10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
This was my first cruise ever and I've wanted to go to Alaska for 17 years. I chose this cruise because it went to destinations other cruise lines did not cover. I had friends that told me I would love cruising. I saved for over a ... Read More
This was my first cruise ever and I've wanted to go to Alaska for 17 years. I chose this cruise because it went to destinations other cruise lines did not cover. I had friends that told me I would love cruising. I saved for over a year to take this trip and the entire thing ended up being over 15K (excursions, expenditures, etc.). I was guaranteed a BB stateroom (navigation deck) and received a suite on the deck 6 instead that was supposedly an upgrade. Not. Directly over entertainment and noisy. The ship had norovirus and that made things rather unpleasant for both crew and passengers, since you had to disinfect yourself 4 times to walk across the deck and several group activities were cancelled. The cruise continued; I did not contract the virus. But it didn't make things much fun. I found the crew, who were primarily from the Phillipines, polite, but not friendly. A polite smile and genuine warmth are two different things. Some had language difficulties. Overall, I didn't feel like anyone on the ship particularly cared if I lived or died; I was just a room number. After 3 days, I had to ask to have my sheets changed. Considering the charges for the room and service, I should not have had to ask and there was nothing there to indicate they would not be changed daily. Ick. The "flowers" supposedly in your room are "flower" - a single carnation that did not make an appearance at all the last 3 or 4 days. As this was my first cruise experience, I had high expectations in regards to food and had to ratchet them way down. There is a lot of food, and it is presented in a lovely way, but it is not especially fresh or tasty. The bread was stale every single day. My own cooking is better and I was very disappointed. Particularly hideous were the sandwiches, the pasta, the fried chicken, and the crab legs served at the Pinnacle Grill. "Hash browns" actually made me laugh; they looked like kid's hash browns - little triangles out of a plastic bag. Particularly good were salads (as long as you don't expect them ice cold and crisp), soups, made-to-order eggs, and selected desserts. The way another traveller put it was that it was just "restaurant food" and that sums it up. Not a high-end restaurant. Eating at the restaurant venue (not the buffet) involved standing in line and generally they seat you with strangers. It takes a long time to get through the meals. I didn't find the Gala Nights worth dressing up for. Also, someone needs to tell the crew that no flowers are infinitely better than dead flowers. We had the "special" restaurant package and there were dead flowers on every table. The shipboard activites were described as "geriatric" by one passenger, but I thought that was disrespectful to geriatric persons everywhere. There simply weren't many shipboard activities, they tended to be repetitive, and they weren't especially interesting. I find that "over 18" and "under 115" normally respond pretty much the same way to activities that are interesting. And I think Holland needs to get on the stick; baby boomers and younger aren't really your typical "geriatric" set. The productions were, well, I can't really describe them. I will just have to say that I was laughing out loud at the shipboard versions of Madonna, the Rolling Stones, and Sir Elton. The entertainers could sing, and they could dance, but they couldn't rock 'n roll. Rock 'n roll has a soul and is a bit more...gritty. I'm almost tired of typing, but I want anyone considering this cruise to also be aware of the port excursions. I did not know you had to beware of the on-board shopping coordinator; the ship is in cahoots with certain port stores that give a kickback. The jewelry stores are manned by Indian personnel who are just there for the season, and once you walk in the door, you can't get out. If you are in the market for high-end jewelry, be prepared to spend a LOT of time being pressured. Be prepared to bargain. You might have zapped in there just to get the free charm your shipboard coordinator told you about, but expect that only after at least an hour and if you are really determined to have it. And expect your shipboard coordinator to join in to help the jewelers. Hideous experience; like being in Vegas where they'll give you free show tickets to listen to their condo spiel. Awful. Look for local stores not subsidized by the ships and that are open all year. In terms of paid excursions, it's very hit-or-miss. We took a "russian tea" excursion that was the worst thing ever - like a few church ladies got together and planned a little function. Not russian tea, terrible snacks, in an episcopalian church lobby, entertainment by balalaika players whilst you sat at folding tables being served from a crockpot, wondering when it would be over. I liked Icy Strait Point which has native americans running and supporting everything, and I loved Homer. Homer had an excursion on a catamaran to see a rookery; we saw everything. whales, sea otters, crested puffins, bald eagles, everything. And the Homer spit is, in my opinion, the best place to poke around and shop. I wish we had more time there. The port of Victoria BC was cancelled as the ship couldn't get in to dock. It was windy that day and evidently it was enough to make it difficult. Elsewhere, I learned to pan for gold; it was like something set up for kids, as the pans were the size of a snack dish. But the salmon bake was very nice; beautiful setting, entertainment, good food. The musher's camp was good. In hindsight, I'd opt for physical activities or being out on the water for every excursion. I signed up for different activities in every port, thinking about variety. I think there were too many activities and talks that appeared to be something planned for an 8-year-old; what I disliked most about both shipboard and non-shipboard activities was that they were almost dumbed down to the point of being insulting or condescending. Also, be aware that the sommeliers on board aren't. Sommeliers, that is. I paid 60 bucks for a bottle of Very Bad Wine. I knew it might not be what I totally loved when there was no year specified in the wine list, but at that price, whatever is ordered should minimally be well-balanced and drinkable. Holland has a hub in Washington, for God's sake. They have access to outstanding wines from Washington, Oregon, and California. They should hire some people with a decent palate and stock good wines. If it's their margin they're worried about, you can buy good wine with a decent balance at 12-15 bucks. Just sayin'... So that was my sole, first, and likely last cruising experience. The most expensive vacation I've ever had and one of my least favorite experiences. Next time, I fly in to (wherever), rent a car, take a ferry or seaplane, and sign up for any tours I'd like to take on-line or when I'm actually at that location. Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
Great Alaskan Explorer Cruise June 4 – 18, 2018 ~~~Embarkation Day~~~ Embarkation Day started early for me on June 4, 2018, rising at 4 am for my SuperShuttle pickup at 4:45 am. I was collected right on time and soon was ... Read More
Great Alaskan Explorer Cruise June 4 – 18, 2018 ~~~Embarkation Day~~~ Embarkation Day started early for me on June 4, 2018, rising at 4 am for my SuperShuttle pickup at 4:45 am. I was collected right on time and soon was transferred to the Orange County Airport for the 6:50 am Alaska Airlines flight #519 for Seattle. Time was sufficient for a quick McDonald’s Egg McMuffin with sausage before boarding my flight which departed right on time. Of course, at John Wayne Airport, no flights are permitted to take off before 7 am, so there is always a long line of aircraft waiting their turn. The flight to Seattle took a little over a couple of hours and was quite smooth. My “Premium Seat” 7D worked out very well and I enjoyed a couple of Bloody Mary’s in route. Landing in Seattle and disembarking at Gate N12 the North Terminal required using the underground train to get to the main terminal and to Baggage Claim where, after retrieving my suitcase, I found several Holland America personnel directing me to their waiting bus for my prepaid transfer to the pier. First I had to open my suitcase to move the bottle of wine I had brought to my carry-on Princess bag and to put my headphones and Miralax back inside the suitcase, also attaching the Holland America baggage tag. Then it was off to Pier 91 and the ms Zaandam, about an hour’s ride, due to Interstate 5 construction, arriving about 11 am. Check in went very quickly and then there was a wait for boarding. I had been informed that for my cabin 2565 on Main Deck, boarding would not occur until 2 pm. Fortunately, this was not the case as my boarding group “E” was allowed to board around noontime; I quickly found my stateroom, just forward of amidships, a very good location as it is turning out to be. Of course, my suitcase would not be delivered for a while so I chose to have lunch in the Main Dining Room on Decks 4 and 5, at the rear of the ship. Only the bottom level of the dining room was open and I was seated at a table for two, enjoying a nice lunch. My suitcase was delivered shortly after returning to my cabin and I spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing until the mandatory safety drill at 3:30 pm, a real confusing mish-mash. Holland America has EVERYONE locate at his or her safety muster site outside on the Lower Promenade Deck 3 (mine was “5”), and stand quietly while listening to the Captain’s safety lecture. Princess Cruises does this procedure in a much more acceptable fashion, gathering everyone into one of their several large lounges with comfortable seats while listening to the safety lecture. Oh, well... Dinner was scheduled - for me on Late Dining, at 7:45pm at Table 37 on the second level of the Main Dining Room. But first, the ship departed Seattle for our 14-day Alaskan cruise at 4 pm and most passengers chose to appear on one of the outer decks for sail away. Dinner went well, joining my tablemates Gwen and Jerry from Clovis, CA. So went Embarkation Day for my wonderful cruise again to Alaska! ~~~Day 2 – At Sea Cruising Vancouver Island~~~ Today is an “at sea day” and we are cruising along in the Pacific Ocean just off shore of Vancouver Island. The seas have been a bit choppy today with rain on and off. Most probably tomorrow when we are in Ketchikan it will also be raining. You know the weather forecast for Ketchikan: it is either raining, has been raining, or is going to rain! With my suitcase finally unpacked and things put away, I am spending the day relaxing from my very full day yesterday, traveling to Seattle from Orange County. Tonight is the first of three formal nights or, as HAL says, “Gala Nights”, so I will have to drag out my coat and tie; the tuxedo was left at home! Television in my stateroom is on most of the time; besides the HAL channels, there are MSNBC, ESPN, CNBC, BBC and, of course, FOX (not my choice!) There will be a time change tonight to Alaska Time, one hour earlier than Pacific Time. Although “refurbished” earlier this year, the TV sets are still the older flat panel ones. The carpet all looks quite new and fresh, however, Many of Holland America’s old favorites are now long gone: the guy with the pillbox hat, ringing chimes to announce dinner; (others escape me right now.) The ship itself, built in 2000, is still in pristine condition with lots of beautiful public rooms, two-level dining room, and theatre... Clientele remains on the older side with very few children present, and the entertainment is definitely chosen with the more mature customer in mind. I feel right at home! At 7:45 pm, my dining time, the Captain was also hosting his welcome toast, so I was a few minutes late arriving at my Table 37, only to find that two other couples had taken my seat! When I demanded an explanation from the Maitre ‘d, I received an apology and seated at a nearby table for two. I was furious! Evidently my tardiness in arrival had been the reason the four other people being seated at MY table. I was assured that that would not happen again, and the Maitre ‘d knew that otherwise I would complain bitterly to Seattle, the head office for HAL! At 10 pm, the ship singers and dancers presented their first performance, and it was quite good. Most of the music was unfamiliar to me but the four singers - two guys and two gals, in addition to three male and two female dancers, gave us all a very entertaining show. Then it was off to bed; tomorrow will be in Ketchikan. ~~~Day 3 – Ketchikan~~~ As expected, our arrival in Ketchikan this morning at 8 am was greeted with scattered showers that persisted throughout the day, requiring my trusty umbrella to shield against the light rain. My plans were simple for the day: take the funicular up to the Cape Fox Lodge, which overlooks the city and harbor, and to dine at the restaurant there, enjoying their excellent halibut along with a pint of Alaskan Amber beer. Leaving the ship (which was docked conveniently directly at the center dock) at about 11 am, I used my umbrella and found my way to the entrance to the funicular, at the very end of Creek Street, another favorite tourist attraction of Ketchikan. Paying my $3 to the attendant, I had no wait at all for the next funicular and was soon on my way up the short distance to the Lodge, retaining my ticket stub for the return trip down. I was again in luck that the restaurant had just started their lunch service at 11:30 am and was seated at a choice window table overlooking the downtown and harbor where the ms Zaandam was docked. My menu selection was, of course, their three-piece halibut and chips for $21, and my Amber beer for $7. Happiness is knowing - and getting - what you want! After lunch - including a second Amber, I returned back down the funicular, again using my umbrella against the light rain. At the base of the funicular is one of the entrances to Creek Street and I decided to walk along. It was at this very location in 2009 while visiting on the Pacific Princess that I encountered - by chance - Bruce and Joy Winston, friends I had made on a Viking river cruise in 2007; they were on a Holland America ship docked in Ketchikan. What a coincidence! With my belly full of Alaskan halibut, the rest of the afternoon was spent napping and watching MSNBC. The day before I had changed my reservations at the Pinnacle Grill, a specialty restaurant aboard, so that tonight I would dine for the first of two times there. Patric, my good friend and travel agent, also sent me a reservation to the Pinnacle Grill which I will use on June 11th; thank you, Patric! My dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, which charges $35 surcharge, was at 7:30 pm and was superb! The shrimp cocktail I had to start with had huge shrimp the size of small lobsters! And the 10-ounce filet mignon was THE VERY BEST steak I have ever tasted! Cooked to perfection and absolutely tender! Yum yum! I slept very well! ~~~Day 4 – Cruising the Endicott Arm~~~ According to our published itinerary, today we were scheduled to cruise the Tracy Arm, viewing the Sawyer Glaciers at the far end of this lengthy fjord. However, the Captain announced that due to the over abundance and density of ice flows in the Tracy Arm, making navigation impossible, we would instead cruise up the nearby Endicott Arm, another lengthy fjord at the head of which was yet another sizable glacier, the Dawes Glacier. Traveling up the Endicott Arm, at first chunks of floating ice were infrequent but gradually increasing in both size and number as we approached the end of the Arm and the Dawes Glacier residing there. I watched from the rail on Deck 3 just above my cabin as we made the approach. The weather, unlike the previous day, was spectacularly clear with much sunshine. The ship’s staff had arranged for the ship’s bow to be open for all passengers as a viewing sight, so as we got closer to the Dawes Glacier, I decided to leave my perch on the rail of Deck 3 and proceed to the bow. With my earmuffs securely in place and wearing my warm leather jacket, I joined the throng on the bow fully expecting to be greeted with a cup of steaming hot pea soup, long a HAL tradition. NOT to be! I was informed that Holland America no longer does this - another thing to add to my previous list of things no longer done by HAL. Another thing to add to this list: the recent absence of self-service launderettes, one on each passenger deck. Now ALL GONE! Thanks to the last refurbishment. Things are NOT getting better with Holland America! Perhaps further negative influence by Carnival, HAL’s parent company? Watching the Dawes Glacier for quite a while and seeing no “calving” taking place, and with the ship rotating about to give good views from all sides, I decided to take my leave and return to my cozy stateroom for a nap. As has now become my routine, this morning I again ordered room service for my breakfast: ham and cheddar cheese omelet, coffee, English muffin, juices - cranberry