were able to grab our bags, head to the parking lot, load up and go. (Access in and out of the port is very easy, and the ship's berths are easily sighted from the highway on the way in so it is impossible to get "lost".) Parking was $10 per day, so we would recommend this for folks living in the area, or driving their own car from another area. Security was good, but very efficient and the lines moved so quickly that we were onboard about 30 minutes from the time we entered the terminal building. STATEROOMS: We were escorted to our stateroom and found most of our bags had already arrived. The kids were upgraded from Cat NN to Cat L larger inside staterooms, and were given adjacent cabins. Though lacking a window, their cabin amenities were nice and we were surprised at how roomy they were; very comfortable for 2 persons each. Our Cat B was very nice! In addition to a comfortable queen bed, we had a sofa, chair,coffee table and large armoire-type desk in the sitting area, a mini-fridge and self-service bar, tons of closet space, a TV with VCR, and a compact but very functional bathroom that included a bathtub with whirlpool and a wall-mount hairdryer. There was a mirrored cabinet for storage in the bathroom, and 2 nice cotton bathrobes for our use in the closet. The balcony was somewhat small, but there was room for a chair, table, and chaise. The two of us could enjoy it with room to spare, although our room was often the Family Rendezvous Headquarters and it got crowded on the balcony when 6 of us tried to pile out there all at once! THE ZAANDAM: This is a very lovely ship with interesting artwork and lovely public spaces. The Lido had excellent food, and the pools were very nice (although often the aft sundeck was crowded with seating hard to find). The main pool often featured a steel drum band playing reggae, which added a festive touch and helped the pina coladas go down (more) easily! I did not notice kids "running wild" or dominating the pool as was written about by another reviewer on the same cruise...in fact, much of the time, the pool was underutilized and the hot tubs available from what I observed. We used the spa one day, and found it to be very nice; there are Port Day specials for spa services and I had a very relaxing massage, which was quite a treat! We never did try the alternative restaurant, but dined nightly in the main Rotterdam dining room and thought the food was excellent! There are many choices on the menu; the soups are superb,the entrees are delicious, and portions are just right so that you are satisfied without feeling "stuffed"! The java bar was a bit of a disappointment---the coffee was very good, but the cappuccinos were tiny. We had room service for breakfast on 2 occasions and were very happy with prompt delivery of hot food exactly to our specifications. We are not big night-lifers and the few shows we did attend, were rather "cheesy" production shows...good costumes, ok talent. The exception was comedian Fred Klett, who was completely HYSTERICAL! (We have since heard him on "Bob and Tom" and again, we were in stitches!) As for overall service, HAL did not disappoint! Our room steward magically kept our room in tip-top condition and our fresh fruit refilled without ever being "seen" until our 5th day into the trip, when he asked us by name how our day was! Our waiter and asst waiter knew our beverages from the first day onboard, and we never had to ask..they were brought to the table as soon as we were seated. The Lido staff asked our names the first day, and used them every time we saw them throughout the cruise...amazing! We have heard that these people are often not tipped due to HAL's "tipping not required" policy; that is a shame, because the staff goes so far out of their way to give personal attention and make the cruise enjoyable! We are glad they will be setting standardized tips (so we have read) beginning this year, because so many folks take advantage of the current policy as an excuse NOT to reward the very good service (which they not only expect, but often demand)! Our itinerary included two sea days, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, and Half Moon Cay. COZUMEL: We had prebooked a snorkel/Catamaran sail/beach party through HAL,and must say it was one of the highlights of our trip! We had considered visiting the ruins, but due to some tight time constraints (we were to be in port 6 am to 2:30 pm) we were concerned that we would be rushing through the experience. As it happened, we arrived in port nearly 2 hours behind schedule, as our Captain had to divert during the night to rescue some fishermen who were adrift at sea and had sent out distress flairs!! This added a real element of excitement to the trip, but shortened our time in Cozumel and resulted in cancellation of all trips to the ruins after all. (HAL issued shipboard credits to those passengers; surprisingly, we did not hear any complaints from disappointed travellers.) We had hoped to do a little shopping after our excursion, but that will have to wait until our next trip! GRAND CAYMAN: Of course...we booked Stingray City! And this is a MUST do, an absolutely incredible experience! We had ample time to explore a bit of the town and had lunch at a little diner (I believe Coretta's) to try some local cuisine. The prices were high, but the