Sail Date: June 2009
HAL Zaandam Alaska Blog/Review June 5-12 Thursday - June 4th. Seven of us flew on Delta from Florida the day before the cruise.  Flight was uneventful.  We had 10 checked bags that arrived in baggage claim right when we walked up.  ... Read More
HAL Zaandam Alaska Blog/Review June 5-12 Thursday - June 4th. Seven of us flew on Delta from Florida the day before the cruise.  Flight was uneventful.  We had 10 checked bags that arrived in baggage claim right when we walked up.  We then waited 20 minutes or so for my aunt and cousin who were arriving from Michigan.  After the whole gang was together, we went to the Shuttle Express kiosk and waited for our pre-booked van.  The van arrived within 10 minutes.  The driver was VERY talkative on the trip to our hotel.  Arrived at the Residence Inn Marriot in Lake Union. We had originally booked 3 rooms at this hotel for $200 a night via the Marriott website, but we later bid via Priceline and got the rooms for $60 a night.  We then got a free upgrade to a 2 bedroom suite.  Very nice hotel - friendly staff.   We had dinner at Buck's Charter house right across the street.  Good chowder and food - nice view of the lake. Friday - June 5th Woke up and had a wonderful free buffet at the hotel.  Then 6 of us took the trolley (located right down the street) to downtown Seattle.  Trolley stopped right at Nordstrom's, so we shopped for last minute items there and at Macy's .  Hopped back on the trolley and went back to hotel.  We had made reservations for Shuttle Express for 11:25 and they were there waiting for us - great service! Arrived at Pier 91 in 15 minutes or so.  Although there were hardly any cars there - we were required to park at the very end of the drop off area and had to walk quite far (my Aunt is 87 and has some difficulty walking long distances).  We checked all our bags and headed right up the escalator.  At the top of the escalator we were all handed a piece of paper and then directed to stand in line.  I didn't read the paper as I was the designated organizer and since we had 9 of us, ranging in age from 16 to 87, there wasn't much time.  (More on this later).  Within 5 minutes, all of us were sent to different desks to check - in.  We were done within 10 minutes - pictures and all.  We were each given numbers of when to board.  I had group 1 as I was in a suite. The others were given group 6.  I waited with the others and we were all boarded within 20 minutes.  This was by far the easiest embarkation I have ever had.  (I have cruised 5 other times - a Baltic cruise with HAL and several Caribbean cruises with Carnival.)  Everyone was directed to the Lido for lunch - which wasn't too crowded.  After our lunch we all headed to the Navigation Deck where our cabins were located.  My daughters' and sister and niece had the "secret cabins" on the aft deck.  Both rooms were set up with the beds together.  There was a room steward finishing up down the hall so we asked if he could separate the beds - his facial expression was one of disgust!  He said.. "yes, yes -I will do it!"  We all looked at each other like - "oh gee, hope he isn't our room steward."  We then headed down to my aunt's room right down the hall and hers was fine.  My Aunt has some difficulty walking long distances so we had arranged with Care Vacations to have a wheelchair rental for the week.  The wheelchair was waiting for her in her cabin. Next up, our suite.  We were in cabin 7016.  The room was ready, so we all went out and sat on the balcony.  It was really nice out there.  We brought out 2 of the chairs from the living room and still had plenty of room to move around. An hour later our luggage arrived and we spent a little time unpacking prior to the muster.  There was plenty of room for all our luggage - although not enough hangers. Muster went well -the weather in Seattle was beautiful so it wasn't too bad in the life jackets. After the muster, we headed back to the cabin and then went exploring the ship.  The Zaandam is in good condition.  Seemed very clean and had no problem getting around (although my Mom got lost throughout the cruise.) I then checked out the Neptune Lounge.  I was really looking forward to the lounge as I love lattes and espressos in the morning.  Our suite was just down the hall from the Neptune. No key card was needed to get in.  Nette was the concierge on duty when I first arrived. She introduced herself to me and I inquired about possibly changing one of the key cards.   We had paid for my younger daughter (16 years old) to be in our Suite so she did have access to the Lounge, but she wanted to hang out with her sister whenever she wanted.  Her sister was in cabin 7086.  Nette informed me that if we changed key cards, my daughter would not "be allowed in the Neptune Lounge."  This I did not understand.  We paid for her in the Suite - we just wanted her to have access to my other daughter's room.  The accounts were all under my name so this was not the problem.  I spoke with my daughter, and she figured it was more important for her to get into her sisters room - so she gave up the Neptune Lounge access.  I did, however, occasionally bring my daughter a cookie or two from the Lounge when she wanted one. We were assigned fixed traditional early seating on deck 4 of the Rotterdam.  However, after I inquired, I was told that half of this floor was for "anytime dining", so there was a line at the maitre d stand (Ronny).  We were informed to pass the line and go to our table - which we did, but it seemed that we did get some strange looks on our way -  like "why are those people cutting the line?" The meal was very good - although the desserts were not that great (I am a huge dessert fan!) and my Mom said that the meat  was very "chewy." Our server (I believe his name was Eric) was very nice and accommodating.  Later that night as I was getting ready for bed I happened to see the letter that was given to us just prior to checking in... I was quite surprised.  It said that on the previous cruise there were reported cases of the swine flu and we were given the option of cancelling our cruise with a full refund. Wow!  I am quite sure that no one took this option as they most likely did not have time to read the letter prior to checking in??  Anyway, we all vowed to be even more diligent in our cleansing and hand washing! Saturday June 6th  - Sea Day The trip to Juneau was smooth (for me anyway).  A few in our group felt a little seasick and had to take Bonine and Dramamine.   My Mom went to Mass and said it was nice. After breakfast in the lido I went to the gym.  This area is smaller than what I had seen on other cruise ships.  It was also difficult to get any of the machines.  The treadmills, elliptical, and recumbent bikes were full. After waiting for 10-15 minutes, I was able to jump on an elliptical and got a pretty good workout. We all went to the Battle of the Sexes game show.  Two in our group were selected to be on stage.  If they hadn't, we probably would have found this a bit boring.  But, since we knew the competitors, it was funny to see them up on the stage. My Mom went to the Pilates class in the gym - she said it was pretty good - a little slower than what she was used to at home. A few went to the Bingo game - but didn't win. Dinner was formal. Most were dressed very nice - some tuxes but not a lot.  The food was good - but, again the dessert was disappointing. This night we had Aquis? for our server.  He was great - very accommodating.  My daughter was a bit seasick and he brought her tea and ginger.  He also had her meal come right away as he said it would be helpful.  We all wished he would have been our server the rest of the cruise (more on this later.)  Later we went to the Wajang Theater and watched the Yes Man - which was pretty funny.  It was rated PG - although it did have a few risquE scenes.  Right after a particularly risquE scene, several older folks got up and left the theatre.  The rest of the movie I sat and worried that my Mom might be offended (she is 76) but she ended up falling asleep.  Ha! Sunday June 7th - Juneau Beautiful day.  Weather was perfect - maybe even a little too warm. We arrived at the pier a little before noon.  It was a little chaotic disembarking.  Long lines (we were right up front as our shore excursion began at 12:30. Within 20 minutes we got off and were on our way. We had a private whale watching tour booked with Orca enterprises.  Captain Larry.  They seemed a bit disorganized at check-in but soon enough we were all on the van to the pier. There were maybe 20-30 folks on our boat.  Smooth waters.  Saw bald eagles, humpback whales (mom and baby), and orcas.  Got great pictures of all.  I spent most of my time on the top deck (when we weren't moving fast).  Did not feel crowded at all.  I saw the boat the cruise ships use for their shore excursions and was happy I hadn't gone that route.  They were 2-3 deep with people. They did seem to be following us a lot that day, though! After the tour, Orca took 6 of us in one van to meet up with Coastal Helicopters for our helicopter/dog sled tour.  3 others were taken via Orca to Mendenhall Glacier. Coastal was wonderful!  We had to get on the scale to get our weight and then they set us up in our gear - nice pants, boots, etc.  We then waited a few minutes for our helicopter.  Our pilot, Brad was super nice.  I was a bit nervous, but he made us all very comfortable.  I was surprised to hear that we were going over 100 mph as it felt like we were hardly moving.  At the dog camp, we met our mushers - Jessica and Robert.  These 2 are veterinary students and couldn't have been nicer.  It was just our party at the camp.  Everyone had a great time and we all had a chance to "mush."  The dogs were all very friendly and we were able to spend some time visiting with the dogs and took a lot of pictures.  It was such a gorgeous day - we didn't even need jackets. On the helicopter trip back, my sister was the co-pilot and got to "help" start the helicopter.  She loved it!  Great experience and well worth the money spent here.  My kids and niece said that this excursion was their favorite of all. We were dropped off by coastal back at the pier - it was still early as we weren't leaving until 10 pm so we headed to a pizza place right next to the pier and the kids had a pizza.  We then went back to the ship and went right to the Lido for a late dinner.  Dinner there was nice - not too many choices.  The dessert was OK.  Ice cream line was very long and had to wait a while.  It was a long day, so we all headed to the cabin and went to bed. The 3 that had gone to Mendenhall Glacier after our whale watching tour were picked up by Orca and taken back to the pier at the designated time.  All 3 said the Mendenhall Glacier was not that great.  They got back to the ship early, but were too tired to go to dinner, so they all ordered room service.  My Mom said the BLT and chocolate cake were wonderful. Monday - June 8th Tracy Arm (NOT!) I had set the alarm to get up early so as not to miss any of the glacier trip, but unfortunately, we were not able to go into Tracy Arm.  The captain made an announcement and from what I could hear (it was difficult at times to understand him in the room), is that they had attempted twice to assess the channel into Tracy Arm and found there to be too much ice? Therefore, he made the decision to go into Endicott arm instead and see the Dawes glacier.  I had not heard anything about this area in the message boards so I really didn't know what to expect.  We saw some small "icebergs" heading toward the glacier.  There were a ton of seals on the pieces of ice.  It was nice to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the scenery, however it was a little disappointing.  The glacier itself was just "there"-  nothing to really view. The ship turned left and right to give us different viewing of the glacier...it got old very fast.  We walked the lower promenade deck and then spent most of the day playing catchphrase and spoons in the cabin - that was fun! We had ordered an appetizer party for 3 that afternoon from the Neptune Lounge.  It arrived right on time and consisted of chicken wings and some cold appetizers.  Dinner was smart casual. This night we had Eddi? for our server.  I am sorry... but, he was awful.  He was not pleasant and we felt uncomfortable asking for anything "special."  My sister was even afraid to ask for extra caramel on her ice cream.    We all went to bed fairly early tonight. Tuesday -  June 9th - Sitka Another nice day - a bit overcast but cleared up later.  We arrived in Sitka a little after 8 am. We had booked 2 separate private tours for 1 pm, but we wanted to explore the town first, so we went down to the tender level shortly after 9.  We only had to wait a few minutes to get on the tender.  The staff was very helpful with my Aunt's wheelchair - they carried it on the tender and took it off for us.  It was difficult to get her up the ramp at the pier as it was quite steep.  Once in Sitka, we walked to the Raptor center.  This was an easy walk for us but was made a little difficult because of the wheelchair.  We had walked through the park (which was very pretty) and it was dirt and stone, so my Aunt had to walk.  The Raptor center was very nice.  The staff there was informative and the animals were beautiful.  We ended up taking a taxi/van service back to the pier.  I had been given a card at the pier, so I called them and they were there in 5 minutes to pick us all up.  5 of us then met with Jim Seeland of Sitka Sound Tours. I had had many emails with Jim to set this excursion up and he was very patient and knowledgeable.  Unfortunately, his boat had some mechanical problems on the day of the excursion, but he was able to get another boat chartered.  The group that went with him had a great time and said Jim was very informative - they saw whales, otters, seals, puffins, etc.  My sister was in the group and got seasick.  The waters were very calm  -  like glass in most areas - but, whenever they stopped the motion got to her.  My younger daughter and I went with Capt. Davey on the Esther G.  There were 3 other folks on our tour.  We saw the same animals as the other group, except we spent a little more time with the grey whales (one was right by our boat) and more time near a rocky island that had a ton of seals lounging. This was an exhilarating experience.  