and orange, along with a bowl of mixed fruit: watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes... I now do this each morning as it is a free service - save the $3 tip for the server. Much better than fighting the rude mob at the buffet upstairs, the “trough” as I call it! I am becoming very spoiled! Tonight I returned to the Main Dining Room, not knowing what to expect or where I would be seated. The Maitre ‘d directed me to my table #37 where I found ... NO ONE! I dined alone. Gwen and Jerry, as it turned out, had chosen to eat at the Canaletto Italian specialty restaurant. I will also be dining there on June 15, a Friday on which their featured menu item is Osso Bucco, which I dearly love. So ended Day 4. ~~~Day 5 –Juneau~~~ Having been to Juneau on numerous previous trips, there were really only two things on my agenda for the day. First, a ride up to the top of Mount Roberts on the gondola, an increase of 1800 feet above sea level, where I immediately went to the Timberline Restaurant, securing a table by the window overlooking Juneau and the harbor. My menu choice - of course - was halibut and chips with a pint of Alaskan Amber beer. Their halibut - all three pieces - was exceptionally good, better even than that which I had had in Ketchikan! All for $21.95 plus $7 for the beer. That done, it was back on the gondola and down to base. The gondola ride is spectacular, especially on such a perfect day with bright sunshine and puffy white clouds. Next on my list was a visit to the Red Dog Saloon, a very famous tourist landmark in Alaska. Being only early afternoon, I was able to find a seat at the otherwise crowded bar. A visit to Juneau would not be complete without a stop at the Red Dog Saloon. Finishing my second Amber beer, I was feeling quite happy - and ready for a nap! Fortunately, it was only a short walk back to the ship, again docked in the very center of town. Holland America must exert special privilege to secure such ideal docking locations. Just behind our ship, the ms Zaandam, was another HAL ship, the ms Volendam, which is the sister ship to ours. Jim and I were on the Volendam on a cruise from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia back in 2009. Dinner in the Main Dining Room saw the return of Gwen and Jerry at Table 37 so all was well in the world again. They are from Central California, a town called Clovis! Of course that name is familiar with me having grown up in Clovis, NEW MEXICO. Our ship did not depart Juneau until 10 pm, although I chose not to go back into town after dinner. Tomorrow we would be in Icy Strait Point, only a short distance from Juneau, so our ship would drop anchor midway before resuming the journey. ~~~Day 6 – Icy Strait Point~~~ After only a short trip from Juneau, including a period of remaining stationery at anchor for a few hours, our arrival in Icy Strait Point was right on schedule at 7 am, at a new dock. Previous visits here had involved ship to shore transfers by tender and this brand new dock was a pleasant surprise for me. It is located a ways down from the older docks, in the vicinity of the zip line terminus. My tour of the day was a repeat of the famous zip line here that, at over 5300 feet, is claimed to be the longest in the world. My report time was at 8:50 am inside the visitor’s center where I quickly filled out the required release form on a convenient computer screen. Then promptly at 9 am our group of 30 was called to follow along a path to the awaiting bus for a 45-minute ride to the mountaintop and the staging area for the zip line. The bus was a converted school bus, now painted green, and the trip up the mountain first proceeded through the small Tlingit village of Hoonah. Driving along the only paved road on the island, we climbed and climbed, soon running out of the paved road for a bumpy gravel one. Our driver spoke to us the entire journey, pointing out things to see and apologizing for the “back massage”. Several places he stopped for us to grasp the stunning views of the surrounding valleys and hillsides. Soon we reached the top and the end of our bus ride. Then it was a somewhat lengthy walk down a steep path to arrive at the staging area. Portable toilets were in plentiful supply and most people took advantage. We then lined up to be assigned, in groups of 6, our departure order. As it turned out, I was #1 in the second group of 6 - the number of zip lines. When my time came I was strapped into a harness, seated with my feet firmly planted on the exit gate. Then on the count of three, the gates opened and I began my trip down the 5300 feet of zip line at speeds up to 60 mph! What a rush! Struggling to keep myself headed straight by holding out my right hand, I partially succeeded, and then the enjoyment of the rest of this 90 second experience continued all the way down from a height of 1300 feet to sea level. Stopping was an experience in itself; giant coils at the end of the zip lines absorb and decelerate your travel - in a very few seconds! And then it is over! Although this was my third time, the fear and panic all came back anew, once those exit gates snapped open. It is quite an experience! Once unharnessed we entered their shed where, in addition to the many logo-ed merchandise items to be purchased, was displayed on large computer screens were photos taken of each of us on our trip down; I decided to forego the purchase of mine for $15.95! For the occasion I had worn the ZipRider hoody I had purchased on a previous visit, which drew considerable attention from the staff who had not seen this older version - in orange color - before! Then it was back to the ship for lunch in the Dining Room, followed by a nap. It had been quite a morning! Our departure of Icy Strait Point was at 2 pm; next stop, Anchorage - day after tomorrow! ~~~Day 7 – Cruising the Gulf of Alaska~~~ With our route of travel in the open Pacific, crossing the Gulf of Alaska, we have been experiencing considerable sea motion here on the ms Zaandam. Starting early this morning there have been large swells topped with white caps throughout the day. Consequently I have spent most of the day here in my stateroom 2565, catching up on emails and napping. As per our agreement, I did go up to the Main Dining Room at 12 n to meet Gwen and Jerry for lunch. I got to the Deck 4 entrance to the MDR a little early and there was no line at all, but shortly people began showing up and a lengthy line had developed before Gwen appeared, saying that Jerry was under the weather and would not be joining us. We soon were seated at a table already occupied by grandparents and their grandson - from Amarillo! Being Sunday morning, the menu was for Sunday Brunch, which probably explained the large lineup at the entrance, usually very scant. My choice was for a berry smoothie and Eggs Benedict that turned out to be quite delicious. Good coffee along with an apple crisp dessert with vanilla ice cream completed my enjoyable Sunday Brunch. The sea motion is still continuing but I have returned to my stateroom for the remainder of the afternoon. Tonight is our second formal, or “Gala” night so out will come my jacket and tie. According to the dinner menu displayed at the entrance to the MDR, one item of interest for me is Filet Mignon. It will be interesting to see how this steak compares with the magnificent one I had at the Pinnacle Grill! I will let you know later. So now I am caught up with my emails, the next of which will detail tomorrow’s activities in Anchorage. ~~~Day 8 – Anchorage~~~ Again this morning I enjoyed breakfast delivered to my stateroom promptly at 8am, the time of our arrival in Anchorage. My usual choice is a ham and cheddar omelet served with hash browns along with cranberry and orange juices, coffee and an English muffin. Lately I have also added a fruit cup with watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, and grapes. I routinely give Harun who delivers all this a $3 tip, which he seems to appreciate. I have become spoiled! Today’s excursion, “The Big Swig”, a tour of three breweries in Anchorage, wasn’t scheduled until the afternoon at 2:30 pm, so I spent most of the day here in my stateroom, watching TV and napping. I did go up to the Lido Market buffet for a bite of lunch, something I don’t really enjoy very much. The tides in Anchorage Harbor are tremendous and when the ship docks, the ramps are placed according to the current level. However, soon the level changes, requiring the ramps to be repositioned. This recurs several times during the day so one can never expect the same ramp arrangement on return to the ship from that when you left the ship. At 2:20 pm I went down to the dock to meet my excursion, scheduled to depart at 2:30 pm, joining the others in our 12-person group in a small van. We departed the ship and then drove out of the dock area, in which pedestrian traffic is prohibited. Soon we arrived at our first stop, the new headquarters of the King Street brewery, having passed the older and much smaller location. Although the day had been spectacularly clear with lots of sunshine, storm clouds were forming as we entered the brewery. Our tour guide turned out to be one of the two owners whose compassion and enthusiasm for his trade was quite evident. We were each given a board with holes holding four small glasses into which we chose which of the several beers available we wanted to taste. I chose an IPA (India Pale Ale), another called an AMA, a stout, and an amber - all very tasty! We were escorted through this enormous facility, still under development, observing the different stages of beer making accompanied by the owner’s expert and complete explanations, all the time sipping our samples. Lasting almost an hour we were finally called to go, exiting into a slight rainstorm. Fortunately, our van was conveniently located for our dash through the rain. The next brewery to be visited was the Midnight Sun Brewery, a more established brewery of over 23 years. We were ushered through a back door opening into one of the work rooms where canning was taking place. The noise made it difficult to hear the guide but his voice did carry well. Our first sample came out of a Red Sockeye Salmon figure on the wall; bending a gill produced the flow of beer into our waiting cups. Very ingenious! Following the guide into another workroom we saw the process of beer making taking place. Then we were lead upstairs into a visitor’s area already crowded with customers. Seated at our own table we were served a second and third sample, this time in larger glasses. A fourth sample was 12.7% alcohol and was VERY good! On the tables were provided different snacks for us: cheeses, ham, crackers, nuts, prosciutto, pepperoni, etc. By the time we departed everyone was beginning to feel really good. The last brewery visited was called Resolution and was considerably smaller than the first two. Again we were each given a choice of four different beers and these too were quite good! By this time, however, everything was tasting good! The rain had stopped while we were in the second brewery so our eventual return to the ship - after four hours - was again in sunshine with clear skies. We have been quite lucky so far with weather; only Ketchikan presented us with wet weather. Then it was time for dinner that was my second evening at the Pinnacle Grill. This time I again enjoyed the enormous shrimp cocktail followed by a huge chunk of delectable halibut - with three more shrimp on top! Dessert was a delicious soufflé to end another memorable dining experience. Sleep came easy and early! ~~~Day 9 – Homer~~~ Today’s stop was at Homer, or more accurately, the Homer Spit, a long peninsula extending several miles out into the Gulf of Alaska where deeper water permits cruise ships to dock. Again, the tide is so substantial that several different exit ramp configurations are required during the day. When we first docked, I looked out of my window and saw the dock about halfway up. A couple of hours later, my window was at dock level, and further on, I was looking down onto the dock. This is the base location for the famous fishing fleet featured in the TV series, “The Deadliest Catch”. Having been here before, there was only one thing I planned to do, a visit to the eclectic Salty Dawg Saloon. This bar is an institution in Homer and is reachable by a courtesy bus from the end of the pier around the spit to its prime location. So around 1 pm I left the ship and walked the lengthy distance to the end of the pier where I found a courtesy bus waiting for the short drive past many shops and restaurants to the Salty Dawg Saloon. This historic bar has been here since the late 1800s and is quite the tourist attraction. http://www.saltydawgsaloon.com/ The place resembles a lighthouse and isn’t that big inside, which is covered completely with dollar bills left by past customers. On my arrival I didn’t find the place as busy as on previous visits. Ordering an Alaska Amber beer I found a place to sit near the back and enjoyed myself observing the stream of tourists making their way through, most not ordering anything, just ogling the cluttered interior. It was getting more crowded when, after my third Amber, I decided to take my leave. Finding the courtesy bus I soon returned to the pier and the long walk back to the ship. Being another spectacular day with bright sunshine and clear skies, the walk was rather pleasant. Of course, a nap was in order on return to my stateroom! Dinner is now over and I decided to forego the 10 pm production show in the theatre to finish these two emails. The sun has yet to set and it is almost 11 pm! Tomorrow is their longest day of the year with over 20 hours of sunlight. But for me, it is now bedtime! ~~~Day 10 – Kodiak~~~ Another spectacular day in Alaska! With perfectly clear blue skies and bright warm sunshine, one would question the location where the daylight hours are up to 20 per day. Rather remarkable - even the locals are raving about the excellent weather we have enjoyed the past many days. Our time in Kodiak today was not that long - only until 2 pm, having arrived at 7 am. My tour for the day, “A Taste of Kodiak”, was scheduled from 10:45 am until 1:15 pm, with back-on-board time at 1:30 pm. I need to say a few things about my stateroom, #2565, here on Main Deck 2; the location is just the sixth room back from the outside entrance frequently used on Main Deck, and my window overlooks all of the boarding activity, being on the starboard (right) side of the ship. Normally I keep my curtains fully open, even at night, so I don’t miss anything. This stateroom was a paid upgrade offered for $258 that I have been quite happy to have made. Great location! At 10:30 am I left the ship to join the large number of passengers, some awaiting a tour, but most awaiting the free shuttle bus (actually a school bus!) into downtown Kodiak, a distance of about 2 miles. Bus after bus carried load after load of passengers continuously into town. Good luck on getting back by 1:30 pm! A couple of local tour gals announced our tour promptly at 10:40 am and each of the 15 of us were given a numbered tag to clip on for identification, after signing the requisite waiver. Being a walking tour, I was still somewhat dismayed to find out that we would be walking the 2 miles into town. On our schedule were 6 stops to sample the “Taste of Kodiak” and our first stop was at a busy coffee shop where, in addition to a cup of superb, freshly brewed coffee, we were given slices of bread lathered with a creamed salmon, as many as we wanted! Delectable! Continuing on, we arrived at a crafts shop where samples of local jams and jellies were presented, served on crackers. One choice of mine was a Strawberry Chipotle that was spicy and delicious; another was a Blueberry Barb, also quite tasty. Then it was off to our third stop, a restaurant where we were all seated at a long table and served a generous chunk of baked halibut topped with a mayonnaise-cheesy spread: absolutely wonderful! Halibut is my very favorite Alaskan fish and this was a special treat for me! Next we walked on to another restaurant on a second level where once again we were all seated at a long table and served delicious “Salmon Splash” sandwiches on incredibly good bread, along with a fresh spinach salad garnished with a tasty dressing. Also, very good! Crossing the street our next stop was a local brewery where we each were given two samples of the myriad of offerings; one of mine was a Hiefkessen, German style, and then a darker one I didn’t particularly care for. We were given a quick but informative tour of the back room that housed the brewing operation, a decided smaller operation than those we had visited in Anchorage. Our final stop was at the Best Western Hotel upstairs dining room where we were treated to chunks of deep-fried, breaded salmon with a delicious dipping sauce, as well as an amazing crab and artichoke dip, heated with cheese! Yummy! Then it was the return walk back to the ship that I found to be a real struggle, but I made it by 1:15 pm! Promptly at 1:30 pm the Captain came on the P.A. announcing that our departure would occur at 2 pm, headed overnight for the Hubbard Glacier tomorrow afternoon. He also said the weather report was continuing to be good, which was a