Sail Date: May 2014
We enjoyed our cruise thru the Inside Passage to Alaska. Had a verandah room on the 6th floor and found it quite spacious. The glasses in the room were dirty and when I complained to the room steward I was told the glasses went thru a ... Read More
We enjoyed our cruise thru the Inside Passage to Alaska. Had a verandah room on the 6th floor and found it quite spacious. The glasses in the room were dirty and when I complained to the room steward I was told the glasses went thru a dishwasher. These definitely did not! Found myself washing glasses all week. The bottle of sparkling wine the family had ordered for us to enjoy as we sailed out of Vancouver was sitting at room temperature on the desk. The ice bucket was half full of tepid water (Celebrity did an outstanding job organizing the wine two years ago when we went to Alaska with them.) Apart from the glitches with the room, there was lots of entertainment, the ship was clean and well decorated. The food was generally good although the dining room staff could have been trained a bit better or maybe they don't put as much effort into the open seating guests? A second cup of coffee was never offered. The views were spectacular, the prices for souvenirs and drinks were competitive, and the thermostats in the rooms were responsive. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
Very pleasant ship, nicely understated and attracting an older demographic, so no unruly kids or noise from drunken passengers. Cabin, a vista suite, nicely furnished good size balcony. All in all a good first impression after a fairly ... Read More
Very pleasant ship, nicely understated and attracting an older demographic, so no unruly kids or noise from drunken passengers. Cabin, a vista suite, nicely furnished good size balcony. All in all a good first impression after a fairly chaotic embarkation process in Buenos Aries. Straight to lunch on day one and this is where the first of several culinary disappointments happened. If food is cooked directly for you or it is something which is designed to be eaten cold then the results are just fine. They do, however, seem incapable of keeping food hot for long periods without allowing it to dry out or in some cases keeping food hot at all. Even tepid would have been an improvement on occasions. I mentioned this to both the 1st Executive Chef and his second in command. The second in command complaining that giving the serving staff instructions was difficult and that he may lose his job-(you couldn’t make it up!) I really wanted to know why no one had the common sense to circulate food in its containers to maintain an even temperature and to avoid the top bit from drying out. I got nowhere. I don’t like cold food. I don’t like dry food so I avoided quite a lot of what they produced. What was left over wasn’t bad at all. On my birthday, which was also Thanksgiving Day, we ate in the Pinnacle which was beyond excellent. Clearly the knowledge is on the ship if anybody could be bothered. Ports of call were fascinating special mention should be made of the guy who provided explanatory narration as we sailed along, sailing round Cape Horn, seeing penguins dolphins and glaciers. all made it worthwhile and I am glad we went   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
We're active independent travelers who have done a handful of cruises, most recently in the Mediterranean with Oceania, which we loved, but the Zaandam fit our schedule out of Buenos Aires. Headlines: The boat: you get nice ... Read More
We're active independent travelers who have done a handful of cruises, most recently in the Mediterranean with Oceania, which we loved, but the Zaandam fit our schedule out of Buenos Aires. Headlines: The boat: you get nice privileges for a suite, including preferred boarding, tendering and disembarkation, free overnight laundry service, a private lounge, personalized service and meet/greets with the captain, not to mention plenty of space. The ship was recently refurbished but still felt aged, with wear and tear throughout. The food was unremarkable, including the desserts and the specialty restaurants--which is just as well--though the fish was surprisingly, consistently good. The exercise room was good but the two fitness guys need customer service training--and maybe new personalities. The spa was underwhelming--you get a key to a locker in which is bundled a frayed robe--not exactly setting a soothing tone. The casino was often deserted--a small group of us bonded during the twice-day-day Texas Hold 'Em tourneys on sea days. There were 1407 guests, 615 crew; it felt like fewer. The cruise: There are a lot of sea days, which is soothing, but kind of boring and occasionally very rough. The views are good but the glaciers and mountains are similar to Alaska or the Canadian Rockies while the fjords are like Puget Sound. We imagine this is much more exciting during whale season. We saw dolphins and flying fish but not much else. The ports were good but fairly similar in their offerings. Tracking the early journeys through the Magellan Straits and going around the horn, hitting the point where the Atlantic meets the Pacific, was very cool--just to say you did. We did one ship excursion which was well run if not overwhelming. A few port details that may be of use: Puerto Madryn: it's a long long way to the Valdes Peninsula and you only get to see penguins and sea lions from a distance. This would be much cooler if whales were about as this is a feeding area! Punta Arenas: We had invested in the $1000+ each for the ship excursion to Torres del Paine, which includes getting going at 6:15 a.m. to the airport, an hour-long flight to Puerto Natales, then a two-hour bus ride into the park for lunch--after which you come right back. Nice views of mountains and glaciers; we were thrilled to see the full distinctive Torres del Paine salmon pink granite towers. A few added touches could have easily made this more memorable, like telling us they would provide coffee and rolls, and providing a bottle of water. Ushuaia: Spend your day here, going up the town ski lift to the foot of Glaciar Martial (it's very cold so be prepared!). Because Tierra del Fuego park had nothing to offer after previous stops. (Our independent group booed down a guide’s plan to walk to see a beaver dam as a highlight!) if you go to the post office so you can send it from the furthest south city in the world, get your card ready as it's a mob and the cards there are costly. I bought and mailed two postcards for about $8. Puerto Montt: We had a great time with GV tours, which happily customizes for you. We asked to get as close to the volcanoes as possible so they drove us up to the ski lifts at Osorno volcano. Unfortunately, it’s too misty and would take too long to go up and back—darn. We did get some nice views of the peak. A quick jaunt into the Vicente Perez Rosales national park to see the picturesque Petrohue Falls and rapids, with Osorno in the background. We never saw the peak of the Calbuco volcano, which last erupted in 1972, but got great views from the ship. Had a nice lunch, then stopped by Puerto Varas for a quick stroll, then back to the boat. Towns are built by Germans who had been enticed here and the area feels like Europe. Valparaiso: Surprisingly picturesque town! If you're wondering whether to stay here or Santiago before flying out, we recommend Valparaiso. It's got coastline, funiculars, colorful communities scattered across 23 hills, and one of the few Easter Island statues not on the island. Thomas Poussard was a wonderful tour guide. We stayed overnight in Santiago and flew home the next morning. Enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our cruise on Zaandam from Valparaiso to Rio. Staff were always friendly, fun and efficient. Food was very good in the restaurant, which catered best for my gluten-free requests (coeliac), but staff in ... Read More
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our cruise on Zaandam from Valparaiso to Rio. Staff were always friendly, fun and efficient. Food was very good in the restaurant, which catered best for my gluten-free requests (coeliac), but staff in the buffet areas were not familiar with coeliac requirements. Just be patient and ask them to check with the chef. Loved the trivia nights, piano bar, cooking demos, and all the other activities. You can join in as much or as little as you would like. Shore excursions are mostly good value but research before you go and decide what you want out of the trip. The passengers were an older demographic 60 plus, which suited us as we are past the spoilt whinging kid and teenager stage. There was a nice mix of us Aussies, Canadians, Americans and other nationalities and we loved hearing about other people's experiences and lifestyles. Our cabin staff were excellent and we loved the cute towel animals. Friends recommended HAL and we were not disappointed.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
Having no experience on which to gauge anything cruise related...well, except the reviews on this web site, I had only my own set of expectations to act as guide. Embarkations/Disembarkations. Very well managed and executed - obviously ... Read More
Having no experience on which to gauge anything cruise related...well, except the reviews on this web site, I had only my own set of expectations to act as guide. Embarkations/Disembarkations. Very well managed and executed - obviously done all this millions of times, and learned how to do it well. Well done HAL and partners! Safety procedures. I have to say I found this process somewhat chaotic! Thank goodness it was never needed in real life. Passengers were talking above the crew, who were trying to get some sense of organisation in place on decks, Those crew whose first language wasn't English, had difficulty being understood, and, of course some passengers were either in the wrong places, or not there at all. Not a good first impression to a first time cruiser...or any cruiser for that matter. Cabin/Stateroom. Bijou, but with plenty of storage for 2 people for a week's stay. Needed to stay tidy though throughout the ship!! Bathroom - again, more bijou. Unforunately the toilet system went out of action for about a day...one of the days we were ashore thankfully. Both cabin and bathroom could do with a make over decor wise, as looked somewhat tired. Room service very efficient - no complaints. Compulsory tip added to the bill....no say in that matter then! Dining. We had an open dining arrangement, which I thought meant you could wander into the dining room during the evening and just sit anywhere you wanted! Not so......first register your request at the restaurant front desk...then wait. Sometimes as much as 30 minutes before you were 'allocated' a table. In the meantime, nowhere to sit, have a drink in the area...just standing, with lots of others. The Pinnacle Restaurant was very good...but at a premium of $25pp, not something I'd budgetted for. Interestingly, the officers ate there.... Dining waiting staff were generally very polite, helpful and efficient. But, the noise level in the Rotterdam, was quite staggering...if you are hard of hearing, your aid would have been working overtime to cut out all the chattering noises. Not pleasant. The Lido was ok food wise - plenty of choices, just finding a table could be the morning challenge! The formal evenings were a bit of a joke really....if what some people wore as formal, wouldn't like to see their day clothes. Smart casual would better cover off this requirement I think. Spending your money. On top of what I paid for this 'inclusive' cruise, I ended up spending another 1,000 (2 people) on extras. By the way, this way not wild extravagances like bottles of champagne ....just the odd cocktail, glass of wine with meal type of expense. And, everything you paid came with a hefty service charge - that certainly wasn't in my budget! Didn't like the idea that you couldn't even make a cup of tea in your cabin...sorry, stateroom. Maybe that was against health and safety, perhaps....! A lot of the activities also came with a fee, and of course the service charge too. All these expenditures mounting up over the week, didn't particularly want a 'surprise' on the last day when the bill arrived, which meant keeping a reasonable tally of what expenses were going out each day... Entertainment. You could be 'entertained' from 7am to late, if you wanted what was on offer. I found it quite difficult to find a quiet space on board. Even the Discovery Cafe area wasn't particularly quiet as it is situated in a through way to other areas. The best entertainment I found was in the Piano Bar of an evening...though some of the best 'slots' were quite late into the evening. General ship's management. Just about every hour of every day, staff were cleaning (outside and in), the public areas were kept pretty spick and span. Crew were mainly polite and helpful throughout the voyage. Summary. Not sure if the above is just a HAL experience, or whether my expectations were/are generally misplaced particularly in relation to dining, 'optional' extra expenses on board, 'busy-ness' and noise levels and the hefty charges. Maybe the cruise environment isn't for me - having said that the locations on the voyages, were certainly places I wouldn't normally have had access to, so maybe that what any future cruise needs to offer me and the rest....well, do others 'do cruising' better than the HAL group, which I'd been led to believe was one of 'the better Lines' The jury is obviously still out. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