I would have to say that this was one of my favorite excursions.  Capt. Davey was terrific! And we also were given some amazing chocolate chip cookies - remember, I am all about the dessertsJ  Last tender back to our ship was at 4:30, so Capt Davey got us back just in time. My daughter and her boyfriend had an excursion through HAL - the Ultimate Adventure - Boat raft and 4 X 4.  They both loved it and said it was a great excursion.  They did come back quite dirty as the paths on the trail had not seen rain for a week. Once onboard, we got dressed for the second formal dinner.  Some in our group were tired and my sister was still a little seasick so it was just me and 4 of the "kids" (16-19 years old) for dinner.  Since we were not our usual 9, I asked if we could be seated at a different table and were given a 6 top.  It was perfect - right by the windows and thankfully, we had a different server.  He was very accommodating, and friendly.  My niece had ordered the night before for today's dinner (a vegetarian meal) and he was able to find her order and she loved it. Again, most dressed appropriately - some tuxes, but not the majority.  The food was good.. just not great   We had an early day scheduled in Ketchikan so we went to bed pretty early. Wednesday -  June 10th  - Ketchikan Gorgeous day - really could not have asked for a more beautiful day! Today 7 of us were scheduled for a floatplane tour (5 with Michelle on Island Wings and 2 through HAL) and the other 2 (my daughter and her boyfriend) were booked with HAL to zipline. The 5 with Michelle met her van at the pier and had a very short trip to the plane.  We met Michelle and soon headed off in the plane.  The water was calm and take off smooth.  It was truly beautiful to be in the air and see all of the beauty this area has to offer.  We were all given headsets and were able to communicate with Michelle and the others in our party. Michelle also played pretty music while we were flying.  It was very surreal.  Michelle pointed out different areas and was very knowledgeable about the area.  Michelle landed so smoothly in a lake I didn't even know we had landed.  We stopped on a small island to enjoy the majestic view.  Quite beautiful and amazing...no words can describe the beauty. On the way back to Ketchikan, we saw Orcas "playing" in the water and Michelle circled around 3 times so we could get good views (and pictures).  The other 2 on the HAL floatplane said they also had a wonderful trip - however, they did not get off on an island and they didn't see the Orcas.  Later, Michelle mentioned that she could have taken our whole group although there would have been 7 of us.  I was surprised as I had thought there could only be 6 on the plane, but I guess I was thinking of the boat tours?  Michelle said the limit was 8 as long as the weight was under 1200.  Since we were all thin, we would not have had a problem meeting the weight requirement L  We didn't tell the other 2 this information as I know they would have been disappointed to know that they could have flown with Michelle, too.  Anyway - Michelle was absolutely wonderful.  It is very apparent that she loves her job.  It is now difficult to decide which the best excursion was for me as all were more than we could have asked for... After another super smooth landing, we got off the plane and a young man drove us back to the pier.  We inquired about good places to eat and he recommended several in the area.  My sister and I went to Burger Queen just past the tunnel - great burgers.  My aunt, Mom and cousin ate at Annabelles - right across from the pier.  They said it was very good.  My daughter and niece ate at a "wrap restaurant" down the street from the Ketchikan sign (Mission Ave I believe).  They loved them. We got back on the ship just in time for sail away.  We would have like to have had much more time here in Ketchikan as it seemed to be a nice little town. We all got dressed - smart casual- and headed to dinner.  We were back at our regular table and again we had Eddi as our server- not good.  My daughter's boyfriend asked for another appetizer after we had finished our first appetizer and he said "no - it is not allowed" very rudely.  Aquis had no problem bringing extra appetizers or desserts to any of our party, yet Eddi said that it would mess everything up in the kitchen.  My niece again had ordered her vegetarian dinner the night before (like we were instructed to do) so we told Eddi this... his reply "oh, really?"  We said yes, he said there was no order for this.  I told him we had given the order to Nette in the Neptune and she had told us that morning that she had placed the order.  Eddi stated that it would be very difficult to have her order now and she would need to order from the regular menu.  Well, my niece is a strict vegetarian and was somewhat disappointed.  When Eddi passed the table we asked again if he could check with Nette and he looked very displeased but said he would.  Lo and behold, he comes out with her vegetarian appetizer and meal. When our desserts came we liked the chocolate mousse so we asked for extras - again, his expression showed disgust.  He brought the extra desserts and practically threw them in the middle of the table.  Later, I spoke with the maitre d about why we had different servers every night.  He said the first few nights, our server was sick so we had others "fill in" for him.  Obviously, Eddi was considered our server for the trip and we were not too happy about this.  Never once did we see him smile.  I think this might have been related to being on the anytime dining floor (although, we had traditional dining.) Went to the Magic/Comedy Show - Jeff Peterson.  He was really good - funny too.  And the dog was adorable! Thursday June 11th - Victoria Another beautiful day... We were scheduled to arrive at 7 pm today so we planned a leisurely day.  I worked out in the gym for 2 hours. Very few people were there that day.  By the time I was done, I was the only one in the gym - it was great.  We went to bingo - no winners in our group.  We played board games in the suite.  Had a relaxing day. None in our group wanted to eat in the Rotterdam dining room due to Eddi - so, we went to the Lido and had a nice meal.  The Lido was not very organized.  It took a long time to get our meals and many people were quite rude and cutting in lines.  Also, we had a difficult time finding a place to all sit together as many folks that only had 2 (or even 1) person in their party sat at the bigger tables.  We ended up having to eat out by the pool and just pushed 3 round tables together. We were in Victoria sometime after 7.  When they made the announcement that we could disembark, we headed down and found very long lines so we went back to the room and waited 30 minutes.  At that time, there weren't too many folks and we were off the ship within 10 minutes.   We all boarded a bus right out front ($6.50 roundtrip) and headed to Victoria.  Beautiful city - weather was gorgeous.  A little windy and chillier than the other days, but still very nice.  We just walked around and looked at the street vendors - people playing music, dancing, etc.  We shopped a little. I found the prices to be quite high.  The chocolate shop was charging $4.75 for a Lindt chocolate bar that I just paid $2.50 for at Walgreens in Florida. They had a good chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick. We all really enjoyed Victoria and wished we could have stayed a bit longer. After being dropped off at the pier, we stopped in Customs and got our passports souvenir stamped. The security guards were very nice - one volunteered to take pictures of all us next to the mural. We had signed up for Signature Luggage so we put our bags in the hall by 1:00 am and didn't see them again until we arrived home.  (Although, some of our luggage was ruined - we had brand new nice luggage that arrived with broken wheels and handles - not sure if this was Delta or HAL so couldn't really do anything about it.) Friday - June 12th - Seattle Disembarkation After such a wonderful cruise, this was a real disappointment.  Thursday afternoon, we had been given a letter saying which group we were in for disembarkation.  The form said 8:00 - However, since our flight was not departing until 10:20 pm we had plenty of time.  Therefore, I had requested a late disembarkation.  I talked with Nette in the Neptune Lounge and she stated that was fine... we could all leave anytime after 8:00 up until 9:45.  I told her 9:00 would be good.  So, we all ordered room service from 7:30 to 8:00. However, at 7:50 I hear someone trying to get in our room.  I arrive to the door just as the door was opening and it was Putu - our room steward.  He said  "oh, are you just getting up."  I said no, but we weren't ready to leave yet as we had not had our breakfast yet.  I told him that we planned to leave by 9:00.  He had a garbage bag in his hands and he wanted to come in and "clean the garbage"... I asked if he could wait as my Mom was still dressing.  He didn't seem too happy about this.  I understand that there are new people coming and they need to clean the rooms, but why tell someone they have until 9:45 and then come in before 8 to clean??  A few minutes later an overhead announcement was made that disembarkation had begun and passengers could begin to leave the ship. Not 5 minutes later the door is opening again (no one knocked) and it is the honor bar man.  He walked right in, saw us and said "I just need to check the refrigerator" - he proceeded to empty out the champagne we had on the counter and take the orange juice out of the fridge.  I was in total shock of the rudeness.   A few minutes later our breakfast arrived.  My Mom and I sat down to have our last meal and a quick cup of coffee before we did a final check of the room.  Just as I sit down, someone knocks again and starts to enter our room - it is a man wearing a tan jumpsuit - he says "oh" and turns around and leaves.   Not 2 minutes later he is on our balcony (he had crossed over from the next suite) and he was hosing down the balcony - picking up the rug - moving the furniture.  A few minutes later, another man joined him on the balcony. My Mom hurried off the couch and finished getting dressed. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
We had heard that the quality of HAL was diminishing but such was not the case on our seven day cruise to Alaska. Service is still top notch and unobtrusive.  Food quality is still very good. Holland America offers good, consistent value ... Read More
We had heard that the quality of HAL was diminishing but such was not the case on our seven day cruise to Alaska. Service is still top notch and unobtrusive.  Food quality is still very good. Holland America offers good, consistent value for your money.   The embarkation went smoothly.  Pier 91 in Seattle is new and is well laid out for the two ships that were embarking on that day. We were fortunate in that we had sunny weather for most of the week.  It was strange to see so much snow on all of the mountains but it is still a bit early in the season. Sailing out of Seattle meant that we did not traverse the Inside Passage on either leg of our trip.  We missed that part of an Alaska cruise but still had a lot of beautiful scenery to enjoy. There were plenty of humpback whales to observe at several portions of the cruise.  Dining is excellent. My wife and I did dine in the Pinnacle Grille a few times but the quality in the main dining room is still commendable. Portions are a bit smaller than in the past but that is a good thing as we tend to overindulge. They did offer a wine card of twenty pours which was plenty for us for the week.  It averaged about $3.50 per glass and offered six wines to choose from.  A good value and you did not have to buy a bottle. The food in the Lido deck was the same as what was offered in the main dining room.  Entertainment was fair.  The Zaandam singers will still feeling their way through the routine. No instruments were used during the shows. Everything was canned except for the flat singing of the four lead singers. They had no chemistry and blending. I found myself wondering when it would be over. They also had a saxophone player one night. He did a great job with some jokes and singing tossed in.  The final night we had the ubiquitous magician/comic act. He was very good and we enjoyed it but it seems each cruise has someone of his ilk as part of the entertainment.  Also, the cruise director must have been fairly new. He had the same routine each night and tended to read many announcements. Perhaps he will improve as the season progresses.  Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We spent 2 days in San Diego before our cruise, staying at the Holiday Inn San Diego on the Bay. We love this hotel, which is right across the street from the cruise terminal. Their bus picked us up at the airport and we were at the ... Read More