relief to hear since our route back across the Gulf of Alaska can be rather rough riding. Then the gangway was lifted up and we were on our way. ~~~Day 11 – The Hubbard Glacier~~~ The highlight of this cruise, I believe, was our visit today of the Hubbard Glacier. Stretching over 7 miles across the face, this Glacier is immense! Our arrival at this giant chunk of ice was around 2:30 pm, under partially clouded skies, and the views were incredible! At first I went up to Deck 3, the Lower Promenade, to stand by the railing and await the slowing emerging vista, watching the increasing number of icebergs - big and small - pass by our ship. It was quite cool, standing there, and my earmuffs were a great help to shield from the frigid wind; protection behind one the vertical standards of the ship made my wait tolerable. As we approached closer and closer to the glacier’s face, the ship’s speed diminished greatly, as well as the wind, and it became very pleasant to view this behemoth in calm circumstances. The Captain slowly rotated the ship, giving excellent observation from all angles; at one point, my view was right on the full entirety of the glacier’s face. Spectacular! Of course, all viewers were waiting to see any “calving”, large chunks of the Glacier falling free, causing enormous splashes in the water below. And we were not disappointed! I personally saw at least 4 or 5 such calvings, most from areas of the glacial face least suspect to calve. My misinformation from a crew member on our first glacier viewing the previous week that Holland America no longer served hot Dutch pea soup, was rendered untrue with this viewing which saw crew members serving bowl after bowl of the hot soup to those of us on deck. My dining room waiter, Reza, came up to me and offered a bowl of this excellent pea soup with ham pieces, which certainly hit the spot! Remaining very near the glacier’s face - perhaps a half mile, the Captain continued moving the ship about, changing the views of all of us on deck. I don’t recall ever having been that close to the Hubbard Glacier! All of this under partly clouded skies - a perfect day! Finally, after over an hour, the ms Zaandam turned back down the fjord toward the open sea. It had been quite an experience! ~~~Day 12 – Sitka~~~ After a relatively calm night at sea last evening, our arrival this morning in Sitka came at 8 am on the dot. We were docked at a new facility - for me, having had to tender into port on previous visits here. About 5 miles from downtown Sitka, this was a real change from before, requiring a free shuttle bus to reach the city and our tour departure areas, near a large and new visitor’s center. Not knowing just how long it would take, using the well-used and crowded shuttle buses, I thought it best to leave the ship an hour early to assure my arrival at my tour location by it’s 11 am departure. Even as crowded as the shuttle buses were, I arrived with plenty of time to spare. I thought that surely there would be a nearby place to get a cup of coffee for my wait but there was none. I walked around to the old Russian Cathedral and to a coffee shop across the street to find my cup of coffee. Returning to our tour site I was greeted by our guide for the tour I had selected for the day, “A Pedal Pub Crawl”. Consisting of a bicycle “built for 15” there were 11 of us on this day, and we were on our way promptly at 11 am. Fortunately - for me - the seat I chose had in-operational pedals, so I had a free ride! A partial relief from my “walking tour” in Kodiak. We presented quite the sight, pedaling along the streets of Sitka, on our bicycle built for 15! Greeting the onlookers with waves and shouts, we proceeded to our first stop, Ernie’s Old Pub, where we were first treated to a complimentary shot consisting of Baileys, Kahlua, and Crown Royal whiskey; delicious! Their name for this special shot is a “Duck’s Fart”. Strong but good! We were then given the opportunity to order another drink; mine was an Alaskan Amber beer. A great start to an enjoyable, unique tour! Our next stop, after wowing everyone on the streets, was another bar called the Pioneer, a place popular with fishermen from the nearby docks. Again, my choice was an Amber, consumed while observing the myriad of fishing photos lining the walls. I struck up a conversation with two girls, Patty and Karen, also from Southern California, who were traveling together. People on this cruise have really been friendly, I think; I have become acquainted with many during our two-week time together. The last place to visit was a brewery, local in Sitka, where we were given three samples of Alaskan beers. The first was a Red Sockeye that I had had at the brewery in Anchorage and the second was a “Blonde” - both quite good. The third sample was from the Midnight Sun Brewery, also visited in Anchorage, a darker beer that I found tasty. Food was also available for order although I chose not to partake. By this time I was feeling no pain! This concluded our “Pedal Pub Crawl”, a unique and enjoyable tour to say the least! Then it was back to the long line of passengers, cued up for the shuttle bus back to the ship. The wait was not too long and the 15 minute ride back around to the new dock and our ship soon brought us back to the ms Zaandam, our floating home for only two more days. Tonight I am dining at the specialty restaurant, Canaletto, this evening chosen because of their daily special for Friday being Osso Bucco. I am looking forward to this my favorite dish with anticipation. ~~~Day 13 - At Sea~~~ Now on our last leg of travel to Victoria, Canada, and then Seattle on Monday morning, the day was quite relaxing and restful after our busy day in Sitka, and the main thing to do was the Mariner’s Lunch to which I was invited at 1 pm. An earlier Lunch was also held at 11:30 am and if the number of attendees at ours was any clue, it is evident that a great majority of the ship’s passengers are “Mariners”, previous cruisers on Holland America. After entering the lower level of the Main Dining Room on Deck 4, along with the throng of others, I found a table for two that already had glasses of champagne poured. As it turned out I enjoyed my own glass and the other glass on my table, plus a glass from the lady at the next table! The Captain spoke briefly, offering a toast to all of us in celebration of a great cruise. My menu choice was Yankee Pot Roast, preceded by a delicious salad dressed with balsamic vinegar. The pot roast was tasty although a bit over cooked. Dessert was a chocolate tart of some kind. As we departed the Dining Room we were given one of Holland America’s famous Delft tiles, this one with a photo of our ship, the ms Zaandam. I have quite a collection of these! The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing and watching TV with nothing more to do until it was time to get ready for our final Gala Dinner, requiring coat and tie. We were FINALLY given the choice of LOBSTER and filet mignon, preceded by a Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, and it was delicious! The lobster tail was of a good size and the steak in our “Surf and Turf” was very tender and cooked to desired specification of medium-rare. Dessert was a delectable tiramisu. After dinner I stopped by the Ocean Bar, my favorite watering hole, where I finished off the last bottle of wine I had purchased, and waited until a few minutes before 10 pm before going to the theater for the final performance of the ship’s singers and dancers. An earlier performance at 8 pm usually gets the majority of attendees and I easily found a good seat on the first row of the balcony on Deck 5. The theme for the show was that of a Western Saloon and the performance was the best I think of the four for this cruise. Afterwards members of the cast were located at the exits to greet the customers. Then it was time for bed; tomorrow we will be arriving in Victoria at 1 pm. Our Great Alaskan Explorer Cruise is near its end! ~~~Day 14 – Victoria, Canada~~~ Our last day of cruising between Sitka and the last port of call, Victoria, Canada, has been unbelievably smooth! With absolutely clear blue skies the weather has been remarkably good and it is a pleasure looking out of my stateroom window at the passing calm seas. Arrival at Victoria today was not until 1 pm and I was concerned that the long line of passengers disembarking might delay my meeting my tour at 1:50 pm for a 2 pm departure to the Butchart Gardens and the Butterfly Garden. So I guessed where on the ship that disembarkation would most probably take place, on Deck A, forward, and went down to Deck 1 from which stairs lead down to Deck A shortly before 1 pm. I was right, of course, although the door down to Deck A was not yet open, so I waited. Soon other early-bird passengers began showing up with the same intention as mine, until there was a crowd gathered awaiting our docking and the placement of the gangway. Due to the tide level at Ogden Point Dock in Victoria, there was a delay placing the correct gangway to the ship but soon it was done and we were permitted to depart the ship. Walking down the lengthy distance down the pier to the visitor’s center, it was evident that the day would be warm with temperatures in the 70s. Finding the departure area for shore excursions with the assistance of a ship’s crew, I was one of the first on our bus to the Butchart Gardens. The coolness of the bus was welcome to me, dressed in my one and only short-sleeve shirt, an unanticipated good move with my packing that generally included only cold weather clothes. There were several other tours that also included the Butchart Gardens but the one I had chosen also included a visit to the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. Our first stop after traveling from Ogden Point Dock through the center of Victoria and out through the suburbs was to the Butterfly Gardens where were given 45 minutes to enjoy this climate controlled enclosure of a tropical paradise where butterflies flew freely amid the lush vegetation. Also present were exotic birds including parrots and flamingos right at home around a pool filled with beautiful koi fish. Two large iguanas were also in residence, the larger one high in the trees and the smaller one down where it could be petted. Turtles had their special enclosure, and the entire setting was warm and moist, just like the tropical environment it replicated. A wonderful experience to say the least! The guide was an older gentleman, well versed in absolutely everything of importance and interest concerning Victoria, its history, culture and life. His narration continued non-stop throughout our time on the bus and his stories of different local personalities were uniquely interesting. The next stop was the nearby Butchart Gardens where we were allowed over an hour and a half. Entering at the Waterwheel Plaza, we were advised to first visit the Sunken Gardens, the highlight. I took the steps down to the bottom level where the path was surrounded by beautiful flowers in full bloom, and the centerpiece pool with its fountain of dancing waters. Breathtaking! A curving path lead the way up out of the Sunken Gardens and my next stop was at a snack stand next to the carrousel where I enjoyed a lemonade. Next was on into the Rose Garden, filled with thousands of stunning beds of numerous varieties of roses in full bloom; the aroma was intoxicating! Having visited the Japanese Gardens on a previous visit, I chose not to repeat this attraction, due to limited time given to us. Instead I stopped at the Blue Poppy Restaurant, on the way back towards the entrance, for a glass of wine - of course! Back on the bus with only a few minutes to spare until our departure, the coolness and comfort of my seat was a welcome relief from the extensive walk through the Gardens. On the way back to the ship we were again treated to stories from our knowledgeable guide about the original construction of the British Columbia Parliament Building as well as the Empress Hotel, designed by a non-architect (as it turned out), Francis Rattenbury, whose personal life was quite scandalous. Our guide knew all of the raunchy details! Our return to the ms Zaandam was right at 6 pm, giving me only a short rest before dressing for dinner at 7:45 pm. We would not be leaving Victoria until 11 pm, the distance to our final destination of Seattle not being very long, but I had to pack my luggage to be placed in the hallway before midnight. A free option was given, “Port Valet”, in which one’s airline check in was performed in conjunction with the airline by the ship’s crew, including tagging and transfer of luggage to the airport, which I accepted - new to me. The day before our last we were given a Disembarkation Package including our airline-boarding pass with seat assignment and airline luggage tag to put on luggage to be placed in the hallway before midnight. The next time we would see our luggage was on arrival at one’s destination airport. Luggage charges were added to our shipboard account, mine $25 to Alaska Airlines. At first somewhat skeptical, I was pleased with the result; everything went exactly according to plan! At 11:30 pm I was all packed with my luggage placed outside my stateroom door, so it was only left to go to bed for the final night aboard the ms Zaandam. ~~~Day 15 – Seattle~~~ As mentioned before, the distance between Victoria and Seattle is not that far, so our remaining cruise before disembarkation in Seattle took only a few hours, arriving right on schedule at Pier 91 at 7 am. Since my departure from the ship was to be at 8 am, there was little time for any breakfast, certainly not my usual in-cabin ham and cheddar omelet! My flight back to Orange County from Seattle on Alaska Airlines was not until 4:50 pm, so I had chosen a shore excursion, ”Best of Seattle”, which left the ship at 8:30 am, lasting until 12:30 pm, ending with transfer to the Sea-Tac Airport. Included were to be a visit to the Space Needle as well as one to Pike’s Place Market, as well as a tour around other sights of interest in downtown such as the two huge sports stadiums and Pioneer Plaza. About a quarter till 8 am I left my stateroom #2565 for the last time and went to Deck 5 where I encountered a huge crowd awaiting the beginning of our disembarkation, delayed for some reason until well after 8 am. After asking a crewmember about meeting my shore excursion that was scheduled to leave at 8:30 am, I was told to go ahead and join the exiting passengers, which had already begun. Without any luggage to worry about I quickly passed through passport control and was outside the terminal and in my tour bus by 8:30 am, ready to go. Unfortunately, there were passengers not as prompt as myself so our departure was delayed until almost 9 am; in fact, the bus had to return to its parking space to collect the final two passengers! THEN we were on our way, first stop - the Space Needle. Of course, the late start didn’t concern me since my flight wasn’t until 4:50 pm and the later we finished the tour and got to the airport, the better - less waiting time there. Parking on a street next to the Seattle Science Park in which the Space Needle is located, our bus let us out with instructions to be picked up there after an hour and a half, and we all walked up towards the entrance only to find out that it was not yet open! Back on the bus, our driver/guide, Lisa, was told by phone that the Needle wouldn’t be open for another hour or so. Lisa then decided that we would tour downtown Seattle and go to the Pike’s Place Market. However, there were two ladies that hadn’t returned to the bus so after our tour of downtown Seattle, we had to return back to the parking place near the Needle where they were found, waiting. The Space Needle still had not opened! THEN we were off to Pike’s Place where we were given an hour and forty-five minutes to tour the Market and choose among the many eating establishments for lunch. A short walk from where we were let off the bus, we arrived at this large complex on several levels hosted a myriad of shops selling any and everything, as well as many restaurants. The famous fish market is here where the fishermen toss the fish back and forth to each other. Fun to watch! The Place was SO crowded one could hardly walk and I quickly tired of all the people, so I chose one of the restaurants, Lowell’s, where I just ordered breakfast, “Joe’s Egg and Sausage Scramble”, with coffee, for $20! Not cheap, here! It was a huge dish, however, loaded with sausage and mushrooms as well as spinach, with a side of hash brown potatoes. I found an open table near a window overlooking Seattle’s Harbor and thoroughly enjoyed my very large breakfast and wonderful coffee. Then it was time to fight my way back through the crowds towards where our bus pickup would occur. I had changed levels at one point so I wasn’t exactly sure where that would be, but my instincts were correct and I was soon back to the required spot with only a few minutes to spare before our bus arrived and collected us - all of us, this time! Next we were finally informed that the Space Needle had opened so, back to the parking space to which we had now been twice! While those of us with flights after 3 pm were allowed an hour and a half at the Needle, Lisa took those