conch fritters were excellent and we had a nice chat with the owner herself, who has been in business for 20-some years with 2 locations. We picked up some Tortuga Rum cakes and fudge as gifts for our petsitters while we were strolling around town. MONTEGO BAY: I had prebooked my husband and son to golf the White Witch at Rose Hall; it was a very pricey round of golf, but a spectacular, world-class oceanview course and a lifelong memory! The guys went by cab both ways, with no problems. Unfortunately, I had not pre-booked anything for us ladies....we took a shuttle into town and found that to be a BIG MISTAKE!!! From the moment we stepped off the van, we were hounded to come spend money, get our hair braided, buy marijuana "for a great price", etc. Two of the girls got their hair braided and as soon as they were done, I herded them back onto the shuttle & right back to port. Along the way, we saw all kinds of marijuana growing wild along the roadways (which could have been had for free! haha!) The drive was hair-raising, with people cutting others off at high rates of speed, merging within inches of one another, etc...but despite the white knuckles, it was fun looking around at our surroundings. Jamaica is geographically beautiful; however, the parts of MoBay that we saw, were downtrodden and it was evident that there is a lot of poverty in the area. HALF MOON CAY: This is a very lovely island, I believe it is actually (or, was?) Little San Salvador island. White powdery sand, crystal clear, aquamarine Bahamian waters, and upscale improvements by the cruise line including pavillion shelters, beach volleyball courts, a playground, a chapel, walking trails, several beach bars, a shopping enclave and post office, etc. The beach barbecue was very tasty, and we enjoyed our day very much! This time of year, the water is somewhat chilly so only the braver souls actually did any swimming. Overall, we had an absolutely wonderful time on our second cruise and it was one of our best family memories ever!! We were very glad to see such a nice mix of passengers on this cruise; retirees, families, young couples, and children. HAL has added us to its list of loyal customers and "hooked" us on cruising for good! We have considered trying other cruise lines but worry that they may not be able to live up to our expectations offer 2 great experiences with HAL! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
Embarkation: We had a challenge on getting flights down to Florida but did get a flight into Ft Lauderdale and drove the 3 hours to Port Canaveral. Orlando would have been the logical place to fly into but since we booked on such short ... Read More
Embarkation: We had a challenge on getting flights down to Florida but did get a flight into Ft Lauderdale and drove the 3 hours to Port Canaveral. Orlando would have been the logical place to fly into but since we booked on such short notice this was the best we could do. The car rental agency, Budget, that we dropped our car off at got us to the boat quickly. They parked right at the luggage drop off where the dock workers unloaded our luggage to be loaded on the Zaandam. It was a couple of hundred feet to the embarkation center, through security, up a flight of stairs on an escalator and we were completing our boarding paperwork (5-10 minutes). Then it was onto the ship. This was our first cruise on Holland America so we really didn't know what to expect. The HAL Kids Club representatives who gave us an itinerary for the week of the kids programs greeted us at the gangway. We went up the gangway and were on board at 3PM. We walked around exploring the ship with our 2 children ages 7 and 10. There was the required pre cruise lifeboat drill. We were back at our cabin by 4:30 and our luggage had already arrived! The fastest I have ever seen my luggage arrive in the 3 cruises I've been on. I had a good feeling about this cruise. I wasn't disappointed. The Zaandam: What a boat!! Everything about this ship was impressive. The artwork throughout the ship, the reading areas, the library/internet room, the formal dining area, the lounges, the Pinnacle Grill, were all very well decorated, elaborate and "classy". We loved the size of our cabins (the room seemed a little bigger than the super liner rooms we had been in previously). Much of the lido deck area was a casual atmosphere with the casual buffet area, "outdoor grill", 2 bars, 2 swimming pools and 2 hot tubs. A real positive was the retractable roof over the swimming pool area. Early in the cruise it was extremely windy and at times overcast. The crew within seconds could close or open this enormous roof to adapt to the changing weather conditions. We did not use the spa located on the lido deck. The casino was small by cruise ship standards and contained about 8 card tables, a roulette table, a craps table and about 100 slot machines ranging from nickel to 5-dollar slots. It never seemed overly crowded and didn't overpower the upper promenade deck. There were 4 lounges on the upper promenade deck, several meeting rooms, the internet/library, a liquor shop, 2 clothing shops, the upper part of the Rotterdam formal dining room, the upper part of the showroom the Mondrian Lounge, and jewelry shop. The promenade deck contained the main entrance to the Rotterdam dining room, the main entrance