We spent 2 days in San Diego before our cruise, staying at the Holiday Inn San Diego on the Bay. We love this hotel, which is right across the street from the cruise terminal. Their bus picked us up at the airport and we were at the Holiday Inn in 7 minutes. Our room was nice, with a balcony facing the harbor, and pretty small. We figured this would be good practice for cabin living once onboard. The staff was very nice and helpful. We ate at The Elephant and Castle downstairs and also at Anthony's Fish Grotto across the street. We enjoyed Anthony's so much we ate there again upon our return from the cruise. We especially liked Hazelwood's, the little deli place downstairs and outside. It was convenient for breakfast, lunch, ice cream, pastries and beverages ...... we made many visits. Coming from the chilly Midwest, we felt like we were really on vacation sitting at an outdoor umbrella table watching the ships come in. While in San Diego, we took the OLD TOWN TROLLEY TOUR BUS. You could hop on and off the bus at each sight, staying as long as you wished until you were ready to hop on the bus for the next location. We visited Old Town, the Harbor, Seaport Village, Marriott Hotel and Marina, Horton Plaza Shopping Center, Gaslight Quarter, Coronado Island (the ferry landing and an Irish Pub closer to the Coronado Hotel), San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. You really could spend an entire day at some of these stops. One surprisingly interesting site was the SAN DIEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S MUSEUM. It's in the Old Town area and it's free to the public. Very interesting and educational. If you're into photography, there are many photo opportunities there. The day of the cruise, we walked over to the cruise terminal about 11:30. Within 30" we were eating a delicious lunch in the Lido. Very efficient check in. Our outside cabin on the Dolphin Deck was efficiently laid out with plenty of storage, a personal safe, luggage storage under the bed, 2 additional keyed drawers by the bed, luxurious linens and pillows and a comfort-top mattress. On the desk, we had an ice bucket and glasses. There was a fruit basket but with so much food aboard we discontinued the daily in-room fruit. The bathroom had a corner cabinet that held quite a lot. Even so, I used the over-the-door shoe hanger for additional "stuff". The provided toiletries were up-scale and smelled so good. For those mentioning difficulties getting in and out of the tub.....our tub had two grab bars... And believe me, they came in handy when the ship was rocking and rolling! Our room stewards RiDHO and SYURYADiH magically appeared, presented their card and proceeded To lay out our luggage for unpacking. They asked if they could do anything for us, and complied with all our requests. By the way, I did pack the suggested sticky notes and they came in handy whenever we wanted to communicate with Ridho and Syuryadih. After unpacking, it was off to the lifeboat drill. It was rather hot and crowded on deck and there were a few elderly people who were unsteady in the crowd. One poor lady fainted and was immediately attended to by the officers and a woman I assumed was a nurse. We saw the fainter recover and walk off. Hope she was OK. Holland is VERY strict regarding lifeboat drills. It didn't appear that anyone was excused. And there were quite a few elderly and/or physically challenged individuals on this cruise. But by golly, they didn't let that stand in the way of their having a good time. I don't know if it was because my DH and I had such a good time on this cruise, but I completely believed the cruise director and several other crew members when they told us that we were an especially fun group. It certainly felt that way. Wherever we went on the ship, people were chatting, laughing, smiling and just generally having a pleasant time. Who wouldn't....living for 15 days in paradise? Probably most people were in their 40's-80's leaning toward an older group. We only saw a few children. Okay, here is a typical day for DH and I. The "coffee man" woke us up at 7 or so. We did our daily 5k around deck 3. Back to cabin to shower then to Lido for breakfast. Then to library for reading or nap. Ballroom dancing mornings in Crow's Nest. At 10 there is usually some enrichment seminar (example: "Hawaii the Kingdom to State" with your travel guide Kainoa ). At 11 perhaps another seminar, culinary demonstration, health and fitness presentation by spa personnel. Once they had an amateur bartender event. It was so funny. Three contestants competing and the judges getting happier and happier as the contest went on. I don't drink but there were lots of drinking events that even I enjoyed. BTW, this always tickled us: In the daily program the schedule for the Friends of Bill W. always just preceded the Happy Hour Announcements. So at 4:00 pm Friends of Bill W meet in King's Room, immediately following that on the schedule: Happy Hour, all drinks are half price! The casino was busy. Poker seemed to be popular. We waited for the craps table to get busy but it never did while we were there. After lunch, things picked up, we had to make the movie, get another nap in, get ready for the show, for dinner, and after dinner music. The evening shows were a head above those we've seen on other ships. The Zandaam's Song and Dance Cast was entertaining and energetic, The Las Vegas Tenors were spectacular...doing a lot of "popera', funny comedians, the Indonesian, Philippine and Hawaiian Culture Shows were great. There was too much entertainment to mention and to attend. But we tried our best. The after dinner music was one of the highlights of this cruise. You could wander throughout the ship from one type of music to another. There were sing-alongs in one lounge, jazz in another, ballroom dancing in the Ocean Lounge, modern dancing in the Crow's Nest, karaoke talent contests. It definitely is the Musical Ship. We never made any of the 11pm -12am late night snacks. We would have loved to but we pooped out and returned to our cabin for a wonderful night's sleep. The bed linens were luxurious and the bed was so comfortable, we just let the sea rock us to sleep like babies. The food was very good in our opinion. The variety, quality, presentation and service everywhere was excellent. We had the "Anytime Dining" and enjoyed it a lot. We enjoyed the flexibility for time and companions. Some evenings we sat at a romantic table for two. When we felt more social, we opted sharing a table with 6 to 12 people. We always met lovely people and enjoyed learning about them through many interesting conversations. We never had to wait for a table and never made reservations either. We were just lucky that the dining room had what we wanted available. The dining room staff were wonderful. They aimed to please. Our experience with the cruise director, Lizabeth, was positive. She was funny and extremely energetic. She was everywhere from pool volley ball to leading us in the walk for the cure. She led the trivia contests, was at all shows and events. Lizabeth had one of those soothing, late-night radio voices that made listening to the general announcements pleasant. We even ran into her after the cruise and she was as sweet as could be. I would have liked the temperature lower in our cabin but my DH was comfortable at the lowest setting. I was even comfortable on deck the first couple days at sea. Cool but that's the way I like it. It didn't stop us from our walking regime. Neither did the motion of the ocean or the waves splashing up. It was part of the experience! An improvement IMO would be to stagger the levels of seating in the Movie Theater. Those in back had their view blocked by those in front. There was always competition to get "the best seat" at the movies. We signed up for three excursions: HAWAII TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDENS in Hilo (my favorite! You found a wide variety of Hawaiian scenery here from flowers to crashing waves. Waterfalls to colorful birds.) PEARL HARBOR in Honolulu...(excellent! I was in Honolulu 30 years ago as a kid J and it was very rough then. They really cleaned it up.) And the GRAND CIRCLE ISLAND excursion. (The Dole Pineapple Pavilion was unexpectedly fun. They had a pineapple maze and lots of fresh fruits. The Japanese Temple was awesome but we couldn't stay long. I think this tour could be improved if it had skipped 2 "souvenir stops". Then we could visit longer at the "real" Hawaiian sites.) We did the other ports on our own and enjoyed ourselves walking around sightseeing. On Kona, I wish I wore my bathing suit ashore because their was a little protected beach area right by the dock. You could see bright colored fish from the shore and it would have been fun to snorkel there. There was a rental booth with beach/snorkel equip. with very reasonable prices. The beach and lagoon looked safe enough even for little kids. The last stop, Ensenada was cancelled because of dense fog. All in all a wonderful cruise although Debarkation had it's moments when the line was held up because the "glass bridge" needed to be adjusted. The line couldn't move yet they kept announcing more groups to come down for debarkation. But it wasn't awful except for that guy loaded down with Macadamia Nuts and we finally got off, found our luggage and walked across the street to checked back into the Holiday Inn at 10:30 am. This time they put us in the Priority Club section and our room was larger and more modern than the one before the cruise. We were delighted! Walked over to Seaport Village via The Great Generation Way and had hamburgers at a take-out place and ate them at an umbrella table. Yep, we're still on vacation! Even if only for one more day. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
Embarkation: Vancouver was nice. Stayed at the Pan Pacific. Highlight of Vancouver was biking through Stanley Park. Embarkation at dock was smooth and easy. On Ship: We were in a suite. My parents, in their 70's were in the next ... Read More
Embarkation: Vancouver was nice. Stayed at the Pan Pacific. Highlight of Vancouver was biking through Stanley Park. Embarkation at dock was smooth and easy. On Ship: We were in a suite. My parents, in their 70's were in the next suite over. The neptune lounge was a highlight. Our concierge, Doris, was wonderful. The service on this ship was amazing! Food was just okay. Good enough for us but not memorable. Entertainment was a mixed bag. Guest performers were much better than the cruise cast. Club Hal was only okay. They kept canceling activities that were scheduled but my son, 11, still enjoyed it. He particularly liked the ice cream. By the way, whatever you do on the ship, don't sign up for the metabolic test in the gym. Turns out just to be a scam to sell supplements (at $1200 a person). When we refused to buy them, the guy got mad at us! We had the unfortunate incident of my father fainting on board ship and slashing his scalp. He was sent to the medical facility where he stayed overnight. Much better facility than we expected with an excellent doctor. My father is fine now. The bill was hefty ($1800) but he should get it back with insurance. Excursions: Juneau - Not much of a town but we took a helicopter and walked on a Glacier with Coastal. Was wonderful. Skagway - Again town was not interesting. Did the wilderness safari. Everything was great except the mosquito's were out in force. Son got 12 bites. Ketchikan - Terrible weather. We cancelled Misty Fjords because of low visibility. At least, Southeast Aviation told us what to expect and allowed us to cancel last minute. Commend their honesty. All in all, a great cruise despite my fathers health scare. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
First, a word about us. We are late 50s. We cruise often but have never been on a ship this large. We took this trip because it meant a friend could go with us and we could drive to the ship. We were anxious about the size of the ship but ... Read More
First, a word about us. We are late 50s. We cruise often but have never been on a ship this large. We took this trip because it meant a friend could go with us and we could drive to the ship. We were anxious about the size of the ship but decided to give it a chance. EMBARKATION: From moment we drove up to the ship until we were onboard, it probably took 15 minutes. On a small ship, it would have taken 5 and we would not have felt like we had been "processed". We appreciated being able to board at 11AM but our first encounter with the Lido underwhelmed us and did not change throughout (think Luby's cafeteria). CABIN: This was very much a last minute cruise - we booked and paid about five weeks prior to sailing. Our friend, and travel agent, recommended we take a guarantee cabin and we were well-pleased with where we ended up - on the lower promenade deck. We had two adjacent, but not connecting, cabins and they were mere steps from the mid-ship's door to the promenade deck. We especially enjoyed the ability to zip in and out these doors to avoid tedious trips through the passageways and to have a fun place to sit in the evenings. The cabins themselves were a bit tired and cramped but we had plenty of storage space and the beds were wonderful. Our steward was efficient and largely invisible! DINING: The three of us were seated at a table for 8 at the 8:15 seating. Our wait staff was very good and attentive. However, we are accustomed to eating where and when we want and having to eat at the same table with the same people at the same time for 2 weeks got old, fast. Sadly, we didn't try the Pinnacle until the end of the cruise - had we tried it earlier, we would have had many more meals there. As far as the food goes, I would say that most cruise ship food (even on our beloved little ships) is pretty but fairly boring. I do not cruise for the food so that is the end of my comments about it. However, a couple tips for coffee lovers - if you order cappuccinos for lunch or dinner, they are free vs whatever they cost in the coffee bar. THE SHIP ITSELF: Very pretty and understated and very well maintained. I felt the traffic flow because of the noisy casino was a bit awkward. The internet area was in the library where, unlike little ships, they lock up the books at night! The library was especially nice late in the evening. This ship needs a "quiet zone" - no one yakking. Spent virtually no time around the pool or in any of the lounges, the reason for the latter to follow. ACTIVITIES: We LOVE sea days and I do not become bored so I am probably not the typical big ship cruiser who wants fun, fun, fun. The motion of the ocean lulls me into a a very peaceful state and having to dash off here or there to play bingo or go to a movie or listen to a speaker turns me off. However, there appeared to be plenty for folks to do but many of these were aimed at separating passengers from their money. ENTERTAINMENT: With the exception of the crew shows, the passenger games, and an Aussie singer named Annie Francis, the entertainment was lame at best and down-right awful in most instances. The piano player might have been good but who could tell when he was forced to compete with the jangle of slot machines! We were looking forward to catching up on some movies but the awkward arrangement of the screen in the theater made this very difficult. The speakers we heard were either boring or were trying to sell us something. STAFF: This is the ship's strong point. It was interesting to learn how they are trained. They were great. FELLOW PASSENGERS: I don't know how full the ship was because the well-designed public areas kept crowds to a minimum. There were said to be some 100 children on board but I probably never saw more than 10 as they were well attended in the HAL Club. Kudos to Zaandam for ensuring they weren't a nuisance. What was a nuisance was the large number of incapacitated, irritable elderly passengers! Why they subject themselves to the rigors of navigating a ship this size eludes me! SHORE EXCURSIONS: We don't do them so we can't comment except to say some of tablemates learned early on why we go it alone. Thereafter, they opted for independent travel. I have been to Hawaii several times and wasn't too interested in anything on offer, anyway! Knocking around the small towns and hiring a local taxi for a highlight's drive were about as energetic as we got before settling down to an on-shore lunch. BOTTOM LINE: Would we do another HAL cruise? Probably not because of the inflexibility inherent with big-ship cruising. Back to the little guys for us. However, this trip was superior in almost every respect to a trip I took with a sister in law in 5/06 on Oceania's Nautica (650 pax) which we hated largely because of its gawdy decor and obsession with enhancing the bottom line. There were moments of that on this ship, selling water to folks going on the overpriced shore excursions (give the folks water on the buses, for pete's sake!)as an example, but more subtle. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