with earlier flights to the airport so they would not miss their flights. She would be back for us later. Approaching the entrance to the Space Needle is confusing to say the least; the possibilities are complicated by the fact that all sides of the circular base are available for entrance. Once this was figured out, we were directed to a waiting line which wound around and up inside the structure, finally arriving at yet another waiting line for entrance to one of the several elevators to the visitor level, a speedy ride of 49 seconds. The view is incredible, especially on such a bright sunny day! The Needle is undergoing renovations, the first in over 60 years - not quite complete, and it was not possible to walk all the way around the visitor level. New thick glass panels now form the walls of the visitor level with thick glass benches scattered around. It was possible to get a great view of downtown Seattle and of the Harbor, but I could not see Mount Rainier - possibly on the inaccessible side. I found a bar where I purchased a Sauvignon Blanc wine - for $10. Couldn’t be atop the Space Needle without having a glass of wine! So I continued to view while I sipped! Then it was back in a long line awaiting an elevator down. If Seattle is this busy on a Monday, I can’t imagine how crowded it must be on a weekend! Shortly we were ushered into a downward elevator, about a dozen at a time, and soon returned to a level requiring two long stairways to get back on ground level. It had been quite warm on top and it was a relief to return to the bus pickup area and sit down on a bench in the shade of a tree. Lisa and her bus arrived right on schedule and, with the remainder of us back aboard, comfortable in the coolness and soft seats, it was finally time to depart to the airport. Our travel time would be about 30 minutes, arriving at about 2 pm; the lateness of our start and the confusion of opening time for the Needle had reduced our wait time at the airport about an hour and a half. It had been a good day despite the complications. Arrival at the Sea-Tac Airport was in the bus loading zone, a short walk into the parking structure, an elevator ride to level 4, and another walk across the pedestrian bridge into the terminal, and then an escalator ride down to departure level. Since we were already checked in, there was only the security checkpoint to face. Having a TSA Pre-check on my boarding pass, the trip through security was rather routine with only my carry-on to be X-rayed; no need to unpackage my laptop or remove shoes. Then it was down two levels to the train to transfer to the N Gates in the North Terminal; mine was Gate N4, contrary to the N3 printed on my boarding pass. Finding my gate and a place to sit, I finally relaxed and worked on my iPad while waiting the remaining hour until aircraft loading at 4:10 pm; free Wi-Fi was available in Sea-Tac Airport so I did some updating and played a few games of Solitaire. When pre-loading was called, without hesitation I went forward as a person needing additional time; being 80 has its advantages! My Premium Economy seat 8C was quickly found and I was somewhat amazed at how quickly and methodically the plane loaded to its full capacity; we were fully loaded by 4:40 pm. Of course, there were a few stragglers but several minutes early, the door was closed and we were off to Orange County. The two hour, 10 minute flight was a little bumpy to start but eventually smoothed out for an enjoyable trip, further enhanced by a couple glasses of white wine - complimentary for Premium Economy. The arrival at John Wayne Airport was right on schedule at 7:08 pm and, being near the front of the plane, I was soon off and on my way to baggage claim, with a side trip to the bathroom. It was a short wait until luggage began appearing on the carrousel and I was really nervous whether my luggage had made the trip from outside my stateroom door and onto the aircraft safely. It HAD, as mine was soon making the round on the carrousel, and retrieved with a struggle - it was heavy! Then out of the terminal, across the street and on to the SuperShuttle dispatcher I went, dragging my luggage. The dispatcher only needed my name to identify me as a paid passenger and he said there would be about a 5-minute wait for my van to arrive. As it turned out, I was put on an ExpressCar van, part of SuperShuttle and ExecuCar, and my ride home was direct with only me as a customer. Upon arrival, my driver even rolled my heavy luggage up the driveway; he received a good tip from me! So, home at last! It has been a wonderful trip but it is good to be home! ~Ron Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2018
We cruise several times a year and this was my first time on Holland America. I was told this line catered to a decidedly older age group and was a quieter ship than say a Carnival cruise. We bid to upgrade from our midship inside ... Read More
We cruise several times a year and this was my first time on Holland America. I was told this line catered to a decidedly older age group and was a quieter ship than say a Carnival cruise. We bid to upgrade from our midship inside stateroom, which we typically book because we like the dark for sleep and stable midship inside cabins, to a room with a window due to us cruising Alaska. Embarkation went smoothly as we always choose a late time, so we were able to go directly to our stateroom to drop off our carry on bags. The cabin "upgrade" was room 3300 located at the very front of the ship and had a partially obstructed view. There is definitely more movement being at the front of the ship, but we have our sea-legs and do not get motion sick. However, shortly into our cruise the room flooded due to a broken pipe and Holland America refused to move us to another cabin claiming the ship was full. We had two days of a very loud industrial fan running in our cabin and were unable to use the cabin except to shut the fan off at night to sleep. The humidity in the cabin was awful and sleeping was difficult. Beyond the obvious frustration of the large and loud fan, the cabin was just inside the door in the hall leading out to the deck, so there were people constantly going in and out the door which is steel and quite loud. All day people were coming and going just outside the window. Our destinations and itinerary were fine and we enjoyed seeing Alaska and Canada. If I had it to do over, I would have told my husband not to upgrade. We are about to set sail for a full month of cruising across the Atlantic and up the coast of Norway to the arctic circle for the summer solstice. We did not book Holland America for either leg of our journey and we have returned to our tried and true inside cabin midship. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
Great trip. 14 days soooo much better than the 7 due to ability to really settle in and be cozy. The 7 day was great, mind you, but this 14 day itinerary had so much more. We want to do it again. Service staff is consistently wonderful, ... Read More
Great trip. 14 days soooo much better than the 7 due to ability to really settle in and be cozy. The 7 day was great, mind you, but this 14 day itinerary had so much more. We want to do it again. Service staff is consistently wonderful, kind, heartful. Love the public rooms except for bad music choices in Crows Nest. Food on Lido excellent as usual. Lots of choices, usually tasty, and fresh. There were little things we would like to see improved such as the music choices in public areas and the one smoking area on back deck leaves smoke drifting across the whole back deck when the wind blows it...unfortunate as the back deck is one of our favorite places! Wi-fi is extra cost, which is a bother, but able to hit free wi-fi spots in ports. This itinerary was just super, and we had outstanding weather all but Ketchikan where rain is the norm. Homer, Sitka, Kodiak, Icy Strait Point were all great fun and beauty. We did Endicott Arm instead of Tracy Arm due to ice. Endicott was fabulous. Hubbard was amazing! Active calving was a real treat. If you use the Port Valet service reprint your boarding passes at the airport before TSA. One of ours would not scan and we had to go back. Amazing trip. Love HAL and this size ship. Zaandam and Volendam are super. Shuttle to and from airport is nice, though the departure shuttle ran an hour later than schedule which made for some nervousness. Shore excursions can be planned independently for less cost. We found public transportation and walking quite useful at various ports. Did a trip with Chugach Adventures from Anchorage and it was superb....train, wildlife center, Spencer Glacier, river float...about 11-12 hour day of greatness. Did a water taxi and hike to Grewingk Glacier from Homer...excellent! Walked to Raptor Center and Totem park in Sitka, plus public bus available to the Fortress of the Bears. SUPER. Hikes in Juneau on Mt Roberts were terrific and only cost the tram fare. Mendenhall is a great hike after shuttle also and can transport to the glacier can be arranged after you step off the ship (about $30RT). Ketchikan has a free bus which goes to Totem Heritage Center and other spots in town. You can walk to the Discovery center..,well worth a visit to both. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2018
Great itinerary...fantastic staff. The workers were fantastic, they worked so hard to please. It seemed to me, though, Holland America has cut back on the number of waiters and bus boys as we experienced long delays in the dining room. ... Read More
Great itinerary...fantastic staff. The workers were fantastic, they worked so hard to please. It seemed to me, though, Holland America has cut back on the number of waiters and bus boys as we experienced long delays in the dining room. Again, I stress, this was of no fault of the servers, I think there were just not enough of them to go around, some handling 4 or 5 tables of 6 plus people. I also think there were not enough cabin stewards as our steward had a whole hallway..that is a lot of cabins! Food was good, and plenty of it, portion sizes were big. Lido Deck buffet stayed crowded and it was hard to find a table to sit at during peak times. Embarkation and disembarkation were smooth as silk as were disembarkation in ports. We did not have to tender at all. Entertainment was good and there was a good variety. There were not a lot of activities happening on the ship during the day,although, I guess I should clarify that statement. I have been on numerous Holland American cruises and they all have the computer classes, test kitchen and encounter talks. They were there but I had done a lot of them already on other ships and wasn't interested in doing them again. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
I booked this cruise through a local travel agent. All the connections went smoothly to and from the ship. Our staterooms were cozy and cleaned daily by friendly staff. There were many places to eat onboard and the early dining was the ... Read More
I booked this cruise through a local travel agent. All the connections went smoothly to and from the ship. Our staterooms were cozy and cleaned daily by friendly staff. There were many places to eat onboard and the early dining was the best! We enjoyed all the excursions and the staff made sure we all found our activities after the ship docked. Had a terrific 2 week cruise we’ll never forget!! We also had a person using a walker and the handicapped room proved spacious enough to store it. The hot tubs and pools were very much enjoyed. Very clean and provided many towels. We also enjoyed the many ports with free shuttles to and from the activities right from the pier. While we were enjoying the glaciers the captain spent at least an hour at the scene so we could take many pictures and enjoy the wildlife while he turned the boat around. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We choose this itinerary because of all the different ports it hit and we weren't disappointed. We got up close and personal with a couple glaciers and that was exciting. The captain always pointed out if there were whales nearby ... Read More
We choose this itinerary because of all the different ports it hit and we weren't disappointed. We got up close and personal with a couple glaciers and that was exciting. The captain always pointed out if there were whales nearby too which was really nice.The stops were interesting places and the crew on board was, as always, fantastic!! The food was good, not fantastic, but good. Their ice cream selection at dinner was great but the ice cream station in the lido was disappointing. They had vanilla, chocolate and strawberry everyday and then one other flavor which was never very exciting (rum raisin a couple days - I mean how many people do you know that like rum raisin??). Their salad bar was great! The trio in the Ocean Bar was great, as was the pianist that played there for happy hour. The shows were okay but not great and last but not least I do love to go to the movie theater and see a movie but whoever built it didn't think it out very well and there is not enough slope to see over peoples heads which is just annoying! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2018
We chose this cruise because of it's itinerary. Wasn't disappointed with what we saw. Weather wasn't the greatest but scenery still great. Service from all on the ship was very good. Crew was very friendly and we felt ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of it's itinerary. Wasn't disappointed with what we saw. Weather wasn't the greatest but scenery still great. Service from all on the ship was very good. Crew was very friendly and we felt appreciated. Room was like most balcony cabins but with lots of storage. Bathroom wasn't that great. Shower in a small tub area sufficient flow of of water but slow. Captain kept us well informed and did not disappoint in Tracy Arm or Hubbard for glacier viewing. Embarkation and disembarkation from Seattle was a breeze but beware of Seattle airport, horrible. Food menus had a wide variety and for the most part, was very good. Specialty restaurants were excellent but the main dining room wasn't far behind. TV system needs an upgrade for picture quality and on demand movies. We bought an unlimited internet package for the 14 day cruise for $239.00 and felt it was sufficient. We had the middle package for surfing and speeds were like DSL's first offerings. Not good for streaming at all. We feel this cruise was a great value and would highly recommend it. Don't be put off by the atrium monstrosity as it's the only bad thing on the ship. Someone at Holland America was hopefully fired for this HUGE mistake. Crew and the rest of what the ship offers will more than make up for this. Fellow passengers were a bit disappointing as most were 70 to 80 years of age and a lot of them with walkers of wheelchairs. Some younger than us (we are 60's) but not many. The advantage to this was that as the cruise went on we had lots of room to move around. I believe most stayed in their stateroom. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
The Grand Alaskan appealed to me as I had plenty of time and was in hurry to get home. The itinerary was brilliant, loved it, all the ports and glaciers. The ship is beautiful, food and service terrific, The entertainment well ... Read More
The Grand Alaskan appealed to me as I had plenty of time and was in hurry to get home. The itinerary was brilliant, loved it, all the ports and glaciers. The ship is beautiful, food and service terrific, The entertainment well that's another story, if you like a bit of nightlife Holland America is not for you, there is no disco, karioki, no band. All the bars were closed by midnight. I reckon the average age was about eighty, navigating around walking frames, mobility scooters and wheelchairs was a challenge. I felt like i was on a floating nursing home. Holland America is second to Cunard. Never Again, Holland America. The ultimate drinks package is not ultimate, they limit you to fifteen drinks per day, which is not a lot on a ship with nothing to do and then they slug you. If you like a drink a laugh and stay up late, Stay away from Holland America Read Less
Sail Date: May 2018
2018 Alaska Cruise Log May 19 Saturday- We flew out of Green Bay to Seattle, with a layover in Minneapolis. No delays. We arrived in Seattle on schedule and so did our luggage. A quick call on the courtesy phone and the shuttle was here ... Read More