to the showroom the Mondrian Lounge, Main Office, Movie Theater (really movie theater like with free popcorn), photographers showing area, coffee or high tea area, and kids arcade. There was also a basketball/tennis area, volleyball area, HAL kids club area and disco lounge called the "Crow's Nest" with large windows running along the exterior (really sharp) at the top deck. Overall, I never felt crowded or boxed in. When I was in the promenade or upper promenade areas it felt elegant. I wanted to be dressed up, refined, and enjoy the moment. I'm not sure how the Freddy Mercury or Iggy Pop autographed guitars hanging on the walls fit in with the overall refined theme in these areas but somehow it worked. We stayed in 2 inside cabins. It was fine because we weren't in there but to change or go to sleep. The only time it mattered was when you woke up. You had to look at a watch to figure if it was day or night. I did go into an outside cabin and was impressed with how large the window was. The last time I took an outside cabin; it wasn't worth it because I almost broke my neck trying to get an angle to look out the tiny porthole. That wasn't the case on the Zaandam. We also went into a suite one night to socialize with a family we met. The suite had a large balcony about the size of our room. The interior was twice the size of our cabin. There was also a separate changing/sink area outside the bathroom. The bathroom had a tub rather than a standup shower. The suite was quite impressive. The Crew: I had been on 2 cruises on Carnival super liners. The crew was often distant and in the background. What a difference. I got to know the wine steward, the maitre d, waiters, the buffet cooks, and crewmembers. They would greet our kids by their first names and call me Sir John and my wife "Mum". I had to ask, "Please just, John." I found the Indonesian and Philippine crew to be intelligent, articulate, genuine, engaging and very friendly. One night the Indonesian crew performed songs and dances from their 12,000-island homeland. It was quite a cultural experience. The following week the Philippine crew would do a show with their cultural songs and dances. Food/Entertainment: The food was very good. On the Lido deck there was an omelet chef at breakfast as well as hot/cold buffet. During the casual lunch there was a hot/cold buffet served on the Lido deck dining area, there was a sandwich bar in which you could design your on sandwich, or a pasta bar where you could do the same, there were several types of salads available. There were hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, and pizza available at the Lido deck grill. Ice cream was available in the afternoons. We only ate in the formal dining room during dinner. There was the requisite lobster tail night. There was always a strip sirloin or filet mignon on the menu. Some type of seafood was featured each night as well as fowl such as breast of duck or chicken. Thankfully, there was a kid's menu. One night, Wednesday night, there was a cookout on the Lido deck. We attended this instead of the "Dutch menu" in the formal Rotterdam dining room. There was also another dining room called the Pinnacle Grill. For an additional $20 per guest you could eat in this very upscale restaurant. There were several types of aged beef. This was definitely a step above the formal dining room. One gentleman we spoke with said that at the Pinnacle he had the best steak he's ever eaten. In retrospect we wish had tried it. It didn't seem worth it because we had our kids with us who eat plain pasta, hamburgers and chicken nuggets. We should have taken them to the casual dinner and then gone ourselves to the Pinnacle when they went to HAL kids club. Oh well, next time. The entertainment in the main theater, the Mondrian Lounge, had its highs and lows. I wish rather than a featured entertainer playing a one-hour show, they had several performers play each night in a one-hour variety show. Some of the entertainers were just not that talented to carry a performance by themselves. It was easy to lose interest. The 2 nights that the Zaandam song and dance company provided the entertainment I found it more varied and enjoyable. There was string quartet playing in one of the lounges, A sing-a-long piano player in another lounge, A quartet playing jazz or big band tunes in another lounge. While I haven't focused on it too much the median age of the guests on this cruise was pretty high. There were many elderly guests on board. This is not a party ship. There was disco entertainment at for the late night crowd in the "Crow's Nest Lounge". This was the focal point for the late night crowd. I didn't see very many singles or young couples. During the day a steel drum band played reggae tunes on the Lido deck. Girl watching was very, very, limited. We were fortunate enough to pick a school vacation week so; there were more than a hundred children on board for our kids to meet. It was easy enough to make acquaintances and it was a very social atmosphere. The Islands: We stopped in Tortola, ST Thomas and Half Moon Cay. TORTOLA During the Tortola visit we took an excursion to the Baths at Virgin Gorda. This was a very physical trip. The Baths are inlets good for snorkeling, swimming, sun bathing and viewing sea life. There are several caves to explore that