This was our first cruise on Holland America after 6 cruises on Princess. We were looking to take a roundtrip cruise to the panama canal area in April and had initially planned to take Princess for this itinerary. Our vacation schedule ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Holland America after 6 cruises on Princess. We were looking to take a roundtrip cruise to the panama canal area in April and had initially planned to take Princess for this itinerary. Our vacation schedule changed, however, and the Zaandam was the only ship sailing this route during the one week in March we could all go (5 adults). Travel to Embarkation Port: We live in Florida and 2 of us had planned to rent a car and drop it off at Hertz's location near the Port (as we had done on many prior cruises). By the time we arrived, we discovered that all the rental car return lots have been relocated to the airport. We had to wait about 45 minutes for a crowded shuttle bus that stopped at the Star Princess and Celebrity's Infinity before finally arriving at Zaandam. Next time, we'll just pay to park our own car near the port. Stateroom: We had 2 separate minisuites on Verandah deck (deck 6). The ship is kept impeccably clean. Staterooms were in excellent condition. Small LCD televisions and DVD players, very comfy beds. Free shoe-shine service. Stocked refrigerator and mini-bar (not free!). Nice robes. Ample closet and drawer space for 2 people. It was a little tighter for the 3 of us in the other cabin; small sofa bed (doesn't pull out; small twin mattress only.) Ship Info: Very elderly passenger clientele. Our age range was 40 - 80 in our party but most passengers were clearly in their 70s-80s. Maybe 10 kids on the entire ship. Public rooms were in excellent shape. Beautiful promenade deck. Excellent library, the best we've seen at sea. Ugly organ in the atrium -- a real eyesore. It sounds like a calliope at a carnival; really laughable. The only criticisms: typical "luck of the draw" stench of cigarette and cigar smoke on your balcony if your unlucky enough to have smokers in the next door cabin. Also, a strange unpleasant smell amidships that we were never able to quite place... It's been noted before with regard to the Zaandam. It would come and go during the course of the cruise -- ?sewage ?clogged drain? Who knows. The gym was outstanding. Spa services are very overpriced (200 dollars for a 50 minute couples massage seems outrageous). Dining: Outstanding service. We ate in the main dining room and had one dinner at Pinnacle Grill. Genuinely friendly, helpful waiters. On Princess, you have a very overworked waiter and assistant waiter (who refills beverages when he/she has a chance.) On Holland America, the head water actually WORKS and helps out the wait staff. We saw our headwaiter at all 3 meals in the buffet/Lido Cafe actually and he got to know our family very well; very kind gentleman. So each table really has 3 waiters; water glasses and ice tea refilled without asking; fresh bread brought out whenever your basket runs low; prompt orders and food brought out quickly. Coffee actually arrives with the dessert! Very good food. Some dinners were truly outstanding. The Lido cafe also had very attentive waiters who would carry trays to tables, refill drinks, just chat with you. The buffet had more limited choices than we recall from Horizon Court on Princess, but there was still more than enough food to choose from. Also free ice cream, free pizza, excellent outdoor barbecue burgers, fries, etc. by the main pool. We had breakfast one morning in the dining room and it was excellent. We really ate well. Pinnacle Grill was outstanding; steaks were delicious. Service: Overall outstanding. We gave extra tips to our room steward, head waiter and main table waiter. Even on the last morning when disembarkation was underway staff were patient, helpful, smiling, joking with guests. Minor problems with the cabins were dealt with patiently and promptly. They really want you to be very satisfied and happy. The staff is anxious to please. Excursions: Half Moon Cay is a beautiful island. Great barbecue lunch. Aruba and Curacao are poor stop-overs in my opinion. We took the Canal tour in Costa Rica which was enjoyable. The panama canal crossing was the highlight of the trip, but the ship only passes through the first set of Gatun Locks on this particular cruise -- it then sits inexplicably for 2 hours in Gatun Lake during which time only passengers who booked Holland America excursions can leave the ship. We really think the excursions in the canal zone are a poor value. The ship then returns through the Gatun Locks (again a fascinating experience) and docks in Colon which is truly a wretched port stop. We had planned to hire a taxi to go to the Gatun Locks visitor center and spend an hour or so watching ships at street level go through the locks; we were warned not to do so by the ship's staff citing safety concerns. We were told specifically not to leave the Colon shopping area. Once we got there we understood why; it looks deserted and very creepy around the Colon port stop. We think cruise ships are likely obligated to stop in Colon for political reasons (offer local merchants the chance to sell to the passengers for example.) We understand that there is much poverty in this part of the world and we were ready to buy small souvenirs without hesitation. But it seemed to us that a much better alternative to Colon would be a 24-hour or 36-hour transit of the entire canal with a stop in Balboa/Panama City -- where there are things to see of historic significance; the ship would return to the Caribbean via the Gatun Locks and still stop in Costa Rica then return to Florida. Disembarkation: A breeze. We used the porters at Port Everglades, boarded a shuttle back to the airport and picked up the rental car for home. It took 30 minutes from the time we left the ship to the time we were leaving the airport in our rental care. Summary: PROS: Great staff attitude; very clean ship; great food. CONS: Chronic nasty smell amidships on the Zaandam; poor port stops in Aruba, Curacao, and Colon. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
This was our first cruise and we were filled with wonder at the experience. We came onboard with absolutely no expectations so disappointment was not an option for us. My wife and I were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary and what ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we were filled with wonder at the experience. We came onboard with absolutely no expectations so disappointment was not an option for us. My wife and I were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary and what a way to celebrate! Alaska was beautiful to say the least, the Zaandam was an experience in and of itself. The cabin was spacious (although I was wishing I had of been able to spring for the extra space a balcony cabin would have given us by Day 5). The teak deck for morning strolls around the ship was a nice touch and first class style is evident throughout your daily interaction with all staff. Our cabin steward was especially attentive and our room was always cleaned by the time we returned even though we never really saw him hanging around. The meals are of the highest quality while the buffet restaurant left a little to be desired sometimes with the variety. We participated in the Renewal of Vows Ceremony with the Captain of the ship which was emotionally moving as well as memorable. The leather bound memento folder which was given to us with a Certificate was an excellent touch. If we were to return to Alaska again, we would definitely choose to go later in the summer (perhaps late July or early August) so that you can spend a little more time on deck without worrying about dressing in layers. There was plenty to do on the ship though so when we got tired of looking at Glaciers, we had alternate activities planned. The shows were entertaining and colorful. We chose to embark on our own tours of the smaller towns such as Juneau and Skagway which turned out to be a good choice. We got to see the non-touristy side of the towns but also saw the trendy areas. Lots of places to shop and Jewelry outlets to view. The shops recommended by HAL appeared to be more expensive than some others you could shop at. We have booked a 15 day cruise to Hawaii on Jan 26/07 and plan to submit a review on this trip once we have returned. So far our cruising experience has been without any real complaints. More to follow. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
This was our 28th cruise. Our first HAL. We had a group of 6. Two parents in their 40's with four college age daughters (18-21). 1. Dining room staff, possibly as good as Celebrity. Enchanting personalities, quick wit and incredible ... Read More
This was our 28th cruise. Our first HAL. We had a group of 6. Two parents in their 40's with four college age daughters (18-21). 1. Dining room staff, possibly as good as Celebrity. Enchanting personalities, quick wit and incredible memory capacity for likes and dislikes. Always a delight. We had late seating downstairs..ate there every night. 2. This ship is beautiful. The recent SOE upgrades were terrific. All cabins have flat screen TV's and DVD players (bring an S cable if you want to hook up any video equipment to the DVD player). The interior designer of this ship has done an excellent job. The lamps on this ship are artwork! Throw you own bed away..the new premium bedding on this ship is incredible. You'll want to steal the pillows! Club Oasis and the Loft were really neat places..wish they'd made one for adults. Alas, on this sailing - not enough kids to use it! Loved the midship pool lounge chairs although if you don't get out there by 8am..they are all gone! Earliest rising ship I've ever been on! The layout of the decks is very predictable and it's a quick study to learn the ship. We used the self service laundry..that was nice ($2 to wash/ $1 to dry). The gym had excellent equipment but the low ceilings kept it too hot to really be able to enjoy your workout. 3. Lido restaurant was the best in the business. Food was excellent and the service was comparable to the dining room. Lots of assistance with trays and refills on drinks. Plenty of options from full meals to deli sandwiches to salad bars. 4. Our cabin was not as large as we had expected and the layout was awkward. There is a small hallway as you enter the room that's very crowding and it opens onto the foot of the bed? So you maneuver around the bed and finally find some floor space at the back of the cabin. The coffee table is bolted to the floor and in the way most of the time because the vanity chair is so large it's hard to pull out and sit in with the coffee table there. The balcony is large and has nice furniture on it. Our A/C was not sufficient all week. We asked for a technician and he reported that it was working properly. Then we lost all A/C on Wednesday and it really got bad. Took 20 hours to repair and recover from that. We like our cabin cold..not cool so this was not good for us. Our cabin steward was not great..just good. Always had to ask him to replenish used items. Cool feature I hadn't seen before was the balcony doorbell in our cabin..so room service or guests could get our attention while we were on the balcony. 5. personnel - overall there were smiling faces all around the ship. Dining room, lido restaurant were exemplary. 6. Entertainment - UGH...the poolside band played "polkas!" need I say more. They turned into a dance band at night and then it gets worse, because they try to sing and play! UGH! The stringed trio were great and we loved sitting in for an after dinner drink and listening. We didn't do any shows..reviews from other cruisers didn't rate them very high. Casino is tiny. Did win some money though. 7. Embarkation and disembarkation were very quick! We were at MCO by 10:30! 8. Whirlpool tub...this is a grotesque overstatement. This tub is 40 inches long and 22 inches wide! UGH! 9. Time changes - this ship changes timezones 4 times in 7 days! AGH! The crew wasn't even sure what time it was and none of the ship clocks were in agreement either! 10. Internet was not very reliable. We had signed up for the 250 minute block..it was down so much we only used half of that! 11. Guest card (sail/sign or whatever you call them). These were never scanned for purchases. They ask you for your cabin number and just charge it to that room. I don't care for that. My husband couldn't remember his cabin number half the time, so I'm sure we charged drinks to the wrong room? 12. Noon whistle will you are at sea. Know this is going to happen - or it will scare you to death if you are standing near a horn! 13. We had ants in our cabin? First time for that in our cruising history. We had a great time. We enjoyed the ports and had excellent service. We would prefer a younger crowed. We knew HAL caters to an older group, but figured that at Spring Break there would be some younger cruisers. That didn't happen and our kids made the best of it. The cruise staff became there friends while on board. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