Getting underway on a ship was a much more enjoying experience than the last time. Having spent 6 years in the Navy and 4 of those on a ship, I understand tight quarters, limited food and boredom. Exterior: Overall I think the exterior ... Read More
Getting underway on a ship was a much more enjoying experience than the last time. Having spent 6 years in the Navy and 4 of those on a ship, I understand tight quarters, limited food and boredom. Exterior: Overall I think the exterior of the ship was in good condition based on her age. There were a few days that I could hear the rattle of needle guns and chipping hammers. Fresh paint and primer was in the air and ventilation while we were on shore. It's just a smell you don't forget, not that bad, but not good. So while most people would complain, it is a fact of life that maintenance and cleaning in a salt-water environment must be constant. Interior: There were a few areas in the lounges where I could see corrosion take it's toll on the base of window frames. The carpets are showing their age, but those were mainly around the area that we entered and exited the ship. I also noticed several area where stains were left from people spilling items. Stateroom: My wife and I had plenty of room in our stateroom for the excessive clothes we brought. I think I only used 1/2 of what I took. Our daughters had an adjoining room and although it looked like a clothing bomb exploded, they could have space to store their stuff. As one of both of my teens were in and out of our room, I would say that 3 people is crowded and 4 is crazy in a standard room. We had ample room to store our suitcases under the bed and keep them out of the way. I did run out of hangers and used some from our other room. Our cabin stewards were the best. They knew our names and habits as well as when to jump in and clean up. Since we brought soda with us, they managed to keep a large stocked ice bucket in our room. I didn't watch too much TV, as I could have done that at home, but the channels were limited and the volume was either too loud or too soft. Perhaps it was the acoustics or I am getting old. Dining: We had open seating as there were 14 people in our group. Breakfast was usually at the Lido and the prepared hot items were OK, I opted for eggs to order or omelets. They had a great selection of juices, fruits and cereal. I would usually eat about 6:30-7 after my morning walk. I was still stuck on CST until the end of my trip. Lunch again was at the Lido and only once in the MDR, mainly due to the hours of operation. The food wasn't bad, but more of an OK, and I want to eat. They had a large selection of items and I should disclose that I was trying to limit myself to low-fat items. Most of the items just seems to be missing flavor. I did eat a lot of fish for lunch and dinner and they were all great pieces cooked right. Dinner was unique as some times it was 4 or other times it was 14. We ate in the MDR almost every night. The food was delivered timely, but again the flavor aspect was missing. I will say that we had plenty to choose from and was never hungry when I left. The desserts were good (from what I was told) and I opted for the fruit plate that became the running joke of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
The cruise was a last minute decision and we were excited about it. We had been to Alaska twice before but this took us to two places we had not explored. The food in the lido deck buffet wasn't very good. By the second week I was ... Read More
The cruise was a last minute decision and we were excited about it. We had been to Alaska twice before but this took us to two places we had not explored. The food in the lido deck buffet wasn't very good. By the second week I was tired of it, not enough variety and the desserts were for the most part dreadful. We liked the ice cream, fruit crumble and the bread pudding the best. The pie pastry was like shoe leather. The dining room food was much better and I really enjoyed being waited on and many of the meals were really delicious, perfectly cooked lobster! The Grill area by the pool had Mexican fare and pizza every day and was pretty good. We were last time to Alaska on the Celebrity Infinity and the food in their lido deck was amazing, but Celebrity it a higher priced cruise. This is the 5th Holland America ship we have been on and I'm not a fan of these smaller ships except that for an Alaskan cruise the sliding roof over the Lido pool is a real bonus in bad weather. Other ships lose the use of this area when it's cold or rainy. We prefer about 2400 passenger ships and that gives more space, more venues and more shopping on board. Not a huge difference, on Holland it's 4 times round the deck equals 1 mile whereas on the slightly bigger ships it's 3 times around. We felt that is was the friendliest ship we've been on. All the staff were amazing. This attitude has to come from the top down. The captain was a young man and the crew said he'd often wander around the ship and eat in the Lido deck and make himself visible to guests and staff. That was a good thing a happy atmosphere. We had so many invitations to luncheons and receptions with free drinks it was amazing. Must have had occasions where champagne or cocktails were supplied at least 7 times in two weeks! Yes the ship is older but most of Holland America Ships are but they are constantly being well maintained. We had an inside cabin midship on main deck. It is due for a refitting in Oct. 2013. We find the bow to have the most motion so try to avoid a cabin there. These smaller ships tend to have more motion, but our cruise was like glass! The ship shore excursions tend to be expensive and we don't usually go on them from the ship but others were raving about helicopter rides and whales watching experiences. Check ahead by going on line and see what excursions are available privately. Sometimes (most of the time) they are cheaper and better and the people giving them are really enthusiastic, not just using you as a 'meal ticket'. We had a wonderful excursion with Kenai Fjords Tours in Seward, a 6 hr. boat trip and we saw Orcas, humpbacks, dolphins, seals, sea lions and glaciers. I also recommend Halibut Hole fish and chips in Ketchikan, at the end of Creek Street overlooking the water (we saw seals swimming by). After seeing Creek Steet, take the tram ($2.00 for all day) up to the Cape Fox Lodge and see the Native art work in the lodge and the totem poles outside. Take the path to your left and walk through the forest (trail, walkway and steps) back down to where you started. Didn't try Tracy's Crab shack in Juneau but sure wish we had, it's right next to the big parkade near the dock. I liked the amount of time that we were in the ports, no rushing. All and all it was a wonderful relaxing cruise great ports of call, magnificent scenery and who doesn't enjoy unpacking once and being waited on!   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2013
I should preface this review by saying that even a bad cruise isn't totally bad. On the other hand, I haven't done a Carnival Cruise in a while (ha). 4 out of my last 5 cruises have been on Holland America but this Zaandam ... Read More
I should preface this review by saying that even a bad cruise isn't totally bad. On the other hand, I haven't done a Carnival Cruise in a while (ha). 4 out of my last 5 cruises have been on Holland America but this Zaandam cruise was (by far) the worst. My first cabin was 1882 on the Dolphin deck. On the first night of the cruise the seas became a bit rough and we began to hear this loud crashing noise as the ship rolled to starboard. Then 3 or 4 seconds later there would be another crash as the ship rolled back to port. Since the crashing noises always came in pairs, I have a hunch it was a heavy door opening and closing on the ship someplace. The guy in the cabin next to mine (1878) was going nuts by the second night. Others in that area of the ship were bothered by it too. The ship's crew would not tell us exactly what the problem was. They made plenty of suggestions but none of them made any sense. I am sure they knew exactly what the noise was because after many complaints, they finally gave us a different room. The next room (2542) was not noisy but the toilets would not flush properly. I gave up complaining about that but I felt sorry for our room steward who ended up "manually" cleaning our toilet many times. We also found both of our rooms to be incredibly uncomfortable to sit in. It was almost impossible to sit in bed and watch TV without leaning back against the light switches and turning the lights on and off. The couches were also very uncomfortable to sit in. I think both of our rooms had couches that converted into sleeping beds and were not really designed for the comfort of anyone who wanted to just sit on them. Most of the food on the Lido deck was good but we found it difficult to get something as simple as ketchup. More often than not, the ketchup dispensers were empty or broken. The Asian food was good on the Lido, but trying to find a bottle of soy sauce was almost impossible. There was a ton of simple things like that could easily have been fixed but weren't. I also thought the Lido breakfast menu was a bit boring after 10 days of exactly the same menu. Most of the other cruise ships I have been on have had more variety. One thing that was almost laughable was the portions of popcorn they served in the ship's movie theater. This was the first time in 25+ years of cruising that I actually attended a movie on a cruise ship. The day I was there we had at least 150 people for which the cruise staff brought in about 24 bags of popcorn. But the funniest part was the fact each bag held no more than 2 dozen kernels of popcorn. Obviously none of the crew had ever attended an American movie theater before. Last year we took a two cruises on the Holland America Eurodam. My wife loved the free Tai-Chi classes that were held twice a day on the aft deck. Sadly, this cruise had no such classes. Obviously more cutbacks. This cruise seemed to be less organized than other cruises too. This may be my last Holland America cruise and DEFINITELY my last cruise on the Zaandam. With some of the horror stories we have been reading about in the news, I am beginning to wonder about the cruise industry in general. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2013