have been formed by falling rocks. This is a very physical trip which includes hiking down a trail to the beach and much bending and crawling to explore the caves and inlets. It is very beautiful. We were very happy we went. Upon our return to the Zaandam, we decided to explore Tortola. Some acquaintances took cabs to other beaches. The open air cabs were available right off the dock. We took a short walk into town but there wasn't much to see. The kids got some trinkets and my daughter had her hair braided at a bazaar at the dock facilities. ST Thomas My wife and I had been to St Thomas before. We took the Zaandam tender boat to St Thomas spent a short period of time looking at the downtown bazaar but didn't spend any time jewelry or electronics shopping. Instead we loaded the family onto a ferry boat that took us to St John, a neighboring island. St John is very quiet compared to St Thomas. The boat ride was about 40 minutes. From the dock at St John we took an open air taxi $8 each way to Cinnamon Bay. This is one of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen. The water was crystal blue. The beaches were like Talc. We were ecstatic that we went. The cab ride back was a bit hurried since wanted to make the 2:15 ferry back to St Thomas. In talking to some of the guests waiting for the tender boat, the liquor shopping in St Thomas was very, very good. The ship duty free shop was about $1.00 more per bottle and had less of a variety. In either case, you could not bring the liquor back to your cabin it was held for you until the last day. Half Moon Cay Half Moon is an island owned by Holland America. The beach here is very beautiful as well. The theme here is beach, ocean and sand. There are a number of beach activities like parasailing, snorkeling, fishing and swimming. There are a small number of stores and an open air bar. My daughter got her braids redone here. The Tortola braiding didn't hold up well. The stay here was very short. Maybe 4 hours. That was okay with us because the day was overcast and not very warm. There was a cook out with the same menu as the Lido deck barbecue. Hamburgers and hot dogs. If you can, wait till you get back to the ship. Once again there were not dock facilities for the cruise ship so we took a tender boat to and from the island. Overall: We were looking for a vacation to relax, be entertained, and entertain our kids and to feel special. This cruise certainly did that. If we were looking for a party, this was not the ship. We felt special and well taken care of. We felt that this was indeed 5 star quality. Our kids loved this trip. Their concerns about seasickness, making friends, the food, and nothing to do, never materialized. When the boat was rocking, they thought it was fun! While we might explore other cruise lines for a younger crowd or better entertainment, I wouldn't hesitate to try this line again if the same value was there. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
Zaandam 12/27/03 - 1/3/04 (new year's cruise) Cat BB (cabin 6101 - first cabin near the bow on Verandah deck) I sailed on Zaandam with a group of 14 friends and family for New Years eve. We flew into Jacksonville, saving $200 per ... Read More
Zaandam 12/27/03 - 1/3/04 (new year's cruise) Cat BB (cabin 6101 - first cabin near the bow on Verandah deck) I sailed on Zaandam with a group of 14 friends and family for New Years eve. We flew into Jacksonville, saving $200 per person over fares to Orlando, and stayed the night at a hotel near Universal Studios (the Radisson Universal Studios, booked through Hotwire for $49 per room for the night). The hotel was clean and quiet, much better than the Super 8 our friends stayed at in Cocoa Beach - they actually slept on towels in their clothes after finding bugs under the pillow in one of their rooms. We drove to Port Canaveral the next day, dropping our rental car at Avis and taking the shuttle to the pier. This wasn't a problem going, but the Avis shuttle situation was a mess when we returned. More on that later. EMBARKATION We got to the pier around 2:30 pm. There were no lines (I don't consider three people in front of me a line), and although my sister had to pick up her documents dockside, we got through quickly. We ran past the photo people (one of many quick get-aways!) and were led to our cabin by a white-gloved steward - nice touch! Chocolate covered strawberries from our fantastic travel agent, Jacqui, made our embarkation even sweeter. CABIN The last cruise I went on was Millennium for my honeymoon in June 2002. We had a cat 1A balcony stateroom (now concierge class) on that sailing. The cabin and balcony in our cat BB verandah stateroom on Zaandam were a bit larger. Although some had to sit on the bed, we were able to fit ten people in the cabin for cocktails before dinner on a few nights. Our cabin steward helpfully added extra chairs to our balcony (joining the chair and chaise already out there), so our friends could enjoy the balcony as well. The bathroom was larger than I had expected, and the shelf space in the medicine cabinet was a great help. Any items that didn't fit in the medicine cabin we placed on the shelf beneath the sink. Having the full tub with jacuzzi jets was very nice. We had ample closet and drawer space, and our cabin was attractively decorated in mauves and reds, with