2018 Alaska Cruise Log May 19 Saturday- We flew out of Green Bay to Seattle, with a layover in Minneapolis. No delays. We arrived in Seattle on schedule and so did our luggage. A quick call on the courtesy phone and the shuttle was here to take us to La Quinta, our preferred motel. Nice room with a view of pine trees. May 21 Monday- To the ship! Starting our 14 day cruise on HAL Zaandam, round trip to Alaska. We had a 1:00 embarkation time, but the car to take us to the pier arrived early, so we were at the port by 11:45, all checked in by 12:15 and in our cabin by 12:30 (They weren’t supposed to be ready until 1:00. Outstanding! Weather, sunny and in the 70s. May 22 Tuesday- Sea day. Chance to explore the ship. Mostly cloudy in the 50s. First glitch. We went for the breakfast buffet. Food looked good. The way they serve it is not. Generally with a buffet, you take a plate, stand in line and select your food when you get to it. Here they have serving stations. One person want scrambled eggs and bacon, you need to be there at just the right time, because quantities are limited. Choppy seas this morning. Gala Event tonight. We have Open Seating and were placed with two really nice couples. It is fun to meet new people and learn about their cruising experiences. The performer tonight was a guitarist, who was excellent. His parents bought him a Les Paul guitar when he was 11, for winning a guitar competition. May 23 Wednesday- Ketchikan. They get over 200” of rain a year and it was raining when we pulled in to port. Temperature in the 40s. It stopped raining and cleared up somewhat by the time the passengers could go ashore. May 24 Thursday- Sea day today as we head into Endicott Arm. Temps in the low 40s and not likely to get any warmer as we head to the glacier. We have eaten most of our meals in the buffet, so far, which means usually being seated next to other passengers. I continue to be impressed with the friendliness of the people we have met. We went to see the magician tonight. Very entertaining. He didn’t bring his A game, but he seemed to be going more for the comedy. We were in the balcony seating for the guitarist and the way they have the seats laid out is really neat. Seatings for two even though they are all together. The lower seating, where we sat for the magician, is much smaller and more like you expect in terms of seating. May 25 Friday- Gloomy morning in the 40s here in Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Beautiful city, with lots to do. This is a good thing, since we are here from 8 am to 10 pm. One thing it looks like we will not be doing, unless it clears up, is the tram. It takes you to the top of the mountain where you have a really nice view of the surrounding area. We have done that previously. Another activity that is well worth the trip, is the Mendenhall Glacier, which is about 14 miles away. We have done that previously, both times we were here. There is also whale watching and this is a great time of year to see them as they eat as to get ready for their trip to Hawaii. We were told, on an earlier excursion that they do not eat on the way. What we do plan on doing today is going to the State Office Building to see the 77 year old Kimball Pipe Organ. There is a free concert at Noon on Fridays. May 26 Saturday- I would tell you what the weather is like, but if you have been reading the updates, you already know. Add wind to the rain and cold. Still, we found out it is in the 80s and 90s back home and this is preferable. Today we are at Icy Point Straight, Hoonah, AK. This is a new port for us, so we can learn about it together.. It is mostly woods, like we have back home. Pretty quick day in port as we sailed at 2:00. About 4 hours out we passed a yet to be identified glacier and there was enough sun to get a picture. Shortly thereafter- rain mixed with snow! The Captain warned us of rough seas and he sure was right. BTW, the ship has 12 elevators, 4 each aft, mid and forward and they seem to be fairly quick. May 27 Sunday- At Sea Day today. Temps in the 40s, now there’s a surprise. The sea is fairly calm and the clouds show signs of breaking up. On our way to Anchorage, which will be the midway point in our cruise. Pretty day today. Even have some sun. Okay, here goes my one and only RANT (hopefully). We have been on 23 cruises. Not a lot, by many standards, but enough to know what to expect from the wait staff. We like Anytime Dining. It has a lot of advantages. We almost always are able to make reservations and sit in a desired area, and the service has almost always been very good or better. The service in the MDR, for this cruise has been far short of what we have come to expect. It is like we are treated as second class citizens compared to assigned seating. We have had 3 different wait staffs in the MDR and all have been the same. I mentioned earlier that staffing might be a problem, and this could be, but they don’t even do basic things like clear the crumbs off the table cloth or fill your water glass without being asked. And the service is much slower even than the leisurely pace you expect. The band went around playing to the assigned seating guests, but never came to our dining room. In contrast to this, the wine stewards have been terrific! If we had the same one throughout, he would be getting an additional tip. We like tipping extra and it is rare that the wait staff and a bartender or two do not get an extra tip. Not yet on this cruise. It has been a very good cruise so far, so don’t let the rant get to you. It turned out to be a beautiful day today and we are getting lovely views of the snowcapped mountains. We have one excursion tomorrow, The Big Swig! Limited to 12 people and they still have 5 spots available. May 28 Monday- We have broken a pattern. The sun is out and temps are in the 50s. Our plan is to go into town this morning to do a little shopping and then do the Big Swig excursion this afternoon. The area is secured, so the only way off the pier is the free shuttle. The Big Swig was quite a tour. We toured 3 breweries, The King Street Brewery, Land Of The Midnight Sun Brewery and Resolution. At King Street, we got a lengthy explanation of the different hops and barleys they use and why. They also explained why certain regions use certain grains. It is because of the mineral content of the water in those regions. Of course, while he is talking, we get to be drinking. Midnight Sun is the 2nd largest craft brewer in the state and Resolution one of the smallest. If you appreciate beer, you should appreciate this tour. It is a privately owned company. Just one guy and a part time employee. When we got back to the ship, we went to see comedian Mark Pitta. Very funny and clean. May 29 Tuesday- Mostly cloudy, windy and in the 40s today. We are in Homer and will be doing the Best Of The Bay boat tour. There is a free shuttle to take us to the other side of the Spit, where all of the shopping is, but to actually go into Homer costs $15. The Best Of The Bay tour is rated more difficult because it is a pretty long walk to the boat and a fairly steep ramp to get to the dock. What we saw was lots of sea otters and puffins close up We also saw several Eagles and even mountain goats. There were also birds that looked a lot like penguins, but were able to fly. Very nice tour. The weather made a turn for the worse as we got back, so the afternoon tour probably won’t have it so comfortable. May 31 Thursday- I forgot to tell you yesterday about the eagles on Kodiak. They were everywhere! Today we are doing Hubbard Glacier, the largest tide water glacier in North America. It is in the 40s and will be getting colder as we approach the glacier, but the sun is reflecting off the water, so I have high hopes. This, boys and girls, is worth the price of the ticket. Cold and windy to start the day. The sky is mostly sunny and the scenery is beautiful, so just throw on an extra layer and go sit out on the balcony. O. June 1 Friday We are in Sitka today until 4:00. Docked right next to the NCL Jewel. Temp is 49 degrees, with a high of 56 expected. June 2 Saturday- Sea Day. June 4 Monday- Disembark. Disembarking and Customs was a breeze. We stayed in the stateroom until our tag color was called and had no trouble leaving the ship and getting our luggage. A taxi was right there to take us to the hotel. We had checked in online yesterday and they had a room ready. Perfect view of the Space Needle! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
I cruise withy my elderly father. We originally wanted to do the May 21 - Jun 4 14 day cruise on the Zaandam but I have two nephews graduating from High School on May 31st, so we opted for the May 7 -21. We took super shuttle to SFO. ... Read More
I cruise withy my elderly father. We originally wanted to do the May 21 - Jun 4 14 day cruise on the Zaandam but I have two nephews graduating from High School on May 31st, so we opted for the May 7 -21. We took super shuttle to SFO. We were really sweating it and worried we were going to miss our flight to SEATAC. Supper Shuttle usually gives you a three hour time frame for pick-up prior to flight departure. This time we were only given two hours prior to pick-up. The shuttle was an hour late. We got to the airport 1/2 hour prior to departure. Fortunately we got our bags checked in and was able to proceed through Security. Fortunately we were Pre-TSA and our flight was the first gate after security. We made it through Security 5 minutes prior to boarding. Enough time for my dad to get his rolling walker checked at the gate. Had a great flight to Seatac. We arrived at Seatac collected our luggage, then proceeded to the Hotel courtesy Shuttles. It appeared very quiet and it turned out that there was a bomb scare and they were not allowing any vehicles in and out of the airport. We were staying at the Embassy Suites Seatac. I called the hotel to just let them know that I had arrived. They asked for my phone number to give me an update when they had one, when vehicles would be allowed in to the airport. We sat for about 45 minutes then suddenly saw taxi cabs entering and the first courtesy shuttle to show up was from the Embassy Suites. At that time I received a phone call from Embassy Suites and I told the gal the driver just showed up. It was a very interesting ride out of the airport, people were walking out of the airport to catch cabs and traffic was horrible. There were people that had just got out of their shuttles, cab, Uber, etc to catch their outbound flight out of Seatac. Our driver took through all the back roads and we arrived at the Embassy Suites safe and sound. This is a small Embassy Suites and we got a great AAA rate. The next morning our Seattle Express Shuttle arrived at 10:30 for our ride to Pier 91. We stopped by the Double Tree and Red Roof Inn for pick up then we were on our way to Pier 91. We arrived at about 11:30, dropped our luggage off, took the elevator to the 2nd floor. My father uses a rolling walker so we were allowed to check in, in the Accessibility Line. Check in took about 15 minutes and we were on the ship. My father has balancing issues so I usually request a shower stool. This time our PCC placed us in an ambulatory assessible Cabin. This was cabin 3391 on the lower promenade deck. This was a shower with a pull out seat and grab bars throughout the shower. My Dad had a place to park his walker but there is not anyway you reall could park a scooter or get around this cabin in a wheel chair. The Zaandam recently came out of dry dock. In our cabin it appeared things had not been updated with exception of the grab bars in the shower. I heard from a fellow cruiser that had requested a shower stool for her cabin but was told with new regulations they would not allow shower seats in tubs/shower combination cabins only cabins with showers only. I have not verified if this is fleet wide. The Elevators seemed to have been upgraded and new carpeting in Public Areas. I had a great time on this cruise, I found activities lacking on the ship. On this Paticular Cruise it did not matter so much because we really only had two real sea days and two days glacier viewing. The entertainment was so, so. Food is always subjective. I found the food to be good to very good. We ate all our dinners in the MDR. Service was slow in the dinning room. One night it took about 45 minutes to an hour between appetizers for the main entree to come then 15 minutes to get the dessert menu and another 15 minutes to order. There seemed to be some kind of disconnect between the wait staff and kitchen. We were in open seating and I don’t know if this would happen in fixed seating. I found the menu lacking, there would be some nights I would order the dinner salad as my appetizer and another entree for dinner. For me I found there was more variety for soup and less for salads. For a $25.00 fee you could order an Alaskan Crab dinner that included Alaskan King Crab Legs, crab bisque, drawn butter for crab legs, crab cakes, and there might have been some kind of bread. I don’t care for crab bisque. I did see a dinner delivered at a table and it looked like enough for two people. I talked to two people had purchased this and they really enjoyed it. One fellow cruiser who ordered the dinner said he called Tracy’s Crab Shack to see how much it was for the same thing and he was quoted $100.00 For me I found there was more variety for soup and less for salads. Ketchikan I booked an excursion on an enclosed Caterman. It was raining in Ketchikan, which is usual. The water was calm out to Misty Fjords. The View was awesome even though it was overcast. It was a great excursion. Endicott Glacier We were suppose to go to Tracy Arm but there was still too much ice to get to it, so we went to Endicott instead. It was great, we saw sea lions and baby sea lions on the ice. Juneau This is my 4th trip to Alaska so I have been to Mendenhall glacier twice, done whale watching, been to Mt Roberts. So Juneau was my shopping port. In Juneau I set out to do any shopping, since Juneau is the best shopping. After some window shopping and real shopping, I went to Tracy’s crab shack for lunch. Back to the ship. My father asked if I could go buy him a jacket, so I went out again. Stopped by the Red dog Saloon and stayed for a couple of hours then went out to continue my shopping. Icy Strait Point Here I booked a whale watching Excursion on an enclosed caterman. It was originally scheduled for 8:00 AM but was rescheduled to 11:00AM. Anchorage I had originally planned to go to the Alaskan Native Center and the Museum but got sick in the middle of the night and needed to take it easy in Anchorage, Homer and Kodak. Hubbard Glacier Awesome! Sitka I originally set out to go to the Sheldon Jackson Museum. On my way there I found a thrift store. I was curious as to what they had there. They also except donations. So if your luggage is in overload you can drop them off here. I started down the street and found some really neat stores with Alaska made products, Quilting Stores, Russian Items, These stores were really interesting. Never made it to the Sheldon Jackson Museum. I have done the Raptor Center and Fortress of the Bears before. They now have a shuttle bus that goes to both at the visitors center. I did not check out the price. Victoria Took the shuttle bus into town got off at the Empress Hotel. Walked around the Gardens at the Empress Hotel. The Empress Hotel is also kitty korner to the Royal BC Museaum. Right now they have an exhibit “Egypt and Phorahs” May 18-Dec 31. I will be back in Victoria the end of September so will check it out then In front of the Empress Hotel they have a hop on hop off bus that takes about 90 minutes. If you want to get off, you will need to allow an hour before the next hop on hop off bus comes around. I took this tour for $32.53 US or $40.00 Canadian. Seattle - Disembarktion About a week in the cruise, we received a Port Valet Form. If you are on Alaska, Delta, Southwest, or United (Domestic Only). You can participate in the Port Valet System at no extra cost if your flight leaves between 1:00 PM the day of disembarktion til 1:00 AM the following morning. Your luggage is taken away the night before disembarktion and you don’t see it til your final destination. They check you in for your flight, give you a boarding pass, with luggage tags to the Seattle airport. Once your luggage is at the airport they will give your luggage tags to your destination airport. If you are exempt from paying for luggage you fill out your FF number. We were not charged for our luggage, got our boarding pass and the luggage arrived at our final destination. I did have a great time on this cruise because I love Alaska. However there seemed to be some kind of disconnect between the staff. It could be that the staff had just joined the ship after drydock and they are working on meshing together, Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
This was our third Alaskan cruise, and definitely the most uneven experience. Pros: Smaller ship Great itinerary Excellent service in the Lido and from housekeeping staff Naturalist onboard Alaskan scenery Cons: ... Read More