My husband and I have cruised 8 times, three on Holland America. This was our first time on the Zaadam, a smaller ship than we are used to. First of all, I want to share a great tip that I got off of Pinterest. Take a power strip with ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised 8 times, three on Holland America. This was our first time on the Zaadam, a smaller ship than we are used to. First of all, I want to share a great tip that I got off of Pinterest. Take a power strip with you on your cruise, as most state rooms only have one outlet. With the onslaught of cell phone, ipads, ipods, etc., the extra power outlets are a great way to get everything powered at one time. You can even use this in the airport. We had several people ask to use ours while waiting in the airport and we were happy to oblige. Thank me later. Back to the ship. We are boring cruisers. We go solely for Rest and Relaxation. We usually don't go on shore excursions but opt for independent art gallery shopping and local fare while in port. Sometimes we just stay on the boat and relax near the pool. One reason we choose Holland America is that they allow you to bring your own wine on board. We made a quick stop at a Walgreens in San Diego and stocked up with bottles of wine. These can be carried right on to the ship and consumed in your state room for no fee. If you wish to have this wine at dinner, there is a corkage fee. But we usually just waited until after dinner and enjoyed the wine in the room. We used the gym every morning at 6 am. The gym is well equipped and the treadmills face outward so you can enjoy the sunrise while logging in miles. Yoga, tai chi, water aerobics, etc. are all offered on the ship, as well as other classes for fitness bugs like us. The food on this ship is adequate buffet quality. Again, we did not choose this cruise line because of it's stellar dining experience. We wanted to relax, be on our own schedule and have some sustenance to keep us going. However, Holland America still confuses us with their dinner dining policy. We usually just called a day ahead and made reservations for a table for two at dinner. Walk ins still are welcomed though, which I don't quite understand but hey, it's a vacation right? Who cares? We were seated every night next to the prep. table which was not in the least a fine dining experience. Although wait staff were courteous and nice, the service from the kitchen seemed slow and disjointed. Food was adequate and desserts unimaginative. We found out that we could get basically the same food on the dining menu up stairs at the buffet and were tempted to do so a couple of times. There was a sewage smell in our cabin for about 1/2 of our trip. The smell emanated from the little hallway near the closets and surprisingly, not the bathroom. The staff came in to try to clean the smell and it did abate for a time, but came back within a few hours. Our toilets also went out one day due to blockage on our floor. Not good. But was fixed in about 6 hours. This ship seems rather dated and the staterooms show signs of wear and tear. But beds are comfy, there is an actual bathtub in bathroom and shower pressure is good.The staff is friendly, accommodating and hard working. Entertainment is limited and most venues are more intimate than in larger ships. Puerto Vallarta and Cabo were on the itinerary and we enjoyed walking around and seeing the local flavor. I understand that Mazatlan was taken off the itinerary list because of gang wars and violence in that city. Puerto and Cabo seem to be immune to that for the time being. Traveler's beware and be alert in any Mexican country these days. Lots of drug cartels and hating on travelers, so buyer beware. All in all, we had a nice vacation. Probably won't ask for this ship again and will probably stick with Holland America as we are racking up frequent cruiser points. It would be nice to have a bottle of champagne or another show of gratitude for frequent cruisers, other than the luncheon and coasters given each year. Just an observation. We got what we wanted out of this vacation. Sun, solitude, rest and relaxation. We even got to see the whales! Added bonus! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2013
Embarkation: We boarded the Zaandam in San Diego. Boarding was fast and efficient. We arrived at the pier around noon and were in our cabin by 12:30. The staff both on shore and on board were very helpful. Stateroom: We were in ... Read More
Embarkation: We boarded the Zaandam in San Diego. Boarding was fast and efficient. We arrived at the pier around noon and were in our cabin by 12:30. The staff both on shore and on board were very helpful. Stateroom: We were in cabin 2603 (center, starboard side). As with previous HAL ships, the stateroom was roomy and comfortable. Our cabin was not particularly clean.. This was brought to the attention of Guest Services. Within an hour the situation was rectified. The staff was most apologetic and included supervisory follow-up as well. Ship Condition: The Zaandam is one of the older ships in HAL fleet. For the most part it was well-maintained. The interior was excellent butr the exterior could use some attention. For example, our stateroom window was filthy and had paint spills in evidence. The robber window gaskets needed replacing. Smoking on board was severely restricted, a plus for non-smokers and former smokers. Enrichment Opportunities: Since this was a round trip cruise to Hawaii, several native Hawaiians made the trip with us. Guests were provided many opportunities for cultural presentations. The travel guide, Kainoa DeleCruz was a wonderful presenter as were the two hula dancers and Hawaiian band leader. The Digital Workshop offered complimentary workshops covering many PC applications. Theyu were well presented and easy to understand for novices. Entertainment: The ship's singers and dancers were above average for cruise ships. The choreography needed some work however, Guest entertainers ranged from very good (Paul Pappas) to average and below-average. Dining: Food on the Zaandam was well above average for cruise ships. In the Lido buffet, the staff did the serving for the first two days to minimize the incidence of nuerovirus. Breakfast was excellent with made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, and assorted pastries. Lunch selections were varied and tasty. The short order grill was excellent. Even the pizza was pretty good. DFinners in the main dining room were above average with numerous choices. The salads needed some improvement, however. Ship and Guests: All HAL ships are configured to promote quiet conversation with numerous little sitting areas within the public areas. Having twelve elevators (forward amidships, and aft) was wonderful for passengers having difficulty with the stairs. It has been said that the HAL ships have mostly senior citizens aboard. While a number of canes and wheel chairs were evident, the number of guests using the ship's fitness center was amazing. For example, the fitness center was full at 7AM on mostly at sea days. On Board Activities: Much the same as on most cruise ships (bingo, casino, shops, etc.) The musical entertainment in the lounges and piano bar was quite good. A major complaint was the lack of organized bridge lectures and games. With ten sea days, this was inexcusable. The card room was full every sea day with informal games. Other cruise lines offer this option with even fewer sea days. On the positive side, we appreciated having a Catholic priest and Protestant minister on board offering daily and Sunday services. Overall Impression: The Zaandam was a comfortable ship with a most attentive crew. The trip was worth the cost and worth doing again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
Good points: -Zaandam much better than the Oosterdam in decor, service and company response to problems. Had a bad leak in my suite ceiling that took days to correct, but received a very generous shipboard credit and a cookbook plus ... Read More
Good points: -Zaandam much better than the Oosterdam in decor, service and company response to problems. Had a bad leak in my suite ceiling that took days to correct, but received a very generous shipboard credit and a cookbook plus apology note as compensation. Compared to the Oosterdam, where I had worse problems with cabin and an injury caused by HAL and I got no compensation or apology. -Shore excursions were excellent -Food was pretty good, Pinnacle Grill filet was outstanding, La Cirque fantastic -Entertainment at times was excellent -Embarkation and disembarkation very smooth -Hotel the night before, booked through my travel agent, Sheraton Marina in San Diego very good (not necessarily affiliated with HAL.) -Although I had a very bad spa experience with a too-young and experienced staff person, the spa manager quickly refunded the hefty sum I had paid in advance. -LOVE the Thermal Suite on HAL, though this one was WAY small. Pool was the size of a hot tub. BUT there was rarely anyone in the room, and what a way to relax! -Explorations Cafe really spacious, comfortable, and service was good there. -HAL continues to have the best guest to tonnage ratio, with lots of space and non-crowded atmosphere. However, at times this could be a negative for a solo traveler! Not so good points: -Service was not up to par for the price and supposed reputation of HAL Dining room staff seemed worn out or overworked, repeated requests needed for simple items like iced tea, etc. Chaotic, unacceptable situation with dining room seating. Some sort of "reservations needed" policy we were never notified about- "on your own" dining turned out to receive annoyance from restaurant manager, no table or a very long wait, and never could figure out what kind of system or lack of they were using. Many people annoyed, very long lines. 75% of the time, service overall could not in any way be described as "luxury," "gracious," or "outstanding." -Even though the restaurant food was good, the room service food was HORRIBLE. Unacceptable, poorly presented, served with resentment, and hardly edible. -Cabin steward(s) just okay. Just doing their job, and since you pay $11.50 per day for tips overall, felt underwhelmed so didn't tip them more. Was slightly put off by Cruise Director's heavy pitch on the last day for tips to the staff, when indeed, no staff member stood out for doing anything other than their job. -Unavoidable but still annoying culture/ language gap makes trying to complain or explain needs met with blank looks, non-responsiveness, or incorrect/ poor resolution, if any. Tendency to insinuate blame on the guest and a constant theme of NOT showing the kind of gracious, over the top service HAL advertises. A big gap here! -Very unclear when formal nights were- advance notice was the typical 2, but turns out there were 3, with hardly any advance and not clear notice. How are you supposed to pack or plan for that? Lack of enforcement of dress code for formal nights. -For the price I paid for my verandah suite, it was a rip-off. Very small, the bathroom was tiny, and the "jetted" tub was a disgrace. Not big enough for an adult, and all the jets didn't work. -The Zaandam is looking a little shabby, and for the price of my cruise, would expect stain-free carpet and not to see taped-together wood in a couple places. -This is the nature of HAL, so is more a mis-match for me as a youthful solo traveler, but a total lack of fun atmosphere. No club to dance, people my age acting much older, grumpy (how can you be unhappy when you get to go on a cruise???) and not everyone was unfriendly, but almost everyone seemed confused why someone would cruise alone. -NO gathering for solo travelers as I had seen on the Oosterdam schedule!! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
I had read with caution the recent cruise stories and reviews for the Zaandam but I must say it was truly a pleasure to sail on her last week. The ship has been refurbished and we had zero problems with maintenance during our cruise. ... Read More