cream striped wallpaper, a queen bed (two twins together), sofa (I think it was a pull out, but didn't check), desk and chair, refrigerator and (not complimentary) mini-bar. I had heard complaints about the ice buckets being plastic. Our bucket was plastic, but was within a chrome outer bucket. We thought it was fine. The cabin was kept very clean. We made use of the robes in our cabin and enjoyed breakfast on the balcony every morning using the convenient doorknob order forms. We also used the safe in our closet for passports and wallets. Our friends and family were in a group of obstructed view staterooms (though the views weren't particularly obstructed, just overlooked part of the promenade - plenty of light came in, and they could see out of their windows), and one party (my other sister and friend) had an inside cabin. The inside and oceanview cabins were almost exactly the same, except for the window (of course). They were very nice-sized, especially for standard accommodations. The cabins were decorated in mostly peach tones. The oceanview cabins all had bathtubs (no jacuzzi jets though), while the inside cabin had a shower only. FOOD One couple enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill on Dutch Night. They thoroughly enjoyed their filet mignon and sautEed mushrooms, as well as everything else they dined on. The service was reported to be excellent. With the exception of Dutch Night, I ate in the main dining room (the Rotterdam) every night. Those who did eat at the Rotterdam for Dutch Night enjoyed it. As a vegetarian, I didn't know what to expect for meals. I had been increasingly disappointed with the vegetarian selections over my last few Celebrity cruises. The vegetarian selections were very tasty in Rotterdam. There were veggie options for each course every night, and I was presented with the standard vegetarian menu and the following night's regular menu during each dinner. My table mates loved seeing the next night's menu in advance. There is one vegetarian dinner menu with about ten entrEe choices (plus soup, salad, etc. options) to order off of for the duration of the cruise. I ordered from the regular menu some nights and the vegetarian menu on others. My sister, who isn't a vegetarian, ordered off the veggie menu one night - she had to try the corn cakes, which she very much enjoyed. Everyone enjoyed their dinners throughout the cruise. We ate lunch in the Rotterdam a few times - a nice treat when we had the time - and grabbed lunch at the Lido most days. There were many selections at the Lido, and I chose options from the stir fry bar and sandwich/deli station a few times. The "starry" ceiling of the dining room was really beautiful. We only noticed a vibration problem one night, but it wasn't bad at all. Our group was too large to be seated at one table, so we had a table for 8 in the center of the lower level and a table for six by the windows (also on the lower level). The table by the windows had awful service until multiple complaints were lodged and an appointment made with the maitre d. Our table (173, I think) was usually finished with our entrees when the other table (160) was being served salads. Our waiter, assistant waiter, and head waiter were fantastic at table 173. In an attempt to mix up the seating arrangements so our friends at 160 could experience the table 173 level of service, I sat at 160 one evening. My regular waitstaff came by to visit! The service was truly fantastic (with the exception of table 160, who didn't even receive favors on New Years - they were told the ship had run out!) throughout our cruise. We all loved Nas, our Yum-Yum Guy. He was extraordinarily friendly. We also ordered room service several times - people raved about the BLTs, and when I ordered multiple cheese and cracker plates for when people came by the cabin for cocktails, we were presented with a large silver tray with the items beautifully arranged. PUBLIC AREAS There was some very interesting and very pretty wallpaper throughout the ship, and the art was varied (from musical instruments in glass cases to a sarcophagus). There were a few shops (I purchased a beach bag to store items in on the second day after losing my camera in the Crow's nest - it was never to be seen again, though more honest passengers turned in digital cameras to the lost and found each day) and the infamous pipe organ. We collectively liked the pipe organ - it made for an unusual centerpiece. We visited the Java Bar on several occasions; there was one particularly unfriendly staff person attending it at times, but we did enjoy the coffee and tea. The Explorer's Lounge was a nice place to relax, but we especially enjoyed the Crow's Nest. It was a wonderful place to watch the sun set, and we enjoyed pre-dinner hors d'ouvres there many evenings. The wonderful Carlos Santana (not really his last name, naturally) was very kind to bring me trays of vegetable crudite whenever I was in the Crow's Nest during cocktail hour, since most of the choices served were not vegetarian. This is just one example of the fantastic service we were treated to throughout the cruise. Manuelito, also in the Crow's Nest, was fantastic, as was Peter, who frequently brought us drinks on the aft deck. We enjoyed the hot tubs every evening (and some afternoons). One was not particularly