Zaandam Christmas Cruise 12/18/04 - 12/28/04 Us -- We are a family of 11- 4 adults- late 30s-early 40s, 2 adults mid 60s, 1 great grandmother -- 90+ and 4 children -- girls 15, 12, 10 & 8. Family cruise history: HAL, Renaissance, ... Read More
Zaandam Christmas Cruise 12/18/04 - 12/28/04 Us -- We are a family of 11- 4 adults- late 30s-early 40s, 2 adults mid 60s, 1 great grandmother -- 90+ and 4 children -- girls 15, 12, 10 & 8. Family cruise history: HAL, Renaissance, Cunard, Princess, NCL, Carnival, RCI, Celebrity, Costa, Chandris/Fantasy, Majesty, Delta Queen Steamboat, American Hawaii Cruises. My grandmother is in her 90s and has cruised for over 60 years for obvious reasons, won't list all the lines she has been on... Overview -- There were a fair share of families aboard for this Christmas holiday sailing. Overall it was easily evident that HAL's median age is older than most other cruises. This presented a fairly wide variety of age groups, and reported 200+ well-mannered children. It was pretty exciting shortly after embarkation, to encounter strolling carolers. Unfortunately this was the one and only occasion where we saw this. Pre-Cruise -- We stayed at the Radisson at Port Canaveral. Nice resort and clean. They presented an excellent breakfast buffet with friendly service. What a great way in which to begin our family holiday. The drawback was being packed like sardines on buses for the shuttle to the port. Again, the resort's problem not HAL'S. There were 3 ships leaving Port Canaveral on this day. The wait, loading of luggage etc. on a 50-passenger bus was EXTREMELY chaotic and time consuming. Pick up by the Radisson shuttle at the end of the cruise was via their "regular" shuttle and went very smoothly. For those debating pre-cruise parking, signage is excellent leading to the port via stationary and electronic signing. Parking at the port is also extremely easy with convenient drop off areas for both handicapped persons and baggage. The parking area is fenced in and charges $10 per day. Porters were readily available to transport our luggage the 3 feet from the storage under the bus to the forklift palette. We were very disappointed by our first impression of HAL when the same guy asked for a gratuity after having already being "taken care of." If no tip had already been given, it would have been one thing, however we tipped him more than a $1 per bag for our entire family. When I last checked this was the recommended guideline. Embarkation -- Longest part of the line was of course waiting to go through the metal detectors along with the X-ray of all carry-on items. Inspections were thorough and as we all know necessary. Cruise line reps were all pleasant and polite, check-in agents were also plentiful and efficient. We did have all our forms pre-printed and filled out, as most people did. Our daughter was issued an ID bracelet with her lifeboat muster station in the event there was an emergency and she was separated from us. Ship staff could then easily take her to where she was supposed to be. As a parent this was very reassuring. We arrived about 11:30 a.m. and the whole process from arrival to boarding was about a half hour. Our grandmother, taken aboard via wheelchair, had separate check-in, which was of course much faster than that of the "masses." The family met up at the Lido for lunch. At 1:40 p.m. the announcement was made that the cabins were ready. Luggage arrived very shortly afterward and everyone in our group was able to unpack prior to the 4:30 p.m. lifeboat muster drill. The steward (forgive me for not knowing his name -- my Dad had the most personal dealings with him) who wheeled her aboard was ready to ditch her off as soon as they were aboard. My father mentioned to him that a tip would be offered if he would to take her to Lido deck and he became her best buddy though out the entire cruise! Lucky for us he worked at the Piano Bar where we gathered nightly for pre-dinner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Again, he took excellent care of our entire family making sure we always had plenty of hors d'oeuvres and peanuts to go along with our drinks. Side story -- The last day at sea he asked for the names of our family members. Little did we know and how delightfully surprised we were when he searched us out in the Lido the next morning to present to each family group a "personalized" Dutch hat signifying the date, family members and signed, presumably by him! He received an additional gratuity on the last evening to show our appreciation for his great service. Crew -- See the Dining Room heading for our favorite crew member. Overall everyone on the ship was extremely pleasant and helpful. There were plenty of smiles all around. I cannot begin to tell you how many times in the Lido I had to politely and with a smile, ask one of the "boys" to carry the tray of someone else "who REALLY needed the help." The Ship -- The Zaandam had the best layout out of all of the newer ships that I have personally been fortunate enough to cruise on. The Zaandam's layout made it very easy for my elderly grandmother to walk around with out having to walk a "mile" to get anywhere as she does on a "MEGA" ship. If you book on deck 6 or 7 you will never have to go any lower than deck 4 on the ship except for shore excursions. With the Lido and pools on deck 8 there is not too far too travel up and if you can obtain dining in the Rotterdam Upper Dining Room, you will only have to go down to deck 5. With the before mentioned problems with our cabins, overall cleanliness aboard the Zaandam was excellent. The ship's dEcor is a little worn around the edges, but no real complaints. The ship is going into dry dock January 2005 and will be getting some new carpeting along with the other scheduled SOE enhancements. On our cruise aboard the Golden Princess in late 2003, DH and I, still childless, reveled in the sanctity of the their "Adult Only" Aft swimming pool. In September of 2004 our soon to be adopted 8 year old daughter arrived in our lives. Both swimming pools aboard the Zaandam had signs posted "saying no children swimming without supervision under the age of 13" at both the Lido and Aft swimming pools. The daily bulletin, for only the first few days of the cruise, "requested" that the children use the Lido Swimming Pool. Well we tried that. I'm sorry, but with a crowded holiday sailing it was just plain unrealistic. The Lido Pool area is perfect for relaxing when it is cool outdoors. On hot Caribbean days the air was downright hot, even with the roof fully open. The water was opposite, positively cold. Even had it not been a sold out sailing, there were not enough seats never mind chaises around the Lido pool to reasonably expect families to solely use that pool. Our daughter, with chattering teeth asked if we couldn't swim in the aft pool. Ever mindful of the peace for the adults, after some discussion we decided to try the aft pool. Much to our surprise we discovered other well behaved children and adults thawing out in the sunshine. Our daughter never had the luxury of swimming lessons in her previous foster homes. At all times she was accompanied by one of us at least sitting at the pool's edge, if not in the water with her, to ensure she would not splash or otherwise interfere with any of the adults present. All of the children always behaved themselves, which led us to the conclusion that HAL does attract a more conservative clientele. Pinnacle Grill -- Did not dine there, but did see the beautiful table settings and dining room. Christmas Day they offered their "$49.95 pp Wine Dinner." Gym/Spa -- I had a terrific manicure at a very fair price. My SIL and her family had multiple spa services and were very pleased with the staff and wonderful massages, manicures and pedicures, which they received. We both booked immediately after lunch right after we boarded the ship. And glad we were. Do not call, go there in person, otherwise, they will tell you they will call you back and that may not be for a long long time. The new Spa will be going in during dry dock. The spa staff will have off for two weeks and the last week in dry dock will be spent on training for their new "digs." Shows/Entertainment -- Did not attend any shows. Family members who did, said they were just "so, so." We regularly listened to Sonia Marie while in the Piano Bar, she had her "following," though I don't think any of us would have gone out of our way to listen to her play. Sea Breeze was better and they played in the Crow's Nest. For the most part, after the last show, the ship grows quiet. You can find people in the casino, Casino Bar or Crow's Nest. Each evening the Crow's Nest featured a different theme such as Disco, '50s, Black & White, from about 11 p.m. to midnight. Then music reverted to a DJ who played for the most part hip-hop. The Crow's Nest was a late night "hangout." On the last evening of the sold out holiday cruise at 1:30 a.m. there were all of 12 people still there. Cabin Accommodations -- Our family of eleven had 4 (3/3/3/2) -- Cat. A. Verandah cabins on deck 7- 7048, 7050, 7052 & 7054. For two persons the cabins were terrific. With 3 people the cabin quickly became difficult to maneuver given the narrowness of space between the end of the queen size bed and the wall. For privacy there was a curtain, which extended 3/4 of the way to divide the cabin between the "living area" or in our case, sleep sofa for our daughter and the queen size bed. There was an additional curtain that provided privacy between the bathroom and closet area from the rest of the cabin. For families, if only for the space, if budget allows, I would highly recommend a Cat. S suite. This allows not only more room to get around, an additional sink with private dressing area separate from the tub and water closet. Even better would be an adjoining or inside cabin for the kids. Even for couples, if you enjoy breakfast on your balcony, the only way in which to have a table AND chairs for a "sit down" breakfast would be in a Cat. S suite. Just as an added note, we had a comparable mini-suite on the Golden Princess last year. The cabin was much more spacious and though the balcony was slightly smaller, the cabin itself offered more seating and was much less cramped. Cat. A Balconies on the Zaandam are equipped with a high quality comfortable chaise lounge as well as matching chair with end table. Nice touch over the cheap hard plastic stuff found elsewhere. I don't know if it was because of our location higher up on the ship than where we were last year, but our balcony remained virtually salt free. Last year while sailing Princess, after just a few days the furniture was so encrusted in salt you needed to sit on a towel. Princess did offer an advantage with two TVs as opposed to just one. When there is a disaster the size of the recent Tsunami, if only while getting dressed in the morning and at night, DH and I are interesting in keeping up with what is going on. Our daughter is too young for gory tragedies of this nature and much preferred watching cartoons on Boomerang! In each cabin there was a directory including movie listings and the channel offerings: ESPN, CNN, TNT, CNN Headline News, Boomerang!, Discovery Channel, "On Board" -- promos for ship services, "In Port" -- shore excursion and port information, Nautical Info with view from the bridge, and "Port Shopping." Our cabin also had a VCR and a very long listing in cabins of videos available for pick-up at the front desk. The Wajang Theater offered movies such as Collateral, Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, Santa Clause 2, Bourne Supremacy, and The Manchurian Candidate. There were 2 Movie Channels showing a daily rotation of movies (beware parents ... we awoke one morning to our 8 year old watching an "R" rated movie). It was nice during a Christmas cruise, if you are inclined to stay in your cabin, to have the option of viewing Christmas movies, some classics such as, It's a Wonderful Life, Noel, White Christmas, ELF and Santa Clause 2. For adults there were also movies such as Collateral, The Terminal, The Stepford Wives, King Arthur, Troy and Manchurian Candidate. For kids, there was Around the World in 80 Days, Spy Kids, The Prince and Me, Cinderella Story and Shark Tale. The same steward served our 4 cabins. He spoke next to no English. Formerly serving as a bartender on the ship, he was now cleaning cabins and poorly at that. At the end of our voyage, everyone pretty much agreed that his lack of English speaking skills were more than likely the root of most of our "cabin problems" not being solved in a timely manner. We were surprised that our cabins, which had sofa beds, were never converted back to sofas during the day. Upon arrival we walked into cabins with a queen size bed and one sofa. After the first night's dinner we returned to cabins with the queen size bed and a small narrow bed, which remained such for the entire cruise. In other words, with one chair IN the cabin and one chaise lounge and additional chair on the balcony for three people, don't plan on sitting around. Room service breakfast balancing plates on our knees would not have been a pretty sight. In that our family had 4 cabins adjacent to one another we were hoping to have the doors between the 4 cabins opened for easy access to one another. Our cabin steward said it was not possible. As we were waiting to disembark along comes a crew member climbing over the railing opening door upon door so that he would be able to walk through balcony to balcony while he was hosing off the salt. My cabin as well as my parent's cabin did have mildew present amongst the grout in the bathroom tiles. Big turn off considering it is easily curable with a little of the right cleaner and some elbow grease. First night prior to leaving for dinner we left a note for the cabin steward: from the previous cruise which had disembarked that morning, we were left with: a bathroom wastebasket which had not been emptied, a desk full of crumbs and a shelf full of receipts from the previous cabin occupants. 3 of 4 cabins had 3, not 4 occupants. Each of the four cabins only had two bath towels! They were not offered outright, each cabin had to request the 3rd bath towel for the 3rd occupant individually. Sorry but is that not just common sense? Cabin 1 -- safe would not lock, a screw had fallen out. Called each morning for repair, 3 days in a row, with no response. A phone call was placed day 4 and we asked simply for a screwdriver to repair it ourselves. Afternoon of day 4 we remembered we had an eyeglass screwdriver. DH used this and fixed the safe himself. Over the period of 6 nights, the cabin became progressively warmer at night. Called day 7 for someone to check it. Front desk phoned morning of day 8 to see if it had been repaired. No it had not. By the end of the day it was fixed and in perfect working condition. Unfortunately in the same cabin one of the children accidentally broke the flexible hose off of the shower nozzle to brace herself and avoid falling during a swell (too young and never having traveled before, she did not know enough to grab one of the hand holds). Called for repair as soon as it happened prior to dinner and it was repaired by the time dinner was over. Cabin 1 again -- besides the problems with the safe, one morning there was an 8:15 a.m. knock on the door from maintenance. They knew, without it being reported, that the cabin had low water pressure. Without asking anyone to vacate the cabin they went into the bathroom and did what they had to do. Again, the privacy curtain between the cabin entrance where the bathroom is located and the rest of the cabin was appreciated since everyone was in pajamas and one person was still in bed. Cabin 2 -- ring on tub faucet was broken, thus shower did not function. Called for repair, no response. After my SIL had a total of 4 others shower that evening in her cabin she called the front desk for a second time requesting repair. "She" explained it would be appreciated if our grandmother who had paid over $20,000 for this cruise had a shower that actually functioned. The shower was repaired by the time we returned from dinner that evening. Cabin 3 -- one day the cabin was just never cleaned, morning nor night. We did see a supervisor making notes on a clipboard outside of the cabin as we were departing for dinner that evening. No way of knowing if one thing had anything to do with the other. No phone calls were made to have the cabin cleaned. At this point we just couldn't be bothered considering HAL'S staff unresponsiveness to other maintenance problems in the cabins. The following day the cabin steward apologized stating that he had "forgotten about it." This cabin also had an intermittent odor of sewage from the toilet, which was not present in the other cabins. Lido -- Quality of the food was good and the selection was for the most part pretty good. Breakfast buffet open 7 or 7:30 a.m. -- 10 or 10:30 a.m., offered just about everything imaginable except for waffles or soft boiled or poached eggs (yes, heard someone ask for poached, but they did offer hard boiled eggs). If you arrived at breakfast early enough before it got too busy, the waiters would be kind enough to get your coffee or tea for you. Arrive later when it was busy and it was "hit or miss" whether you would be lucky enough to be offered a refill by one of the waiters roaming with a pot for such purpose. At lunch, the buffet was open 11:00 a.m. -- 2 p.m., the soup and salad bar was a big hit, open 11:30 a.m. -- 5:00 p.m. as well as the deli. Stir Fry and a Pasta Bar rotated day to day. The ice cream bar is extremely popular as well with flavors of ice cream and some toppings rotating daily. Wish there was an easier way to get a soda on the Lido though. They had a bartender set up at this little table. Half the time they did not have what you wanted and the rest of the time he was off getting, presumably, more soda. I had a good chuckle when one of the waiters asked ME, who herself was wondering where he was, where the bartender was. Alas, a mind reader I am not... Toward the end of the cruise, we just found it easier to order a soda at the pool bar on our way in for lunch. Besides never missing ice cream, our children all especially enjoyed making their own tacos and daily selections of pizzas, which were offered. This food was available from 11:30 a.m. -- 5 p.m. If you were still full from breakfast, it was also very convenient to stop by late afternoon for a burger or a "make your own" plate of nachos to snack on. Still enjoying our time poolside, this was a better option than having to go to our cabin and order room service. Though we did not have dinner in the Lido, tables at night were set with linen tablecloths. A condensed version of the evening's menu is offered buffet style. The exception being your entree that you order while in line and then is served to you by a waiter at the appropriate time. Room Service -- HAL does excel and shows some nice touches in their room service. My favorite late lunch was the French Onion Soup and a Caesar Salad. One of our cabins had room service breakfast almost daily. One cabin had early morning coffee delivery along with juice. At no extra charge, there were a good variety of items available for appropriate times of the day, which were delivered in a timely manner, whether ordered the night before (breakfast) or via telephone. Christmas eve morning an order was placed for a couple of cheese plates for delivery to one of our cabins that night. This was no problem and they arrived promptly at 6 p.m. as requested. A bottle of wine and six cans of beer ordered at 5 p.m. for 6 p.m. simply never showed up. The server who delivered the cheese stated he would check on the liquor delivery, but we never heard back from him either. A sampling of items offered 12 Noon -- 10 p.m. are: Bay Shrimp Cocktail, Smoked Salmon Appetizer, Onion Soup, Caesar Salad, Chef Salad, Club Sandwich, Chicken Breast Sandwich, Tuna Melt, Vegetarian Wrap, Steak Sandwich and Hamburger. Dining Room & Food -- Our family booked this cruise in July and the only seating available was the Main seating 8:30 p.m. Since booking, we had been waitlisted for the 8 p.m. seating. Upon embarking, my Mom and SIL, visited the Maitre d' in order to take one last stab at changing to the 8 p.m. seating. Fat chance! None of us had hopes that the time would be changed, so contented ourselves with the fact that HAL had accommodated our request for a table for 11 people. Evenings the family gathered pre-dinner for drinks and hors d'oeuvres, usually at the Piano Bar and then proceeded to our table J in the Lower Rotterdam Dining Room. We had the opportunity to enjoy some breakfasts and one dinner in the upper dining room and noticed a drastic difference in room temperature. It was unbelievably cooler on the upper level than the lower level. It did not matter that on the Informal nights gentlemen were requested to wear a sports jacket. Half way through dinner, in our area of the lower dining room, many men room were removing their jackets. Overall, as some others have stated, HAL does have some problems in the dining room. HAL is spreading their dining room waiters and busboys so thin that they have all they can do just in order to keep up. I don't require polite chitchat and you do not have to know me by name. I can appreciate feeding the children early in the meal. But my Mom did teach me to be polite, and "wait for everyone to be served" before beginning to eat. Only problem was that we were never served courses together. Food was served as soon as it came out of the kitchen as long as you were finished with your previous course. It did not matter where your tablemates were in their meal. A regular production line for sure, but again, we in no way fault the dining room staff, they are just trying to do the best they can with what they have. It was no wonder that pepper grinders are on the tables in the dining room. While HAL is at it, another time saving measure to make it easy on everyone would be to place a pitcher of ice water, salad dressings and sour cream on the table as well. Everyone can agree there is nothing worse than a cold baked (steamed) potato with sour cream or having to ask for a second cup of coffee. Our head steward, Oka, really saved our HAL dining experience. He in his supervisory position tried his utmost to provide the touch of service that one used to find on all cruise ships. Oka picked up the slack as best as he could, refilling water glasses, clearing dirty plates etc. He not only took care of all of us, but in particular, this father of 3 young children, who are home in Bali, took great joy at dessert time, in pleasing the 4 children in our family. There were napkin animals, magic tricks, jokes, puns and riddles. In return the children taught him a few of their own for him to add to his repertoire for future passengers. Oka, also accepted special orders in advance for the following evening. The kids in particular became hooked on the Fettuccine Alfredo with extra sauce and extra cheese on the side. He found out that our daughter was head over heels for shellfish. A couple of nights she dined on 2 double portions of huge shrimp, one for an appetizer and one for dinner. Following her first taste and love at first sight with King Crab Legs, he surprised her on another night with the biggest portion of King Crab that you have ever seen! One night dinner was open seating due to the Lido Deck BBQ. The dining room was serving only in the Upper Rotterdam Dining Room on a "first come, first served basis". Oka made sure that he saved a highly coveted table for 10 (which he squeezed into 11) for us. We did not have our regular waiter, but Oka made sure he surprised our daughter once again with a huge portion of King Crab. On our last morning, Oka helped us out with breakfast once again. The steward was insisting our family, together again for one last time until most likely next Christmas, had to split up into two tables of 6 & 5. Oka raced across the room and whisked us off to a table for ten, quickly adding an additional place setting and chair. Obviously this is why he "gets paid the big bucks." There has to be a better way with the March and festivities taking place at dessert time for the Main seating in the Upper dining room. Being the "late" seating we were just being served our entrees in the darkness of the festivities. The Baked Alaska on the upper level was most likely to die for; however downstairs, after our meal, we were served a melted mushy mess. I was embarrassed for the dining room staff actually having to "slop" the drippings onto the plates. Even the wine stewards are ragged. Some nights sodas were not received until the entree was being served. Those drinking soda gave up on ordering seconds and simply began ordering two sodas at one time. The wine steward quickly picked up on this and kindly obliged and kept this as a standing order. One night, and one night only, toward the middle of the cruise, the "standing" soda order was already present on the table when we arrived! If you love wine, and are adventurous, you have to love the Zaandam's "Wine Navigator." These packages offered a mix of wines from all over the world. The Wine Navigator Package was priced 4 bottles for $82 or 6 bottles for $125. You are able to pay for the package and then as you go, choose from the list of wines offered. Choose every bottle the same, or try a different one each night! My Mom and sister-in-lawn really lucked out since two of their favorite wines were offered through the "Admiral's Choice" Package. This package offers higher price pointed wines, which were 6 bottles for $175. Both packages offered savings on a good balance of whites and reds from around the world. The price of the packages does not include the automatic 15% gratuity. Guess it would not happen too often, but the night we had open seating for dinner, those ordering individual bottles of wine as I did, vs. those ordering from "their package" were served first. My bottle of wine arrived at the table in a timely manner. The wine from the package, which my Mom had selected, did not arrive at the table until the salad was being served. Perhaps the wine steward felt I deserved better service since the 15% auto tip was going directly into his pocket vs. that from the Wine Package that was already pre-paid and presumably pooled among all the wine stewards? Breakfast here was awesome and cappuccino or espressos were at no extra charge. Service in the morning was excellent in every way. Most of the time, the toast was actually even still warm. Diabetic selections in the Lido and the Dining Room are excellent. You will have no trouble dining on this cruise, even more so in the goodie department ... sugar free ice creams, cookies, desserts... Items are hardly if at all salted (including popcorn at the theater) so those on low sodium diets will have no problems. If you like salt, be prepared to "shake, shake, shake." Soups and breads were especially excellent, as well as the King Crab Legs and most of the Appetizers. "Daily Alternatives" were offered: Caesar Salad, Grilled Salmon, Broiled Chicken Breast and Grilled Sirloin Steak. The Sirloin was disappointing in that it was "hit or miss." Just about everyone at our table ordered it on one night or another, and whether ordered rare or medium well, the taste was never consistent. Portions for all of the courses served were a perfect size. Each of us always had enough room to sample dessert. Again though, if HAL would like to show true quality of their line they would not bother serving certain items such as Carpaccio. Offered on several evenings, it was so paltry, it was laughable. There IS a difference between thinly sliced and translucent. If you do order it, ask for a double! Christmas -- The rest of the family had cruised two years again over Christmas with RCI and were moved to tears by the beauty and amount of decorations around the Grandeur of the Seas. The Zaandam in their opinion was very lacking in comparison. Just no oomph! Yes, each cabin door had a small wreath, there were Gingerbread houses at the entrance to the dining room and Christmas trees were not overly abundant. Yes there were fresh flowers in Christmas displays, including the cabins and dining