This was our third Alaskan cruise, and definitely the most uneven experience. Pros: Smaller ship Great itinerary Excellent service in the Lido and from housekeeping staff Naturalist onboard Alaskan scenery Cons: Horrible cabin Extremely poor service from front desk Problem with Shore Excursion Very expensive internet plans Let's start with the good: The Zaandam is a smaller ship which allows it to go to ports the bigger ships have to miss. That made for a great itinerary. The service in the Lido was excellent, the staff there really went above and beyond to make passengers happy. Our steward was also excellent, he made sure my husband's can of Coke (we brought a case onboard) was waiting for him in our room's ice bucket every afternoon. Talk about attention to detail! There was a naturalist onboard who was very informative. And of course, Alaskan scenery never disappoints! The bad: Our cabin was awful. We had continual noise problems all the way through the cruise. The first was from our neighbor in the cabin next to us (let's refer to them as NN for noisy neighbor). We've never experienced noise from another cabin like this. The TV or music was so loud that we could have sung along. After 11pm one night, we reported it, and the front desk called the room - no response - and eventually knocked on their door and told them to keep it down. Next night, same loud noise. This time the woman at the front desk refused to do anything. So that continued throughout the cruise. In addition, there were mechanical noises (sawing, drilling, and something that sounded like someone tossing metal tools against a metal wall - go figure!) at all hours of the day and night. Sleep became a near impossibility. Front desk response was "oh, if it's work on the ship it will stop at 5pm." It didn't. Front desk staff came to the room to verify the sounds (and the feel; the floor was vibrating because of whatever was going on), but didn't do anything to resolve the issue. The issue with Shore Excursions was in Kodiak, where the shuttle into the town was a 48 passenger bus. The problem was that there were probably 200+ passengers waiting in the rain and cold to get on that bus and no crowd control by the shore excursions staff. I saw two people nearly get into a fight since it wasn't clear what line to get into - indeed, it wasn't clear that there were any lines at all. And finally, HAL has changed the way they price internet. We used to be able to pay for minutes used on a per minute basis. No more. Now there is a 3 tier plan. If we wanted to be able to check our email, for example, that was on tier 2. $24.99 per day and you had to pay for each day of the cruise, not just the days you actually used it. $350 to check my email? No, thanks. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
Chose this cruise as part of our Uncommon Journeys trip and easy sailing out of San Diego. Like the small ship of 1400. Liked the entertainment brought onboard. Liked upgrade. However, meals were hit or miss! Thai lunch was great; ... Read More
Chose this cruise as part of our Uncommon Journeys trip and easy sailing out of San Diego. Like the small ship of 1400. Liked the entertainment brought onboard. Liked upgrade. However, meals were hit or miss! Thai lunch was great; lobster tails on Gala night were excellent; however, last meal on last night was inedible....lamb chops! Gluten free bread was horrible white bread they put in microwave when I asked for it toasted. Finally, on our disembarkation day we were all told we could stay in our room until they called out number/color. Staff asked to come into rooms at 7:00 and 8:00 am before we were called and it was kinda rude. Service is going downhill and so is food....getting too much like Carnival. Both we and another couple who have cruised many, many days and are 3-star mariners, do not think we will ever go HA again! Very sad! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2018
My first cruise!...And the first question asked by almost every other passenger we visited with was “How do you like cruising so far?” My honest answer each time was “What’s not to love?” ...Start every day with coffee delivered ... Read More
My first cruise!...And the first question asked by almost every other passenger we visited with was “How do you like cruising so far?” My honest answer each time was “What’s not to love?” ...Start every day with coffee delivered to your room; go up a couple of decks to find a huge selection of breakfast items; return to your room to find your bed made; check your newsletter for what you’d like to do today; stay onboard or disembark depending on where you are but at lunchtime onboard there is always a ton of food choices; enjoy a lecture or movie, go in the pool, spa, etc.; dinner is another huge selection of food options and venues, too; and after some entertainment and maybe a cocktail in one of the many lounges you return to your room to find a turned down bed with a mint on your pillow! “What’s not to love!?” Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
We've always wanted to do the Panama transit and Curacao has been on our bucket list for a very long time. Overall, the cruise was pretty good. The crew were amazing!!! The ship is a little smaller so we got to know a lot of our ... Read More
We've always wanted to do the Panama transit and Curacao has been on our bucket list for a very long time. Overall, the cruise was pretty good. The crew were amazing!!! The ship is a little smaller so we got to know a lot of our fellow passengers and it was easy to get around. We really enjoyed the Lido for the late night snacks opportunities. The food is always amazing on HAL but this cruise had WAY too much kale/Swiss chard. Every single meal had this greenery. Blecght! We realize the ship had just come out of dry dock so there were some issues, but the worst of it was the plumbing. Pipes were rupturing and MANY toilets were overflowing or plugged. We were lucky and only had one "plugged" moment towards the end of our trip. Our friends had to move cabins 3 times due to overflowing toilets, leaving sewage on their cabin floors. Another woman, with mobility issues, was told to use the toilets near the library as her cabin toilet wasn't working. Great idea except the toilets near the library were NOT working and overflowing water constantly. Overall we had a great time but the plumbing issues all over the ship were problematic. The entertainment in the theatre was terrible - lackluster, amateurish, repetitive. The crew shows were absolutely fantastic! The dancers and singers were horrible. We walked out of all shows. We really were hoping that we'd see more crew shows as they were truly great. Very talented!! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
Spouse wanted to transit Panama Canal and this cruise was the right time, ports and price. However we found out Zaandam was coming out of dry dock for this cruise from Cruise Critic, not HAL. It was not ready. Our cabin reeked of ... Read More
Spouse wanted to transit Panama Canal and this cruise was the right time, ports and price. However we found out Zaandam was coming out of dry dock for this cruise from Cruise Critic, not HAL. It was not ready. Our cabin reeked of construction adhesive for the while 23 days as the bathroom had been completely remodelled (looked great, smelled horrible but love the new shower which replaced the tub). The ventilation was hanging and the floor was covered with lumps of adhesive. A fine coating of dust covered the flat surfaces in the room, especially in the closets. Our toilet had issues of flushing fine and then overfilling, once flowing into the bathroom and flooding into the cabin. This seemed to be an issue in port. We became paranoid and would count to 5 once the flush took place to insure the overflow situation did not happen again so we could call immediately, although our phone did not always work. The service in the main dining room was at best uneven. We spent many evenings at a table for 6 at anytime dining waiting for the main course to be served. It did not appear to have enough staff in the dining room. Waiters seemed to have 6-8 tables to work on by themselves with no staff to assist. Food was uneven. My lobster on the first gala night was undercooked but rather than wait another half hour for a new one and delay my dining partners, I said it wasn’t cooked. The Lido Market food was also just okay. The fresh items, such as salads and Asian food, were fresh and flavourful as were the cooked veggies, but the other offerings were hit and miss. Trying to figure out hiw to get served was frustrating as lines were often confusing and non existent, if the server liked you or knew you, they would serve you, otherwise you could get told to go back to the end of what appeared to be an arbitrary line. At least a few times I had to go back to the meat line when all I wanted were sides. With no signage, it was confusing. The cruise director, who was moving to a new ship after this cruise was rarely present at the events we attended other than the beginning of the nightly shows. It wasn’t like many activities were ongoing during the day aside from an evening trivia which was emceed by the assistant cruise director as were most of the sports events. Cruise director seemed to loosen up toward the end of the cruise. The activities such as America’s test kitchen or nightly shows were okay, but once we reached San Diego started repeating for the last 6 days of the cruise. We had expected better. The singers and dancers were good but we had expected to see them more often. The galley tour and backstage tours were nice additions as we the coffee talks with members of the crew. The port talks were informative to a point but outside the venue, the person seemed somewhat disinterested in talking. No pool games aside from ‘swimming in the Panama Canal’. Celebrating Kings day was a disorganised mess at tea when many more people than expected showed up. I evnturally left. Shore excursions were as always overpriced with more time spent on the bus than at the activity. The where when which told the daily activities often had errors as did the online Navigator version for use on a cell phone. This free service allowed texting with others on the ship as well as access to the bill and NY Times for free. A nice try, but inaccuracies meant I often missed the start of activities. I really liked Curacao, (where we booked an independent tuk-tuk tour), Hualtuco (with a beach right off the ship and great snorkelling nearby), and Manzanilla, (with a great fresh produce/meat market within walking distance) best. We skipped Nicaragua due to political unrest which was fine. We did SAN Diego, SAN Francisco and Vancouver on our own and had a great time. The docks in these cities were close to local transportation. The gym was great with what appeared to be new equipment, except for mats. Pilates, yoga and cycling classes at $12 each were available but not for my pocketbook. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2018
Couldn’t ask for a better first time cruise! Ship is beautiful (a couple of issues from being right out of dry dock, though) and each and every crew member was helpful, friendly and willing to go above and beyond. The food was ... Read More
Couldn’t ask for a better first time cruise! Ship is beautiful (a couple of issues from being right out of dry dock, though) and each and every crew member was helpful, friendly and willing to go above and beyond. The food was dependably delicious with a large variety from which to choose. The one problem we had was there weren’t enough people working the buffet...this caused long waits for some of the stations. Sometimes it seemed we were getting nickel and dimed to death...bottled water isn’t that big a deal when you figure HAL could raise the cost of a cruise by $25 and hand out bottles of water as people leave for an excursion...not leaving a bad taste in passengers mouths. The entertainment was good mostly but the shows put on by the HAL group of entertainers was so amateurish we had to leave...we gave it a try the second time they were on and did the same thing. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
Our cruise was chosen for Itinerary which included Panama canal and reputation of HA for good food. However unknown to us the ship was due to go into dry dock at end of cruise. Presumably to cut time in dock and costs the crew were ... Read More
Our cruise was chosen for Itinerary which included Panama canal and reputation of HA for good food. However unknown to us the ship was due to go into dry dock at end of cruise. Presumably to cut time in dock and costs the crew were constantly carrying out noisy chipping / grinding of rusting paintwork, cutting / welding with debris falling down onto public areas. On one at sea day when I asked if they could possibly postpone this endless tapping until the next port call when most passengers would be on shore, i was offered ear plugs! Trailing power leads were in corridors and across doorways to decks, lifeboat launching equipment being serviced, lifeboat cradles hanging below head height on promenade deck. Health and Safety was very slack. The food in the main dining room was inconsistent, sometimes quite good more often just OK. One excellent steak, one almost without any flavour at all, portion sizes varied from tiny to too much on two adjacent plates, some plates with all the vegetables listed on the menu, some with only one, aspargus could be only just heated or overcooked to a limp mush. The Lido buffet must prepare too far in advance as much of the food is drying out. The top surface of smoked salmon often was crusted where it had sat for so long, A steak was utterly drained of any meat juices, grapefruit halves had a dull dry top surface from dehydration. If Celebrity, Princess, Cunard etc can all offer bigger, better, fresher buffets what is HA doing wrong on this boat? We have had enough cruises to know what one should expect and this was our first HA experience - and definitely our last. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We chose this two week cruise as it was visiting some places we had not been to before. From Chile north through the Panama Canal to Florida. We like the ship and the size; not too large. So assume everything is good except for the ... Read More
We chose this two week cruise as it was visiting some places we had not been to before. From Chile north through the Panama Canal to Florida. We like the ship and the size; not too large. So assume everything is good except for the following comments: The daytime 'entertainment was quite poor; no lectures ; no silly sports games; no competitions for table tennis or tennis or shuffleboard. The evening entertainment was mixed and the show team improved during the cruise, though the dancers often got in the way of the singers. Too many of these evening 'showstoppers' are the same on cruises. They need to see how Thomsons do it - they are the best. Food is supposed to be premium - not so. Only on special nights was it good. And why cannot the food be served on hot plates. Food gets cold quickly. Holland America say they are a premium line; I think their cost cutting is putting them on a par with all the other cruise lines and leaving a big gap between them and the luxury lines. Lastly I reckon that 50% of the guests had a chesty cough, and we all put that down to Holland America. The trouble is that HA/cruise lines will not do anything about that publicly on board for risk of being sued by the passengers. It's a big big problem. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
Embarkation: Check-in was very fast and the cabin was ready when we got on at 1:00. One suitcase came very fast, the other came later. Cabin: This was our first time in a Neptune suite and we liked it – lots of room, excellent ... Read More