hot, but the other was fine. There were some problems with unattended children running around, one who fell and hit her head, though her parents never appeared. Some of the children were clearly under ten, and there was also a group of teenagers that congregated and flirted with each other at the hot tubs. We were able to order drinks at the dolphin bar and have them served to us in the hot tub. I didn't spend any time in the regular Lido pool, as we preferred the aft deck to lay in the sunshine. There were the typical problems with chair hogs, but nothing more irritating than on other cruises. The pool on the aft deck was refreshingly cool, and there was a bar there as well. There was a drink of the day available each day for $3.75. I don't recall how much drinks were otherwise. The promenade was very nice, with traditional teak lounges. We watched the sunrise from out there on our ridiculously early visit to Half Moon Cay. We took advantage of the shuffleboard courts quite frequently. I didn't spend much time in the casino; I lost $20 in nickel slots, and never did figure out how the machines worked. The Wajang Theater was nice - we brought coffee in from the Java Bar and snacked on fresh popcorn. It was cold, though - bring a sweater. We also watched movies in our cabin a few times (fairly current movies were playing on the movie channels). EXCURSIONS/PORTS The white river tubing in Ocho Rios was fantastic. The guides were very friendly and the trip down the river was beautiful. Sodas and beer were served to us in our tubes at the end of the excursion. Half Moon Cay was wonderful - the $6 flotation mat was a perfect choice. Although Zuiderdam was also docked at the island, it didn't feel crowded. There was a BBQ, but we headed back to the ship a little early to find lounges on the aft deck and didn't partake. We had a short wait for tender tickets for the ride out there, but caught one immediately on the way back. Our Snorkel and Beach Party excursion in Cozumel was more beach party and less snorkel. Given how many beautiful reefs there are in Cozumel, it was disappointing to snorkel at a site right on top of the cruise ships where there weren't any fish until the guides chummed for them. The beach we sailed to was gorgeous, though. There was beach volleyball, horseback riding (for a fee), lounges, hammocks and flotation mats. Unlimited beer and margaritas were available on the catamaran for no extra charge. The scuba excursion received excellent reviews. If you choose to shop around the market by the dock, be prepared for pushy vendors. Grand Cayman was pretty, as always, even if the excursion was a bust. We ate an expensive lunch at one of the restaurants (I had french fries and salad for $20) and shopped around. MISCELLANEOUS Although the ship was booked to capacity, we never really felt crowded. I never really waited for an elevator, but took the stairs most of the time since the ship isn't too large. Waiting at the shore excursion desk to book excursions was slow and painful. I did miss the interactive tv system on Celebrity. Passengers were generally friendly, and while the crowd was a bit older, there was still a range of ages represented. Events like trivia were not particularly well attended, but that just gave us more chances to win "bum bags" (aka fanny packs). We went to the Crow's Nest every night after dinner, and it wasn't usually crowded at all. The music selection was interesting, to say the least. DJ Martin played some of our requests, but we don't think he was all too fond of us. There were some issues with dining room attire. I understand that people have different understandings of what constitutes formal, informal or casual clothing, but in my opinion jeans and half shirts are never appropriate. It was disappointing that the dress code wasn't enforced at all, especially on a holiday sailing. New Years was very nice, however a group of passengers (including me) were waiting outside the kitchen doors in the Crow's Nest until less than a minute before midnight trying to get flutes of champagne for the toast. We made it just in time, and after midnight staff came around re-filing flutes very frequently. There were noticeably fewer staff around on New Year's to deal with drink orders (we understand that there was a staff party that night), so there were some significantly longer waits and large crowds by the bar. The dessert tables in the Crow's Nest on New Years was a very nice touch, though I don't understand why it was placed in the smoking section. As far as our Avis experience upon debarkation - we had to wait for three shuttles to go by before there was space for us, and only one shuttle appeared to be running. We had to tip for luggage service that literally included the driver throwing our baggage off the shuttle. It took almost two hours to get the cars and get on the road. The cruise was terrific, and the first-time cruisers in our group are looking forward to sailing again. While the Zaandam itinerary for next New Years doesn't fit with our schedules, we are certainly looking into other Holland America ships since the service was so outstanding. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2003
We took the fall repositioning cruise on Holland America's Zaandam. It began in Vancouver and ended at Port Canaveral although we joined the excursion in San Diego. There are several excellent reviews of the Zaandam and its ports that ... Read More
We took the fall repositioning cruise on Holland America's Zaandam. It began in Vancouver and ended at Port Canaveral although we joined the excursion in San Diego. There are several excellent reviews of the Zaandam and its ports that can be found here, but we couldn't find any explanations of the trip through the Panama Canal itself. This is what this review will dwell upon. We will say that it was a wonderful trip with stops at ports where we had never been in Mexico, Central America, and South America. There are differing reports as to where to watch the transit of the Canal. Some people like to see the inner workings of the process and the machinery as close as possible; the lower promenade deck is great for this. You can walk around the entire ship and go out to the very front of the bow if you would like. You can stay on the sunny or shady side of the ship and watch the process from a deck chair; people tend to get in the way of your viewing with this option. Staying outside can be extremely hot, humid, and sunny. The weather can be stifling, and you must wear sunblock and drink plenty of fluids. You can also sit inside at one of the several bars and watch through the "windows". After much thought and discussion, we chose to sit in the Crow's Nest of the Zaandam. The Crow's Nest is a bar and nightclub on the ninth deck of the ship on the bow. It has wrap around windows, reclining chairs, a well-stocked bar, and plenty of room, tables and chairs. You can see everything starboard to port albeit not up close. We decided, if we could, that we would sit at the front of the Crow's Nest on the port side in two chairs with table that was right by the windows. The reclining chairs looked really inviting, but when you sit in them, the view is lower than a regular chair, and you see a little less. We were scheduled to begin our transit through the locks around 7:00 am, so we thought that we should claim our chairs and table early. On our day of transit we woke up at 4:15 am, dressed with sweaters (people sometimes forget to tell you that it gets cold in some areas of the ship), and proceeded to the Crow's Nest. We got there at around 4:50 am, and it was open; however, we were not the first people there. There was another couple in the reclining chairs in the middle of the room and another man towards the back. Our table was waiting for us, and we sat down, pulled the table and chairs all the way to the bulkhead, and waited for the trip to begin. We approached the entrance through part of the Bay of Panama; our trip was to take us from south to north. It was still dark out, but you could see the lights of many ships anchored in the bay waiting for their turn to transit. Passenger ships and critical cargo ships pay a special fee not to wait; our fee was between $150,000 and $175,000. Lights of the skyscrapers of Panama City could be seen in the distance, and you could just make out the shape of the Bridge of the Americas which goes over the Canal and connects one side of Panama to the other. The sky lightened somewhat as the sun was coming up; it was overcast with several threatening clouds towards the north. At around 5:30 am, a pilot boat met us, and we took our pilot on board. This is the person who actually guides the ship through the process. There were two pilot boats that met us, and we think that several people boarded the Zaandam. On our starboard side a huge container ship was allowed to go in front of us as we met our tugboats. As we looked to the port side we saw several buildings and an airfield that was used by the United States when we controlled the Canal Zone. The sun rose and the Bridge of the Americas was right in front of us. It was really a neat experience to go under this structure, and we took several pictures of the process. Once under the bridge, we entered the Bay of Balboa; this is a port town and you could see the container ships that are too large to go through the Canal unloading their cargo to railway cars for the overland transit to the Atlantic side. On the port side is the former Rodman U.S. naval base that Panama has taken over and uses for a port. I ran down to the Lido deck to see if I could get any breakfast. Fortunately, they had opened the continental breakfast area early, and I was able to bring muffins, tea, and juice back to the Crow's Nest. Our two tugs approached us as we proceeded to the first set of locks. One tug went to the starboard side, and one went to our stern. This is done to insure that our entrance into the locks is done correctly and safely. As we approached the two locks there were two ships already in the first of the two-step Miraflores Locks. At this time of day, ships can use both the starboard and port locks to go to the Atlantic side; later on in the day only one side is used because of the two-way traffic. You could actually see the big container ship that had passed us up rise as the water was allowed to flow into the first lock from the lake system above. Between the locks there is an area that has most of the controls and the mule tracks. There is also an arrow that indicates which way your ship is to go. This is a holdover from the days when two-way radios were not used. As we waited, the arrow was