I had read with caution the recent cruise stories and reviews for the Zaandam but I must say it was truly a pleasure to sail on her last week. The ship has been refurbished and we had zero problems with maintenance during our cruise. The embarkation process in San Diego was one of the easiest and fastest I can remember. We literally were able to walk right up to the cruise agent, turn in our paperwork, get our room keys, walk up the gangway, enter the ship and be shown right to our freshly cleaned cabin within about 10 to 15 minutes! We dropped off our things and headed right to the Lido for some lunch which was already in full swing. As noted on many previous reviews the carpeting throughout the ship has been replaced and otherwise the ship and furnishings have been refreshed tastefully. I was very happy with the number and condition of the public areas on this ship and found them all to be very comfortable and almost never crowded at all. The first few days service in the main dining room was quite slow and not as attentive as it should have been but that was due to the diversion of staff to the Lido for that first 48 hours to combat the spread of viruses. After that things improved and the servers were always friendly and helpful even if a bit overwhelmed at the beginning. Throughout the ship the staff and crew were always eager to assist us with anything and always smiling and saying hello regardless of where we ran into them. We personally met the cruise director, Michael Headla and the events coordinator, Kelly at one of the meet and greet events on the second day. They were extraordinarily gracious and helpful and from that day on they were always smiling, waving and addressing us by our names as if they had known us forever. The food was quite good, typical I suppose of the other cruises I have been on. Sometimes the food was 5-star and at others sort of bland and uninteresting but again I find that typical. Both the main dining room and the Lido Buffet carried a good selection to suit almost anyone. The entertainment was great and the performers worked hard to make everyone have a great time. The comedienne Chris Pendleton and the pianist Joel Mason were a real treat and we were able to see them both perform twice during the cruise. Overall the cruise was wonderful, restful and just what was needed. If that's what you need then I would highly recommend this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Took advantage of the opportunity to do the 4 repositioning (Vancouver to Victoria to San Diego)+ 14 days Hawai'i (from and to San Diego). Group of passengers on the 4 day cruise was very different from the usual HAL niche: several ... Read More
Took advantage of the opportunity to do the 4 repositioning (Vancouver to Victoria to San Diego)+ 14 days Hawai'i (from and to San Diego). Group of passengers on the 4 day cruise was very different from the usual HAL niche: several children and babies and a much younger crowd. This leg of the trip was not a typical HAL cruise as the activities were very different. It was still an enjoyable cruise. 300 stayed on for the next leg and 1100 new passengers came on. Average age and passenger mix was more typical of most HAL cruises. Having read the flooding incidents that had occurred in previous cruises we were a bit worried as to what types of problems the ship might have. (Zaandam had been scheduled to go in dry dock early October and this was cancelled, giving way to the 2 week cruise to Mexico). Overall there were some negative problems but certainly not to the extent as to what previous passengers experienced. Some toilets overflowed but the problem was limited to a single bathroom. There were vacuum problems with the flushing of some toilets: it was intermittent and finally got settled. Since dry dock had been cancelled the maintenance was occurring during the cruise: -Carpet changing in some areas: no major mishaps. -Curtains & cushions... changing: not unpleasant. -Lower promenade deck removal of paint from the railing: daily occurrence which was noisy and messy. This started early in the morning; some inconveniences for passengers who had staterooms nearby. Overall it was a very good cruise. Food was good. Personnel was friendly, helpful and went out of their way to make our cruise wonderful. One disappointment was the fact that we did not stay long enough on some islands. Why does the ship take 4 days to go to Hawai'i but needs 5 1/2 days to come back (we could have sailed around Hilo to see the volcano at night or stayed overnight in Honolulu and have spent a full day in Lahaina). Answer: by sailing at 16-18 knots instead of of 20+ it saves fuel and reduces carbon footprint. Shows were OK but not great. Smoking is still permitted in the Casino (some parts are non smoking but it reeks of cigarette smoke). Casino has no doors so there is cigarette smell in the halls and the shops. Why not put doors, or better yet, do as other cruise lines did...ban smoking in the casino. Enjoyed lectures by Dr. Losey (guest lecturer) and Kainoa (on board guide). Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Mexico, 14 days and no flights. This sounds like a great cruise. It will be our second time on Holland America. So after the initial shock of it not being Celebrity I had to stop with the expectations and from there things felt better. ... Read More
Mexico, 14 days and no flights. This sounds like a great cruise. It will be our second time on Holland America. So after the initial shock of it not being Celebrity I had to stop with the expectations and from there things felt better. Embarkation: we got there early and once they opened the ship were quickly on board and exploring. Main Dining Room: they messed up our dinner reservations, again. Despite the confirmation for dinner time and linking reservations we were seated late and not with our travel companions. However Iggy was awesome and by the third night we had a table at 5:45 every night for 11. The food was usually good with a varied selection. They brought the menu the night before for one in our party who has food issues and after a bit of a hiccup things went well for her. The cafe was okay, I liked the fresh sandwiches and appreciated the daily salad and fruit. Lido dining: I think if I had one complaint it would be that food was often not hot...I liked the build your own sandwich, the sushi and the Indonesian day. Activities: The population on this ship is elderly and the activities reflect this. Generally they are quieter and off to bed early. Just don't be in a rush as the walkers and wheelchairs, and canes are plentiful. They pack the early shows and the ship becomes very quiet by mid evening. There has been only a few line dancing classes and we would have appreciated some ballroom. There is a couple of trivia every day with the name that tune during our dinner every night. We have enjoyed the digital treasure hunt that has lasted the whole cruise. We have gone for creativity in staging our photos and had a ball setting the 'scenes' up. The shuffle board deck needs refinishing, it was impossible to use it. Our guys like karaoke and they all sang and three of them made the cut for the superstar performance. Entertainment: we have made the piano bar our last stop every night and have enjoyed the sing a longs, requests, dances and chat with Piano Man Lee and the others that hung out here. Lee has a wide range of material although he does admit Broadway is his weak link. The shows have been great. Production numbers. This is a new team and their inexperience shows. They attack the numbers with enthusiasm and energy, what most of them are lacking at this point is a connection to what they are doing. One male dancer in particular was awesome and we learned this is his sixth contract so he is comfortable with his material. I am sure the others will begin to relax and enjoy themselves. Tony Pace, a Las Vegas headliner is talented and knows how to work a crowd, even an elderly sun baked crowd. His blend of song, impersonation, and comedy made for a show you wouldn't want to miss. Ronn Lucas, The ventriloquist again had such charm and talent we were tired from laughing by the end. I volunteered my husband to be a dummy and he added to the humour. Alfreda Gerald did a tribute to the Divas. Her vocal skills and personality were a huge hit and we were honoured to chat with her the next night before she headed home. Rose Ranger played guitar and sang in the piano bar. She has a nice voice and so was easy listening before supper. Adagio Strings also gave another easy listening venue. The Neptunes, a trio were cool and played the Ocean bar where the ballroom dancing took place. Hal cats were great! I did not see the Stander Dance Duo perform in the theatre, but heard negative comments about their performance. I will say when I saw them dance in the piano bar they were relaxed and did great especially the woman. Activity staff lead entertainment such as Call my Bluff, Majority Rules, the Marriage game were entertaining and fun. Jeff Peterson was next up as a magician who is funny. He bills himself as 'Comedy Magic'. He was good, but the audience was pretty slow. We tried to get them worked up, but they were a hard sell. Dale Gonyea was up next with piano and comedy with photos. He had lots of funny stuff to say pertaining to this cruise such as the fact the walking deck was always blocked off in one way or another, about the carpeting and the missed port. He had an interesting voice and had us all laughing. This particular night I could not keep my eyes open so missed bits and pieces of his performance. DJ Steve was awesome, he kept music levels balanced and at a volume you could hear the music and still chat with friends. The ship: Okay...we got a letter saying "We would like to advise you that during our stay in Puerto Vallarta, we will be enhancing the atrium and stair towers by adding brand new carpeting. We expect the work to proceed quickly and anticipate that any inconvenience to our guests will be minimal. Nonetheless, as a gesture of goodwill, we want to offer each of you a complimentary excursion on that day, October 16, 2012, to help you enjoy your time ashore in Puerto Vallarta." They were however carpeting during the whole cruise making it challenging to navigate the ship safely. The fumes at times were trying as well, both the new glue and the heat they were using to get up the old stuff. The ship does need some work, but in general is okay. Well maybe I should add that we had a hydrolic problem that kept us late in Cabo San Lucas that caused us to miss our excursion in Puerto Vallarta and then more problems there which had us in Puerto Vallarta for an extra 10 hours. Then the stop again in Cabo to get the tender and then late to San Diego. We cleared customs late in the evening and went on shore to connect with friends. We were able to get together with one of our friends but missed the other. Our visit to Alcatraz in San Fran is off since we will not stop at that port. We did get our money back from The Alcatraz booking company. To make up a bit for all the issues the ship offered free drinks for two and a half hours. Room: Our room 1820 was quiet and we were very happy with our room steward Denen. Even the traffic to the medical center was not really an issue. Lots of wonderful towel creations and anything we needed. Excursions/ Ports. Seattle: dropped from the itinerary very early in the booking process. San Pedro was our first port and it was a testing ground for our group. Our group was too big to go together. I enjoy the people I was with, but with limited time we could have done more in small groups. As it was we wandered up the coast line reading the descriptions for the sites that I had downloaded. We did a little geocaching too. Puerto Vallarta. I can't comment on the one we missed, but the Pirate Ship Ahoy was a blast. Of course it was packed because it was one of the free ones offered. A number of people Who went this one were not really fit enough especially since the waves were big due to a storm on the Pacific. They were lifting people in and out of the tenders who were... well... anyone who was slow or limited mobility because the waves were crashing. It was very hot and very humid, but we loved it. Cabo San Lucas. We booked our own Kayak trip in Cabo. We were picked up by Cabo Outfitters and we were the only ones on the trip. We had an awesome time in the building waves kayaking and snorkeling. Kasey and his wife were excellent. We did have concerns about getting off the ship in time since there were delays, but we went down early to wait and got on the first tender. San Diego: We wandered around Balboa Park. Just wish we had had more time there! San Fransisco: Cancelled. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2012
We were on Holland America D1T which began in Fairbanks on Sept. 5th. The ship departed Seward on the 9th. We arrived a day early. It was good to have the extra day in Fairbanks as we toured the Museum at the University (great museum), ... Read More
We were on Holland America D1T which began in Fairbanks on Sept. 5th. The ship departed Seward on the 9th. We arrived a day early. It was good to have the extra day in Fairbanks as we toured the Museum at the University (great museum), went to Santa's house in North Pole, AK. We had a good dinner at the hotel restaurant... The HAL hotel is the Westmark in Fairbanks. Nice hotel but the rooms are a little small and its in need of an update. HAL has a desk at the hotel which was good. Our tour included a very fun and informative ride on a paddle-wheel boat, lunch and panning for gold during the day. We recommend the land tour in Fairbanks. We also went on the salmon bake that evening, which we all agreed was not worth it. The next day we were transported to Denali on the train in very nice observation cars. The observation cars have comfortalbe seats and a bar upstairs and a restaurant area below the seating area and great visibility of the scenery and quite pleasant. The guides were attentive and informative. At the train station in Denali we were transported to our hotel, The McKinley Chalets Resort. Our group was in a separate full sized hotel near the main lodge. It is a 5 minute walk from there to the main lodge and there's a shuttle running every few minutes. Our impression is that building was owned by HAL. The main lodge has a couple of restaurants, a bar and a gift shop. Across the street is the commercial area with many shops, ice cream, pizza, etc. We took the white water river rafting trio down the Neenana River. Since it was September the weather was on the cool side, but they provided "dry" suits that are water tight and go over your clothing (water tight at wrists, ankles, and neck). It was about 1.5 hours of non-stop class 3 rapids. We have river rafted several rivers, and this was one of the best rides...we all had to paddle and being on the point (up front) is "the" place to be. A great trip and worth it. The bus tour of Denali was in a refurbished school bus. The seats were uncomfortable and the heat was almost non-existent. The outside temperature was barely 50 degrees. The tour guide was very informative. We saw bears and mountain sheep. Despite the temperature and the seats everyone thought it was a good tour, although I thought that it was too long actually,,,,four hours in and four ours back gets old on an uncomfortable bus. Its definitely NOT a tour bus...small windows, bad seats, bad heater. But we did sear bears, moose, and Doll mountain sheep. The next day we boarded modern "deluxe" motorcoaches for transport to Seward. Much much better than the old school bus in Denali. It is a full-day with great scenery all of the way. Our bus driver/guide was very informative. The lunch stop was in Wasilla at a very nice restaurant. We were a little ahead of schedule and got to do an unscheduled stop at the Iditerod headquarters in Wasilla where we had up close encounter with the dogs and the had rides available which was fun and a great photo op. Some of the family of racers were there and we held sled dog puppies. If you go on this and can convince your driver to fit it in, it is well worth the 20 or 30 minutes, and it was free except they do charge for the sled rides (the sled is an ATV pulled by dogs since there is no snow in Sept) We did no sight seeing at Seward. The boarding was straight forward. At Glacier bay: we got an informative narrative about the Marjorie glacier and the Grand Pacific glacier. At Haines, we went on a Bald Eagle river float. This is the only tour we took that was not Holland American. It starts at Porcupine Creek...yes the same local where the Discover Channel TV program "Alaskan Gold Rush". We did see many eagles on the Chilkat River, but you don't get all that close to them. Our guide was a real treat as he paddled our rubber raft while telling us about all the things were were seeing. His name is Delbert,,,,if you go on this tour, you will want him. Think of Gabby Hayes who graduated from the Air Force Academy, flew F4's, got an MBA at Stanford University, was a consultant for Arthur Anderson, and left it all to be a river guide on the colorado river in the Grand Canyon, then spend the last several years in Alaska. I enjoyed this trip, but I wish I could have been in two places at the same time. Others went salmon fishing and had a blast. This tour is run by Chilkat Tours Ltd, and is called the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Float. Each raft holds a guide and max of 6 passengers which worked out well for us as we were three couples. Do a google search and you will find this tour. We got back in plenty of time to make our boarding deadline. This tour included a lunch. In Juneau: It rained alot, which we were told, if you go to Juneau, expect rain. We took a whale watching boat (holds about 120 people). We did see some hump back whales, but no breaches, but that is the luck of the draw. Sometimes they breach and mostly they don't. We had a good red salmon lunch at Orca Point which is an island restuarant. We also took a bus over to the Mendenhall Glacier and adjacent water fall. This was a beautiful area, and there is a gift shop and you can walk over to a creek and see 18 inch or more salmon swimming in the clear water. At Ketchikan: We went on the HAL tour "Alaska Rain Forest Sanctuary, Raptor Center and Totems." The rain forest sanctuary walking tour was the best part. We saw four bears and video'd three of them for perhaps two minutes as they strolled down a creek near us, catching and eating Salmon. They were as close as 40 or 50 feet. As our guide said, "if they cross to this side of the creek, we're leaving!:" After the tour we enjoyed walking around town. Even though this is the place on earth with the most rainfall, on this cruise it was the only port in which it was not raining! The next day our cruise ended at Vancouver. We recommend the cruise. The best parts are the wildlife and the scenery. Dress for the climate. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
We were scheduled on the Holland America D1T which began in Fairbanks on Sept. 5th. The ship departed Seward on the 9th. The land package took place on Sept 5-9. There were three couples in our group and we had made reservations at the ... Read More
We were scheduled on the Holland America D1T which began in Fairbanks on Sept. 5th. The ship departed Seward on the 9th. The land package took place on Sept 5-9. There were three couples in our group and we had made reservations at the tour hotel to arrive one day early, on Sept. 4th. At the airport in Fairbanks we saw a Holland America agent greeting customers coming in for other land tours. When we identified ourselves we were warmly received and we were transported on the Holland America buses to the hotel (even though we were a day early). It was good to have the extra day in Fairbanks as we toured the Museum at the University (great museum), went to Santa's house in North Pole, AK, and had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. The HAL hotel is the Westmark in Fairbanks. Nice hotel. HAL has a desk at the hotel. Our tour included a very fun and informative ride on a paddle-wheel boat, lunch and panning for gold during the day. We recommend the land tour in Fairbanks. We also went on the salmon bake that evening, which we all agreed was not worth it. The next day we were transported to Denali on the train in observation cars. The observation cars have seats and a bar upstairs and a restaurant area below the seating area. The guides were attentive and informative. At the train station in Denali we were transported to our hotel, The McKinley Chalets Resort. Our group was in a separate full sized hotel near the main lodge. It is a 5 minute walk from there to the main lodge and there's a shuttle running every few minutes. Our impression is that building was owned by HAL. The main lodge has a couple of restaurants, a bar and a gift shop. Across the street is the commercial area with many shops, ice cream, pizza, etc. We took the flightseeing tour around Mount McKinley. Denali Air picked us up at the main lodge and took us to the airstrip. We flew in an 8-passenger twin engine airplane with retractable landing gear. The flight lasted about an hour. We loved it even though it was a little cloudy that day. Highly recommended. The bus tour of Denali was in a refurbished school bus. The seats were uncomfortable and the heat was almost non-existent. The outside temperature was barely 50 degrees. The tour guide was very informative. We saw bears and mountain sheep. Despite the temperature and the seats everyone thought it was a good tour. The next day we boarded modern "deluxe" motorcoaches for transport to Seward. It is a full-day with great scenery all of the way. Our bus driver/guide was very informative. The lunch stop was in Wasilla at a very nice restaurant. Port reviews are below, except for Ketchikan. Here are our comments on Ketchikan: We went on the HAL tour "Alaska Rain Forest Sanctuary, Raptor Center and Totems." The rain forest sanctuary was the best part. We saw four bears and filmed three of them for perhaps two minutes as they strolled down a creek near us. As our guide said, "if they cross to this side of the creek, we're leaving!:" After the tour we enjoyed walking around town. Even though this is the place on earth with the most rainfall, on this cruise it was the only port in which it was not raining! The next day our cruise ended at Vancouver. We recommend the cruise. The best parts are the wildlife and the scenery. Dress for the climate. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
This was our first Alaska Cruise after 14 Caribbean cruises(as we live in Florida). It was also our first HAL experience after having cruised with all other cruise companies.Zaandam has been the smallest size ship in all our travels. ... Read More
This was our first Alaska Cruise after 14 Caribbean cruises(as we live in Florida). It was also our first HAL experience after having cruised with all other cruise companies.Zaandam has been the smallest size ship in all our travels. Our 7 day southbound started off in Seward Alaska, a lovely port.The embarkation was great. Our room was very nice. Large bath with a tub.The room and the service was immaculate (as on all ships).The food at the LIDO was comparable with other ships (mediocre).The LIDO waiter/table service was EXCELLENT. But the food servers behind the sneeze guards were VERY RUDE, not paying attention because they were not listening and restless. Most of them made the passengers feel as they were begging for food slipped from under the sneeze guards.The deserts were cordoned off !! I have witnessed the mess and waste created by a lot of passengers in our previous cruises and I can understand the sanity issues and avoiding waste. But on our Zaandam cruise of 8/26 - 9/2 the Lido food service was rude and rushed.It was the only one REALLY BAD experience The dining room reception and waiter service was great (as on many ships).Our waiters ANHAR and AAM were 1st class.Tried to please us anyway they could. But the menu choices were extemely limited. The food was so-so.Some were good, some were left untouched,especially any and all soups !! Worst soups ever !!! Regarding the number and age average of the passengers the small pool and 2 hot tubs were never over crowded.The cleanliness of the ship was SUPER.All the port calls were timely. The captain was generous in stopping,spending time at the Glacier Bay and cruising down the inside passage. The piano bars, the Crow's nest were all great. The library was very nice and accomodating. The shows and entertainement were poor.The casino was pathetic for slot machine players. The shops were not up to par compared with the larger ships. OVERALL we had a PLEASENT CRUISE on ZAANDAM. The total price of our 7 day cruise was almost equal to one of the excursions we took.CRUISES are the BEST VALUE Vacations. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
We're seniors who wanted a relaxing yet interesting cruise experience. This was our 5th cruise, our second on HAL. We actually booked two 7-day cruises, back-to-back, which worked out fine, as we'd done the Alaskan land tour ... Read More
We're seniors who wanted a relaxing yet interesting cruise experience. This was our 5th cruise, our second on HAL. We actually booked two 7-day cruises, back-to-back, which worked out fine, as we'd done the Alaskan land tour previously. The Zaandam was very nice, well-maintained and clean. It was laid out almost the same as the other HAL ship we were on, so we had no learning curve. We had an ocean-view room on the second level near the forward elevators and stairs. The location was quiet and convenient. The room was spacious and clean with more than enough storage for us. The food was uneven, but okay generally. We upgraded to the Pinnacle Grill on 2 occasions and were very impressed with the quality of the food and the high level of personal service. The reservation policy for the open seating in the main dining room was confusing and administered inconsistently by the staff. But otherwise the staff were pleasant, courteous and helpful. Our favorite shore excursions were the whale watching out of Juneau, and the Misty Fjords boat trip out of Ketchikan. Heed the advise about warm clothing and rain gear. Although we had generally very good weather for the area, we certainly needed our jackets, hats and gloves. Bottom line: We liked the trip so much that we hope to repeat it in 2 years along with several family members. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
My DH and I are in our 60's ( I celebrated this milestone while on this cruise) and enjoyed our first trip to Alaska two weeks ago. We have wanted to go for some time and finely accomplished it. Now we know why many repeat the ... Read More
My DH and I are in our 60's ( I celebrated this milestone while on this cruise) and enjoyed our first trip to Alaska two weeks ago. We have wanted to go for some time and finely accomplished it. Now we know why many repeat the experience and return. We flew in from Indiana to Fairbanks for our land portion with no problems other than jet lag. Our hotel in Fairbanks, Sophies Station was very sweet and comfortable. Nice restaurant. Took a picture of how light nit was at 12MN. HArd time sleeping that night. Next day went on the Riverboat Discovery which was great-relaxing, informative and fun. Included a really good lunch with beef stew ( reindeer). That evening we went to a salmon bake and theater which was okay, a little cheesy. Next day train to Denali National Park which was scenic and a funtime with a great guide, bartender and good breakfast.Arrived in Denali to rain at about 12n. Our lodge at McKinley Chalet was very nice and comfortable had to use the shuttle back and forth to the main area but not a problem. Later we took a flight seeing tour of the park and MtMcKinley. The weaher improved and it was a beautiful trip even for me who Jeff King, Iditarod cham[ion x4. He was so entertaining and the loved the dogs/puppies. Long train ride to Anchorage was enjoyable and scenic. Train travel was an enjoyable new experience and the McKinley explorer cars were very comfortable. Food/drink except coffee were extra charges as were most meals on tour portion. Spent night in Anchorage and then on to Seward to embark. Embarkation was quick and easy, usual picture taking etc and then on to ship. We enjoyed lunch in Lido but this area turned out to be our least favorite as it seemed disorganized with limited options-one side roped off every evening for staff but we mingled anyway and no one seemed to mind. I did like HAL proactive push for hand sanitizing all the time. The first 48 hours we were served in the Lido, not help yourself. And captain/officers would not shake your hand ( or everyone else's) First sea day calm and beautiful sunshine, smooth seas. Enjoyed pool area to read in sun, others did swim and use hot tubs. Enjoyed walking around ship deck and exploring. Show that evening good entertainment. Ship itself was very nice despite being older and in need of refurbishment as others have commented. It is well laid out and elegant and clean. Crew always cleaning something. We were in a suite which also could use updates but liked the storage and features. Use of Neptune lounge was a great convenience and well as laundry post land tour. Our room stewards were unobtrusive and efficient. We enjoyed the dining room most nights, food very good. Also enjoyed the Kings Room for breakfast many mornings and room service once. Coffee at Explorations cafe was okay. The Terrace grill seemed to hit or miss with what was there and hours. Glacier Bay was beautiful and scenic, We didn't stay at Marjerie more than 1 hour. Pretty chilly and wet this day but found it awe inspiring. Crows Nest was a mess of people who camped out rudely all day. Our veranda worked well for a good part of this day, too. Haines was a sweet quaint town. We enjoyed a morning tour and afternoon trail ride up a mouton which include a delicious meal. Weather improved here and was quite nice. Juneau was gray and drizzly. We went whale watching with Weather Permitting and saw a couple whales but very close to our boat. It was exciting to hear their noises. We were a little disappointed in that for 3 hours we didn't see others but know that cannot be predicted or controlled. Saw a few eagles and sea lions. We ate lunch at the famous Red Dog Salon which was very good and a fun atmosphere. Then a little shopping. My DH would not go on the MT Roberts tram but it was cloudy and foggy anyway Ketchikan was very touristy but shopped a little there at Creek Street area before the Deadliest Catch Tour-I went by myself as DH was not feeling well. I loved it and enjoyed the whole thing. We saw eagles galore close to use which was breathtaking. The crab fishing operations was interesting and informative as well as touching stories by these guides. Would highly recommend. Inside passage--sea day was calm and slow. Scenic also. We didn't do much on the ship except pack and prepare for going home. Show that evening pretty good. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill for my birthday which was quite good. Disembarkation--We had HAL transfers so we took our time as we had a 2pm flight. Everything went smoothly, very organized. Got to airport and thru security and customs with ease only to find our flight delayed already. Delays continued throughout afternoon with no information or announcements from United. You had to go up to ask ( long lines to do so as United had 2 attendants at their desk who occasionally went to clean a plane that did come in) for meal vouchers and to change our connecting flight to Chicago to the next morning. Never offered to rebook or get hotel until after 8pm.Flight arrived at 10:15pm, We arrived in Chicago at 5am, our flight to IND was 8:40am. Finally arrived home at noon. Exhausting way to end a very nice vacation. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2012
We took the Alaska-inside Passage on Holland America Zaandam in mid-May of 2012. Sailed from Vancouver, which is a really nice city. Should have planned more than a one-night stay. Stayed at the Mariott Hotel the night before. Hotel ... Read More
We took the Alaska-inside Passage on Holland America Zaandam in mid-May of 2012. Sailed from Vancouver, which is a really nice city. Should have planned more than a one-night stay. Stayed at the Mariott Hotel the night before. Hotel was clean and quiet and nicely located-$180/night. Walked to the ship at noon. Getting on the ship was easy and well organized (about 30 minutes in all). On the ship, we stayed in room B6199 (with balcony). Nice room, fairly quiet, clean, but smoke from neighboring balcony. The staff was excellent and friendly in dining room, Lido, and room service. Food was average. Pinnacle was nice but not over the top. Had coffee, juice, and a treat delivered to the room each morning at 6am. Later, we went to breakfast! Nice people, a great string quartet, no pressure in buying things, friendly passengers. The Holland crew tried to do some fun things like line dancing, the polar bear plunge, a comedy show....all worth it. Much to our disappointment, we were a bit queasy, especially on the two open sea days. It put a damper in our trip. The "helicopter-glacier-dogsled trip" was cancelled in Juneau (Holland is extra cautious). It had snowed the night before. Probably could have arranged something on the dock at Juneau but instead went to see Mendenhall Glacier by bus. This is well worth the trip. You can sign up at the dock for the round trip for $16. Skagway was beautiful...took the railroad trip up the mountain and back. This trip is well worth the $120. Seward (the port of disembarkation) was also beautiful. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to explore. Glacier Bay was excellent. Took a land tour from Seward to Fairbanks. The bus and train ride were very picturesque. Saw bears and wolf and other wildlife in Denali. Fairbanks was fun with the gold panning and steam boat ride. While these activities sound touristy, it was first class and very enjoyable and a highlight of the trip. If I were to do it again, I might just rent a car and explore the Kenai Peninsula before heading out toward Denali and Fairbanks. Had I not gotten a bit seasick on the ship (the drugs made me feel worse), I think my review would be more glowing. Spent a bit of time in bed, but never missed a meal. Wish I had tried the wrist band for sea sickness. Alaska is beautiful and the cruise/land tour was a good deal. Try it! Oh, I made my own plane reservations early, so I got good flights and good seats. If there are two of you, usually, calling a taxi to get to the airport from the hotel is cheaper and easier. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home ... Read More
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home to the pier. We booked this cruise through an local agent.On the day of embarkation we met the guide at the pier. Before we checked in we had to carry our luggages to the rear of the pier for collection which is quite a walk. Then we went upstair for checkin. The was a long que and the process took about 30 minutes. The room was ready when we were on board. We booked an outside but were upgraded to a veranda. The cabin was spacious ,similar to the Westerdam we were on 2 years ago. The bathroom was big with a full bathtub. After we unpacked we went to Lido for some food.It was difficult to find a table. The ship was chartered by the Japanese and 90% of the passengers were Japanese. Even the announcements were in English and Japanese. It was a direct cruise from Hong Kong to Kobe without visiting any port. Food in Lido was good. Lots of variations, international and Japanese. However food in MDR was mediocre, cannot compare with Celebrity. But our waiter from Indonisia was excellent. One setback about HAL is their entertainment. We did go the shows every night but found that they are very amateur. I almost fell asleep. The second day we were hit by a big storm with 60mph wind and 8meter wave. About half of the passengers were sick. It lasted for over 10 hours. Surprisingly there was no announcement from the captain. It was pretty bad as we couldn't even walk without holding the wall. I used the gym every day. It is quite spacious with adequate equipments and not crowded. There were 2 ping pong tables and my son spent a lot of time playing with other kids. Zaandam is an old ship but it was kept very well and very clean.We could hardly notice any wear and tear. I was told it will be refitted this Octobein in Vancouver. Disembarkation was a breeze but getting through Japanese immigration was a nightmare.They have only one line for foreigners and it was extremely long. We stayed in Kobe and Osaka for 2 more nights, did sightseeing and flew back to Hong Kong. All in all we enjoyed Zaandam. We loved the library, the pool and the basketball court. All the staffs were so friendly and always with a smile. We definitely will go back if the itinerary is attractive. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
HAL ZAANDAM review We took the 22 days cruise from Kobe to Vancouver on the Zaandam as part of a trip around the world that had started mid - March in Brazil with a Trans -Atlantic cruise on the Oceania Insignia . Overall , it ... Read More
HAL ZAANDAM review We took the 22 days cruise from Kobe to Vancouver on the Zaandam as part of a trip around the world that had started mid - March in Brazil with a Trans -Atlantic cruise on the Oceania Insignia . Overall , it proved to be a good decision and we did enjoy that section of our journey. The Zaandam is a small ship by the new standards and is perfect to reach small ports of call and navigate along the coast line of Alaska. Built in 2000 , it is also older than the average cruise ship, but it has been kept in a very good condition and it is hard to find signs of aging. We had an ocean - view cabin and we regretted our choice. Not only was the view partially blocked and the curtains did not close properly , it was also noisy being located on the Lower Promenade Deck where all kinds of pipes run alongside the windows. Having the galleys located on top of us did not help either and there was also a permanent hum coming from the heating system. The cabin was very big and spacious compared to modern standards at 185 sq.ft. but the inside cabin was the same size for less and would have proven more comfortable . We did not take a veranda cabin as we expected to spend a big part of the cruise at low temperatures and that decision was a good one. The food on the Zaandam is very good. It is better than the Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships that we have sailed on recently but it is not at the level of the Oceania ship that we had taken 3 weeks before. We were surprised though that the Lido buffet closed at 8 p.m. and that tea time was at 3 p.m. !!! Service is generally excellent but there were times when we felt being rushed at dinner time. It happened a few times that waiters would interrupt abruptly a conversation between passengers to take the selections. Room cleaning was very good , both efficient and non -obtrusive . Guest Services is better than average and decision - making does not seem to require high -level involvement. Entertainment was better than expected. This was our sixth cruise with HAL and we did not expect so wide a selection of activities for a high number of days at sea and limited access to the pool. HAL should be a model to follow for lengthy cruises and the Zaandam proved to be amongst the best ! Ports of call, specially in Japan, were very interesting and cruising is definitely the cheapest way to visit expensive countries like Japan, Korea, Russia and the USA. We had to skip one port of call in Kamchatka because, after leaving Vladivostok, we found ourselves in the middle of a sea of ice and the captain decided to turn back for safety reasons. We lost more than 18 hours of navigation, had to cancel one port of call and were late for arrival in Kodiak by more than 4 hours. We got a free glass of champagne as compensation !!! All the passengers agreed with the decision but a lot of us wondered if this huge area of ice was not foreseeable and corrective action could have been taken sooner. The information provided on the ports of call was either limited or wrong ,which is quite surprising for a ship from HAL. The majority of the 1364 passengers was over 70 years of age, coming mostly from the USA , Australia and Canada , and surely the most well - traveled group we have seen so far . It made for very interesting conversations at lunch and dinner times. Overall, it was an interesting cruise with many ports of call that we had never been to and this is our first motivation to cruising ! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
Background:I consider myself an experienced cruiser, and have sailed most of the world. While my favorite line is Crystal, I like to cruise more than I can afford with them and have also sailed with Windstar, Silversea, RCI, Cunard, and ... Read More
Background:I consider myself an experienced cruiser, and have sailed most of the world. While my favorite line is Crystal, I like to cruise more than I can afford with them and have also sailed with Windstar, Silversea, RCI, Cunard, and HAL. Hotel Info: Pre-cruise I booked one of the hotels HAL uses in Singapore, the Fairmont, but booked it independently at a significantly lower price. It was a very nice hotel in a great location. One tip here: The Fairmont's internet access is quite pricy, but I joined their frequent stay group and on checking out found it is free for their members. Post-cruiseIn Hong Kong, I stayed post cruise at the Langham. It's a very nice hotel just 2 blocks from Ocean Terminal, and I would gladly recommend it (although others may be just as good). Ship: The Zaandam is one of HAL's 4 R-Class ships. Roughly 60,000 tons and 1,400 passengers it is a nice size. Built in 2000 it is actually the near the middle of the age range of their ships. I thought it was mechanically in excellent condition but did have some cosmetic issues which detracted somewhat from the feel of the ship. The most significant one was carpeting near the elevator landings which appeared to have suffered from unequal application of cleaning products and had large discolored sections. Activities: To me this is HAL's biggest weakness. They tend to cater to sophisticated travelers and other lines like Cunard offer extensive enrichment programs with a variety of speakers. HAL's program is are arranged around 4 areas (World,Food,Technology,and Wellbeing) Wellbeing is typically handled by the fitness center and is usually considered in addition to the activities. Technology is a bit too closely tied to their exclusive relationship with Microsoft and for me lacks depth. I am not really big on food as a topic. The World area had mostly offerings from the Travel Guide, Spencer Brown. Brown was excellent and unbiased but dealt mostly with what to see and do and did not go deeply into the history and background of the area. Service: Superb. Many staff I had previously encountered only briefly addressed me by name and were always ready to go the extra mile to help. Personal but unobtrusive. Port & Shore Excursions: One of the challenges of this area is that many of the key cities (Bangkok, Saigon, Hanoi) are quite distant from their nearest ports, making shore tours challenging and tiring. Excursions were generally pretty well done given the circumstances. They might better be seen by land, but independent travel in this region is a challenge I wouldn't tackle. Summary: A wonderful cruise to an unforgettable part of the world Travel To Port of Embarkation: While not staying in the hotel through HAL, their hospitality desk did sell me a transfer at a reasonable price. The transfer was smooth, although embarkation was slow. I think the problem was an immigration delay in getting guests disembarked from the previous cruise. Stateroom: My oceanview stateroom on the Lower Promenade (outdoor walking) deck was comfortable and well laid out. This class ship provides fridges only on verandah cabins but the ice bucket was kept filled (Fridges are available for rent). There was a bath tub but it was quite small. The cabin temperature was always comfortable. Dining: One of the dining rooms's levels was for traditional dining with early and late fixed seatings, while the other was "anytime". I was unable to get my request for traditional dining, and ended up in the anytime despite my wishes. I missed having the opportunity to get familiar with my waiters, but was alwas promptly seated when I arrived. The meals wouldn't be called gourmet but were more than satisfactory. The selection and quality of food in the Lido restaurant were generally quite good. I did not use the specialty restaurants on this voyage. Children's Clubs: There were only a small smattering of youth on this voyage. I seldom saw them while at sea, and have to assume they were occupied and engaged with the activities for them. Entertainment: The Zaandam singers and dancers performed 4 excellent shows. Most of the other nights we had headline acts (singer, instrumentalist, and so on). They ranged from good to excellent. Of the 4 bars, one had a latin dance band, one a classical string group, a third alternated between guitar (early) and piano (after 9PM), and finally the Crows Nest with a band or DJ. Disembarkation: Hong Kong authorities came on board by the last sea day and processed immigration in the background. There was a delay in their processing and we did not get our passports back until the final morning but from then everything went very smoothly and on schedule. There were no border formalities the final morning. I walked off the ship at 8:50, walked away from the terminal with my luggage, and was at my hotel at 9:10. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in ... Read More
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in immediately - on board - early lunch - room ready around 1pm. We were sent the wrong way around the deck as the entry to the ship was the same as our cabin, and when a steward let us through a doorway back to where we started, the security staff almost screamed at us that we shouldnt do that and "how did we get there !!" When I pointed to the steward, the guard lowered the volume of his voice to the steward and promptly ignored us - charming chap Information for our ROV was not in the cabin as specified and the knock on the cabin door was a steward standing there with the flowers for the ROV. With no info on when it was supposed to be and the fact the flowers for the ceremony had arrived, I hot-footed it to the front desk to enquire when the ROV will be taking place. I was told by the front desk that the flowers were for the room but when I pointed out there was a card with the flowers saying ROV gift he changed his mind and said they were sent in error and an invitation to the ROV will be sent to the cabin when they knew when it was scheduled to take place. Later that evening a letter arrived with the date set for later in the week and to expect an invitation on the day. DW on the day went to the obligatory hairdresser and we both started to preen ourselves for the event and realised there was still no invitation. Hot - footing it down to the front desk with letter, I asked if it was still going ahead and he confirmed that it was and the dept that dealt with the invitation had forgotten to send it out. We arrived in The Crows Nest and were joined by quite a few others with invitations in hand, captain present and chapagne flowing. After about half an hour we realised there was not alot happening regarding the ROV and spoke to another guest if she was waiting to have her vows renewed and replied that she was with a party of 26 there for the captains Dutch cocktail party. I collared a hotel manager, showed him the letter and he started to apologise and said the ROV had been moved to the following week. Uh..Oh, DW rather angry and disappointed at this point, promptly stormed down to front desk and told them how she felt. We had arranged the Pinnacle that evening anyway and thanks to Andrew the manager, he forwarded our distress to people and he certainly gave us a meal to remember. Two days later the front desk manager called and admitted it was all a mistake on their part and would like to make ammends and rebook. The moment had been spoilt but we were offered the ROV, dinners, wine, hairdresser free of charges and in the circumstances couldnt really do anymore so we accepted and she would rebook the Pinnacle for us. A couple of days later we returned there for another meal and thanked Andrew for what he had done but then said "its not over yet" - the restaurant was fully booked and he couldnt fit us in but managed to book Canaletto for us and would send some wine up to compensate. The day finally arrived, hairdresser - preen etc., invitation arrived - off we went. greeted with chapagne and wait..... another hiccup !! The printer for the photographs was broken !! We had a very nice photo album with the ROV certificates and words in there and a CD ROM. The ceremony no doubt was a very nice one and brought DW to tears so no complaints and when finished we went to Canaletto for our meal but guess what? No wine - that had been forgotten too. When we finished the was over half a bottle left so we had it sent to the MDR for the next day, and they even forgot that too. It finally arrived half way through the main course. As mentioned the main reason for our cruise was the CNY celebrations. We left the day free on the day itself as we were not sure of the crowds etc for the night parade that evening so kept things flexible. An announcement over the tannoy at 9.20 that morning saying that the muster drill was at 5pm and that HK immigration needed face to face passport checks meaning we could not leave the ship after the drill. We were disappointed that we would miss the night parade as this was one of the reasons we came. To our disgust it seemed that the excursions arranged by HAL were allowed to come back late and all those who left before the announcement came back after the parade finished too. Thanks HAL. We thought there was something peculiar happening as on embarkation they didnt take our passport as they usually do. The whole pre-cruise experience with HAL was mismanaged especially when in came to Visas - Sanya for instance. The night before Saigon after dinner about 10pm, there were 8, yes eight immigration forms to fill in with the message they had to be handed in by 5pm the following day. We were going to Saigon for the day at 7am therefore they had to be filled in that night or at the crack of dawn, yet the example of how to fill them in had a date of 3 days before. Last minute again. The MM grade cabin quite acceptable with the exception of banging in the night sometimes, sound like something was rolling around. Was informed it was the stabalisers flexing... hmmm. Motor noises quite loud about an hour before we docked and for about an hour after we sailed but we were the last but one cabin at the front on deck 2 and didnt disturb our sleep so was bearable THe food was mediocre and at times not cooked or kept correctly. The exaggerated descriptions tended to excite when reading and dissappoint on arrival , having said that Canaletto and the superb Pinnacle grill to a point compensated The wait staff and stewards we thought were very good indeed, its just a shame that on the questionaire at the end of the cruise, it seems to be geared to critisising them for the trivial of things yet the front desk and management who seem to be at the heart of any problems, dont get a mention. We cancelled our onboard tips in favour of giving to our steward/waiters directly once it was announced that only 70% of what we give, goes to the people it said, and that 30% goes to behind the scenes people. I know tipping is an immotive subject but I will only tip those that have served me in a deserving manner and the "behind the scenes people" who I cannot judge for myself should be paid appropriately by the cruise line. Even at 70% with the cabins our steward has to do, he would make over a $1000 a week. I dont believe HAL or anyone else paying a Phillipino that sort of money, so I pay him myself. Other than any involvement by the front office, the cruise was a nice one. We may go on HAL again but it would only be to the Alaska/Carribean/Americas as they obviously cant cope outside their bubble Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2012
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, ... Read More
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, tickets, credit card details etc etc is always a bit fraught, so when a handful of forms are added to the mix, it's not conducive to you remembering to read all the small print. It wasn't until much later in the cruise that we found out that by signing those documents without question, we were accepting an automatic on board charge for two Vietnamese visa's and a further visa for Cambodia -- regardless of whether we were getting off the ship or not. My annoyance is not in whether the laws of each land visited forced Zaandam to make these charges, it was that the first we knew of it was at embarkation. HAL seriously need to get their act together and provide customers with these details at time of booking. Our cabin was ready as soon as we got on board, and our luggage arrived very soon after. The overall impression of our cabin was one of refined elegance but you couldn't help noticing that the fabrics were in need of upgrading. The balcony was roomier than most I have had in the past with two chairs and a recliner along with a small table. The bed was the comfiest I have experienced on a cruise, and in the bathroom, the shower pressure was just right. I liked the large soap, shampoo and conditioning dispensers on the wall in the bathroom -- saves all that fumbling with small plastic bottles that invariably fall at your feet once opened. One niggle: I have never seen a cabin with so much drawer space -- at least 16 in ours! But not one of them was easy to open -- nail breaking stuff. And once you'd stored items away, it took an age to remember which drawer you'd put them in! That might be age related, but hopefully a re-fit will make the space more user friendly. The only other problem we had was shared by nearly all cabins on the starboard side of Deck 6 and also affected the toilets in public areas. On at least 3 occasions during our cruise, the toilets stopped flushing. Some cabins were even flooded. The problem was addressed and corrected quite quickly each time, but the accompanying smell wasn't nice whilst it lasted. Our first night on board was berthed in Hong Kong harbour. We were lucky enough to be there for Chinese New Year and particularly to enjoy the New Year Parade. On checking our cruise personaliser a couple of months prior to sailing, Zaandam were not offering any tours to the parade, so we (along with quite a large number of fellow Cruise Critic Roll Call members) decided to pre-book with a local HK agent for a tour which included Dinner & reserved seats for the parade which were in close proximity to Ocean Terminal where the ship was berthed and due to sale at 11.00 p.m. the same night. All was fine until we received in our cabin "Special Embarkation Arrangements" informing all passengers that HAL and the Hong Kong authorities required everyone to be on board by 5.00 p.m. on the night of the Parade, so that passports could be checked personally -- deck by deck -- and that once this had been done, nobody would be allowed off the ship. Did I say everyone? Well I should have said everyone EXCEPT all those passengers who had paid for a HAL arranged tour (including a Parade tour which had been organised at the last minute!!). They were allowed to return any time up to 10.00 p.m. !! You can imagine how busy the Front Desk became with irate guests who had similarly made their own plans for their last night in Hong Kong. It was well after midnight and during my fourth trip to the Front Desk that I received a glimmer of hope that our prior made independent arrangements would be honoured and dealt with in the same manner as the HAL trips. All it required was a list of names of the persons on our independent trip and a note of their cabin numbers -- job done. So common sense prevailed at the end of the day, but how many fellow passengers did HAL upset? I definitely got the impression that we were an annoyance to them -- how dare we -- as mere passengers -- interfere with their arrangements. In my opinion, the Zaandam is either being very badly advised, or else HAL as a cruise line feel they no longer need to put their passenger's enjoyment first. Zaandam's staff were great. We couldn't fault their willingness to help and friendliness when called for, but there was just something lacking, compared to staff on other ships we have enjoyed. Maybe HAL have cut back on numbers which means their willing staff have less time to pay attention to small detail and interact with passengers. We were "Anytime" dining in the Main Dining Room, but it soon became apparent that the ship isn't built to easily accommodate this system. As on other cruise lines, the system operated when a table is not available when you arrive is to be handed a "buzzer" which shrieks at you when a table of your required size does become free. Unless you are happy to stand around at the entrance to the Dining Room, the closest place to sit and enjoy a pre-dinner drink while you wait is one floor down -- and then it is only a Lounge which requires a further walk towards the Atrium of the ship to obtain drinks. Invariably, by the time we had walked to the Lounge, and then waited for our partners to obtain drinks and return to the Lounge, the "buzzer" would sound! This noise then accompanied you (to the amusement of fellow passengers), whilst you collected your drinks, walked back through the Lounge, up two flights of stairs (or one stop in the lift), and arrived back at the entrance to the Dining Room. Larger and newer ships offering the "anytime" option invariably have bars on the same level and closer to the entrance to the Dining Room -- much better. Our normal practice on any cruise is to pre-purchase & pre-pay for a Wine Package. This we did with HAL -- but beware anyone thinking of doing the same thing. We have no complaints about the choice of wines, nor even the price, but there is a total lack of organisation in being able to obtain a bottle of your pre-paid for wine, and have it delivered to your table anytime sooner than half way through your main meal. Indeed, we were three days into our cruise before we even managed to get a bottle delivered to our table AT ALL ! Yes, we did complain -- in as polite a way as possible so as to not cause embarrassment to fellow diners. We eventually involved the Head Sommelier who personally took our order, and returned just a few minutes later to say that they had run out of our particular choice!!! His replacement recommendation was very good however, so not a real issue. Things were looking up, but because the wine was so late in arriving at our table, we were unable to finish the whole bottle. No problem, we were informed. They just write your cabin number on the bottle and keep it for the next night. Now this system works on every other ship we have been on, but yes you guessed it, it doesn't work to well on Zaandam. It may work on other HAL ships, but this one seems to lack any kind of organisational skills. The staff on the ground are only as good as the organisation behind them, and the food and beverage wait staff are being badly let down. After complaining again to a senior wine waiter on the eighth night of our cruise (and only 3 1/2 bottles into our package!!), we were told that our best course of action in future was to look for him personally each evening and ask him to find our wine. Otherwise, he informed us, you will keep encountering the same problem!! It was nice of him to try and personally avoid any further problems for us, but he shouldn't have to. Instead, we decided to avoid any further angst in the MDR and enjoyed a few evenings in the Buffet Restaurant where we encountered a wonderful wine steward who had no problem finding our wine and delivering it to our table in good time for us to fully enjoy it with our meal -- result! To be fair, the wine steward in the Buffet wasn't exactly overworked, so I put it to you HAL, give your employees sufficient time to do the job correctly and they will. In fact, we found the food served at Dinner in the Buffet Restaurant to be of excellent quality and beautifully presented. Our only complaint in this area was that half of it closed around 7.30 p.m. each evening, and the shutters came down on the remaining half at 8.00 p.m. prompt. I should also mention that we could find no fault with the food served in the MDR. Everything was well cooked and well presented. Having previously cruised on much larger ships than the Zaandam, I was concerned that I would find it too small. This was not the case. I loved the overall feel of the ship which gave an air of refined elegance, with lots of extremely comfortable areas to sit and enjoy a book or just relax looking out to sea. The entertainment wasn't as glitzy as RCI, but it was sufficient for this port intensive cruise. I'm not sure it would be sufficiently stimulating on a longer cruise. We enjoyed the Cinema on a couple of occasions, but beware of the "Popcorn Rush". We were new to HAL, so were not aware of this daily ritual where a tray of popcorn is delivered as the lights go down. Anyone standing in the way would be flattened!!! Our British reserve resulted in no popcorn for us, but we were ready for them on our second visit -- another result !! In summary, we actually enjoyed Zaandam. There are lots of things that could be improved, but we didn't let them spoil our holiday. I'm not sure I would take a lengthy voyage on this ship, and I think HAL is struggling in getting ASIA right. I am more inclined to look at HAL for an Alaska cruise which by all accounts is where they shine best.   Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.0 0.0
Service 3.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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