Embarkation: Check-in was very fast and the cabin was ready when we got on at 1:00. One suitcase came very fast, the other came later. Cabin: This was our first time in a Neptune suite and we liked it – lots of room, excellent big balcony. Could not believe HAL is still using old technology TVs and DVD players, though – it’s well past time to upgrade to interactive TVs with on-demand movies. The lighting over the couch could have been better for reading. The cabin wasn’t particularly clean when we got on. The steward who greeted us said that his partner had left the ship that morning, so we thought maybe it was just the crew being overworked on turnaround day. However, the shelves in the bathroom stayed dirty, the floor stayed sticky, the prior occupant’s pills stayed under the sink, and the makeup stains stayed on the counter until I got sick of it and cleaned the place up myself after a couple days. We’re not really people who need to be waited on, so we didn’t use the concierge except to make dinner reservations and were amused when I went to the front desk one day and got scolded by the concierge for not giving her the chore. The concierges were really on the ball – they immediately knew our names and after we went to the lounge one morning to get a newspaper (there were never enough in the buffet), they had one delivered to our cabin every day for the rest of the cruise. The A/C in the cabin worked well, but the table on the balcony had seen better days. Kleenex in the cabin was low quality. The towel animals were excellent. The laundry lost a shirt. Shorex: Very well run. I loved that they didn’t give out stickers until the tour was called, which eliminated all the people who like to cut the line and go down to the bus early. Dining: Dining room service and food were excellent, although the food could have been hotter sometimes. Dive In grill had decent burgers and fries but the nearby Mexican buffet was never hot and the guacamole was runny. Breakfast in the buffet was very good. The omelet station was excellent on one side but so-so on the other side, where the cook seemed to rush things and they were undercooked. Breakfast in the dining room opened too late for us early risers. Not a fan of the thick crust pizza (HAL needs to get the Princess recipe!). Lunch options were very limited if you came back from a tour after 2:00. Pinnacle Grill was good but the volcano cake that I remembered as being so amazing was overcooked this time and had too much orange flavoring. We ate twice in Le Cirque, which was excellent. Shipwide, dishes that should have some flavor (like salsa and jerk chicken) were bland. I sometimes struggled to find something appealing on the buffet at lunch or dinner. The Asian station was excellent but the kitchen could never keep up – lines were long and they were frequently out of things. Desserts were good and there was always a good selection of ice cream. Thankfully, there are no Purell police on board this ship. There are dispensers and real sinks to use, but nobody treating you like you’re a child. Ship: The ship was for the most part fine but it was obvious in several ways that they had waited too long to send the ship to dry dock (the ship was going to dry dock at the end of our cruise). There was no diet Coke for the entire cruise, with conflicting excuses giving by different bars. There was water dripping through the ceiling in Explorer’s, a ladies room that had no functioning sinks for almost the entire cruise, and the A/C was terribly erratic, with some rooms too warm and some freezing cold. We didn’t find a lot of activities to go to on sea days (there were no movies or lectures during the day). Most of the activities were geared around trying to sell you something. An exception was watching Barbara’s talks in the Test Kitchen – excellent and entertaining. The seats in the Test Kitchen, however, are awful – too low to be comfortable and awful sight lines because the rows aren’t banked. Definitely go early if you go there to watch a movie. The movies were only in the evening and conflicted with dinner or the show. They don’t give out crossword puzzles anymore and the sudokus in the library were sporadic and poorly copied. We were very disappointed in HAL for not having a lecturer on this cruise, when we were seeing fascinating pre-Incan ruins in port after port and being exposed to lots of interesting pre-Colombian cultures. The Captain was pretty uncommunicative and didn’t seem to enjoy interacting with the passengers -- the noon reports were sporadic and very brief, no explanation was given for why we left San Antonio late, etc. The library was excellent. All of the crew that we interacted with were just terrific – always warm and friendly. I thought it was a nice touch that they served coffee, water, and pastries on deck during the Panama Canal transit. Entertainment: The Ocean Quartet was good. Barry from Boston is sort of an acquired taste but he was fun. The CD was good. Comedian Kevin DeVane was pretty good. Duo Yalba was excellent. Jordan Bennett (singer) had great voice but incredibly annoying habit of constantly begging for applause. Frozen Planet is a must-see – one of the best things I’ve seen on a ship. The production shows were very good but the dancers were not very synchronized. Tommy Proulx (sax player) was excellent. Alan Chamo (mentalist/hypnotist) was OK. . Ida was good but opera is not really to my taste. Jeff Burkhardt (comedian/impersonator) was OK. The orchestra played a couple of nights in one of the loungers with a singer (only on nights when they weren’t needed for the show) – don’t miss them, they are excellent Internet Access: Just assume there isn’t any. I’ve been on a lot of cruises on a lot of different ships and this was by far the worst internet at sea I’ve experienced. Constant errors so pages have to reload, incredibly slow, clock set wrong on computer so secure connection cannot be established but no one around with an administrator password who could have fixed it. Complete failure, don’t bother. Disembarkation: We did early walk-off with our own luggage, which was quick and easy. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We were on this cruise for the 14 day portion. After sailing many times with Celebrity, we did our first trip with Hal two years ago and enjoyed it. We decided to do this trip with Hal based on our previous experience on the Volendam. ... Read More
We were on this cruise for the 14 day portion. After sailing many times with Celebrity, we did our first trip with Hal two years ago and enjoyed it. We decided to do this trip with Hal based on our previous experience on the Volendam. Our cabin turned out to be under the galley and we were kept awake at night with constant noise. When we complained at 1:00am and then again at 4:00am the front desk offered ear plugs and a free dinner at the restaurant. The noise was like a construction zone above us and the front desk staff admitted that they had complaints in the past about the cabins where we were located, but that there was nothing they could do. After a few nights of this and after telling the front desk that we were going to take our bedding and sleep by the front desk, we were moved to another cabin. This cabin was quiet, but the toilet wouldn’t work and maintenance was dealing with it on a daily basis. The cabin tv had to be repaired and our safe replaced. The cruise director seemed bored with his job and added nothing to the cruise. No activities on the liddo deck whatsoever even on lovely sunny days. The ship lacked any vitality and I don’t know if I will sail with Hal again. Hal should disclose that cabins in the area we stayed have noise issues. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
Background and Hotel information We chose this cruise for various reasons, primarily to see Antarctia, a location that both my wife and I have always yearned to see, secondly, to experience the Chilean Fiords (Fjords). We had previously ... Read More
Background and Hotel information We chose this cruise for various reasons, primarily to see Antarctia, a location that both my wife and I have always yearned to see, secondly, to experience the Chilean Fiords (Fjords). We had previously toured in Peru and cruised up the coast of Chile, however, we had not travelled to the south of Chile to see the Fiords and southern regions of Chile, parts of Argentina, Uruguay, Falkland Islands and beautiful and amazing Antarctia! The HAL cruise on Zaandam seemed to tick all the boxes for the itinerary, however, the ship itself and some of the staff were not up to the required standards. We stayed overnight near Sydney airport (new Travelodge hotel) prior to our flight to Santiago on the very next day. The hotel has a restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner, and a reasonably priced, and good variety of food in the room service menu. We were tired and chose room service meals and were pleasantly surprised with the price and quality of the meals. Breakfast was basic hot and cold buffet, however to an adequate quality standard. There is a Wilson’s car parking station conveniently behind the hotel, and a new parking station opening across the road in mid-March 2018 (ParknFly?); competition is good for better parking prices. We had an early morning flight with Air NZ to Auckland New Zealand(AKL), then connection to Buenos Aires (EZE), final connection to Santiago(SCL). We travelled Premium Economy to AKL (excellent); Economy on Air NZ to BA (EZE) (ho hum), and economy on Air NZ partner, Air Canada BA(EZE) to Santiago (just average only). Return flights (EZE) to (AKL) economy (food quite good), and (AKL) to Sydney(SYD) on an Airbus 330 and being chartered from Portuguese company, HiFly. It was an old Emirates aircraft and was not up to standard in any way, we had 4 Air NZ female ambassadors on board to perhaps ensure Air NZ standards were maintained, there was no real responsibilities for them on the flight, poor choice of charter really Air NZ. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, a short walk across pedestrian crossing from airport to the hotel, very handy indeed! We arrived perhaps around 9.30 pm at the hotel with some jetlag, hotel has a restaurant/bar and room service (expensive); it was late and we skipped dinner altogether. Next day we had arranged for a HAL transfer to San Antonio; we managed to catch an earlier coach to the ship than planned with assistance of the transfer contractor, great outcome for us! The transfer stopped at a large building in Casablanca for a rest stop and for coffee, snacks and wine tasting. It was a huge building packed full of local regional wines to taste and purchase as desired to take on the ship (I bottle per person is HAL limit). There was also a selection of local handicrafts and produce available to buy if desired. We purchased 2 bottles (1 each) to take onto the ship, good quality wine for a total of $19 US, we were over the moon, as were others with this wonderful discovery on the way to the ship! WE BOARDED THE SHIP IN SAN ANTONIO, not Vaparaiso! Embarkation was fairly swift and seamless, our room was ready and our bags arrived within two hours of embarkation, slick HAL. Ship information We sailed on sister ship Volendam in Alaska in May last year, I gave that ship a good review overall, this ship Zaandam, was a different kettle of fish, in more ways than one! Public areas appeared to be in reasonable condition however the ship is dated and is showing more than usual wear and tear. Main dining areas (restaurant) appeared to be in good condition and have old world charm, except for chandeliers that appear to resemble several entangled deer horns, not sure what the designer was thinking, however it wasn’t good! Public areas are clean, and the external condition of the ship, decks and pool areas were good. Teak decks and chairs are always refreshing and relate to the heritage of this line and others that still uphold this tradition. The ship appeared to have a problem with leaks in public areas on several decks where buckets were placed to catch water leaking from the roof, two roof leaks were about 6 to 10 metres from our cabin front door. The leaks were common the whole journey, and eventually the buckets were removed and the worn carpet floor remained wet throughout in two places described previously. Later in the review I will describe our below standard cabin and antics by the crew to manage the problems, that were at times, bizarre to say the least! Activities The activities were fairly limited apart from BBC Earth Series speakers talks in the theatre each day until after Antarctia (too hot in theatre to attend we watched on TV next day) quite good informative presentations; and tour information sessions (watched on TV again for same reason) there was little else to occupy us. Music didn’t start to 3.30 pm on most days. We hadn’t been this bored since our cruise on Azamara Journey from India to Singapore (yawn, yawn). We attended America’s test kitchen once it was very hot in that little room, the woman added a lot of salt and sugar to meals, why? We watched the TV show of the same name, and honestly cannot understand why they add so much unhealthy salt and sugar to their meals, we stopped watching after two episodes. We normally attend some of the trivia, however, it is on just before Happy Hour at 4 pm in the Crow’s Nest, it extends way beyond time and many attending Happy hour cannot be seated; we found this similarly on many HAL ships, hold Trivia elsewhere! Ship lacked atmosphere, if we weren’t going to Chilean Fiords (Fjords) and fantastic Antarctia, we would have been bored silly! Service HAL have a wonderful Captain in Christopher Norman. He really made our voyage a special one (apart from the problems with room, staff etc). He was very good at keeping us informed of the weather and anticipated changes in order to out run bad weather. He really was brilliant. His skill in handling the vessel was outstanding. Unfortunately, the standards he set for himself didn’t reflect throughout the ship! Please read on! Guest relations staff We asked for a form to reduce service charges later in the cruise for reasons stared below. One staff member refused to provide same, a second staff member came out and was very rude in reinforcing the other staff member's stance. The first staff member inferred that Zaandam had different rules to other ships in the fleet who had provided us with forms last cruise we were on another HAL ship. She said the forms were locked in the safe and couldn't be released until the last day, as it was sealed. We mentioned that HAL policies and procedures and rules were the same across all the fleet, and the forms are not legal documents until signed and should be available now. We explained we pay by cash as we go, and also pay gratuities/service charges personally to staff we know have excelled in their dealings with us. We normally do things this way on all lines, and have never had this type of refusal to carry out a fair and reasonable request. (We had a similar problem on Koningsdam, where it was resolved by the manager some days later after we spoke to her). We asked them to have the manager call us and we wanted to meet with her, they failed to pass on the message that we wished to speak to team leader/manager. On another occasion one of the same staff members was very rude and dismissive of our problem (charges for wine package), she was the Mariners' host, we were shocked when it was announced at the luncheon for Mariners. This young woman in our opinion did not meet the standards to be employed as a result of her continued unacceptable and inappropriate behaviour on all occasions we are aware of with us, and we spoke to several other people who had experienced similar behavioural problems with this person, she did not improve throughout the cruise. We arranged to speak with the team leader, she knew only part of the facts that her team members had recorded, she was very understanding and provided some small incentive for us, we thanked her. We had continual problems with some of the front office staff, their attitude to people over 40 was poor to say the least. Some front office staff were quite good; however, they are all young women, we fail to understand why HAL would not have males and females of different ages in the front office particularly experienced people that know how to treat clients, who after all, pay good money to HAL in oh so many ways, that incidentally funds their wages! Our Cabin and service issues Toilet failing to flush (18 out of 22 days this was a major problem). Reported to housekeeping who escalated it to plumber who initially dismissed problem as non-existent; toilet did flush after between ten and forty minutes after pushing button several times, following this it did flush when there was no water build up in the walls, it gurgled most of time! Then thirty minutes later after it had been flushed multiple times it failed to flush again straight away, and flushed thirty minutes later. However, the next plumber witnessed the problem and replaced the flush button mechanism. However, this did not resolve the problem. Other plumbers/maintenance people also returned to examine problem. Toilet had just flushed after the 30-minute delay and the maintenance man in overalls became quite aggressive when it flushed, he totally ignored us rang his phone and spoke to his manager whilst there, then stormed out! The other older plumber came back and put chemicals in toilet; the toilet worked okay for a couple of days and then problem returned. We had to put up with this for the rest of the cruise, not good enough!! Our cabin and service problems part 2 Stains appeared on our wall, we reported to room stewards who informed supervisor and front desk staff. Front desk staff entered our room without our knowledge or permission and had steward remove substance dribble from wall. We were informed that it may be rust and that they wished to remove ceiling to inspect the cause for the problems. We did not wish this to happen due to possibility of asbestos or other toxic substances additionally also due to the dust build up that would have occurred since ship was built 18 years previously, and the potential for respiratory distress caused by such dust. Our cabin and service problems part 3 The mattresses in our room were very old, maybe the original mattresses they were bowed on both edges and extremely uncomfortable. When placed together as a Queen bed as they were bowed both of us rolled to the middle of the bed and with the bow and gap we sunk from uncomfortable to next to no sleep. We asked the room stewards to try and build up the centre of the bed with towels in the middle or and egg shell overlays, he was very helpful and appeared very embarrassed, great blokes both of them! However, it only made it worse as the bed separated with the towels in the middle to make up the huge gap between mattresses. End result we took the towels out and pushed the beds together several times during the night. Yay, broken sleep every single night, this was becoming a nightmare!! Room service – purchasing alcohol for the room problems We also requested room service to deliver a gin and tonic package. Order taken, then he called back and stated the gin advertised in the package no longer available, this is day 3 of the cruise, and only Gordons an inferior quality brand will be substituted, I explained that this gin is significantly cheaper than the original product and we requested a discount. He spoke to management called me back and said they wouldn't reduce the price. I said provide us with similar quality to original