straight up. On the entire transit, the Captain of the Zaandam gave a running commentary of what was transpiring. Then it was our turn, and the arrow swung to the starboard lock. Water poured out of the sides of the locks as the first area emptied its contents into the Bay of Balboa; it works on a gravitational system. As we approached our first lock, a rowboat brought out the cables that would connect the Zaandam to the locomotives that would help pull us through the Miraflores Locks. We didn't see it, but our crew took the cables and hooked them up to our ship with guidance from the Canal crew. The port side lock was mirroring what we were doing, and you could see the process from a different point of view. You could see the big lock doors open as our sister lock prepared to accept another container ship beside us. Our lock was ready and we slowly proceeded into it. The locomotives pulled us, but we also used our own power and thrusters. Once in the lock, the doors behind us closed, and we began to rise from the water in the second lock. We were only about 4 feet from the both sides of the locks; some ships are even wider than we were. You could see the process happen, and we rose to the level of the second set of locks. It took around ½ hour to complete this part of the journey. The massive original 1914 doors opened, and we were taken into the second set of Miraflores Locks. The process was repeated, and we steamed into the little bay between the locks. We noticed that there were several alligators floating by the beaches and several species of birds on the rain forests just on land. We approached the Pedro Miguel Locks and waited our turn and for the arrow to turn. We could see the container ship on the port side begin to leave its berth, and water leaked from the back doors of the lock as her propellers took hold. We then entered this one lock system, and went through the fascinating process again. The Crow's Nest was filling up by now, and the bar was open. People were getting a bit crabby because some were sitting in front of them. There was a shouting match that lasted about 5 minutes. The good guys eventually won out. Once we had reached the farthest above sea level that that would be, our lock doors opened, and we were escorted into the Gaillard or Culebra Cut. This section of the Canal is what cuts through the Continental Divide. Many thousands of workers died attempting to build this section of the Canal. As we sailed on we were "tugless" but passed several dredging vessels that continually pull out sediment from the bottom of the Cut. We passed a new set of structures that will eventually be another bridge across the Canal. It seemed to be a massive undertaking. Panama is also attempting to finance a third set of locks that will allow the largest "post Panamax" ships to transit. The Cut winds through the rain forest, and we met our first ships going south here. A very large container ship passed us up on the port side; why she did this, we never found out since our transit paralleled her from then on. As we came out of the Cut into Gatun Lake we could see the many lighthouses, signs, and lights along the way that have been installed for the pilots to guide the ships. The Gatun Lake is the source of the water that allows the vessels to be raised or lowered through the system of locks. The lake was formed by the damming of the Chagres River. There are many islands that still exist, and an exact channel must be followed around these islands. We spent several hours traversing this second largest manmade body of water. Many of the passengers on board the Zaandam left the deck and the Crow's Nest since there was "not much to see". We stayed but got lunch from the Lido Deck. As we approached the final set of Gatun Locks we sailed past the Gatun Dam which was an earthen structure which formed the lake. Ships were again anchored around the area waiting their turn to go into the Locks. We had a short wait and watched the Princess Line "Coral Princess" transit the three locks in front of her. This passenger ship is the largest that has ever transited the Canal. There is only about two feet on either side of her when she enters each lock. Twilight was approaching as we began to enter the Gatun Locks with the help of two new tugs. Once we were safely in, we began the trifold process of descending to the Atlantic side of the Canal. The lights of the area came on and gave a surreal effect to the process. The sun set and the lights of the ships docked waiting to sail south the next day could be seen; the Coral Princess was docked and had all of her lights burning; it was a neat sight. We left the third and final lock and sailed under our own power into Limon Bay, past the Port of Cristobal and Colon, and into the Caribbean Sea. None the worse for wear after 13 ½ hours, we cleaned up our area, moved our chairs and table back, and went down to the Lido deck for a massive barbeque that the food service had for the passengers. The transit of the Panama Canal was a great experience. There are so many things to see that you have to see them all; we did, and we hope that this review will help in your transit. Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.7
Service 3.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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