room. Chocolate Santas were put out on display at the Lido Buffet on the 27th of December, the day after the Chocolate Extravaganza on the 26th. Two days before the end of the cruise the ship's flowers were for the most part wilted and dead. I personally would prefer they just remove the dead/dying flower arrangements, as opposed to the sad remnants of dried carnations and wilted orchids left in the holiday aftermath. Egg Nog was served Christmas morning to those waiting in the Mondrian Lounge for those waiting for Santa. Following an old fashioned "sing-a-long" we watched via two large screens, Santa's trek from arrival at the top of the ship's stack, down the ladder onto the sports deck and then various stops such as the spa, weight room and Lido prior to his "live" entrance to the Lounge. IMHO, call it sour grapes if you like, but I do need to mention the selfishness of the childless persons who crowded the front of the lounge. I am not saying that this is a "family only" event, but it would have been nice if families with children received some type of priority seating in the lounge. With an 8:30 p.m. dinner seating which was all which could be offered 5 months prior to booking, how early could we drag our eight year old out of bed the next morning to get a seat in the front of the lounge? After we opened Santa's gifts in our cabin, attended breakfast with the rest of the family in the dining room, which HAL so thoughtfully served until 10 a.m., our family made the lounge 15 minutes prior to Santa's arrival. This was not nearly enough time to get those highly coveted seats near Santa which had already been taken by those who did not have "family obligations" prior to Santa's arrival. Kids received a wrapped gift, a "Club HAL" baseball cap, and had their picture taken with Santa by the ship's photographer. This made another nice cruise keepsake for only the price of a ship's photo gallery. I can fully understand how older or single folks would like to see the delight in the children upon seeing Santa, but how about giving a break to the parents? Our kids only believe in Santa for so many years, why not let us appreciate it while it lasts. When the day comes and our children no longer "believe" we will gladly join you in the back of the lounge to make room for the younger families. Itinerary & Weather -- 4 full days at sea, one of the reasons our family chose this itinerary/ship, the ship was our destination and resort. We had near perfect weather with a mostly cloudy and cool sail away. First day at sea was more clouds than sun and last day was chillier and mostly cloudy. The other days in between were stunning Caribbean perfect with warm temperatures and refreshing trade winds. Most mornings, as typical of the Caribbean, there were also rainbows a plenty. That late afternoon and throughout the evening of our last night the waves were reaching upwards to 13 feet+ along with a gale force wind which made the ship very "creaky." If you were a novice cruiser you did notice the "barf bags" placed at all elevators, but did not know that this would mean a rough night. After departing Half Moon Cay, it was too windy to be out on deck. All in all this made for an excellent opportunity for packing and last minute on board shopping. The Mohito Happy Hour was moved from the Aft pool to the mid-ship Lido Swimming Pool where the roof was closed well before 3 p.m. Tortola -- Here is a tale of two families who choose two outings. Half of the family, a party of five, awoke early and were off the ship just after 8 a.m. Their aim was to catch one of the ferries to the Baths. Walking off of the pier, both Speedy's and Smith's Ferry companies had representatives selling packages. The party of five, basically ended up going with Speedy's after the reps from each company fought back and forth over who was going to charge what. Speedy's finally won the competition. By this time, it was going to be cutting time short for them to walk from the pier over to Speedy's ferry departure point. The Speedy's rep was kind enough to throw in a free taxi ride for the five of them so they could make the ferry in time. The family had a terrific time exploring the Baths and then a late lunch at the "Top of the Baths" before taking the ferry back to Road Town. The rest of us got off the ship after lunch and "tried" to hire a taxi. All the drivers were absolutely insisting that we had to go to Cane Garden Bay. We politely declined asking for a ride to either Brewer's Bay or Sapphire Beach. They continued to refuse to take us to Brewer's Bay and to them Sapphire was just way too far and out of the question. After seeing some threads regarding the water conditions, we told them that we thought the water may be unsafe due to discharge from the boats anchoring here. Of course they stated this was not correct. Our vacation, and health, so we did not want to take a chance, especially knowing there were other places we could visit. As a side note, HAL no longer offers their Cane Garden Bay excursion. Interestingly enough, it was only when the six of us turned away to re-board the ship, where we would not have to pay a taxi to get to the ship's swimming pool, and thus taking our money with us, that one of the drivers came forward. He was more than happy to take us to our destination of Brewer's Bay. He was even fortunate enough to fill up his taxi with six additional people. Evidently after agreeing to a return time in two and a half hours it was worth his time since he parked and hung out at the snack bar. We paid $10 pp round trip from the ship to Brewer's Bay. It was a great place to hang out even if you have only a few hours, much cheaper than any three-hour beach excursion the ship could offer. You can rent chaise lounges for $5 each. There is a bar with liquor and snacks. The ride over and back was a good way to see the beautiful vistas and the driver was kind enough to stop for photo opportunities without even being asked. Snorkeling is off to the west side of the beach along the rock cliff. The water is fairly shallow and clear. There are a few rocks on this west end of the beach, but water shoes are not required. Walk/swim a short ways out and the bottom becomes ALL sand. The further you walk east down the beach, the sandier it gets. When in Tortola, if you do not want to venture to the Baths this is a great alternative! In our case the Baths were not doable for my 90+ y/o grandmother. She went to Brewer's with us and loved watching her granddaughter swimming and playing in the sand. St. Martin -- Mom and Dad did what they do best here, spending 4 hours making a sizable donation to their friends at Ballerina Jewelers. The ship's "Discover Scuba" excursion was sold out way in advance of sailing. I found out through this board about Shore Trips® so for an additional $12 per person over the ship's excursion price my brother, niece and sister-in-law booked a trip through them to try out scuba. As had happened with my husband and I after our first dive, once you do it, you are hooked! They had a fine experience with Shore Trips® and would not hesitate to use them again. The rest of the family enjoyed the Aft swimming pool which, as you can imagine was very peaceful. Barbados -- Wow is all I can say! This day was by far one of the highlights of our Christmas cruise aboard the Zaandam. We sailed aboard the Silver Moon II on Christmas Eve for their 5 hour Lunch Cruise. The new 45' catamaran is sister to the original 44' Silver Moon. SM II sails this lunch cruise with a maximum of 18 people aboard. Cost was $80 per adult and $50 per child and well worth the expense. The cat does hold up to 40 persons for private charters, so it is obvious that there is plenty of room for 18 people to comfortably sail, drink, eat and swim or snorkel. Our family made up 11, out of a total of 18 people aboard. There was plenty of space for everyone to spread out. Never did we feel crowded. There was shade for my Grandmother and anyone else who wanted it and plenty of spots for sunning and relaxing. Captain Nick, the owner, and his crew, the kind of young men which every parent would like their daughter to marry, spoiled us from the first moment we stepped on board and we could not have been more pleased with this excursion. Our excursion this day was 10 a.m.  to 3 p.m. We were met outside of the cruise terminal and transported via mini-bus the few minute ride to the marina. The boat is new, and kept clean as a whistle. You must remove your shoes to even step aboard. We were a little concerned about my grandmother being able to walk on board, but the crew very very carefully and skillfully cajoled and assisted her. Once we were all aboard drink orders were taken and we began our 5 hours of bliss. First off we were told that there was a very strong swell out of the north and the waves were just too big to get in with the turtles. A snorkel above a couple of wrecks would be substituted instead. After a 45-minute sail, the first snorkel stop was to a reef. The crew passed out high quality and well kept, snorkel gear. At each stop one of the crew members snorkeled with the group and acted as guide. Following this snorkel, everyone re-boarded, rinsed off with the fresh water hose and ate a delicious bountiful lunch of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, fish, garlic bread and Caesar salad. All the while, we were offered unlimited soda, beer, wine, pina coladas, rum punch or strawberry daiquiris. Lunch was even followed by Rum Cake and coffee or tea. Seeing some of the other passing catamaran excursions packed to the gills, we knew no matter how much others had paid for their excursions, we had the best value for our money and it was the absolute best decision to go with Silver Moon. Don't' believe me, check out this thread ... Silver Moon Catamaran - Great !!!!! Martinique -- Been there had already done that. Brother and SIL paid $25 each for a taxi tour with another couple and now they too can say, "been there done that." DH and I spent a quiet relaxing day lounging by the aft swimming pool. Daughter spent the morning in Club HAL and then returned for the afternoon session after a dip in the pool and her luncheon feast. Please see "Club Hal" in this report for information on what this day held. Half Moon Cay This is a beautiful island for sure. It is very similar to Princess Cay, but with much more in the way of facilities. Our half day, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., on the island was shared with the passengers from the Zaandam's sister ship, the Volendam. The island's weather this day was mostly cloudy, cool and extremely windy, but nonetheless, the beach was crowded. If you are unable to walk a distance down the beach, the advice is to make sure you get to the island early. The new children's water play area was nice, however was not officially open? A water slide is just not a water slide without running water. On a Christmas cruise with a lot of kids (well for HAL right?), there was enough disappointment to go around. But they made the best of it, using the floating platforms. Most, if not all, of the excursions this day were cancelled due to high winds. To avoid the children's water park area, head north, the further the better. Food was typical out island BBQ: Baby back Ribs -- to die for, the usual hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, salads, fruit, brownies, cookies. There was also steak albeit under cooked. Zaandam Christmas Cruise 12/18- Club HAL, Disembarkation, Favs & Overall Club HAL -- The oldest and the youngest children in the group participated. In that this was a Christmas cruise there were a fair number of children aboard, but not an overwhelming amount as I thought there might be. There was no charge for the club, not even supplies. The teen made tons of new friends and generally just ended up "hanging out." Most night's teen events (ages 13 - 17) ran 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. There was an organized "get together" for the teens, for some reason it seems they were held mostly at the Aft Pool or Sky Room. With the upcoming addition of the Oasis Lounge, of course this will be the new place for the teens to gather. Our daughter picked and chose which Club HAL activities she wished to participate in. She enjoys arts & crafts and now has some nice souvenirs from her first cruise. I was not too thrilled the day she played "Toilet Tag" until I was let in on the details. This was a regular game of tag with a little bit of a different title. Only disappointment in the Club was the day we were in Martinique. We had signed up our DD the day before as required. When my husband went to sign her into the club that morning, none of the Club HAL staff was there. "They" decided they felt like taking the day off, and we were "lucky" that one of the male entertainers "volunteered" to man the Club that day. My husband chatted with the gentleman long enough to determine he felt safe leaving DD at the Club. Our daughter happily played on the computer for a couple of hours, but obviously that was beside the point. Disembarkation -- Debarkation on Dec. 28 was miserable. I don't believe this was any fault of the cruise line. Departure questionnaires were left in our cabin earlier in the week. Since we had driven to the Port, we knew we would be some of the last people off of the ship. Each cabin was later assigned a letter, which would be called for disembarkation. It is terrific that HAL allows you to remain in your cabin, so were astonished they had repeat the age old announcement for people not to gather around the gangway, staircases, etc. Although the ship had arrived in Port on time, there were the usual cases of inconsiderate passengers needing being paged over and over to report to immigration. The first numbers were not called until about 9:30 a.m. We did not get off until almost 10:30 a.m. The good news was that if you did NOT require a porter it was very easy to claim your luggage and get out of the terminal. If you need to get to Orlando definitely make arrangements to have someone meet you rather than relying on the whim of one of the taxi drivers. Our Radisson shuttle picked us up and took us back to the resort to retrieve our cars. Overall Experience -- Another holiday cruiser stated they "would return to HAL. However, we all felt that Princess was slightly better than HAL." Our group was of mixed opinions. The three kids who had cruised previously with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean would choose Royal Caribbean. HAL would have won us over completely if their dining room service were improved and the quality of the food elevated just ever so much. Problems with the cabins were annoying but as time has faded become less important. Let's just say it was good enough that three in our group just booked a suite on the Westerdam for a 15 day transatlantic cruise in April. Favorites: 1. Our kids loved the Pizza & Taco Bar in the Lido. 2. Salad bar and Ice Cream bar in the Lido. 3. Cappuccino and Espresso at the Java Bar. 4. Soda card at a little over $50 (including the non-optional 15% gratuity) sounds like a lot of money but is actually a bargain. If you drink two sodas per day, it pays for itself. In the hot Caribbean sun if you drink more than that, you will be ahead of the game. Thumbs up to HAL for including ginger ale and Diet Sprite in the package. 5. Chocolate Chip Cookies. Classy Touches: 1. Terry cloth hand towels in the public restrooms. 2. Pleather document holder. 3. Keepsake Portfolio of Captain's Farewell Dinner & Christmas Dinner menus. 4. A wheelchair was given to my grandmother for her use throughout the entire cruise. She is able to walk short distances with the aid of a cane to get her from place to place on the ship. Our last night at sea was too rough for her to walk at which time she was able to revert to using the wheelchair rather than miss dinner in the dining room. 5. Happy to see a cruise line who still conducts a kitchen tour. 6. The Cruise Log presented at the end of the voyage makes another nice keepsake of our trip. Could Have Done Without -- It was heavenly, there were only sporadic "reports from the bridge" given by the Chief Navigator, not the Captain. Sadly, we had bingo announcements a plenty. "You gotta be in it to win it"... Daily bingo announcements are just plain rotten. If the passengers cannot remember what time bingo is scheduled, let them carry the daily schedule with them. Additional Notes: My husband does not buy the latest fashions in clothes, doesn't have a ear splitting stereo or an expensive sports car. He is however what I refer to as a "coffee snob." No Starbucks double Latte for him, just good, high quality, read expensive, coffee and the right machines for grinding his own beans and brewing the perfect cup. The one complaint I hear from him, everywhere but inside our own home, is how rotten the coffee is. Finally I can send him to the Zaandam! Whether in the Lido, Dining Room or Java Bar the coffee was near perfection and lived up to his expectations. Upon arrival, each cabin already had a nice complimentary holiday arrangement. For this Christmas cruise there was an additional offering of Holiday gifts available for delivery once aboard. DH and I purchased various gifts for our family and ourselves directly through Hal's Ship Services. Besides the 28 inch Christmas Tree for my grandmother's cabin and the 16 inch trees for our other three cabins. We ordered "Frosty The Snowman" for our daughter. The description was labeled a "festive drum filled with traditional seasonal trimmings." Traditional seasonal trimmings it indeed did have. So fresh and so green was it that my allergies forced Frosty into relocating to my parents cabin. There were also bottles of wines and orders of Chocolate strawberries with Champagne. We had faxed the order to ship's services well in advance of departure and brought the copies with us should there have been any problems with delivery. Each and every item arrived on the appointed day and nothing was forgotten. Especially wonderful was not only the chocolate covered strawberries, but the California Chase-Limogere, Brut which came with it. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
This was actually my very first cruise experience! Before we set sail, I read some of the posted reviews, so I wanted to share my thoughts as well. We sailed on HAL's Zaandam ship to the Eastern Caribbean in December of 2004. This ... Read More
This was actually my very first cruise experience! Before we set sail, I read some of the posted reviews, so I wanted to share my thoughts as well. We sailed on HAL's Zaandam ship to the Eastern Caribbean in December of 2004. This trip was actually a gift from family members so we did not necessarily pick this cruise line, but we were very thankful to go! Let me first say that we are a young couple in our late 20's. I mention this because it is important for perspective buyers to know that the age demographic of this cruise was somewhere between 65-75. We knew this before leaving, but we were still a bit surprised. While the ship does offer activities for children, it seems to lack attention to anyone in the 18-40 age group. Thankfully we focused in the port visits. You could tell that the ship's staff is trying to improve on this point. It will be interesting to see how effective HAL will be on attracting a younger audience in the future. That said -- we decided to focus on relaxation and fine dining. On these points, the Zaandam shines. The staff, which is primarily Indonesian, was wonderful! Very attentive. Our needs were constantly met, the room was comfortable and very clean. Every night our beds were turned down and a chocolate was found on each pillow as an additional treat. The food seemed to constantly exceed expectations... the buffet offered wonderful options and the dining room was exceptional. With casual, informal and formal nights, we experienced a variety of options. Our dining stewards became members of the family.... they recognized our preferences and continually offered them every night. A good example is that my mother-in-law asked for an iced tea on the first night... the next evening, her iced tea was waiting for her! The wonderful attention to detail helped make us feel special. The entertainment was pretty good... a bit cheesy, but good. Everyone is a critic, but we just decided to enjoy what was offered and realize that every night offered a new option. An on-ship movie theatre was a nice alternative! The ports of call were a welcome sight... we decided to avoid the ship's shore excursions and do a bit of our own exploring. We enjoyed the islands very much. Overall, this cruise experience was great for a first timer. We will probably look for a cruise line with a slightly younger appeal next time... but if you are looking for a relaxing trip with exceptional service, try the Zaandam! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
I just returned from my cruise aboard the Holland America M.S. Zandaam and while I had a good time (how can you not on board a cruise ship?) it was definitely in my opinion not a five star cruise. I believe it was nice and as should be ... Read More
I just returned from my cruise aboard the Holland America M.S. Zandaam and while I had a good time (how can you not on board a cruise ship?) it was definitely in my opinion not a five star cruise. I believe it was nice and as should be expected for the money, but not necessarily a five star cruise in my opinion. I only have one other cruise experience to go by and that was a 7 night Royal Caribbean Cruise aboard the Grandeur of the Seas and I enjoyed that experience as a whole moreso. Embarkation and Disembarkation was smooth. I find Port Canaveral to be very easy to get around and getting aboard ship took no time at all. When I took the Grandeur in New Orleans it was much slower and chaotic. Seas were very choppy and rough but I blame that on the weather moreso than anything. The Zandaam ship has very nice rooms. We started out with a C cabin (outside stateroom) that was very nice and were given a option to upgrade to a Verandah suite which was very nice. The rooms are definitely more spacious and taken very well care of. The balconies are of a nice size. We ate breakfast out on the balcony on one occasion and it was very enjoyable. I would say the rooms are nicer on the Zandaam than that of the Grandeur. Service on the ship was good to excellent. I did enjoy the service on the RCCL Grandeur more because they went out of their way to know your names and joke around with you and at the same time remain professional all the while. I think for the most part the help on the Zandaam were friendly enough but didn't understand as much English as I would have liked to have seen. I found there was some confusion at times with language barriers. Food was comparable to that on the RCCL Grandeur for lunch and dinner. I didn't care for the desserts on the Zandaam as much as the RCCL Grandeur and the breakfasts were not that great at all on the Zandaam....Matter of fact, I could have missed out on that altogether. Beef on the Zandaam was either not a good grade of beef or not cooked to be tender enough. Filet Mignon was just not as tasty as I would have liked. The chicken and potato meals were divine on the Zandaam and there was one dessert that was spectacular in the dining room. It was a Chocolate Mousse Tulip. Outstanding! I found on the Zandaam time constraints were too rigid. The Lido Dining room closed at 8pm and on the RCCL Grandeur it stayed open till at least 10pm. Room service after 10pm on the Zandaam was almost nothing......unless you liked cold sandwiches or broth....you didn't have much to pick from. One thing I would suggest that the Zandaam do that the RCCL Grandeur did was offer the opportunity to have breakfast, lunch and dinner in your room from the dining room menu. The only time this was offered was for the first 45 minutes of the first seating in the evening only. It would have been nice to have had this available for all three meals. All pools closed around 9pm which definitely was not good for many. Anyone with kids would want the pools open longer than this. The Midnight buffet on the Zandaam was nice, but no where comparable to the RCCL Grandeur. Entertainment on the Zandaam was good, but on the RCCL it was great. The RCCL brought on such guest as the Platters and other outside entertainment that were really excellent. The Zandaam had one really good outside performer named Vinnie Talarico. He had an amazing voice and I was really impressed. The Holland American Zandaam performers were comparable to those on RCCL. On the Zandaam there was not a lot of scheduled performances like the ones on the RCCL....It definitely lacked there. Costumes for the Zandaam performers were better as a whole than for the RCCL performers. The RCCL Grandeur had their cast perform a farewell performance the last night that was just hilarious, and the Zandaam had no such thing...... Activities were sparse on the Zandaam but I think that is due to the large part that the majority look to be 60 years of age or older and in many cases older than 70. There were at times hours where we had nothing to do on days at sea as far as activities other than eating or lying out in the sun or swimming. I probably saw 2 dozen kids under the age of 18 the whole trip. I just made 40 and was definitely one of the youngest aboard. There was plenty of bingo which was fun. There was the usual belly flop contest, Newlywed contest and such but no karaoke which I enjoyed a lot on the RCCL. We did have one night of lip-syncing which just isn't as good in my opinion. There was plenty of live music and all was very good on both ships. Don't worry about visiting the casinos but that's on any cruise ship for the most part from what I hear. The ship is kept up very well and is small in size when I look back on the size of the Grandeur.....The atrium can barely be called a atrium to me but of what it is it is very nice. There is a wine guy in the dining room that is just wonderful. His name is Armando. I highly recommend you getting to know him if you take this ship. The cruise director and his immediate staff were not as friendly on the Zandaam as on the Grandeur but were still very nice. They did not mix as much with the people as they did on the Grandeur. The ports of call were Tortola VI, St. Thomas VI and Half Moon Cay Bahamas. Tortola was a poor island and needed much cleaning in a lot of areas. From the ship it looked beautiful but once on land you could tell the difference. We did take an excursion to the Cane Garden Beach which was very beautiful but the shoreline on the beach was very narrow and crowded. Beware to those of you who have small children, topless sunbathing is permitted here. I had to take a double take when I first got there. I suggest to Holland America to make Tortola a half day only at port and spend more time in St. Thomas. St. Thomas was beautiful with lots of shopping available. Tortola had very little to shop at in comparison. We did take the Atlantis Submarine Excursion in St. Thomas which was nice, but I think just going to Coral World would have been nicer. One of the employees at Atlantis Submarine even told us that to her Coral World had more to offer than just the submarine ride. However, the submarine ride was neat, and we did get to see many things even 5-6 Caribbean Reef Sharks and more. The only thing that was disappointing to me was that the Coral Reefs were not as colorful as I had expected them to be. Holland America definitely needs to make sure more time is spent in port at St. Thomas. There just wasn't enough time to spend in the hours that we had there. Finally, the last port day was at Holland America's private beach called Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Its a very beautiful beach and the barbecue they furnished was really good. The water is magnificent here even though it was too cold for me to swim in. (Others were swimming though.) My only suggestion here is that they open more stores and such for souvenirs and so forth. Overall, I think the Holland America M.S. Zandaam deserves a 4 star rating on their ship and services. I think the RCCL Grandeur of the Seas maybe deserved a 4.5 to 5 star....That is the only difference in the two. I tried to hit the points that I thought were important to me. If you have any other questions that you would like to email please feel free to do so. Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.0 0.0
Service 3.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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