product at same price, management refused that as well. We purchased higher quality product and tonic water also extra, $17 US dearer. Then a week later they had no tonic water left on the ship in cans, so we were substituted with diet tonic water in small bottles at the same price, no discount again! Then they had no more stock of Gordon's Gin 8 days into the cruise, consequently we had to purchase higher quality gin and diet tonic water not part of any package! Room Service staff were made aware of problem regarding drinks and spoke to manager but there was no resolution and Manager did not contact us. After all cruise lines buy the alcohol it has been reported, at less than DUTY FREE PRICES and mark it up to above shore prices, it is not playing fair at all. The price of all alcohol on cruise ships is a major profit maker for all of them, the mark up is phenomenal! The main dining room staff for anytime dining were on the whole, quite okay. However, we found that the more experienced and mature staff were very good at their jobs. They were genuinely friendly, as were some of the young people, although some were not quite up to standard as yet. Service by the inexperienced was “hit and miss” however always with a smile. Supervisors varied in age and appeared to try and make thing work better in the dining room as the cruise matured. Lunch staff were efficient and friendly and we enjoyed each lunch spent in the main dining room. We had breakfast only three times in the main dining area; we were seated usually at tables with up to six persons, we requested this, as tables of eight or more spend a very long time in the restaurant being served. We prefer to spend no more than thirty minutes at breakfast on most occasions. Lido staff on the whole were okay, the cooks and food servers were good; some of the waiters and table attendants tended to be missing in action, to clear and set table, for the first three days. After a quick word to the supervisory staff it was no surprise after day three a German Officer appeared every day to sort things out. He assisted and supervised waiters and table staff in their duties. The problem suddenly dissolved whilst he was present at breakfast and lunch, when we attended Lido. Dive-In burger staff were good and made extremely tasty burgers, near best we have encountered in over 35 cruises to date. We did have some excellent burgers on Celebrity Century and Celebrity Galaxy, both were sold by Celebrity, pity, those tasty burgers seem to have disappeared on the newer Celebrity vessels. Wine and drink stewards in the main dining room and in the Lido were overall very friendly and knew their products. We had no idea who the officers for each department were as there was no listing provided or anything that we could see on the walls of the ship anywhere. They also appeared to be quite invisible most of the time, except for eating meals in the Lido. Port & shore excursions At Puerto Montt in Chile we really enjoyed the excursion to Petrohue Falls, Lake Cruise and Chilean country side. Excellent guide and scenery was very good, including walking a short distance to the falls, and a cruise on the lake with excellent viewing of volcanoes and surrounding forests, very beautiful. At Ushuaia Argentina we undertook the excursion “The train to the end of the world”, we travelled on a narrow-gauge steam train in quaint carriages holding a maximum of eight people. We opened the windows and smelt the smoke from the train that brought back many memories from the past when steam trains were common in most parts of the world. One short stop to walk up to the waterfall, very steep ascent, make sure you are fit, as you have little time to se them. Worth the money to take this excursion. Antarctia is the jewel in the crown, so to speak, the scenery magnificent, words cannot describe how stunning beautiful it is, the landscape full of wildlife, whales, seals, sea lions, penguins, the list goes on and on! If you have the chance, save your pennies up, and book it. We were in Antarctia just over 4 days, the weather was very good, we had some misty mornings that later developed into clear days to view such a beautiful and serene place. HAL will surely get their act together and send a better ship to this destination, and sort some of their staff out one would hope! Chilean Fiords (Fjords) were also very beautiful we thoroughly enjoyed our journey throughout, an added bonus to seeing Antarctia. In Buenos Aires on day 1 we undertook Panoramic Highlights of BA, it was very interesting, we only had one stop at the graveyard where Eva Peron is buried, however, we travelled to all major highlights in 3 hours. After we disembarked the vessel we waited for over an hour for our coach to arrive at the cruise terminal to undertake The Tigre Delta shore excursion to airport. It was not good value for money and was cut short by approximately one hour 20 minutes (apparently because the traffic wasn't bad we arrived there quicker?). Additionally, we did not appreciate a 30-minute stop at a cathedral (which we couldn't really attend due to Mass being said at the time) so that the tour guide could go and have a coffee in a coffee shop. No mention was made that there were toilet facilities in the coffee shop and there was nothing else in the vicinity other than the cathedral - complete waste of time stopping there so she could have a coffee fix. A 5-hour tour should take 5 hours not significantly less time (3hr 40min). Don't let the tour guide have a coffee break in a place where there is nothing to do or see. Include some of the city sights on the way to the Tigre Delta that the guide stated we would be seeing on the way which didn't happen. In all honesty a part refund should be given due to the time taken and poor quality of tour (bus component). Travel to embarkation port See background information above for remarks. Cabin See service information above for detailed remarks Dining Restaurant staff overall were good, breakfast menu comprehensive, best menu on any ship to date, food quality is good and meals are warm to hot. Opening times were either 7.30 to 9 am on port days and on sea days 8 am to 9.30 am, we thought restaurant hours should be open from 7 am to 9.30 am, in accordance with other lines, it limits attendance at the restaurant. Lunch was open on sea days only and was open from 12 midday to 1 pm, it should be open at least from 12 midday to 2 pm, we ate there on three occasions only with the times being so limited. Lunch menu was very limited; however food quality was good, we enjoyed the three meals we ate there very much. We attended the anytime dining restaurants for dinner on most nights at varying times, they accommodated us with our walk in on every occasion, great effort HAL restaurant staff! Food on most nights was presented well, quality was of a reasonable standard, serving mashed potato or cous cous with most meals we ate, was very puzzling, we like potatoes cooked in many ways, and we would like more vegetable on the plate or offered on the side HAL. We did have the choice of “Surf and Turf” on the last formal (chic) evening, similar to Princess, not available on Celebrity now. We ate in Pinnacle Grill for lunch one day, and dinner on another occasion. Lunch is only $10 US per person, 3 courses not as comprehensive as dinner, however, delicious, and the best Coffee Gelato we have every tasted ever on a ship, and on land for that matter! Dinner is an extra $35 US per person was also delicious, beautiful jumbo shrimp, soups, and melt in your mouth fillet mignon, excellent work HAL. Desserts we as they say “to die for” well we would prefer not to die so we can experience again one day! Lido for breakfast 7 to 10 am, was very busy as the restaurant was not open at the times that suited most people and breakfast at Lido was much quicker and egg or omelettes cooked by staff while you wait. Eggs were fried, poached, scrambled or made into eggs benedict. Smoked salmon available every day on separate plates, English bacon, a little bit salty, and warm not hot, streaky bacon (not for us) pancakes, waffles, fresh fruit, cereals, fresh rolls, bread, etc. Seating was difficult to find, however, we found seating on most days in the Canaletto restaurant (not open as Italian restaurant lunch and breakfast). We ate lunch in Lido 11.30 am to 2 pm on most days due to restricted opening times on sea days of main dining room, and dining room not open when in port. Unless we arrived early for lunch, we eat after 1 pm on most days, the food was mainly dry and unappetising, big exception was the Asian food, which was cooked fresh on a regular basis and very tasty, and contained chilli and curry, and garlic, on many occasions. Sandwiches appeared to be fresh, and on the one occasion we ate one, tasted quite nice. Pizza in Lido had very limited selection, 3 pizza types, same every day. Lido food at lunch and dinner was very dry and unappetising, exceptions were Asian food at lunch, very nice, and pasta at night, also very tasty. Hamburgers when open (closed at 6 pm) were very nice indeed, chips were not great. Pizza in Lido had very limited Dive-In burger staff were good and made extremely tasty burgers, near best we have encountered in over 35 cruises to date. We did have some excellent burgers on Celebrity Century and Celebrity Galaxy, both were sold by Celebrity, pity, those tasty burgers seem to have disappeared on the newer Celebrity vessels. Entertainment We attended a few ship entertainers’ productions and they were good. We attended some of the guest entertainment shows, some were good, others just average. The entertainment around the ship usually didn’t commence to 3.30 pm each day, however, we did listen to the various groups, they were good, the piano player/singer was not our cup of tea! Disembarkation Managed to exit the terminal, then we lined up for over an hour squashed altogether to wait for various coaches to arrive to take people on tours, then to the airport, or straight to the airport. WE waited for over an hour, the transport people had no idea about when coaches were arriving, what bay the coach would arrive in, and didn’t seem to care really. Worst disembarkation ever, we have cruised in many places around the world, and this disembarkation port is the worst ever, I know I am repeating myself, however, I need to, it was an absolute nightmare! Summary Visiting Chilean Fiords and in particular Antarctia was breathtaking, we loved the sights and the serene beauty of it all, the most incredible atmosphere, we loved it? However, there were some significant downsides to our accommodation, some venues on the ship, and some crew members who left a lot to be desired! Overall there were some fantastic staff and they were rewarded as going above the norm! The fact that HAL and some other cruise lines charge additional charges for not paying their staff enough money in the first place, and except us to pick up the tab, is a thorn in their side. Add a few dollars to the fare in the beginning, not the end. It is a burden on passengers that are on the ship to enjoy their holidays, not empty all the pockets to pay wages and further boost profits on the way out! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
We were disappointed with our Australia/New Zealand cruise for a couple of reasons: - the ship was dated, in good repair, but older looking. - we noticed an ongoing attempt to nickel and dime us along the way. Excursions were ... Read More
We were disappointed with our Australia/New Zealand cruise for a couple of reasons: - the ship was dated, in good repair, but older looking. - we noticed an ongoing attempt to nickel and dime us along the way. Excursions were seriously marked up and to eat in a good dining room cost extra along with a list of things that were all extra. - a cruise employee stole our iPhone. Quite a worry and a hassle to deal with that. We discovered who took it because the person posted pictures of himself along with identifying information. - Holland America reimbursed us for our insurance deductible, but nothing else. Considering the time and hassle of the phone problem, they could have done better. Oh yes, they offered us a $200 discount on our next cruise, but no thanks! No next cruise with Holland America. There are better cruise ships out there. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
I always wanted to see the Antarctic and Holland & America was the only cruiseliner that touches the top of this amazing continent, mind you they only operate 3 cruises a year so book it quick!! We started off in Santiago and ... Read More
I always wanted to see the Antarctic and Holland & America was the only cruiseliner that touches the top of this amazing continent, mind you they only operate 3 cruises a year so book it quick!! We started off in Santiago and travelled down to Cape Horn and then took 2 days to reach the top of the Antarctic. Must admit I wasent particular impressed with the ports of call on the west coast of South America but it was worth it to see the magnificent views we had sailing around the "End of the World", icebergs with seals on as well as penguins, whales playing, glaciers, beautifully formed icebergs wow!! Also we had 3 guides on board who commentated throughout the days we were sailing around the Antarctic and were very informative. Up the east coast of S.A we called into the Falkland Islands and luckily found a local who took myself and husband to see the penguins, o boy that was another amazing moment, he was very interesting and did tours only when the ships came in. The other ports of call were good and also it was nice to have a bit of sun, we ended up in Buenos Aires. The Zandaam is a lovely ship which takes approx 1400 people but must say it did not seem like it, the food was good and staff very nice. We had a basic outside cabin on deck 1 (right at the bottom) however it was great and the size of the cabin was excellent really quite big compared to a lot of other ships I have been on. Now planning a trip to the "Top of the World" Read Less
Sail Date: January 2018
We booked this cruise whilst onboard Volendam in Alaska in Oct 2016, from start to finish this cruise Itinerary was great, Antarctica was amazing and the captain did a fantastic job in making sure we got to see everything that was worth ... Read More
We booked this cruise whilst onboard Volendam in Alaska in Oct 2016, from start to finish this cruise Itinerary was great, Antarctica was amazing and the captain did a fantastic job in making sure we got to see everything that was worth seeing ,he even backtracked one day so we could see areas he missed because of bad weather, Wallis our tour EXC was more than helpful and her knowledge of the area was brilliant she was always on deck explaining everything and her colleagues were also good, the lectures about the wildlife and geology were very informative,and the info about Argentina was especially interesting, there were a lot of people on deck when there was something to see which was pretty much all the time and although tedious at times with people trying to get the best photo it was tolerable, food was good we ate mostly in the buffet, always find it takes to long in the dining room and the food is only ever warm at best, service onboard mostly from Philippines all great very polite and nice and our cabin attendants Arthur and Doi were great lots of towel animals and kept our cabin very clean, Conrad, Police,and Jeanine in Crows Nest kept us well watered always very polite and friendly. Only let down on this cruise was the cleanliness or lack of it in the buffet, to start there was no staff at the entrance to the buffet with sanitisers also a lack of sanitisers, they put cups and glasses on the tables and just replaced what was missing when guests left we watched in horror as people with colds and flu coughed and handled everything on the table which was then left for the next unsuspecting guest, i even witnessed a few times glasses being used then not removed and the next guests using the same glass which the waiters filled, when the tables were wiped down they used the same rag that was used on other tables no rincing out and when they did it was in a bucket of dirty water, basically if you wipe down a table were people have been coughing and sneezing then move on to the next table all you do is transfer germs from one to the other,What happened to sanitiser spray!!!!! i did write a long detailed letter of their bad practice and handed it in to guest services but guess what nothing changed, we then witnessed the epidemic of flu and colds sweep through the ship everyone got it including my partner who was ill for 2 weeks it was a really nasty virus that came and went and came again, we always got our cups and glasses from the stack trays and would always get our own drinks it was safer but with bad sanitary practice you stood no chance, what a shame this was as it tainted what would have been the perfect cruise, shame on you HA for not doing everything you could to protect your guests, best of it is it would cost nothing to do, a no brainer to me !! Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.7
Service 3.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

Find a Zaandam Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise