Zaandam Inside Passage Cruise 7 days 21 Sept to 28 Sept 2002 Vancouver to Vancouver (Round-trip). We just returned from a 7 day Alaska cruise, roundtrip from Vancouver. We experienced the good, the bad and the ugly or funky as ... Read More
Zaandam Inside Passage Cruise 7 days 21 Sept to 28 Sept 2002 Vancouver to Vancouver (Round-trip). We just returned from a 7 day Alaska cruise, roundtrip from Vancouver. We experienced the good, the bad and the ugly or funky as the case was on the Zaandam. Our previous 2 cruises were with Royal Caribbean, the last one in Spring 1999 transiting the Panama Canal. Nice relaxing 11 day trip in a veranda mini suite on the then nearly new, "Vision of the Seas". The food was not very well prepared & we felt that the food handling by waiters & assistants was not as sanitary and safe as it could & should be. The get up and boogie atmosphere coupled with constant loudspeaker announcements and drink sales pushes everywhere turned us off of RCI. We have been visiting the Cruise Critic cruise boards daily for the past few months reading the newest reviews, looking for a bit more elegant cruise line with better food (in regard to taste, presentation and proper sanitary handling) than RCI without paying nosebleed Seabourn prices. We chose Holland America. I had been a passenger on the Rotterdam NY to Europe when I was in the Air Force and I had memories of 2 nice Atlantic crossings with HAL. PRE-CRUISE DAYS IN VANCOUVER: We live in Santa Monica, CA but we have a seasonal apartment in North Vancouver with a view of the cruise ships going in and out of the harbor under Lion's gate bridge and docking at Canada Place. It whetted our appetite for cruising again. We spent some pre cruise days in beautiful, friendly, reasonably priced Vancouver. It's a great way to start a vacation. Translink, the public transit entity, sells a shirt pocket sized Greater Vancouver Transportation Map (2002 edition) for $2.50 CDN which also serves as a convenient city map. If you like to walk or bicycle, circling Stanley Park is a great workout with a fantastic view. We buy daily transit passes and ride easily around town on any bus, sky train or sea bus we wished for one daily fee. Take a sky train to get a nice view ride through the city. Take a mini-cruise, 12 minutes long on the sea bus from the Sea bus and Sky train terminal building next to Canada Place and wander through the Lonsdale Quay Marketplace, the North Vancouver terminus of the sea bus. Across the street and 100 yards east of the Quay is a superb Italian Restaurant, Quattro di Gusto. Fantastic gourmet lunch with reasonable prices. Great food inside the Quay Market too. We also went to Hon's Wun-tun House, a huge, delicious Hong Kong style Chinese restaurant on Robson St. (the 'Via Veneto' of Vancouver) within walking distance to Stanley Park. If you are coming in from Vancouver International Airport they have great New York style deli sandwiches (fantastic potato salad too) at Kaplans Star Deli on Oak St near the corner of 41 St. on the way into the downtown area. A few doors east of Hon's on Robson (corner of Jervis) is Cows, an old fashioned ice cream parlor where you can practice acquiring pre cruise calories. There are many bargains in Vancouver. Leave room in your luggage. EMBARKATION: We arrived at Canada Place by around 1 PM, received our boarding numbers and finally got on the ship @ 3:30 PM. We ate a late breakfast so we wouldn't get too hungry but by 3:30 we were definitely hungry. We dumped our carry on luggage in our Deck 7 veranda mini-suite and raced for the Lido Buffet on deck 8. We arrived about 3:45 and were informed that the buffet was closing. There would be bar snacks in the Crow's nest and other bars at 6PM. 24 hour room service was not up and running at this moment. We were second seating dining so we had to eat something soon. Next time I will bring protein bars or snack food in my carry on luggage. We sailed out of majestic Vancouver harbor under Lion's Gate Bridge with the party music playing and our stomachs growling; we were not in the mood for any "frozen thingies". We recognize how difficult embarkation/debarkation days are for the crew (and the newly boarded passengers) but at these prices maybe they could pre-make simple sandwiches and have them available or keep a small part of the buffet or grill open. We discovered that on most days the Grill in the pool area is open when the Lido isn't. That was not the case on embarkation day. PUBLIC AREAS: The Zaandam is an elegant looking, well laid out vessel. More like a ship than a floating resort supership. The elevators are plentiful and there is not much waiting like on the bigger ships. Most decks have 3 banks of 4 elevators. The Erasmus Library on Deck 5 is beautiful but they don't enforce the library silence rule. People just wander in and start loud conversations. It is the only quiet room on a ship full of great places to relax and talk. A lot of our fellow passengers were not conscious of what is or isn't going on around them. The Zaandam singers and dancers alternate as librarians. Shame on HAL for closing the library so early every night. There is an Internet center next door. They charge 75 cents a minute but they have a 250 minutes for $100. deal available. You can't word process on these computers only surf the net. Various attractive public rooms and lounges surround the Atrium on 5 and the Hotel Desk is on 4. CABIN: Our long but narrow mini suite was the farthest aft cabin on deck 7 (the Navigation Deck). The veranda was nice and had more room because it was the last one aft. We could see over the side of the ship as well as the ship's wake. We loved our veranda. We don't ever want to cruise again without a veranda. The bathroom was good sized with a large mirrored storage cabinet that easily held all of our stuff and the cabin storage was excellent. There was even room to put our luggage in the closets. Holland American gets a gold star for the bath and the closets. The lighting was good and the sitting area has a small couch and a curtain dividing it from the sleeping area so one can read while another sleeps. CLEANLINESS: I decided to use the bathroom and when I lifted the lid for the first time there was a large load of poop. A portent of things to come? Not an auspicious beginning! My wife enjoys giving herself beauty treatments in the privacy of her stateroom during cruises. However on this cruise she was unable to because the state of cleanliness of the room grossed her out. For example; the full length mirror inside the closet door seemed to be smeared here and there with something like Vaseline. She could not bring herself to do floor exercises in our mini-suite because as she said looking at the stained carpeting "Did they housebreak a puppy on this carpet?" I can't say I disagreed with her. The carpet was worn well beyond the time when it should have been replaced. The narrowness of the room dictates a narrow walking path to the sitting room and the veranda and it was well worn. I mentioned this to the front desk and they offered to clean the carpet; since this would curtail our use of the cabin for a day, we declined. We put towels down in the worst spots. The carpet was also worn through around the edge of the bed. Our friendly room steward tried to help but the carpet was beyond spot cleaning. Holland America should consider using vinyl on the high traffic paths in the room. The couch also required towels, and the nice little pillow collection was pretty funky. I suspect the cause was previous romance on the high seas. We're not going to talk about the bedspread; suffice to say we put the bedspread under the bed and asked our steward to leave it there. The HAL bathrobes that hung in our cabin helped us to remain relatively microbe free. The equivalent of putting a towel down before you sit at a nudist camp. Those of you familiar with the comedy routines of Howie Mandel know he carries a blacklight to look for germs. Our hard working steward was completely worn out. He had 14 rooms to clean and some people were paging him constantly trying to use him as their personal butler. He was paged twice during a short conversation I was trying to have with him. I noticed officious housekeeping staffers spiffy in their uniforms checking rooms but they were missing a lot considering the condition of our cabin. Or was it just part of keeping up appearances and making check marks on a list? Is anyone supervising the supervisors? Now we get to the sleeping part. The brochures say the beds are queen sized but they are not standard queens. They are 2 twin beds put together to make one. Their queen, 75 inches long, is 2 inches shorter than standard queen sized beds. I'm six feet two and a half inches tall and my heels hang over the end of the bed. I tried to scrunch up but my sleep was fitful. I mentally blamed it on being in the far aft cabin where it is noisier and bouncier than midships but we wanted the view. I slept the second night in the 2 inches shorter bed and realized that I needed to remedy the problem. I dropped by the front desk and talked about my bed and they said they could help me. They were very nice. I went on about my business heading to the gym. The gym was spacious with all the goodies but it was a bit grungy. Rubber handles had broken off various machines, the deck needed vacuuming, chrome and bright work was dirty and the huge picture windows were filthy. Loud CNN was on TV, and an instructor was shouting through an aerobics class with driving workout music playing. I asked a staff member to at least mute the TV sound but they kept it on along with the music. Not a very cruisey atmosphere. Went back to the cabin and the message light was on. They were checking to see if the bed had been fixed. It hadn't. I asked to speak to Judy Shepheard, the guest relations manager. Her hours were listed a 8A to early afternoon; maybe she could help. The Captain, Tore Lura, mentioned in his speech that the ship was a hotel with a propeller -- a line that they cut out of the cruise video they were offering. I liked that line. It fit. We both work in motion picture production and spend a lot of time on location and have stayed in all manner of hotels both first cabin and almost dives. I figured a bed change would be easy. It says queen sized in the brochure and that's what I wanted. Judy Shepheard never called. When I visited the desk again she was in a meeting. I went back to my cabin in the late afternoon and there was a wooden bench about 30 inches wide, with a pillow on it. I called the desk and they said to just put it on the end of the bed. That might have worked had the bench been long enough to stretch across the whole width of the bed. The bench and pillow were dirty also. I got madder. I called the desk and asked why the guest relations person was ducking me. She's in a meeting was the stock answer through 3 calls to the front desk, even though her hours are listed in the daily handout. I considered calling the hotel manager, Rene Tuinman, who had a card in the room telling me to have a perfect cruise and to contact him with any problems. I took the bench & its filthy pillow down to the hotel desk and asked again to see Judy Shepheard. It was dinner time but I didn't care. I wanted a hearing. I get testy from lack of sleep. After waiting awhile a desk person said Judy would call me and I might as well leave. I said that I wasn't leaving until I saw Judy. This is a high priced hotel, I expect reasonable hotel service, especially from a particularized guest relations department. Note to Rene Tuinman: Don't leave a nicely printed card in the cabin with your signature on it wishing me a good trip and inferring he and his staff are here to help with any situation that might arise (I'm paraphrasing-I forgot to bring the card)and leave it in the hands of a related guest relations department head who was practicing avoidance in dealing with short beds. Judy finally appeared, listened to my story and left for a minute. She came back with information on bed length and admitted to me that the 2 beds together had 2 inches less length than the standard queen. There were no standard queens on the ship. Why this info took all of the second cruise day to obtain is beyond me. They could have told me a hell of a lot earlier in the day. The little bench they sent looked used, so I'm not the first one with this problem. Judy was actually Judy Shepheard-Tuinman according to her business card. She is married to the Hotel Manager, Rene Tuinman. She is a most invisible Guest Relations person. She seems to prefer to let the harried front desk assistants handle the complaints. If Holland-America would just get some "long-twin beds" they could accommodate taller people. They could set aside a few rooms for these purposes and they would always sell out. I recognize the problem that then the cabins would be 2 inches narrower and look smaller but cruises are about comfort, not just non stop food and entertainment. We finally solved the bed problem by pulling the mattress out from the wall 6 inches, placing pillows in the gap between the wall and the beginning of the top mattress. The theme of the Zaandam is music and it plays everywhere...There are some interesting musical artifacts on display...I never thought I could get tired of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. but the play list was narrow. I mean I'm a baby boomer, no longer middle aged according to my daughter. She explained I stopped being middle-aged when I passed 60, and my wife and I were probably in that 25% of younger passengers. It's an older crowd. I love this kind of music but enough is enough...more variety please. No Vera Lynn songs. It can't all be nostalgia. Can it? The Wilson Palomo Trio played in the Explorers lounge...a great group playing Jazz and contemporary pop...then dinner ends and the 1st seating crowd is ready to dance and the music switches to a never ending waterfall of foxtrot and waltz music interspersed with ricky-tick Samba's and Cha Cha's. Same problem in the Crow's nest...The Sunshine band is great...they play excellent country, rock and pop but when 1st seating is over in come the dancers and that 4 beat foxtrot. I heard the cloying, saccharine "Anniversary Waltz" & "Tennessee Waltz" every night of the cruise. I don't wish to sound mean spirited but the formula drove us out. Please keep it eclectic. I'm HAL's new target demographic. I'll be getting my Medicare card in a couple of years. We retreated from the musical venues and relaxed more in our (funky) cabin or by strolling the decks. It never got as cold as we thought Alaska would be. We brought a big bag of parka & foul weather gear that we did not use. Note to Holland America. We had the lowest bar tab we have ever had on a cruise. Baby boomers are may be pushing 60 but we need to rock a bit. (My wife is still under 60.) Age is going to cause the current targeted Holland America demographic to disappear in the next few years. FOOD TASTE & RELATED SERVICE: It's hard pleasing all of the people all of the time to paraphrase an old maxim. The Rotterdam Dining Room was excellent service wise and spotty food wise. The filet mignon was not very filet or mignon. The vegetables were cooked to death. The meals got better as the cruise wore on getting much better near the end of the voyage. We preferred eating there to the Lido cafeteria. Its ambience gave us the feeling of cruising we wanted. We broke up the dining routine with room service served well and promptly. We didn't go to the Lido until the 4th day of the cruise in order not to be burned out by its sameness. This method works. When you finally go to the Lido cafeteria it's new to you. We enjoyed eating breakfast in the Rotterdam dining room and lunch too. We ate during the open seating at breakfast and lunch at our regularly assigned table with our favorite servers. I can't say enough for Enrico our waiter and Dadang his assistant along with dining room captain Muarif and 2nd maitre'd Helmi. They were professional and funny without being obsequious. They represented the best HAL had to offer us. We thank them! The person I saw checking his department the most was Jerry the Maitre d'. Early in the morning, later at night there he was; watching, talking to the troops, making sure. I would pass his office and the door was always open. The sign of a good manager. The Chef, Wolfgang Wasshausen, also was always on the scene. Food service was the best run part of the hotel side. Food taste versus food description is another matter. It's mostly rubber chicken level banquet food. The better Las Vegas hotels (Bally's, Mirage, Rio etc.)have buffets and cafes that meet my expectations on a regular basis. It can be done. The wait staff is tired. They always seem to be on duty. They should close the Rotterdam for breakfast and lunch a couple of days a week and the Lido at least one day for breakfast & lunch. ALTERNATE RESTAURANT: The Monte Carlo is a great little Italian change of pace. The food is very good. Maitre d' Hilman and Chef Lazlo have a created a welcome respite from the main room. The desserts were great too. We had a lunch and a dinner there. Very pleasant. HAL doesn't charge any extra for this place but I'm rethinking my previous resistance to paying for alternative cuising ala Celebrity or NCL. It allows you more variety in taste and cuising. One of the reasons we chose HAL was because of the alternative dining for free. If I can have more alternative dining I'm now ready to pay for it. CASINO: Las Vegas wins again. Don't they always? The slots were tight. It was very smoky. There was no table game excitement being generated. No buzz. They would promote a special game of dealer's cards up blackjack all over the ship and then only run one table. They could loosen the slots to get the energy in the room up and maybe put some of these looser machines in the public room next door and make this area non smoking. The gaming staff was friendly and helpful. It was strange to walk through a casino in the morning and see all of the slots asleep...no noise or flashing lights. Very bizarre. PUBLIC AREAS: The public areas were constantly being cleaned and vacuumed but it seemed more for show than cleanliness. They pick up and clean but not very well. There is less obvious mess but the surfaces haven't been cleaned well, just picked up. That part of the crew is tired. I've spent time in Holiday Inns or Days Inns with higher standards than the Zaandam. The only day that they seemed to be really cleaning was embarkation/debarkation day. The standard of cleanliness was higher outside on the decks and in the pool & grill areas than inside. I never saw the Hotel Manager (Rene Tuinman) walking the operation except when he was introduced by the Captain at the welcome party and at the never ending debarkation marathon talk by the cruise director. At the latter the Mr. Tuinman ducked the limelight. I checked the video footage and Mr. Tuinman is indeed a shadowy figure ducking into the wings of the showroom after his introduction. He certainly doesn't manage the public areas visibly or invisibly in my opinion. I suspect the management of thinking the balance sheet is most important and the hotel was full. Why change a thing? This hotel manager should take managing lessons from a Club Med Chef de Village. The captain's crew is invisible also. It's almost like 'we're running this ship...we'll be at our posts out of sight and out of mind. Don't talk to or bother us. Only the Captain is visible. Some of the time. I must say his team runs the ship part well. They maneuvered as closely and slowly as they could in Glacier Bay. Unfortunately, since Sept. 11 there are no more bridge tours; we had been looking forward to one. It is indeed a hotel with a propeller and a poorly managed one at that from my point of view as a customer. ALASKA: Juneau, the state capitol, was overcast on our day there. Not worth taking the aerial tram to the top in clouds. The aerial tours were cancelled too. You can't control the weather. We enjoyed wandering there. We spent Monday night in Juneau until an 11PM sailing. They have a local ABC affiliate there broadcasting over the air, not just cable. It would have been nice to see the Monday night football game in our cabin. Skagway is metaphorically just a wide place in the road. We ignored the 3 1/2 plus hour White Pass train trip. We stayed in town and wandered around and were hustled in our own language by our own countrymen imploring us to take this and that tour...We finally asked one of these hucksters where to get a good cup of coffee in town. He whispered a greasy, patronizing aside in my ear "Just ask a local," and sent us to Mabel's. The coffee was thin and awful. Made Micky D's breakfast coffee taste like Starbucks. Anecdotally, we heard there had been a Starbucks there but it closed. When is the last time a Starbucks closed? The Skagway locals' behavior reminded me of the arrogance of the locals in rural Hawaii. Ketchikan was the third city we visited. It was nice to look around. Great totem poles. A pleasant place. We prefer city meandering to being bused to sites of interest. My wife and I have scouted too many locations and we hate riding in maxi vans without being paid for it. I'd rather pay a knowledgeable taxi driver for a couple of hours of looking around and waiting while we shop. Glacier Bay was fogged in. The cold of the glacier causes the fog to rise enough to see the bottom of the glacier but not much else. The sailors did a great job for us that day getting us as close as they could. It was the best day of the cruise even with the foggy conditions. In the cruise video they cut in shots of the glacier on a clearer day. That's entertainment! HAL'S TIPPING NOT REQUIRED POLICY... is a bigger load than what we found when we first entered our cabin bathroom. The service people work hard and keep smiling. We left the tips recommended on most cruises and sometimes overtipped. We heard some folks talking about how nice it was not to tip. Shame on them. The cocktail servers seem to suffer the most, fiscally and physically doing the most running & smiling and getting stiffed on a regular basis. C'mon folks....we're talking less than $200 for the whole cruise. Give it up to those who have served you well. They deserve to be tipped when they take care of you. The unctuous cruise director (who sounded a lot like Merv Griffin) Jack Chambers, got into HAL's tipping not required policy briefly, skirting around the edge of it in his debarkation lecture. The subtext of his speech was tip 'em if they deserve it, but a lot of folks chose to ignore the subtlety of his message. Kudos to his assistant, Johnny I, the bingo guy & Gavin his cohort for keeping it as real as they could during the more inane moments. They did a good job with the bingo games. SUMMING UP: I want to thank the cruise critics and reviewers who have worked hard at informing us what's up on the ships. Tom Milano & Vincent Fanelli come to mind as well as the Cruise Diva and many others. We're hooked on the cruising part of cruising. We want better food (Vegas level) and more variety and choice of music. More interesting and exciting gaming and more relaxing days at sea. We have promised ourselves another cruise (with a veranda) in the not too distant future, of at least 10 days. It really does take a couple of days on board to really get relaxed. Then the real cruising begins. We also want some days before and after the cruise spent exploring the embarkation/debarkation cities. Europe or the South Pacific are looking good to us. Yo ho ho and a bottle of light beer. Shame on HAL for closing the library so early every night. thedirector@telus.net December 2002 Read Less
We sailed the week of June 15. I will hit the highlights and you can contact me if more information is needed. Getting on the ship: This was done very quickly. One thing for Alumni, they do not let you on earlier anymore. If you want ... Read More
We sailed the week of June 15. I will hit the highlights and you can contact me if more information is needed. Getting on the ship: This was done very quickly. One thing for Alumni, they do not let you on earlier anymore. If you want someone to take you to your cabin, someone will. But it is not done automatically anymore. Room: We had a large outside Stateroom. They are the same size no matter what floor. It was very pretty in light wood tones and peach colors. The window was large. The bathroom had tub and shower, blow dryer, shampoo, soaps and lotion. There was a dresser and loveseat. The amount of closet space is enormous. And a music system in the ceiling allowed you to hear classical, easy listening or rock music via controls at the head of the bed. Food: One word-- excellent. the dining room menus were extensive, varied, fresh and very good. There is a lovely alternative Italian restaurant (no extra charge) and the Lido Buffet is open in the evenings with waiter service. The Lido Restaurant had so many choices for meals that we ate there a few times; on other cruises we have favored the dining room. Besides an extensive hot and cold regular buffet, for breakfast there was set up a continental buffet, and separate omelet bars. For lunch there were a deli sandwich bar, pasta bar, pizza, taco bar, ice cream bar, salad bar, hamburger bar and the regular Lido hot and cold buffet. Entertainment: Very good -- dancers, singers, comedy. They even had an adult comedy show. Much improved from past HAL cruises. Service: They have some obviously new people on this new ship, and that brings problems. Overall, staff were helpful and very nice. Casino: Stay away -- many complaints about the slots not paying off. Tours -- very popular. We went on the Rain Forest Bus tour in San Juan and enjoyed it very much. If you are interested in the walking tour sign up as soon as you get on -- it was sold out. Also all the tours on Half Moon Cay sold out quickly, too. Any Down Side? We had a few glitches. One was ceiling leaks in our room we could not get anybody to fix. We ended up with a bucket and towels on the floor. My husband dubbed the "Dripdam." My parents next door had the same problem. We are very unhappy about this. Also on the last day we were supposed to be given baggage tags and boarding passes for our flight home. Somehow they never made it to the ship. We were very disappointed and chalk that one up to someone's inexperience. Read Less
1st timers on HAL. So let's start at the beginning. Embarkation was a snap. Lines looked long at first but they moved so quickly, we were thru and heading up the gangway in no time. Staff is quick, friendly and knowledgeable. ... Read More
1st timers on HAL. So let's start at the beginning. Embarkation was a snap. Lines looked long at first but they moved so quickly, we were thru and heading up the gangway in no time. Staff is quick, friendly and knowledgeable. On-board you are greeted and escorted to your cabin, a pleasant throwback to the days of old! Luggage arrived about 1 hour after we boarded. The ship: Note, I HATE these new floating container ships with windows. The ZAANDAM is the perfect size! Whether you do it immediately when you get onboard or do it throughout the cruise, you must take time to look at the spectacular art collection throughout the ship..$4.3 million worth of painting, sculpture, objects, etc. The cabins are wonderful, ours was 198 sq ft..Dolphin Deck (swimming with the fishes) outside. Tons of closet space, storage space and just plain comfortable! The ship layout is absolutely super. It is a snap to go from any deck to any location on the ship. The Crow's Nest is dynamite. More on this later. There are two pools, one with a retractable roof and another on the Aft Lido Deck. There was never a time when we had to hunt for a deck chair..and every deck chair has a great cushion. The Mandarin Theatre offers something I had never encountered before: legroom! Lido dining has a wide array of selections for all meals. Hint: DO NOT miss the bread pudding and when you are done with that and begin to recover, try the cheese cake! The Rotterdam dining room (two floors) is superb. This was the very best meals we have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Period! That covers a span beginning back in 1973. Service: Impeccable. There is no decline or loss of the finer touches HAL is known for. From our Cabin Steward to the Dining Room to the Lido Deck to the Crow's Nest. Absolutely outstanding service. May we recommend: Second Seating. Begin your evening watching the sunset in the Crow's Nest, let Angel (he) and Richie (she) pamper you with adult beverages and canapEs! Now, for the Crow's Nest! Prior to departing we used Cruise Critic to touch base with a few folks that might be on the ship. Little did we know that those postings would lead to...... HAL'S DIRTY DOZEN! Yep, Mike and Wendy, joined Dave and Diane and Jim and Sue and a bunch of other great folks.....there were two no shows that promised to meet us..their loss! Did you know that is you stay in the Crow's Nest until 3am, the staff will stay with you..with a smile!! If you need to rearrange every chair in the room to accommodate the group, the staff will smile and make it happen? If you need to change the music in the room to accommodate the dance stylings of one of the DIRTY DOZEN (mikespike) they will do it? I am not saying that the age was older, but they used carbon dating to confirm the birth dates of many of the passengers. But those folks sure know how to live with style! They disappeared around 10pm leaving this massive wonderful ship to the party crowd. Note, the cruise was a 10 day post holiday trip and this ALWAYS means a much older crowd for HAL. The previous holiday sailings looked about "middle-aged' average...this from a few of the Cruise Director's staff that also hung out in the Crow's Nest. The HAL staff do one thing you rarely find on any other ship: If you have a problem or a question, they do not send you running around looking for answers..they take ownership of the problem or question and get it solved for you. Spectacular! Entertainment: The dance troupe is a cut below NCL's dancers, a cut above RCL and Carnival. The individual entertainers...singer...ventriloquist...magician/comedian: Don't miss the magician/comedian, he is Las Vegas quality. They also do a Philippino Folk Show, my wife gave me permission to go to the casino so I "missed" that show. The ship is in impeccable condition, the individual pride each staff member exhibited extended to their home, the ZAANDAM. Ports Note:, Isle de Margarita is a dog. St Lucia, Bonaire, Dominica, St John's and Half Moon Cay are great stops. Note: Had a problem with the St John Truk Bay tour, with no questions asked, no hesitation, HAL refunded 30% of our cost..a very, very fair arrangement (class shows). The Cruise Director staff is constantly available, ship's officers are always around! In an age where the mentality is.."we got their money, next!" is becoming more and more common, HAL completely understands that the cruise you are on, at that very moment, is the most important moment and they treat you accordingly! And finally, disembarking. Guaranteed, take it to the bank, happens every time! ONE VERY INCONSIDERATE COUPLE DIDN'T GO TO SEE CUSTOMS. ALL 1,400 PEOPLE WAIT UNTIL THEY FIND THEM, DRAG THEM IN, CLEAR AND THEN WE CAN ALL BEGIN DISEMBARKING. Come on guys, bring back KEELHAULING! There really are some butt stupid folks wondering around this world! (Only kidding) On a scale of 1 to 10, my wife, Suzan and I rated this a 9. We have never gone over a 7.5 in the past so this one blows away the competition! Note, we have been cruising since 1973. We will sail again soon, hopefully with the HAL DIRTY DOZEN...those guys made our vacation great. TEXASMUNK@aol.com January 2002 Read Less
We have just returned from a 10 day southern Caribbean Seafarer cruise aboard HAL's Zaandam. It truly was a vacation to remember. Embarkation After a speedy shuttle from the Fort Lauderdale airport to the ship's port, we ... Read More
We have just returned from a 10 day southern Caribbean Seafarer cruise aboard HAL's Zaandam. It truly was a vacation to remember. Embarkation After a speedy shuttle from the Fort Lauderdale airport to the ship's port, we quickly reached the check-in counter. This proved to be the one negative aspect of our vacation. As we watched everyone speed through the check-in process, we were delayed by an employee who had difficulty with the procedures as well as the language. The information in our passports was questioned and we were given misinformation about the plastic room and charge card. Fortunately, another employee came to our rescue and graciously ushered us onto the ship with her apologies. As we looked behind us, we were the last ones to board. This was not a promising way to begin this long-awaited holiday. Our Mini SuiteOur suite was very spacious and beautifully appointed. The balcony was worth every penny, as we spent many an hour out there enjoying the fresh air and the scenic vistas. The bathroom had a full jacuzzi tub and shower, a vacuum toilet and full sink and vanity. Towels were replaced immediately upon use. There was plenty of closet and cupboard space and more than enough hangers for dresses and pants. Luggage was easily stored beneath the beds, which by the way, were very comfortable. Each day our fruit bowl was refilled with very tasty apples, pears and bananas. White cotton robes were there for our use throughout the voyage. We had a pull out couch , chair, table and vanity/desk as well with privacy curtains which gave privacy to the sleeping area. We were given personalized stationery, but that was highly unnecessary. The ShipThe Zaandam is a medium sized ship @63,000 tons and carried in excess of 1400 passengers. The theme of the ship is music and there are instruments on display throughout the ship, as well as live music almost everywhere. The valuable art display lent a subtle air of sophistication to the ship. Fresh flowers were everywhere...on all dining tables, along the corridors as well as in the public areas. The corridors were nicely carpeted with handrails along both walls, should anyone need support with the motion of the ship. On the 5th floor Lido Promenade deck, there were numerous lounges which were very comfortable and well appointed. On that floor as well were the Library with an excellent selection of books to lend ($25 fee was reimbursed with the return of the book), an Internet Cafe with numerous computers (Internet @50 cents a minute), a casino with numerous slot machines and tables, a sports bar with large screen TV's displaying ESPN events, a duty free shop, various boutiques. The 4th floor featured the movie theatre, the Mondriaan show theatre and the Rotterdam dining room , both of which extended to the 5th floor. The 8th floor boasted the Lido buffet dining room, the Lido pool area with hot tub, Grill and retractable roof. There was also an outdoor Lido aft pool. On this floor was the Spa( hair and esthetician treatments), Steam rooms and a fitness facility which had more than sufficient equipment for those who participated. The third floor boasted a full walk-around deck. It was here as well where we were initiated with the Life Jacket drill, an event which was taken very seriously. Not to forget, there was the top floor Crow's Nest lounge where passengers danced and enjoyed the music and refreshments. On the Dolphin Deck, the infirmary was kept busy with those of us who developed bad colds and sore throats! The Ports After the first 2 days at sea (a little windy on the 2nd day) we docked at the island of Bonaire. Much like Aruba, the countryside is filled with cactus. The town was very colourfully painted with several shops open (even though it was Sunday). We made our way to the supermarket where we stocked up on soda to bring back for our Happy Hours in the suite! Walking alongside the water's edge, there were spectacularly coloured fish right near shore. We then sailed to Margarita Island where we took the ship's excursion to Playa El Agua for $29. This was a most worthwhile excursion with a very hilarious guide to a lovely clean beach. Chaise lounges and umbrellas were reserved for us. Along the way, we stopped at two vendors to see their wares. Our next stop was St. Lucia where we docked by a duty free plaza. After walking through the numerous shops, we took a $1 water taxi ride to town (we could have walked, but it was too hot and humid). There we shopped in two huge factory-like buildings filled with vendors. Our next stop was at the tiny island of Dominica, where numerous side streets were filled with very friendly, helpful vendors. It was here that the best duty free prices could be found on most alcohol, even better than in St. Thomas. From here we sailed to St. Thomas, a very developed island known for its shopping. Here we took the ship's $64 excursion to St. John's Island via ferry boat. Because of the number of ships in port, the ferry stopped twice more to pick up passengers. From the dock we were bused to Trunk Bay beach, supposedly one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. But the 2 hour transportation there left us one short hour to enjoy the beach, then back on the bus and back on the ferry. We were given the option to be dropped at the ship or the shopping area. The shopping area was great. It had come to our attention that numerous passengers were very upset at the little actual time on the beach and we were grateful for the ship's 30% rebate on the excursion's cost. After another day at sea, our final port was Half Moon Cay, a property which HAL owns on an island in the Bahamas. This was a very beautiful beach with clean, clear calm water. After a BBQ lunch we boarded the ship to make our way back to Fort Lauderdale. There were plenty of chairs, even considering that another ship was in port as well. Security We were truly impressed with and appreciated the security which was ever present every time we returned to the ship from a port. Not only were passports checked each time, but all bags were searched and each passenger was checked with the "metal detector wand". Entertainment and Activities Of all of the entertainment, the singers and dancers had to get an "A+" for their talent and energy level. The shows appealed to all ages as the music spanned the decades. Our only criticism was that the volume was far too high! The ventriloquist was quite good as was the magician. Numerous activities were available from basketball, volleyball, trivial pursuit to bingo. If you wanted to do it, it was available. Religious services were available daily. Art auctions were held daily with tremendous values on most pieces. Three sail-away events were held on the aft deck (tacos & salsa on the first night, a chocolate fruit fondue a few nights later and a wine and cheese a few days later still). These were fun and encouraged passengers to meet and greet. Dining The meals in the Rotterdam dining room were excellent. There were always choices for every palate and dietary need. Four appetizers, 3 soups, 2 salads, 6 or 7 entrees and 5 or 6 desserts were there for the asking, all served beautifully. The Lido buffet sported just as many selections and was a nice alternative for lunch. The afternoon ice cream was a treat to behold. The Lido pool Grill always served hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and a variety of pizzas which were light and delicious. The Marco Polo dining room (and we were fortunate enough to dine there one evening) featured an Italian menu, although you could order a wonderful filet mignon from the menu. The service here was impeccable, the food delicious and the ambiance was wonderful. This cannot be missed. In summary, this was a wonderful cruise on a great ship. We would recommend the ship highly to all age groups. Of particular note, the ship is wheelchair accessible and it was reassuring to see that those who had mobility problems were assisted whenever needed. Thank you to the Zaandam's staff, officers and crew for a memorable holiday. patrkwia@interlynx.netJanuary 2002 Read Less
My husband & I loved sailing aboard the Zaandam! We're in our early 40s & decided in June to book this cruise. This was our first HAL cruise & not the last. However, we have 2 daughters (elderly children, 16 & 19) who ... Read More
My husband & I loved sailing aboard the Zaandam! We're in our early 40s & decided in June to book this cruise. This was our first HAL cruise & not the last. However, we have 2 daughters (elderly children, 16 & 19) who would enjoy Royal Caribbean more than HAL since HAL is marketed towards an older clientele & not so much for teens or kids. It was fine for us since we were just wanting private time sans teenagers...we never knew how laid-back & relaxing a cruise could be until settling in aboard Zaandam. Her appointments are elegant, with hundreds of antiques & artworks, many of Dutch origin. The ship's hostess, Lammy, offers a tour of the ship's antiques & artwork. Lammy's tour is well worth the time. HAL spares no expense on its collections. Fresh floral arrangements are throughout the ship, too. Zaandam is a work of art at sea. Our cabin on the lower promenade deck, outside cabin was spacious and comfortable. We had a large window; we did not want a verandah since so little time is spent in the cabin. The windows are tinted so that you cannot see inside from the deck but I could easily see my husband standing in our room when I checked. He could see me too when he checked the window's opaqueness. So keep your curtains drawn if you have a tinted window overlooking the prom. deck. I was able to peek inside some of the other cabins when we were first boarding. The inside doubles are VERY nice, even way down on the lowest deck. There are NO bad cramped cabins on Zaandam. This is the first ship I've cruised on that had very quiet cabins. We never heard our neighbors. The walls are well insulated. Bathrooms are gleaming & spacious and there is more than enough closet & drawer space for clothing. Two formal nights require a tux or dark suit for men. During this cruise I saw many men wearing tuxes, even the younger ones & a few of the teenage boys. Women wear everything from short cocktail dresses to long gowns. This is the type of ship that calls for your best formal attire on those 2 nights. The rest of the evenings are casual or elegant casual, which means "whatever" but by no means will you ever be correct in jeans or shorts in the dining room. Daytime clothing is very casual. My husband wore nothing but his knee-length swim trunks with a polo shirt and sandals except at night when he changed for dinner. Only in the 2 port cities did he wear walking shorts. Food is adequate in both Lido and the dining rooms. Book a table ASAP for dining in the Marco Polo. The food & service in MP is above average & not to be missed. This restaurant is an asset to the ship and not to be missed. The best bar on the ship, in my opinion is the Crow's Nest on the Sports Deck (9th. level). Sonny Samuel is the man in charge.....he will take care of you & remember your name & preferences from the time he meets you, all through your cruise. The view is spectacular, overlooking the bow as you cruise at sea. Hot, heavy hors d'ouvres are served in the Crow's Nest before 2nd. seating dinner. Sonny will keep you sated with them....the appetizers are delicious Filipino recipes. I could go on & on about this ship & cruise. If you want more info, please email me at eqmassage@aol.com I loved our vacation with HAL and look forward to more cruises with this line. Read Less
Just returned from the Zaandam--our 4th cruise, 1st on HAL--and would give it a B+, not an A. Positives: 1. The ship truly is beautiful--you feel very special just being on it. 2. (For me) A relaxed atmosphere, with plenty of quiet ... Read More
Just returned from the Zaandam--our 4th cruise, 1st on HAL--and would give it a B+, not an A. Positives: 1. The ship truly is beautiful--you feel very special just being on it. 2. (For me) A relaxed atmosphere, with plenty of quiet spaces to curl up with a good book 3. The Marco Polo restaurant--our most memorable meal, with excellent food and service. 4. The Lido restaurant--excellent food quality and variety in a very pleasant atmosphere. 5. Our stateroom was the largest we've ever had--four of us in one room, but we had plenty of storage space and could move around comfortably. Mixed: 1. Food was sometimes great (especially the baked goods, fresh squeezed OJ in the Lido, and bread pudding in the Lido), sometimes not (overdone chicken and scallops, shrimp cocktail made of tiny shrimp that belong in a bisque, crab soup with no visible crab) 2. Service was also mixed. HAL has great touches like the afternoon tea, movies with popcorn, and chocolates with the harpist in the evening. But we couldn't get a weather forecast on port days when the weather looked iffy, and the assistant cruise director couldn't give us any info on getting to Cayman's Seven Mile Beach (said he hadn't been ashore there in years)! 3. As many have noted on this list, HAL is trying but hasn't yet figured out how to serve boomers and their kids. Activities, entertainment, and even food leaned heavily towards seniors (we were hard pressed to hear a song written in the last 30 years, and the "name that tune" game had mostly songs written before we were born). As others have noted, Club HAL needs some work. 9-12-year-olds are too old for face painting or pajama parties and too young for dances. The children's menu was very limited. There were over 260 children on this cruise, and I would guess the average age of adults at about 45. HAL needs to recognize that summer Caribbean cruises attract a different clientele than its other cruises and provide different activities and entertainment. One negative: Two days before disembarkation, we went to the front desk to get cash to tip the staff on our last evening. Only then did we learn that HAL does not cash personal checks nor give cash advances on credit cards. We were told to get chips at the casino, hold them for half an hour, then cash them in! What a silly game to play. And even that didn't work--due to a staff glitch our cash draw was never authorized and we were never notified about that, so we had to end up giving the staff tips as checks--a very unsatisfactory solution. So bring on board enough cash for tips, as well as anything you might want to pay cash for ashore! This sounds basically negative, but it really wasn't. We loved the cruise, hated leaving, and immediately got out the HAL brochure when we returned to start planning our next cruise. Our teenage daughter met many other teens and had a blast. 08/18/00 Read Less
Having cruised on 20 other ships, I must include this Holland America Zaandam as one of the top 3. The detail to customer service was far superior to many other cruise liners. I booked less than 5 weeks prior to traveling and requested an ... Read More
Having cruised on 20 other ships, I must include this Holland America Zaandam as one of the top 3. The detail to customer service was far superior to many other cruise liners. I booked less than 5 weeks prior to traveling and requested an early seating. When I received the tickets, I was disappointed when I found that I had been placed on the late seating itinerary. Once on board, I voiced my objection to the seating and hoped for the best. Although I was not able to eat in the dinning room the first night, the ship's dinning director gave me an early seating in the Marco Polo Restaurant. The following day he had made arrangements for me to be seated in the Main Dinning Restaurant at my requested early seating. On the sixth night I was celebrating an anniversary and the dinning staff made a point to make it memorable without my reminding them. Exercise will now become a part of my life until I have lost the 5 extra pounds that I thoroughly enjoyed accumulating on my body as I dined on totally divine appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and deserts. Speaking of exercise, I managed to tire myself out as I hotfooted it around the 3rd deck (3.5 times around=1 mile) about every other day. There is ample room to walk but forget the jogging or running, it just isn't allowed on this particular deck. I decided that the spa might give me a change of pace so I attempted to cycle, lift a few additional pounds (weights), and workout with the aerobics instructor. Now this is where, if I have a complaint, I need to log it! This English gentleman instructor was as motivational as a flounder at the bottom of the sea. He mumbled his way through un-instructed aerobic exercises and left newbies wondering what the heck just happened. I'd like to mention that the shore excursions were well mixed for different likes and very well managed for safety and enjoyment. I felt the price was a little high for the goods received in a few instances. As an example: In Grand Cayman I took the Stingray City Tour (cost $49) and as the tender dropped me off at the dock, I found several outfits offering the same package for $30. Still, in all, it was probably worth the difference since the Zaandam was taking responsibility for my safe return. I did 3 snorkel trips and each time I wished I had brought my own mask and snorkel. I really didn't need my fins as their fins were adequate and it would have been troublesome to pack mine. Besides they would have taken up room that I needed to store the several bottles of scotch I purchased in Grand Cayman (cheapest prices of the islands visited). Getting onboard the first day was a snap and departing on the final day was a breeze as these folks have done their homework to keep the passengers flowing. The stability of this newer Zaandam ship was the best I'd traveled and I recommend that if you are prone to seasickness, consider staying on the deck closest to the bottom of the ship. There is always a smoother ride just above the bilge. The price was less than $600 for an outside room on deck one for this trip, and I assure you that it was well worth the investment. gsmith98@attbi.com June 2003 Read Less
We've just returned from the MS Zaandam: Inside Passage July 27-Aug. 3, 2002. The best description I can offer those of you new to cruising is, we never wanted it to end! Since so many before me have already written wonderful reviews ... Read More
We've just returned from the MS Zaandam: Inside Passage July 27-Aug. 3, 2002. The best description I can offer those of you new to cruising is, we never wanted it to end! Since so many before me have already written wonderful reviews of this magnificent ship, it is my intention to instead address the special needs as met by HAL of our 3 generation family. Let me start by saying we are a family separated by time zones. Usually we visit with one end the host, and the rest the travelers. This was our first planned vacation event elsewhere ... it was the best plan we've ever implemented. Our reunion was not only a special family time, but a true vacation for all involved! No one was the driver, the feeder, the referee! We came together to celebrate being a family and share a special vacation... HAL does not disappoint! Our biggest treat was something in spite of all my research on this board I was unaware of it! We were in 3 side by side cabins on the Verandah. Sadly, none were to be adjoining ... we thought...I have never had an outside area before on a cruiseship. So if this is a standard please humor me for I was thrilled! All of the patio doors are adjoining and shortly after our arrival the cabin steward opened them for our entire journey. Now we had 3 side by side areas for our own private deck reunion! We spent hours relaxing, staring at the magnificent views the inside passage provides, and enjoying quality, hassle free family time! Also, the patio allowed the children to run between rooms in PJ's, and all of us to leave little gifts and notes for one another! It is my opinion that the patio was the center of our family visitation ... not the dining room. We were very please to have a small round table for 7 for dinner. Service was excellent, and we could exchange stories of our days. Still, the children were eager to get to Club HAL, and the patio was our meeting place! On Board with a Severe Shellfish Allergy... I am always very careful any time I am exposed to people enjoying shellfish. For me, it is not an inconvenience ... but a matter of breathing! HAL has NO PROBLEM meeting this challenge! All my meals were handled with kid gloves! The dining room director visited me each evening with the next nights menu and discussed my options. One night the chef created vegetarian spring roll appetizers for my husband and I when all others had shrimp! I never felt exposed or vulnerable in the dining room, Lido, or Marco Polo! Limited mobility and vision... My mother in law required the use of a wheelchair to get about this vast ship. We brought our own, and please take note, if borrowing a wheelchair from HAL. HAL wheelchairs cannot be taken off the ship in port! We were assisted on and off the ship by HAL staff at port ramps. Zaandam TENDERS in Ketchikan, an ongoing fact now for months that my HAL cruise consultant was not aware of, and I learned of through this board. Tenders are NOT accessible to a wheelchair! My MIL had to walk the 10 or so steps and step up into the tender. It was very calm seas that day and not a problem. However, if she could not stand, or the seas had been rough... leaving the ship would not have been an option. It can be hard to maneuver a wheelchair in the show lounge. She is visually impaired and required seating up front to view a show with her binoculars. We rarely had assistance shifting chairs about to get to the front. The Zaandam crew arranges the assorted chairs and sofa's in a pretty and zig zaggy type of design... a real problem in a WHEELCHAIR. I was disappointed to see no real WHEELCHAIR area left either at the start of our trip, or near the end after my daily rearrangement of furniture. A WHEELCHAIR maneuvering alone would have been stuck in the very back of the theater or off searching for assistance! Public rest rooms can also be a problem. HAL is very far behind on meeting the needs of a WHEELCHAIR bound individual. Without family assistance this ship would be very hard to get about. In the dining room and at port ramps, HAL crew were ready to assist, but not elsewhere. This was a real problem I noticed when 2 elderly people traveled together and both needed some sort of assistance. I believe HAL greatly needs to hire a full time director for assistance to the handicapped! Club HAL for Tweens... My 9 and 11 year olds loved Club HAL. At sea there are roughly 2 hours of scheduled activities in the AM, PM, and then a themed event in the evening. The directors were excellent with the 15 or so tweens our week, and HAL is very generous in providing prizes for games and activities. My kids favorite activities included a scavenger hunt, BINGO, Lip Sinc show, and all the evening theme parties! They snack, sing, dance, and have a KID sized vacation. My kids wore their room ID tags around their necks after I punched holes in them and put on "necklace". They enjoyed a great deal of freedom on board unavailable to them at home! They could go between the room and Club HAL on their own and were very excited with this bit of independence. Soda Card was a waste of money and my ONLY HAL frustration! Do not bother with the soda cards for the kids! At $27.50, they cannot use it anywhere food is served! They cannot hang out in the bar, and do not understand it is not usable most places. My 9 yo son signed for soda at the Lido twice before I figured out he was paying an additional $1.75 per can! At 2 can's a day, that is still cheaper than $27.50! They offer fountain soda in the bars and that is the only place a soda card can be used! Every where's else it is by the can! Excursions... We did excursions booked through recommendations on this board, and booked on ship with HAL. I have no regrets, and am grateful for all my excursions ... but there is a difference I wish to take note of at this time. Activities booked through HAL are more expensive, and in exchange they offer you dock side pick ups, ship board refunds if canceled, and activities times around your port day. They guarantee the ship will not leave port without you! Our specifics Transport between Seattle and Vancouver - We used Emerald City Limo.Emerald City Limo. Eric was prompt both ways and it was very relaxing. We pursued a Limo after being told HAL does not offer transport any day but departure or arrival. Incidentally, HAL charges $50 each way by bus. With 5 people our Limo was $60 PP plus tip, and well worth its ease at the border! Juneau We went Whale watching with Captain Larry of course! Orca Tours They arranged a helicopter and Glacier Landing for us through Coastal Coastal Helicopters. Please note our pilot from Coastal was also our guide on the glacier! We were the only family on the Herbert Glacier at this time... Our pilot Aaron,toured us, taught us, found exotic rocks for the kids, and personalized this adventure for us! An experience we would not have had otherwise! As for Captain Larry, I cannot prove it but I am convinced those whales get a cut, because they come right up to the ship to perform and the microphone he drops into the water greatly adds to the excitement as the whales sing and you know the jump is near! We were on the Sunset Whale watch tour, just beautiful, However, by not booking with HAL I was concerned about returning late to our ship if anything altered our schedule. We were fine however and had dinner in the Lido around ten pm. Please note when booking your own shore excursions you must be back on ship half an hour before scheduled departure! Skagway We booked the Crazy Streetcar tour through HAL at 8:30AM. They deliver your confirmation in a bright Pink envelope to your stateroom. It is charged to your room, and you are picked up at the end of the dock. Also, as a special treat, we took the kids dog sledding! Temsco Helicopters They wanted snow and dogs as their #1 choice and we were very relieved the weather was great and it was not canceled. This trip became the family favorite, but was perhaps the biggest difference between booking HAL and not! Temsco charged $329 per adult, but kids were $165. HAL did not publish any kid price! This was far more than just a $50 helicopter tour savings by booking direct! Now the flip side, by not booking through HAL, we had to walk 15 minutes to the airport. (HAL picks up dockside ALL its tours). I fell on route, road was rough and rocky. Very hard pushing WHEELCHAIR! After our trip I was very relieved to get a ride back to the ship, however! In Glacier Bay I found our patio to be our own private oasis. My husband however, went up top for pictures with a 360* view. Nearly every inch of space was spoken for, but it allowed viewing of all events. We were limited to what was before us. However, aside from missing a bear sighting on the opposite side of the ship, I'd swap room service and family time any day! Club Hal incidentally was way up top, and kids became Junior Park Rangers! In Ketchikan we toured the Misty Fiiords with Jeff Carlin of Island Wings. Island wings Jeff's daughter picked us up and dropped us back off at the dock. However, this was complicated by the Zaandam tendering to shore and us not knowing if the WHEELCHAIR could make it to shore. Booking direct with HAL would have spared us this added stress, but then we would have missed our personal tour with Jeff. Incidentally, all our tours were participated in by my mother in law! Regardless of whether you use the local private sector and book through board recommendations or book through HAL... DO BOOK SOMETHING! These ports are very commercial and depend on the cruise industry for their survival. There is little to do if you don't take advantage of their magnificent natural resources! Once you have shopped in one of these ports ... you have done it. I was very disappointed by the lack of individual craftsmanship and noncommercial shopping available. Do participate in the Zaandam Rock-n-Roldies guest show... You'll have a blast! Enjoy every moment ... it goes by way too fast! Write me if you want more specifics on kids, WHEELCHAIR, shellfish, or our tours! Don't be afraid to share with the family... It was the best family time our 3 generations have ever shared!!! RJL417@aol.comSeptember 2002 Read Less
My husband and I recently returned from a cruise on the Zaandam along the Inner Passage. This was my 5th cruise (3rd with Holland America) and my husband's 2nd cruise. It was our first trip to Alaska. The ship is beautifully ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from a cruise on the Zaandam along the Inner Passage. This was my 5th cruise (3rd with Holland America) and my husband's 2nd cruise. It was our first trip to Alaska. The ship is beautifully maintained with spacious staterooms. We had booked one of the outside cabins on the lower promenade deck with an obstructed view which qualifies for the inside cabin rate. Although obstructed, you could easily see outside. We found that the biggest problem with any outside cabin on the lower promenade deck isn't that people outside can peer in to your cabin (because it's the walking and deck chair deck) but that the outside lights are left on all night long so you have to keep your curtains closed if you want to sleep! I was disappointed because I like to be awakened by the light rather than an alarm clock while on vacation. This is more of an FYI to other cruisers than a complaint. We found the public areas to be much nicer than we'd expected from reading other reviews. There were plenty of comfortable seating areas where you could quietly read in front of large windows. The Crows Nest, at the bow above the bridge, provided an awesome panorama although it was frequently the most crowded of all the lounges. We also found that you were more frequently approached to order drinks here than the other lounges (although they would bring a glass of water with a smile). The Java Bar was a big disappointment to these former Seattle-ites. Since it's staffed by a barista we expected a real espresso machine, not a "push a button" machine which was the same as the self-service one we'd experienced in the Lido Restaurant on the Westerdam! One of the nicest touches was the constant supply of hot chocolate and coffee available at several stations on deck while we were in Glacier Bay. For the hardy of us who chose to stay outside, it was greatly appreciated! As we'd read in another review, passengers have full access to the bow of this ship if you bother to go through the special doors at the bow of the lower promenade deck. The first day, leaving Vancouver, we were 2 of only 4 people out there! Eventually others called down to us to find out how to get there. By the time we got to Glacier Bay, the bow was actually quite crowded. The passengers were more diverse than we had encountered on our 2/00 Caribbean cruise on the Westerdam. Although probably 60-70% of the passengers were over 60, several countries were well represented, including Canada, France, England, Australia and Holland. We did a couple of the ship sponsored tours. I had researched the prices on the internet and was finding comparable prices so we decided to use the convenience and assurance of the ship-sponsored trips. In Juneau we took a helicopter glacier tour that stopped on 2 glaciers (the Herbert and the Mendenhall) for us to get out and walk. It was pricey but worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Skagway we did the White Pass Railroad and bike tour (where we biked down from White Pass). The railroad is not to be missed - expensive but worthwhile. Since we biked down the bus route, I can verify that it's nowhere near as spectacular as the railroad. The railway is apparently what Disney's Thunder Mountain Railway is modeled after and when you take it you'll see why. I'm not crazy about heights but stood between the cars the entire trip to take pictures and never had a problem, even looking straight down! The bike ride down from the pass was disappointing - it was so windy my eyes kept watering up and you're going so fast you're spending most of the time watching the person in front of you so you don't hit them instead of being able to enjoy the scenery. Fortunately they stopped for several breaks and photo ops but I didn't enjoy it very much. Also, everyone in our group was 30's-40's until a couple in their 60's showed up and there was almost an audible expression of disappointment. I don't think they ended up making that much of a difference but they refused to listen to the directions of our leader which was very frustrating to the rest of us. Our weather was disappointing. We made our selection based on price and weather as we knew it in Seattle. Unfortunately it was rainy and in the low 50s for most of our trip. Even when it wasn't rainy the clouds were very low and we weren't able to see any of the spectacular vistas we had hoped for. People who had done the land tour of the interior before joining our ship in Skagway had much better weather - temps in Anchorage were in the 70's. We had rough seas about 3 a.m. our second night out and the captain changed our itinerary after Glacier Bay (electing to take the Inside Passage instead of going out into the Gulf) to avoid rough seas. We encountered the most rain in Ketchikan (which tends to be rainy). The salmon were running and the creek was black with them. We did Dolly's bear viewing tour (for $20/pp). Don't. We stood across from a rusting saw mill in foot-deep woodchips in the rain with the stench of rotting salmon permeating the air for an hour in case any bear decided to go down to a stream several hundred yards away to go fishing. Obviously this is not a ship-sponsored tour! Even if we the bears had been out, they would have been hard to see because of the distance. My husband, who was the one who wanted to see the bears, called it a day and returned to the relative dryness of the trolly after about half an hour. Overall I found the cruise very relaxing. The food was very good to excellent. We ate at the Marco Polo restaurant one night, which was truly superb. I was surprised at the lines in the Lido Restaurant because we had not encountered them on the Westerdam. I tended to skip the long lines and go to the continental breakfast area at one end then go back for any individual item I had missed. They have an excellent individual omelet station that's well worth a visit. The singers/dancers were disappointing - the focus seemed to be on costume changes instead of the numbers themselves. We heard a very funny comedian and saw an excellent magician. The ship was very stable and I appreciated all of the large windows in the public rooms. The lower promenade deck seemed wider than on other ships and there were no doors to contend with while walking the full deck. Everything gleamed and glistened. I agree with other cruisers that the chandelier in the dining room is very ugly and the "organ" looks more like a calliope - very overblown, very large, a real waste of what could be a beautiful space. We only heard it play once. astokke@optonline.netSeptember 2001 Read Less
This was the first cruise for my wife and I in 20 years. Our last cruise was our honeymoon onboard the SS Emerald Seas. Boy have cruise ships changed! This time we were with our 2 boys age 11 and 14. The Zaandam is a beautiful ship and ... Read More
This was the first cruise for my wife and I in 20 years. Our last cruise was our honeymoon onboard the SS Emerald Seas. Boy have cruise ships changed! This time we were with our 2 boys age 11 and 14. The Zaandam is a beautiful ship and immaculate inside and out. Someone in another review said the ship was older but in fact this ship sailed for the first time in 2000. Although my wife and I were among the younger couples onboard (both in our early 40's) never did we feel out of place. There was no problem finding people our age. Our boys loved the Club HAL group - Tig, Jen and Ryan the Sports Director were all great with the kids. The only negative on the Club Hal group was that they scheduled the Tweens (9-12) main activity at night during the early show. Our children looked as forward to the shows as we did. I would recommend that anyone traveling with teens bring walkie talkies. Ours had no problem working in any spot on the ship. The shows were great. We had a magic act that was fantastic, comedy juggler, impressionist that did not need to imitate anyone...his voice was fantastic as well as the HAL singers and dancers. There is a nice variety of lounge entertainment as well. The Ocean Bar had a trio that we danced to every night. Another bar had a pianist that was great. The Explorers Lounge had a classical strings group and then there was live music and a DJ in the Crows nest till the wee hours. The nice part was being able to sit in a bar and not drink nor feel obligated to drink if we did not want to. A glass a water was fine if we asked for it and we still received the same courteous service. The food was outstanding. There is always food someplace on the ship. The Lido pool services all day and the Lido dinning room serves buffet as well. But for most meals we opted for the Rotterdam dinning room. We rather be served and have portion control instead of the lines and buffet. The Rotterdam is only open limited ours so for snacks and ice cream we hit the Lido. At dinner time our waiter brought what ever we wanted. No problem getting 4 lobster tails on the last formal night and mixing and matching items. I would suggest though that you always ask to see the next night's menu. If you can't find anything you like they want 24 hrs notice to special order something not on the menu. The first 2 days on the ship my young son had ice cream 6 times. The ice cream bar is open just about all day and again at 11;15 pm. Don't miss the High Tea dessert extravaganza. The chocolate covered strawberries were to die for. My wife and I are already trying to figure out when we can go on another DAM ship. You won't be disappointed with this one. dean.benzion@lmco.com July 2003 Read Less
One year ago I told my husband that we should plan a New Years cruise. While we have cruised previously (3 times on Celebrity, 3 times on Carnival and 1 time on Royal Caribbean) we have never cruised with our parents, and never on a ... Read More
One year ago I told my husband that we should plan a New Years cruise. While we have cruised previously (3 times on Celebrity, 3 times on Carnival and 1 time on Royal Caribbean) we have never cruised with our parents, and never on a Holiday Sailing. We were a group of 7, my husband and myself, both early 40's, our kids 10 and 14, my in-laws, both in their 70's and my father who is 88. Since we had such a broad range of ages we decided on Holland America. We felt it was the best cruise line for such a diverse group. We also like to cruise from Port Canaveral and the Zaandam seemed to fit our needs nicely. Everyone except my father are all experienced cruisers. To date our favorite cruise line is Celebrity, with the Infinity being our favorite ship. We knew that Holland America would compare in many ways with Celebrity. In many ways HAL exceeded our expectations, but in a few areas they didn't. Please bear in mind that this review is based on our personal opinions and our own observations. Embarkation: We had Basik Shuttle Service pick us up at our home at 11:15 am. We always find it easier when traveling with a large group to arrange transportation, rather than having to take two cars. They came out with a 15-passenger van, and about an hour later we were pulling into Port Canaveral. The lines weren't that long and after a short wait we were on board the Zaandam at about 1:30 pm. We heard music being played and were warmly greeted and escorted to our cabins. Being escorted to our cabins was a nice touch that we missed on our past two cruises. After going to our cabins we were all happily surprised to see our luggage was already in our cabins. Shortly afterwards we all met and went to the Lido Deck for lunch. The selection was wonderful, and there was not one complaint about anyone's choices. Afterwards we unpacked and explored the ship. What a beautiful ship the Zaandam is. On Holiday cruises ships are decorated magnificently and the Zaandam was no exception. Glorious decorations were everywhere, even on each cabin door and they really added a festive touch to the cruise. Cabins Our group was divided into three cabins. We had connecting cabins 2635 and 2633 on the Main Deck, and cabin 6223 Mini Suite on the Verandah deck. Both the cabins on the main deck were more than adequate for 2 or 3 cruisers. There was ample closet space, and everyone loved the shelves that you can adjust to your needs in the closets. The bathroom was very impressive, with a tub and not a stall shower. Everything was up to par in both of the standard cabins that our group had. The cabin steward Danielle was adequate and did a good job, but did not try to go out of his way for anything. My husband and I had a mini-suite on the Verandah deck. Our cabin was quite large and very well appointed. We can honestly compare the two types of cabins and felt that our cabin was worth the extra money. There was a better TV, including a VCR, a refrigerator, an expanded desk area with more drawer space than the standard cabin, and adequate closet space. The mini-suites have the same amount of closet space as the standard cabins. Our bathrooms were identical with the exception of our tub being a Jacuzzi (for one) and better quality towels, soaps and such. Our bed was set up as a queen and we were surprised to find that even though it was two beds put together you can't feel the seem whatsoever. Our steward Dwi was excellent and kept our cabin immaculate. There was not one request that wasn't met with a smile and a gracious demeanor. He is such a professional, who made us feel like we were his personal guests. After the first night we moved our daughter in our cabin (who was originally staying with my in laws on the main deck) and he wasn't phased whatsoever. Kudos' to HAL for helping us expedite the transition of our daughter from one cabin to another. Dwi always made sure that we had enough of everything, including extras. One of the highlights of any cruise to us is spending time on our verandah. Our lives are quite hectic and we always seem to relax and unwind while sipping a cocktail on our verandah. We find it to be one of the most relaxing parts of our whole cruise experience. Herein lies our biggest complaint about our cruise, and to us it is a major one. We always choose aft cabins, as I am a smoker who does not want to offend others while having a cigarette on the verandah. Since the far aft cabin is a handicapped cabin, we were able to get the cabin next to it. Unfortunately our cabin, and the two to our left and the far aft cabin to our right were constantly under water. A couple of inches of water would slosh between all of our cabins. There were very few times we were able to go out on the verandah barefoot without stepping into water. Even on sunny days there was always a pool of water that covered our verandah. This was no fault of our steward, but rather a design flaw of the ship. There was nothing our steward could do to stop the onslaught of water onto our verandah. Even on sunny days there was always a pool of water that covered at least half of our verandah. We were able to use it, but not without having shoes on. This left the carpet quite wet at times which became an annoyance. This was disappointing to say the least. We made the best of it and sort of chuckled at times, but other than our flooded verandah, the cabin was really a very nice cabin that would have been perfect. Food WOW - what can we say about the food on Holland America. We had all of our breakfasts on the Lido Deck. There was always a huge selection with plenty to choose from. One of our favorite things for breakfast was the made to order omelets and the fresh squeezed orange juice. The regular selections always included French Toast, Pancakes, Smoked Salmon, Scrambled and Fried Eggs along with a huge selection of bread, toast and cereals. Lunches were also taken on the Lido Deck with plenty to choose from. There was always a couple of hot dishes, plenty of salads and lots of desserts to choose from. I personally liked the deli station and my husband loved the alternative station (one day curries, one day pasta made to order, another day oriental, etc.). Our son absolutely loved the grill and the taco bar. I don't think there was one day where he didn't get a taco of some sort. For dinners we all ate in the Rotterdam dining room. We sat at first sitting and our table was # 142, on the lower floor across from a window. We had a table of 7. Our waiter was Tomee and there was never any problem with getting what we want. There was always a great selection for soup, salad and an entrEe. Some of the highlights were Crab legs, Lobster Tails, Beef Wellington, Dover Sole and so much more. There were times that our daughter (who is 10) couldn't find anything to eat from the adult menu. Tomee always made sure that she received a Kid's menu and was able to pick and choose from both menus. Our wine steward was also wonderful, and always made sure we had our cocktail of choice ready when we arrived. Everyone, including the Head Waiter was absolutely great and true professionals. The service we received during dinner was always top notch. We didn't eat in the Marco Polo, but spoke to those who did and who gave the experience 5 stars. Our son ordered room service a couple of times and he said the service and the food was really good. All in all, the food on Holland America was really great. The only complaint we have (and it is slight) is that the food is definitely cooked a bit on the bland side. We occasionally like some spice to our food. Other than being a bit bland at times, there was not one complaint about any of the food on the Zaandam. Entertainment There was plenty of entertainment on the Zaandam. Our parents took in every show and thought they were all done professionally and really enjoyed them. Also, there were many different bands playing throughout the ship at all times. Strings in one bar, a trio in another the choices were there. There are many different lounges throughout the ship such as the Crows Nest, The Ocean Bar, The Piano Bar and the Seaview Lounge. All had different types of music that covered all different tastes. There was also the obligatory Bingo Sessions. To our amazement they actually ran out of Bingo Cards during one session which really upset some folks. We have never seen that happen before. The casino was very small, and in my opinion the slot machines were extremely tight, although I did win a small amount of money on one machine. This was the first cruise that I did not play any roulette, as in my opinion most of the dealers were not that friendly. I normally enjoy playing roulette while at sea but with happy friendly dealers. In fact on our last cruise on the Pride I spent many a night at the casino with wonderful dealers. Every time I got near the roulette table on the Zaandam I was put off by the attitude of the dealer. Not one was ever smiling, or even acknowledged my presence even though there was no one playing at the time. I look at it as HAL's loss as I had money to spend playing roulette, and the money wound up coming home with me (my husband was grateful). There was also a Casino Bar which normally had ESPN playing on the Monitor. However, on the night that the College Championship was playing there was tennis on the TV at the Casino bar and not the game. Unfortunately, Holland America did not pay for the rights to broadcast the game which upset many a person on the ship. I give high marks to the staff on the Zaandam as they did come down and explain to the crowd why they could not broadcast the game, and told everyone who to contact at HAL to state their dissatisfaction. They did bring in a radio feed so those who wanted to listen to the game were able to do so in the Library. Other than that glitch there were many other things to do while on the ship, the galley tour, the art auctions, etc. All in all our opinion of the entertainment and activities for adults were fine. There is always something for anyone's tastes. Club HAL Not too much has been written about Club HAL on reviews, so here are our perspectives. Our daughter is 10 and was put into the Tween Group (9 - 12). Normal hours for Club Hal were 7:30 pm to the latest 9:30 pm on port days and 10:00 am - 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm on sea days. While she had a great time in the activities, and came off the ship with many items from Club HAL (A tee shirt, a purse, a fanny pack and a hat) she was disappointed at the lack of nighttime activities, especially during formal nights. While our daughter does occasionally like to dress up, she would prefer changing later on in the evening and having fun with her new found friends. We don't understand why there are such limited hours for activities in Club HAL, especially on Formal Nights. On other lines hours are much more expanded and many more activities are planned for the kids. While we are not the type of cruisers who dump our kids off in the kids program day and night, we do like to enjoy Formal Nights sans our kids. I understand that HAL does not cater to those with children, but expanded hours at least on Formal Nights would be a great thing. Most activities ended at 9:30 pm which left an entire night with nothing to do for our daughter. We did have her join us on some nights in some of the lounges to listen to some music, but for a 10 year old that isn't really too exciting. Our son is 14 and Club HAL grouped him with teens that were much older than he was (teens are grouped from 13 - 17). He felt uncomfortable with the older teens and was too old for the younger group. Unfortunately that left him out of many activities. He enjoyed spending time watching sports in the Casino Bar, but other than the very small arcade there was nothing for him to do on the Zaandam. Both of our kids enjoyed eating in the dining room (they both love great food and great service) and they enjoyed the ice cream bar immensely, but as far as organized programs for kids we found HAL to be way below Celebrity. Both of our kids really enjoy Celebrity's kids program, and both stated they prefer Celebrity to Holland America. Oddly enough Celebrity doesn't market too strongly to families (the same way that HAL does) but the kids programs and facilities are really truly great on Celebrity. This is a major flaw with HAL from our perspective, as we enjoy good food, great service and everything HAL had to offer us, but not as a family vacation. Ports of Call Since this was a Holiday cruise the ports of call were not the regular ones. We had the Amsterdam in every port as we were (The Amsterdam left from Ft. Lauderdale). The first port of call was Half Moon Cay. What a beautiful Island!! Unfortunately the weather was a bit chilly when we got there so we didn't go to the beach (my in-laws did and stated that it was quite chilly to go swimming). We walked around the island and had a nice barbeque lunch while we were there. The island is immaculate and service was fine. There are a few shops to buy things and plenty of bars to purchase any cocktail of choice. After Half Moon Cay we had a day at sea and boy were the seas rough that day. There were high winds and was the ship rocking. It didn't bother us at all, but did bother both my father and my mother in law. There were many people missing that day at dinner. This was the first time that we saw sea sick bags placed by the elevators, the seas were that rough. Our second port of call was St. Thomas, where temperatures were in the middle 80's and beautiful sunny skies! We tendered in that day as there were 8 ships on St. Thomas while we were there. We tendered in from the inner harbor so it really was a breeze. Kudos' to the HAL tender staff, as they were always helping my father (who is 88) on and off the tenders. We have previously been to St Thomas and found the crowds to be a bit too much. We went onshore for a little, and did a bit of shopping. We then returned to the ship to enjoy the pools and such while the masses were on shore. The next port of call was St. John and it was a pleasure it was to be tendered directly into Cruz Bay. Normally you have to get to St. John via St. Thomas, but not on this cruise. We hopped in a taxi (which were plentiful) and headed over to Trunk Bay for some snorkeling. Trunk Bay is spectacular (we have been there before) and although the beach was a bit crowded there was plenty of room to find a spot to place your towel on. The snorkeling was a bit hard as the seas were rough, but the weather held out until we were heading to the tender. Then the skies opened up. After the ship left St. John we had another sea day before we docked at Freeport. We are never impressed with the Bahamas, so we just walked off the ship for a bit, took a look around the shops that they have on the pier, and came back to the ship. Unfortunately the weather was overcast and raining, so I am not sure what other folks did while on Freeport. The next day we were back at Port Canaveral. New Years Eve This was our first New Years cruise and let me be the first to say HAL definitely does it up right. There were great decorations in all of the public rooms which made for a wonderfully festive atmosphere. When we went into the dining room there were hats and crowns on each of our plates for us to put on. When we left the dining room they were handing out noisemakers and horns for everyone to take. Each and every lounge had something going on for New Years Eve. At 11:00 pm they opened up the Mondriian Lounge for the big Gala New Years Eve Party. There the decorations were spectacular and the whole mood was one of a big gala Party. The band played continuously and streamers were being passed out to those that wanted them. There was the traditional count down to Midnight and come Midnight they had a wonderful balloon drop and confetti cannons went off. It really was a sight to see! Everyone was pretty much dressed to the nines which we love to do for New Years. The only drawback was my being misinformed that New Years Eve was a formal night from Holland America. When I called them and inquired I was told that New Years was one of the two formal nights. This was not the case, but it was added as a formal night. This meant that there were 3 formal nights on a 7-day cruise. It caused a bit of a "dressing" dilemma, but one that was easily fixed. Ladies, pack accordingly for your Holiday Cruises as you will need 3 formal outfits, not just two. Odds and Ends We absolutely loved the Java Cafe. What a nice addition to any ship. If any of you get the chance, please try a Mocha Cappuccino. They are truly yummy! The library was also very nice, and it looked like the internet cafe was also a nice place to be. The lower promenade is wonderful and we enjoyed walking around the entire ship. There are many nooks and crannies to explore on the Zaandam, from going to the very front of the ship, to the back verandahs, there were plenty of places to explore. The shops were your standard cruise ship shops, with the standard merchandise that one would find on any ship. We noticed a custom tailor on board but never once saw anyone talking to them about custom clothing. Photographers aren't as pushy as other cruise lines and a polite "No thank you" was acceptable. Those Bingo announcements are a horror and should really be discontinued. You keep thinking it is something important and then you hear that it is a Bingo announcement. Sheesh! Soda cards are a must for any kid onboard. Our son never had a problem getting a soda when he wanted one, and every night he had a Sprite waiting for him at dinner. It definitely saved us a ton of money during the cruise. As far as the Officers and the Crew goes, Captain Werner Timmons was brand new to the Zaandam - it was his first cruise as Captain of the ship. I give him high marks for his attitude and the way he spoke to the staff. We saw him and many other officers throughout the ship and all were quite friendly and never in a rush to answer any question you may have. In fact this is the first time we saw officers and staff eating along with the passengers. To us that was great - many other cruise lines have their Captains kept away from the passengers. This was a pleasant change. The dEcor and artwork on the Zaandam is definitely unique to say the least. We did get a kick out of seeing various instruments with autographs on it. We never got to hear the organ in the Atrium, but those that did said it was all right. Everyone seemed to agree that the Organ in the Atrium is an oddity though. Other than that the Zaandam really is a nice ship. The bad points Other than our flooded verandah (which is a major disappointment to us) and an occasional leak from our Air Conditioner Vent while at port our only other complaints were with Holland America themselves. In the beginning of December I sent a fax to Holland America requesting a bottle of champagne to be delivered to my father-in-law at dinner on New Years Eve. Along with the champagne, I ordered a formal portrait as a gift for my mother-in-law. Holland America called me at my office to verify my credit card number and confirmed the two gifts to be sent. Lo and behold, the voucher for the portrait never arrived in her cabin, and questions to both the Photo Department and the front desk were left unanswered. As far as the champagne goes, when we arrived in the dining room on New Years Eve I noticed that the champagne was not at the table. When I asked our wine steward he stated that he did not have an order for it. He asked his supervisor who also stated that there was never anything ordered. Oddly enough two days later we come to dinner and voila there was a bottle of champagne with a card that said "Happy New Years Dad". The wine steward was most embarrassed and stated that he just received the order that night. We had a chuckle and said we must be the only ones to get to relive New Years Eve all over again. Although we made the best of the situation we really wanted the champagne on New Years Eve and not three days later. When we returned from our cruise and we spoke to our Travel Agent she then inquired about the $100 shipboard credit that she gave us. Go figure, we never received that either. It's one thing to miss one order, but to miss three orders including the one from the Travel Agent who recommended the Zaandam is disheartening. Debarkation Debarkation was really a breeze. On our final day we woke up to find us pulling into Port Canaveral. After getting ready, our group went up to breakfast and then cleared out of our cabin. We had debarkation number 7 and were on our way off the ship by 9:30 am. It only took a short time to find all of the luggage, and then the porter brought us out to the shuttle area where Todd from Basik was waiting for us. After loading all the luggage we were on our way. We were home by 11:00 am. All in all a smooth embarkation and disembarkation. Final Thoughts Would our family ever choose another HAL cruise? Yes, but not with our children. While HAL is trying to market to families, until they have more activities and more places for kids to be we will stick with Celebrity for cruises with our children. As far as enjoying our cruise on the Zaandam, other than the problems we mentioned, and cruising with my in-laws, we really did enjoy our cruise. Being on the high seas for a holiday cruise is really something everyone should experience. It definitely is magical. eva@cfl.rr.com March 2003 Read Less
My husband, mother-in-law and I returned yesterday from our cruise of the Inside Passage -- our sixth cruise overall (first to Alaska) and our first with Holland America. We had chosen this particular cruise based on the itinerary, the ... Read More
My husband, mother-in-law and I returned yesterday from our cruise of the Inside Passage -- our sixth cruise overall (first to Alaska) and our first with Holland America. We had chosen this particular cruise based on the itinerary, the numerous good reports we had read about HAL and having the extra day (i.e., Labor Day) post cruise to recover before returning to work. Our previous cruises had all been with NCL, and, while we enjoyed them all, we agree with those who feel that HAL goes above and beyond. Here is our cruise "diary". Hope it is helpful to any of you who may be sailing the Zaandam in the coming weeks. "Pre" Day 1: As we live in the east, we chose to fly into Vancouver a day early to get acclimated to the time change and to not have that first day exhaustion that we had experienced previously. We let our travel agent handle everything and she did a good job. Upon arrival in Vancouver (via Air Canada -- which was a wonderful experience in itself), we stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront in a harbor view room where we were able to watch the Zaandam sail in the next morning. We spent the afternoon walking around town and had a nice dinner at a restaurant called Brothers, with an interior that resembles a monastery and a wait staff that dress like monks. In the evening, we attended the IMAX film at Canada Place entitled "Alaska:Spirit of the Wild" -- to put us in the mood for the cruise -- which it did. Day 1: We awoke early enough to watch the Zaandam sail in, had breakfast and went to the hotel lobby at about 9:00 a.m. to check-in for the cruise. (This was so convenient compared to our previous embarkations that involved standing in line and waiting). At 10:45 we joined a group of other Zaandam passengers for a 3-hour tour of Vancouver. This tour took us to Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park (with its beautiful sunken gardens), Chinatown, Gastown, etc. Our tour driver allowed us time to stop and take pictures along the way. At about 2:00 p.m., he took us to the ship, where we simply got on -- walking past all those who were sitting waiting to be processed. It was great. Our cabin was a standard outside on the Dolphin Deck at the very back of the ship. Once aboard, we unpacked a little, toured the ship and prepared to sail. At this point, the weather was partly cloudy and in the high 60s. Later that evening we attending the introductory show, i.e., the Las Vegas style review type. We are not fans of this type of entertainment, so we avoided the shows for the most part -- with the exception of the magician (who was excellent) and the Indonesian crew show. Day 2: Sailing the inside passage. After breakfast and the church service, we spent the day walking the promenade, taking photos and generally settling in to the cruise. It was rainy and overcast -- but still very beautiful. We were served hot chocolate and cider on the promenade at various points throughout the day, which was a nice touch. Also, we found the Terrace Grill to be our favorite lunch place. The hamburgers, fries and pizza are excellent. Tonight was the first formal evening. We avoided the captain's welcome reception and the photographers that came with it. Dining in the Rotterdam was a nice experience. This was the "Running of the Mousse" night, where the waiters all danced around with moose head hats as they served you your chocolate mousse cake. Take your cameras; it's quite a spectacle. Our waiter and busboy were very efficient, although not particularly charismatic. We never developed a real rapport with them. Our tablemates however were quite entertaining and it was a pleasure rehashing the day's adventures with them each evening. Day 3: Juneau. Our cruise docs indicated that the ship was scheduled to dock at 2:00 p.m., but it really docked at around noon. We were able to go ashore at about 1:00 p.m. and at that time walked about town and did some shopping. The weather went back and forth from partly sunny to drizzly. A few months prior, we had scheduled a 4:00 p.m. glacier helicopter landing (via Coastal Helicopters) and, at about 3:15, they arrived to transport us to the airport. Our flight was wonderful and the pilot very helpful and personable. We landed on Herbert Glacier where he told us about the various types of rock, gave us all a drink from a glacial stream and then took us back to the airport. We would definitely recommend Coastal Helicopters. Once back on the ship, we didn't feel like dressing for dinner, so we ate in the Lido Restaurant, which we felt was equal in food quality to the dining room. Day 4: Skagway. We docked at about 7:00 a.m. A few weeks prior we had scheduled an early morning dogsled ride (on wheels), but the tour director arrived at the dock only to inform us that they had to cancel the ride due to a broken sled. This left us with an open morning before our 12:15 p.m. White Pass Rail/Coach tour. Skagway is a quaint little town with about 800 residents. We enjoyed just walking around and taking pictures. That afternoon we boarded the train for our trip to Fraser, B.C. and back. (Note: Although we were told that we would need picture ID and birth certificates, the bus driver simply shouted out the window to the customs people how many Americans, Canadians, etc. she had on board, and we drove off). The views from the train were great, although we agreed that a round trip train trip might have been a little too much of a good thing. Liarsville, although more than a little corny, was a nice diversion and my mother-in-law enjoyed panning for gold. They also had a beautiful McKenzie River husky dog there, so we were able to get our "fur fix". That night we attended the Indonesian crew show, which was very memorable. It was touching to see how much pride the Indonesian crew takes in its culture and how important it is for them to share it with the passengers. Day 5: Glacier Bay National Park. We spent just about the entire day on deck --- wearing gloves and hood jackets. It was overcast and rained off and on, but the onboard naturalist had told us that overcast skies show off the color of the glaciers a little better and he was right. We didn't see any major glacier calving but took some great pictures. Also, we didn't see much in the way of wildlife -- just a few whales in the distance and a few seals sunning themselves on pieces of ice. But it was incredible all the same --- God's handiwork at it's finest! After a day out in the cold, we went in to prepare for dinner -- this was the second formal night and the night when the waiters parade the Baked Alaska. Also, we went to the disco for the first time -- it was 70's night. We are not much for night life, but were surprised at how many people were there, considering HAL's demographics. Day 6: Ketchikan. We docked at about 10:00 a.m. We were treated to the traditional Ketchikan weather, i.e., rain. A few weeks prior we had scheduled an amphibious duck tour for 1:00 p.m. (At the time, HAL wasn't offering it as an excursion, but now it appears as an addendum to your onboard shore excursion form). It turned out to be a good choice. It was low cost, enclosed and gave us a fairly comprehensive tour of Ketchikan. In about 90 minutes, it took us to the salmon ladders and out into the harbor where we were able to view some eagles. After a little shopping, we returned to the ship for our afternoon snack. Tonight was Dutch night in the dining room, and, in our opinion, the weakest food night of the week. (If your are planning to visit the Marco Polo, tonight would be the night to make your reservations). Everyone was given a Dutch hat, and our waiter claimed that he wouldn't serve us unless we wore it. We, as part of the late seating, had an excellent pre-dinner show that evening featuring magician, James Cielen. Day 7: Heading to Vancouver. After some morning sun, it turned into another cold, wet overcast day -- but we loved every minute of it. Spent most of the day doing laps on the promenade deck or reading (under blankets) while sipping hot chocolate. Also took some last minute pictures and video and said some goodbyes. Day 8: Disembarkation. The process went well. We were off the ship and on our way to the airport by about 9:30. Once at the airport it was chaos, due to the large influx of cruise passengers, but the lines went fast. (Note to any of you who may be purchasing Ulu knives as souvenirs: do not put them in your carry on. We, perhaps stupidly, did not know this and had to stop and put them in our checked baggage). If you are flying from Vancouver to a U.S. destination, you are cleared through U.S. customs at Vancouver. The things we will remember the most (in no particular order): · Walter, the deck steward on the Lido, who went out of his way to help us with our food trays, made us little origami flowers and generally always seemed to be around when we needed anything. · The little man with the eternal smile who rang the dinner bell each evening · Eating breakfast and lunch at a window table near the pool · Those incredible desserts, hamburgers and fries · Walking the promenade deck · Our tablemates · The color grey -- it was the predominant outdoor color -- contrasted with the blue of the glaciers · Walking on a glacier Minor annoyances: · The foul odor that permeated the ship from time-to-time · Being forgotten by room service on the one day we tried to order it for breakfast · Not having a curtain to divide the bed from the rest of the room -- the brochure photos of the room imply that it exists, but it only extends about a foot from either side of the wall, rendering it useless. (We rigged our own.) All in all, we had a wonderful time and will probably visit Alaska again. We would definitely sail with Holland America again, although not exclusively. Unlike some who have sailed with HAL, we were not so enamored as to become an "always and only" HAL cruiser. That being said, it would be hard to top this Alaskan adventure! gczswartz@home.comSeptember 2001 Read Less
Let me get right to the facts, but first a little about myself. This was my 8th cruise and I am the type of person who is not easily impressed and I like to save $$$. Zaandam was my first HAL trip and I must say I was impressed. I ... Read More
Let me get right to the facts, but first a little about myself. This was my 8th cruise and I am the type of person who is not easily impressed and I like to save $$$. Zaandam was my first HAL trip and I must say I was impressed. I booked the Zaandam for a Western Caribbean sailing. Boarding One of the few downers of the trip, it is a little confusing since the tickets indicated boarding will be between 3-5pm, actually when you arrive at the dock, you will receive a number and boarding starts at 1:30, they call out each number and then you are allowed to board. The terminal is very small and hot, and I give HAL big thumbs down on this as it could have been done much smoother and earlier. Cabins The best and biggest of any ship I have sailed. I received an upgrade to an outside cabin (something I never book. I always opt for the cheapest inside and use my $$ for fun items). The room has lots of storage space, a small couch, dresser and the bathroom had a small tub. Of course you also got a very large window/not a small porthole. I had a chance to visit other cabins in different categories; all the cabins on this ship are very large in size (about 190sq ft). The veranda cabins are also very large, and come with a large price. Food Food on this ship is nothing short of superb. Besides the excellent waiter and bus boy, throughout my dinners the assistant maitre 'd always made it a point to check up on my table. I NEVER eat at BUFFETS for breakfast or lunch, however, for this cruise I broke my rule and ate at the LIDO for breakfast and lunch, the variety was excellent and I loved the fresh cooking. The lines were never long. Formal Nights There were two. About 90% of the passenger were dressed up, upscale cocktail type dress for women, suits and tuxedoes for the men. The other 10% were dressed very nice, basically women had a nice dress and the men wore a collared short with ties and no coats. Without a coat and tie you will NOT feel out of place. The Captains reception was very nice and fast paced no big deal! Entertainment I will give HAL 3-4 stars (I am a hard grader), The evening music was more geared towards the 60's and up generation, all three lounges had big band era music, so I opted for the Crow Nest, it was much more active and never crowded. The nighttime shows were very typical of most ships, but the variety and quality was 4 stars. Activities Most activities were OK, I think HAL needs to work on this a bit, since if you are used to Carnival or even Celebrity, HAL has a way to go. Bingo, casino were the norm, but what I liked was the space and lack of crowds, everybody seemed to be having a good time. Teen activities My son (14) gave them only one thumbs up, HAL is working at this, my son stated that he was bored, but the staff was lots of fun and always trying to please the kids. Tipping Man it was hard to figure the HAL policy! But I usually use the standard rule of thumb, the waiter $3.50-4.00 per person per day, Bus boy half the waiter tip. I ordered the wine package (if you drink wine it is a good deal) I tipped the wine steward 20% of my total wine bill. HAL does NOT ADD the normal 15%. I also slipped the assist maitre 'd (he was the one with the white coat, he always came by my table and spoke to me and always did the Flame type desert, I gave him $10) that is not required but I liked his way to keeping me happy. Your room steward gets the same as the waiter. If u order drinks at any of the bars, you might on want to slip a few dollars since HAL does not add 15%. I got GREAT service. Overall, this is a wonderful ship, HAL seems to want people to have a good time. They were not trying to nickel and dime you; they seem to make you feel at home. The Filipino/Indonesian staffs are an excellent combination. The overall passenger mix was about 50-55% older retired (my wife and I are 40's) the rest of the passenger were mixed between 20 - 50 years of age. I always take my kids, 25, 22, 20 and 15 and they had a great time. So happy sailing. wack001@smyrnacable.net01/06/01 Read Less
Southern Caribbean 13-23 Dec 2000 1. My wife and I just returned from the Zaandam (Southern Caribbean 13-23 Dec 2000), our third HAL cruise. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would continue to recommend the ships and cruises ... Read More
Southern Caribbean 13-23 Dec 2000 1. My wife and I just returned from the Zaandam (Southern Caribbean 13-23 Dec 2000), our third HAL cruise. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would continue to recommend the ships and cruises of HAL to everyone. Needless to say, HAL continues with their gracious service and attention to detail that we have come to know and love (both via our experiences and those of others [on the Internet]. We are scheduled to leave on 17 Feb for a 10-Day Panama Canal cruise aboard the Amsterdam. 2. The Islands we visited were wonderful. Half Moon Cay (HAL Private Island), US VI, Dominica, Trinidad, Martinique, and St. Kitts were all beyond our expectations. We only wish we could have done two excursions instead of one. Notable trips & Tips Whale watching on Dominica. We did not go but a friend did and had the time and thrill of a lifetime spotting 7 sperm whales. The Saint Louis Fortress tour in Fort-de- France, Martinique, presented a wonderful view of the harbor, city and surrounding mountains. It was a great pleasure to tour this historic fort. Savannah drive in Port of Spain Trinidad. Churches in Port of Spain Trinidad. Brimstone Hill Fortress in St. Kitts. Ice Cream and Bread Pudding trips on the ship (just seeing if you were paying attention). 3. Problems for discussion Zaandam Piano bar has been redesigned from original concept of an enclosed little club. Now it is noticeably open and you don't feel the intimacy and party atmosphere as on the Veendam with the enclosed piano bar. Marco Polo Alternative Restaurant - Darn...we tried to coordinate schedules with our dining partners and could NOT get a table in the restaurant save for two slots on the last formal night and very last evening. I am not sure who held the parties but there were two large parties that took up the entire restaurant for two hours. MAKE sure you get your reservations in early. Captain & Officers - Lack of interaction with Passengers. I saw the Captain EVERY day in the gym, at the pool, or on the observation deck laying out in the sun. I spoke or tried to speak with him daily and got a simple NOD. I never saw the Captain or any of his deck officers stop and chat with any passenger (except with the guests in suite 7001). This was really brought home after I spent five minutes talking with Captain Jonathon Harris, of the Veendam (from two previous trips) when we were docked beside the Veendam in Martinique. Bridge Tour with the Cadet - WHY would they turn a 19-year cadet loose with 30 elderly interested passengers (WWII Navy vets, ship nerds, senior HAL Alumni, etc.) on a bridge tour. Get real. He did a good job of explaining the ships bridge gadgets, but he did not have the experience to handle other questions. Sports Deck Jogging/Walking track has VERY NARROW corners forward where they added the staff cabins, There is only about 4-5' clearance on the forward corners. 4. GreatThings Repeated Bread Pudding Service with a smile Dining Room Name/Face Recognition Decor Food Layout Passenger Space Ratios Cabins Space (closets, setting area, etc) Did I mention the FOOD Passengers Fitness Center Bow observation areas with their limited access Performers - Despite HAL reputation for LACK of entertainment we found it fantastic. All were excellent, entertaining, and VERY personable off stage. Comedian Patrick Murray & Matilda; Paul "Fingers" Minard in the Piano Bar; Comedic Violinist David Levesque; Magician Bob Tunell; and Comedian Carl Guerra (who we were fortunate enough to take a tour with on Dominica). 5. New Things worth mentioning Observation Deck is now glassed in for better viewing and sun bathing (less wind) Internet Access More stairways & elevators on the newer HAL Class ships New pool layout off of the Lido deck and more room on the Sports deck aft. New layout of piano bar (although it looses something of the intimacy it GAINS in access for many other patrons). Marco Polo - Darn it. Friends who ate there said it was a REAL first class 4-star restaurant. The Atrium Organ was really special, especially when it played (which as far as we can determine was 2 and 4pm). Bill-Bradley@compuserve.com01/06/01 Read Less
Bill and I began cruising five years ago and consider it the most relaxing and romantic way to spend vacation days, which are considered "gold" in our "work-a-day" lives. Prior to this cruise we have been aboard RCCL ... Read More
Bill and I began cruising five years ago and consider it the most relaxing and romantic way to spend vacation days, which are considered "gold" in our "work-a-day" lives. Prior to this cruise we have been aboard RCCL (3) and Carnival (1). Years ago, on a trip to Vancouver, we saw a Holland America ship docked at Canada Place and Bill said, "We have to do one of those ships." Well, we finally did! BOOKING We had originally planned on running away to the Mexican Riviera for Thanksgiving as I still suffer from Post Traumatic Turkey Syndrome brought on by too many years of doing "the bird". All was set with deposits until I came across a Five Day Flash and discovered Holland America was "portioning" a twenty-one day Panama Canal reposition cruise and one of the available segments was Vancouver to San Diego (five nights). Though it did not fall into any Thanksgiving schedule, Vancouver and San Diego are two of our favorite places on earth and there were also two days at sea. WE LOVE DAYS AT SEA! So, I quickly called my travel agent and cancelled Mexico and Booked the Zaandam for a guarantee B (outside mini verandah suite). About a month before the cruise our documents arrived. These were unlike any we had ever received as they were in substantial leather tri-fold wallets with all your cruise tickets and a special place for your passport. What a classy presentation and they proved to be an excellent way of keeping everything very organized and easily retrievable. We were assigned cabin 000 since we were on a guarantee, but with the advise of a Cruise Critic post I began to access my booking information via the Shore Excursion section of HAL's website. About fifteen days before the cruise we suddenly became a Category A #6177 mini suite. Things were going about as smoothly as we could have imagined and the anticipation was pretty much pervading my consciousness. Then again, we believe that looking forward to the cruise is at LEAST as wonderful as the cruise itself. PRE EMBARKATION We live in Prescott, Arizona, which is about one hundred miles from the Phoenix airport. I had made separate air and pre cruise hotel reservations as I could find a far better rate than Holland America was offering. We have discovered a Days Inn close to the airport where you can park your car for free up to a week if you stay there one night. Their rates are very reasonable and we don't have to stress about potential traffic problems and missing our morning flights. This worked out well again and we were able to get to the airport with time to spare and enjoyed an uneventful flight from Phoenix to Vancouver. The customs situation in Vancouver can be long and tedious, but this time things weren't as bad as last September. The fact that we were the second to last ship leaving port at the closing of the Alaska cruise season helped keep numbers down. We had booked a package at the Hotel Listel on Robson Street for the night before embarkation. This unique, boutique hotel is on the Rodeo Drive of Vancouver and is a top- notch operation. Our Deluxe Gallery Package (US $132 + tax) included an upgraded gallery room complete with original artwork by a prominent Canadian artist, a seventy- five dollar dinner credit at O'Doul's Restaurant, French Press coffee and news paper delivery in the morning and full menu breakfast at O'Doul's. We arrived in blustery Fall weather which was a welcomed relief from the seemingly endless drought we have experienced in the Southwest. The gray skies and mist were a perfect background for the vibrant Fall leaves and damp streets. Our room had a view of Robson Street and we could actually see a bit of the harbor. I can't say enough about the quality of this hotel; artwork, furnishings, concierge service, dining and overall atmosphere are primo. We were very hungry since we flew through lunch and it was mid afternoon. The international dining opportunities in Vancouver rival New York and San Francisco. The Robson area is a Mecca for food enthusiasts. We had dinner planned at O'Doul's, so we didn't want to overly indulge. We found a casual Sushi restaurant a few doors down from the hotel. Two Miso soups, tea and about thirty five pieces of assorted sushi came out to about eleven dollars US. We were blown away! The light rain had subsided so we decided to do a bit of roaming along Robson. This is a wonderfully eclectic place with lots of people and extraordinary shopping variety. We sort of wandered about, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the diversity. The rain began to pick up and we went back to the Listel to cuddle up and enjoy the warmth prior to our dinner at seven thirty. Bill napped as I cuddled on our window seat watching the locals bundled in wool coats and knee high boots scurry about their after-work business. Ahhh yes, we weren't in "Kansas" anymore. Dinner was absolutely grand. O'Doul's is known for wonderful food and live jazz. Bill had salmon and I had this wonderful chicken stuffed with Gorgonzola, spinach and apricot in a wine reduction that was to die for. The live music was an added treat and the whole affair was a perfect precursor for the adventure that awaited us the next day. EMBARKATION We planned a wake up call about seven so we could go for a walk down to Canada Place and see our Zaandam. She had been in dry dock the previous week and we knew she'd be a sight to behold. Lord, it's dark in Vancouver at seven A.M! Our French Press Coffee was delivered and it rivaled the best we have ever had at coffee houses. Fueled with a caffeine "jump start" we ventured out about eight and headed for the harbor. She was there in all her glory as starched and pressed as one could ever imagine a ship to be. I was breathless and wanted to hop ship then and there. We watched as they brought pallet after pallet of provisions for the coming week. What an operation! Cranes and forklifts choreographed in a ballet of stocking the Zaandam with anything and everything we could possibly need on our voyage. Check in takes place on the lowest level of Canada Place, under the convention center. We headed down to get a sort of "lay of the land" and plan our strategy to board as early as possible. We had heard of folks boarding as early as eleven thirty or as late as one thirty on Cruise Critic boards. The crew was boarding at that point and we learned that they would begin with passengers about eleven thirty. We walked back to the hotel stopping along the way to grab a couple of Vancouver T-shirts and settled into O'Doul's to enjoy the best Eggs Benedict I've ever eaten. Bill headed out to get some Echinacea/Zinc tabs (we both felt colds coming on) and I did last minute packing and tagging of our bags. A quick call to the bellman resulted in a luggage loaded taxi in less than five minutes. It took no time at all before we were handing our bags over to the Holland America porters and were standing in line waiting for our carry-on bags to be scanned. We struck up a conversation with Al and Patricia from Carlsbad, California and about eleven forty five the line began to move. We quickly got through security, were given a boarding number and exchanged our paper ticket for our cruise ID card/room key/onboard charge card. One card covers all these necessities, which is very convenient. We were directed to a seating area and were kept informed as to what to expect next. All that prevented us from boarding the ship was getting through U.S. immigration and until they arrived, we stayed put. In the mean time, the onboard Spa staff set up a table and booked appointments. The wine stewards were selling prepaid wine packages and a vendor sold soft drinks and snack items. Folks read, chatted, paced and a few became impatient. This wasn't a reflection on HAL; they were also at the mercy of U.S. Immigration's arrival. At about one fifteen a handful of men and women in official looking uniforms arrived to an ovation from the crowd. The holding area was now standing room only and we were all ready to show our passports and get on with embarkation. It seemed like forever as they booted up their computers. Since 911 they no longer just look at your ID or passport; they now have to cross-reference you with their computer records. The wheelchair and cane folks were first to board and then on to the "masses". We were in the first group and it went quite quickly. Soon we were being directed toward a gangway!!!!! Our "Day One" had finally come and we were about to board the ship of our dreams and experience the reality. DAY ONE Port of Vancouver Each step up that gangway was a delight. I felt like a little child walking through the gates of Disneyland for the first time. As advertised, a bevy of Holland America staff was there to greet us and, to my joy, there was no obnoxious photographer insisting we pose behind an oversized life preserver. There was an embarkation photo area that one could go to if they desired a picture. Very nicely done. We were formally welcomed aboard and a white-gloved steward directed us to our cabin on the sixth deck, mid ship, starboard side. Cabin #6177 I think cabins and food are the most discussed subjects on cruise boards and a review of either is a very personal issue. Some folks book minimum cabins because they don't expect to spend much time there and would rather allot their cruise dollar elsewhere. Others must have some natural light in the form of windows or portholes. Some must have space and balconies. Bill and I have done outside picture windows and on our last cruise experienced our first balcony (Alaska 2001). Alas, the first balcony has resulted in our last picture window. We love the outdoor space and keeping the door open at night in order to fall asleep with the sound of the ocean is now a BillnJill priority. Our Category A mini suite was lovely. Upon entering there was a bathroom on the left that was plenty roomy and had a Jacuzzi tub and excellent water pressure. A standard size medicine cabinet was more than adequate for two people and there was additional space under the sink for curling irons, blow dryers, shaving kits, hair spray, etc. The embroidered Holland America towels were fluffy and absorbent. I have very long thick hair and though I brought my own hairdryer, I was interested in the one provided as I had read they were not very good at all. It's the darndest looking thing I've ever seen (kind of an albatross from the seventies). It took me three days to discover there was an outlet hidden behind a flap in the front of it. Drying my hair took awhile and the plastic handle did get very hot by the time the dryer could actually do its' job. This can be corrected by wrapping a washcloth around the part you hold. Not great, but with the insulation of the washcloth you will be able to dry your hair in time. At the very least, it's a terrific mirror defogger. The amenities included larger sized bar soap, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. There was absolutely NO sewage or foul odor at any time on our trip. So, the bathroom gets "a thumbs up" overall and a special plus for that great water pressure. On the right wall of the entry hall you will find four closet spaces with shelves in some and hanging bars in others. Some are adjustable and for our short trip the available hanging space was adequate. There is a full length mirror on one closet door, a safe and the life preservers are stored on one shelf of another closet. I would say for an extremely long voyage with many formal nights, hanging space would be at a premium and probably used for gowns, cocktail dresses, suits, etc. I'd gear my casual clothes toward the foldable sort. We were also provided waffle weave bathrobes that were comfy, roomy and perfect for intercepting that early room service coffee or middle of the night weather checks on the balcony. Upon entering the main part of the stateroom you will find either two twins or one large queen if you have requested the beds put together. The bed linens are of the finest quality I have ever encountered on a ship and the mattresses were firm and the thickness of a home mattress....not the thin stuff we've had on RCCL and Carnival. There are lights over the beds, light controls and a radio built into the wall above the bed. A large mirror adds light and spaciousness to the feeling of the room. There is a curtain that divides the sleeping area from the sitting area that has a full sized couch, an end table with mini refrigerator below and a telescoping table for cocktail or dining adjustment. A desk/wall unit with nine drawers, tv and vcr, and stocked mini bar is across from the couch and also sports another mirror unit. Floor to ceiling windows with a door to the balcony are at the end of the sitting room. Both heavy and sheer drapes allow for light control and decorative ambiance. The balcony has a lounge chair, small table and deck chair and plenty of room to move about. It's a delightful place for morning coffee, afternoon cocktails, port arrivals/departures and weather/sea checks. The condition of the stateroom was meticulous.............no stains, no worn carpet or upholstery and the cabin steward kept everything in perfect order. If you are looking for towel animals, you won't find them on Holland America and thank God they don't get into your personal clothing and make sculptures out of them; RCCL did this and it was not appreciated. So, thumbs up to the stateroom including the fruit bowl and personalized stationary! As we were checking out every nook and cranny of our mini suite, our luggage began to arrive. I think we'd been aboard less than twenty minutes. We didn't want to take time to unpack as I had my "first things first" checklist to address. We stashed our valuables in the safe and headed down to the Marco Polo alternative dining room to book our anniversary dinner for the following Wednesday evening. We expected a line, but there was none. Next we went to the dining room to check out our table. We were waitlisted for early, ended up getting it and were at a table for six on the upper balcony. Perfect! Our final stop was to check out the line at the Purser's Desk and see if it was a good time to register our credit card to our onboard account. Amazingly, there was no line there either. All that was left was to get up to the Lido for the Welcome Aboard Luncheon. Ah Ha! We discovered where everyone was! Though crowded, the line moved along quite well. An attendant hands you your tray with napkin and utensils and down the road of decadence you go attempting to choose from salads, soups, shrimp cocktails, main courses, side dishes, breads and beverages. The dessert stations and salad bar are located on their own "islands" and offer a wide selection. I found the Lido on the Zaandam nicer than the other buffet venues we have experienced on ships. The attention to carpet, upholstery, seating, drapes, etc gave it a more formal feeling than the cafeteria atmosphere we've had in the past. I will address the actual food later on in this review. We returned to the cabin and unpacked prior to the lifeboat drill. The gathering at our muster station went according to Hoyle and in a decent time frame we were depositing our vests back in the cabin and venturing up to the Lido Deck for the sail away party. It was cloudy and cool in Vancouver, so the retractable roof was closed over the Lido swimming pool area. There were sail away drinks and chips, salza and guacamole to enjoy. Due to the closed roof the band was very loud and we decided to escape up to the forward Sky Deck that turned out to be a perfect spot to marvel at the beauty of Stanley Park, Fall Foliage and the Lion's Gate Bridge. At dinner we were thrilled to find out that Al and Patricia (our check in linemates) were also our tablemates! Bob and Sheila arrived soon after and we all found we were on the five night itinerary. We had a marvelous time over the next days exchanging tidbits about our lives, kids, previous travels, plans for this current cruise, etc. What a stroke of luck to get such a compatible group since we were all part of a last minute, wait list shuffle. After dinner we explored the ship and went to the Welcome Aboard show. I wasn't anticipating anything amazing as previous reviews stated HAL is not known for their entertainment. I would concur and though not terrible, we knew that the evening shows would be a careful "pick and choose" activity. Tired from all the boarding excitement we retired to our stateroom after another bit of exploration. We were in the Straits of Georgia so the water was very calm and after cracking the door open we fell asleep to the gentle motion of the ship and the sounds of the Zaandam's foghorn. Only on a ship....... AND THE REST OF THE STORY.....(Day two through six) I will now break from the chronological organization of this review and divide the remainder into specific experience areas such as ports of call, onboard activities, entertainment, dining, service and the ship itself. Most of you reading this will be taking an itinerary different than our rare Pacific Coastal sailing, so this will be a brief overview of our Ports of Call and Days at Sea. The second morning we awoke to clouds, drizzle and the beautiful skyline of Seattle. Pier 66 is perfectly located just blocks from the famed Pike Street Market and close to various public forms of transportation that can take you throughout the downtown area. We were meeting Bill's sister who lives nearby and taking the Seattle Underground Tour at Pioneer Square. This was such a great way to learn about the city's early history, see some great architecture and have a unique experience in the bowels of old Seattle. For eight bucks (AAA rate) this is a deal! We ventured on to the Pike Street Market and enjoyed a wonderful lunch upstairs overlooking table upon table of gorgeous produce in the marketplace below. After watching the fish throwing extravaganza, listening to a very talented street musician and buying a lovely bouquet of flowers for the stateroom we said our goodbyes to Penny and returned to the ship. The previous evening's Sail Away rum punch glass became my vase for the flowers and our suite was now truly resplendent. We mixed a couple of cocktails and went out on our balcony for the departure from Seattle. Our next door neighbors were also out and we learned they had come all the way from Nova Scotia and were doing the complete Panama Canal trip. As we left port heading for the Pacific Ocean and Astoria we were accompanied by a pod of dolphin and a bit of sun peeking through the clouds. Only on a ship....... Day three brought us to the picturesque town of Astoria which lies about fifteen miles up the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean. It is known for its' amazing bridge that connects Oregon to Washington and completed the Coast Highway 101 from Mexico to Canada when built. This town pulled out all the stops for our arrival since they only get the Zaandam in twice a year; once on the Fall Canal reposition and once again on the reverse reposition. There was a craft show set up by the dock, a open air tent with live folk bands playing throughout the day, school buses ferried folks from the dock to the quaint downtown shopping area and tour buses and boats provided excursions to Lewis and Clark themed locations. We were made to feel like a boat full of dignitaries and it was utterly delightful. They even bussed in the diminutive high school marching band to serenade us for a half hour before we sailed away. Astoria was a charming contrast to the huge, modern ports of Vancouver, Seattle and San Diego. We sailed toward the Pacific and soon would be "at sea" without the protection of the inside passages we had been sailing. We knew right when we hit the ocean. At eleven o'clock that night we began to roll a bit and for the next couple of days were in seas that swelled to about twelve feet. Some folks got queasy, but we found it just delightful to feel the boat and the ocean moving together. Days Four and Five the Zaandam was at sea traveling from Northern Oregon to Southern California. Until we docked in San Diego the morning of day six we had the boat to explore and enjoy to the fullest. SO, WHAT'S THERE TO DO ON THOSE ' DAM SHIPS? We love our Days at Sea and still get up early because we don't want to waste time sleeping. Each morning we would have coffee and juice delivered to the room about six AM before Bill would take off to work out in the gym. The Ocean Spa workout area has huge windows overlooking the bow of the ship and is a lovely place to tread, step or bike away those wonderful calories being served all over the boat. The staff is excellent and is more than happy to assist any passenger desiring help or activities. There were organized aerobics classes and they were doing personal fitness evaluations that would be rather helpful to those who were taking the full three week trek through the canal. I, on the other hand, am a walker so I'd spend those early mornings exploring the ship, trying to find ways to get to places and try to remember how to do it again later. Our weather was still overcast and blustery so any jogging on the sports deck was a risky proposition, though the Promenade Deck was popular with the morning walkers. The salon was busy with massages, facials, pedicures, manicures and the like. They even had this odd capsule they would put folks in, turn a few knobs and it would vibrate/massage with heat and aromatherapy thrown in on the side. At a dollar a minute, they were selling time in it as a cheaper alternative to a standard massage. By nine o'clock we were ready for our breakfast we generally enjoyed in the Rotterdamn Dining Room. Days at sea are relaxed and the pace of breakfast in the main dining room suits that end perfectly. Enjoying a cappuccino while watching the ocean through floor to ceiling windows just doesn't get much better. By ten AM the ship is settling into all sorts of activity. This being an older crowd (as is the norm on long cruises), we found the card room and library to be bustling. We generally headed to the Internet Center and had no problem finding an open computer, which is not the case on ships with younger passengers. Snow Ball Bingo is announced morning and afternoon. We never participated, so I have no idea how popular that activity was. We enjoyed the casino a few times and left our share of nickels there. The movie theater shows two different movies each day at 10, 2, 8 and 10. We enjoyed being in a real movie theater at sea. At least until I dragged Bill to the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. I lost him there and he'll never let me live that one down. (Hey, I loved it. He just doesn't get character flicks.) By late morning the Java Cafe is calling. This dandy spot on the ship serves up complimentary espressos, lattEs, cappuccinos, gourmet teas and an assortment of cookies and little dessert cakes every day. (Bill figured out how to get to any spot on the ship by traversing the Java.) Throughout the day there are Bridge Lessons, galley tours, cooking demonstrations, makeup clinics and gambling tutorials. We didn't do any of that since we just never seemed to find the time. Lunch, again, is a leisurely atmosphere on sea days and an afternoon nap for Bill and a good book for Jill filled out our days. Only on a ship..... ENTERTAINMENT There are numerous lounges on the Zaandam that provide a cross section of music that is appealing to baby boomers on up. No Hip Hop on the Zaan and Karaoke just isn't an option. During the after dinner hours there are ensembles that appeal to mature musical tastes and later in the Crow's Nest things loosen up with more of a disco flare. A piano bar offers nice background music and though we missed it, the "Murder Mystery Through Music" evening in that bar sounded like a great deal of fun. As for the shows in the main lounge, we found them disappointing. This was a rather odd cruise during our five night segment. Folks were boarding and disembarking the first three days and then two hundred of us were leaving the morning of the sixth day. Maybe they were gearing up the production numbers for the meat of the cruise once they left San Diego with the official passenger roster for the Canal crossing. I'm not big into magicians or comedians. There was a woman soloist one night and a guy playing a guitar another. The first formal night they did have These Three Tenors who did a magnificent show, though the Zaandam "orchestra" was not up to par with their level of talent. I didn't come on the ship expecting Las Vegas extravaganzas, so there was no real disappointment. One night we went up to the Crow's Nest for a nightcap and the resident ensemble was very good. It wasn't time for the disco stuff yet, but the band did a terrific cross section of tunes Baby Boomers love to remember. Our favorite entertainment was each other.............exploring, going out on deck and watching the white caps and the seas, holding hands and walking the promenade, debating whether or not the swells were really 8.0 to 12 feet. Escaping back to our private enclave and standing bundled on our verandah in the mist while listening to the drone of the Zaandam's foghorn. Now That's Entertainment! Only on a ship...... DINING We found the food in the Rotterdam Dining Room to be quite inconsistent. The king crab on night one was fantastic, the veal medallions on night two were so tough I might have well been eating an aged bull. Appetizers were fairly good with the escargot bringing in very high marks. Breads were plentiful, but boring and salads, unmemorable. The soups were consistently a delight, though the desserts were akin to those being served on the buffet line in the Lido. The Lido for alternative casual dining was excellent and they even dressed the tables with linens, sliver and glassware. It gave a formal touch to the informal venue. The Hands Down winner for dining excellence was the Marco Polo Restaurant. Food, service and ambiance were five star and should not be missed. Breakfast and lunch in either the Rotterdam or Lido is a personal choice. Neither is really stellar, though the Rotterdam provides a leisurely and elegant pace to enjoy. FORMAL DRESS This is another area of debate so I spent a good deal of time on formal night "tux watching." On the Zaandam we had far more men in dark suits and blazer/dress pants than tuxes. It appeared to be age related with the older crowd sporting more formal wear and the middle agers opting for suits. The age group on this trip was fifty plus and the tuxes were worn predominantly by those over seventy. I thought all the men looked great and no one looked out of place, though some of the "tuxers" looked a bit uncomfortable. SERVICE One of Holland America's hallmarks is their commitment to service and they don't disappoint at all. From the moment you begin the check in process the HAL folks are terrific. We didn't have any complaints, so I can't really tell you how that end of the program works, but we thoroughly enjoyed the attentive service and the extraordinary ability of the staff to remember all the guest's names. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very funny and had genuine warmth that made it a sad occasion when we had to say goodbye. Enrico did not realize we were dining at the Marco Polo for our anniversary and had a cake waiting for us in the main dining room. He left his post and rushed it downstairs so we would have it for our dessert. Our room steward was so "on the ball" that we never had to ask for anything above and beyond what he was already doing. The staff throughout the Zaandam was personable, helpful and a delight to interact with. The Holland America Experience is very unique when compared to other cruise lines we have traveled. THE SHIP The Zaandam is downright beautiful. From the teak decks, the wood railings, the forever polished brass.....the artwork, the flowers, the carpets, and upholstery. Everywhere you go on the ship you are taken away by her beauty and intimacy. I, too, haven't quite figured out the organ in the atrium, but I love the rest of that 'dam ship. She's a ship that invites you to slow down and "smell the roses". One morning I was on the Sports Deck after an overnight rain.....my goodness, the color of those teak decks when wet is a sight to behold. The highly varnished wood benches on the Promenade Deck transported us to the great ships of the past. FINAL THOUGHTS And as the sea moved, so did the Zaandam and we too moved in unison. We lived on the Zaan for five days and began to feel her as our own, wanting to preserve that beauty, that experience, that feeling, that connection. Only on a ship....... JILLC2@aol.comOctober 2002 Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
We went on the Holland America MS Zaandam Inside Passage cruise from August 23-30, round trip from Vancouver. With the exception of one day, the weather was beautiful, sunny and about 50-60 degrees. We had a great time and will definitely ... Read More
We went on the Holland America MS Zaandam Inside Passage cruise from August 23-30, round trip from Vancouver. With the exception of one day, the weather was beautiful, sunny and about 50-60 degrees. We had a great time and will definitely cruise again! To see pictures, go to: http://photos.yahoo.com/celestem2121. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail us at Celestem@comcast.net. Vancouver We arrived in Vancouver on Thursday (with the cruise leaving on Saturday). We stayed at the Pan Pacific hotel, right above Canada Place. The hotel was very nice and quite expensive, but the convenience of being downtown and seeing the ships coming in was worth it. They will transfer your luggage to the cruise ship terminal so you don't have to worry about it. Stanley Park is a beautiful place to visit. There is a free shuttle that does the entire loop of the park with many places to get on/off as desired. This is a very convenient way to see the entire park as it is over 5 miles to do the complete loop. We also visited the Aquarium on Saturday which we highly recommend, even if you don't have children. They have beautiful displays, as well as beluga whales, sea otters, and sea lions. On Friday, we took the Vancouver Trolley ride for a tour around town. While the tour was very interesting, the trolley was extremely bumpy. You may want to check out the double-decker bus as the ride may be smoother. We also found the Vancouver Tourism office is a block away from Canada Place. They have lots of flyers and maps, and also a very friendly staff to help you. One key thing they have is a currency exchange machine, which looks like an ATM. You insert money and it gives you back Canadian money at the day's exchange rate. We had converted some money ahead of time at AAA and found their exchange rate to be horrible. Embarkation We headed down at 12:45 as embarkation begins at 1:30, and went through a security scan (very quick moving lines). We brought some bottles of liquor in our carry-on without a problem (and also did the same in Skagway). Once we entered the waiting room, it was a bit confusing. Since we were suite guests, we were brought to a separate in-processing table and were through in about 5 minutes (make sure you have your immigration paperwork printed out as well as your passport ready). We were given a number and told to wait until our number (40) is called. After we left the table, we were confused because as suite passengers we though we had priority boarding yet we were directed to a long line of people. Larry asked someone where we should go and he let us into the immigration area along with the wheelchair passengers. It never hurts to ask someone where to go! The Zaandam The ship was very clean, with no obvious signs of wear and tear. The carpet and walls were all in excellent shape. The Zaandam is much smaller than the Princess and Celebrity ships and we liked not being overwhelmed with people. Our room was beautiful, a deluxe verandah suite with a large balcony (2 recliners, 4 chairs, and a table). Our bed was made into a king size bed, and we also had two chairs and a large couch. The bathroom included a whirlpool tub, and a separate changing area with another sink and large mirror. Plenty of closet and drawer space. The only complaint about our room was the heavy vibration the first night, which we believe was an engine problem although no one would confirm it, and the loud sounds above our room. Our room was on the starboard side, below the pool. When they were cleaning the floor each night at 11:00, they would drag the chairs and tables around. We complained, and were given $400 shipboard credit for our inconvenience. We also would hear people walking above us at all hours of the day and night although we never heard any noise from the hallway or from the rooms next to us. We found the staff to be extremely helpful, professional, and most of all friendly. Our room steward, Supri, was wonderful. Our room was always promptly made up, and he always took time to ask us how our day was. Equally pleasant were the waiters and assistant waiters. The only problem we had was the wine steward, who asked over and over again if someone at our table wanted wine or a drink, even though they said they didn't want anything. We complained about it to the head waiter. Deluxe Verandah Suite Privileges We were invited to several cocktail parties and one luncheon, as we as had priority disembarkation at the ports. We were a little apprehensive about the lunch, since it was Indonesian food, but it ended up being one of the best meals of the cruise. They served soup, salad, and then a plate with 6 or 7 different items, all a little spicy and very good. One officer sat at each table, with ours being the Holland America Headquarters nurse in charge of dealing with communicable diseases (we had Norwalk on our ship, more below). We also took advantage of the complimentary laundry and dry cleaning services (complimentary for suite passengers). Clothes left out in the morning would be back the same day if you select express service, or the next day for regular service. Clothes were returned on hangers with undies and socks folded in a wicker basket wrapped in tissue paper. Nice touch! Suite passengers are also assigned a small dining room adjacent to the main dining room for lunch and dinner. We liked the intimacy and the personalized service (the food is the same as the main dining room). Food and Entertainment We were extremely satisfied with the food in the main dining room, the Lido, and the Pinnacle Grill. We had one dinner and lunch that were mediocre (tenderloin steak and a hamburger that were just okay). The choices were numerous and varied, with a choice of appetizer, salad, soup, main course, and dessert at both lunch and dinner. Breakfast also had many choices, including cereals, fruit, waffles, and eggs. We found the food to have good flavor, and cooked to our liking. The fish was always cooked perfectly, as was the beef. The Pinnacle Grill cost an additional $20/person. It wasn't a five star restaurant, but it was very good. The menu does not change and is only open for dinner (reservations required). The menu is primarily beef, and includes an appetizer, salad, and dessert. The service is exceptional, with Michel as the charming maitre d. We found the entertainment on the ship to be okay, but nothing spectacular. We only saw 2 shows, the magician and the comedian, and listened to some of the band (Party of Four) in the Crow's Nest (which reminded me of a cheap wedding band!). The Champagne Strings played each night in one of the lounges and they were very good, including a very talented violinist. My biggest complaint was the lack of music for the younger crowd. Disco night didn't start until 11:00 pm, and it would have been nice to hear top-40 dance music a couple of nights, rather than the waltz. Ports The first port of call was Juneau. The weather was incredibly nice in Juneau, big puffy clouds and about 60 degrees. We spent a little bit of time in town but it was packed as 3 other ships were in town before we got there. It was much better shopping after the shore excursion as the town had cleared out. We arranged our whale watching tour through the ship instead of an independent vendor and we were very satisfied. Allen Marine was the tour operator, and their boat had two levels, the lower level enclosed and the upper level half enclosed and half open. There was plenty of room for everyone to see the whales without any crowding (everyone was very helpful in making sure the children or shorter people were in front so everyone had a good view). They offered complimentary juice, water, and coffee, as well as cookies and salmon spread on crackers. We found whales pretty quickly, including an incredible display of "bubble-net feeding", where the whales come out of the water as they feed. We also saw eagles and sea lions. This was the best shore excursion of the trip (and my favorite memory). We outsmarted ourselves in Skagway. We decided to rent a car and drive to Carcross. The scenery was beautiful, especially at the summit where the smell of pine was refreshing, but the trip became somewhat monotonous. Once we got to Carcross at 1:30, we were all ready for some lunch but only 1 restaurant was open (a seedy joint next to the gas station). The only other thing in town was a dingy general story. Very disappointing. We should have taken the train! Skagway had the same type of stores as Juneau, with many markdowns as the cruise season is coming to an end. In Ketchikan, we booked a Misty Fjords float plane through Carlin Air. I was a little afraid of being on such a small plane and landing on water but it was uneventful. We had a total of 7 people, the pilot, 4 in our group, and 2 other people, so the plane was too crowded (the pilot plus 1 of our group in the front seats, 3 squeezed in the middle, and 2 in the back). It was a nice tour, including landing on a remote lake for ½ hour and getting out to walk around. Very peaceful with some glimpses of wildlife. I recommend using Carlin Air as the ship based tours do not allow you to get out of the plane but be warned about the crowding in the middle seat. Cruising Glacier Bay was the only bad weather day we had, cold, windy, rainy, so everyone crowded into the Crow's Nest. We were so happy to have a balcony to escape from the crowd, and with our friends having a balcony on the other side, we could go back and forth to look at the different views. The glaciers were beautiful, even with the bad weather. There was a salmon bake scheduled today which we missed because of the crowd (it is normally held outside). Norwalk Virus We had an outbreak of Norwalk on our ship. On the second day, we noticed that the salt/pepper shakers had been removed, and rolls and butter were passed out by the waiter. Very late the next night a letter was delivered to each cabin explaining that Norwalk was on the ship. We talked to the HAL HQ nurse (who was flown in by float plane to get the problem under control) and she explained that when they discover a problem with a communicable disease (Norwalk, strep, etc.), they follow strict rules to avoid it spreading. Sick passengers are quarantined, and they and their companions are removed from the ship at the next port. She said people get pretty mad about it, but they discovered it is necessary because the Norwalk affected passengers are contagious up to 3 days after being sick. She also said they have found that hard surfaces, especially pens and cups, spread the disease quickly (for example, we noticed they only used pens once when selling bingo cards). The nurse told us that 3 buses from Salt Lake City arrived in Vancouver before the cruise, and some of the passengers were already sick (they didn't tell anyone they were sick before they got on the cruise). The sick passengers not only got on the Zaandam but also other ships that were leaving Vancouver (I believe Coral Princess was one of them). We washed our hands frequently, and used the disinfectant towels that were available everywhere. Crew worked all over the ship cleaning it (if they don't follow the HQ regulations for cleaning the ship, the next cruise maybe cancelled). None of our group got sick. Disembarkation The ship docked in Vancouver at 7:00am, with disembarkation starting at 8:00. We disembarked (we wanted to stay!) at 8:50, went directly to the bus which left at 9:00, and arrived at the airport about 9:50 (we booked the airport transfer through the ship). Since our flight left after 12:00, we picked up our luggage at the airport. Instead of using a cart, we asked a porter for help, which was worth the tip as the airport was very crowded. At Vancouver, you have to pay an Airport Improvement Fee of $10/person before going through security. The porter told us to use the automated machine (looks like an ATM) instead of paying cash at the crowded desk which saved us some time. It took us another hour to check in and get through INS, and another 35 minutes to get through Security. Do not plan too early of a flight or you'll never make it. The airport is very crowded with 3 or 4 other cruise ships disembarking at the same time. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
North: I have discovered no other destination in our great land of America that affects my sense of beauty, peace, and vastness quite like Alaska. I think of it as the land of no neon a place where moose, elk and wolves roam, and the ... Read More
North: I have discovered no other destination in our great land of America that affects my sense of beauty, peace, and vastness quite like Alaska. I think of it as the land of no neon a place where moose, elk and wolves roam, and the Alaskan brown bear is the dominate wild predator. Alaska is a land where the scale is so immense that flying over endless mountain ranges defies your preconceived imagination of what huge formerly meant. Those prior notions of immensity are vacant now they are replaced by a new concept Alaska. The intricacy of how Alaska draws upon one's soul and beckons relic primal yearnings was reflected best by a favorite poet of the young state: "... can't you hear the Wild? it's calling you. Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us; Let us journey to a lonely land I know. There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go." Robert W. Service, Alaska's favorite poet Ship: We decided not to try and fix something that works well, so once again we chose Holland America Cruise Lines. We have formerly sailed the Veendam, Volendam, and now we selected the Zaandam. Our itinerary would take us from Vancouver, B.C. round trip. On this Glacial Discovery itinerary we would explore the state capital of Juneau, lovely Skagway, Ketchikan, and Glacier Bay National Park. The Zaandam is a newer Holland America ship built in 2000 at 63, 000 tons. She carries 1440 passengers on 10 decks. The design and space allocation makes it quite easy to find private nooks to relax, and Holland America offers graciously spacious standard cabins. We have tried inside, and outside cabins finding them pleasant and spacious. We have not yet moved into the balcony suites with Holland America but I imagine they please clients. More on this people-pleasing ship in my overview. Route: Sailing from the city designed by and for water, Vancouver, is a delight. The gleaming translucent blue glass buildings and frayed fingers of land jutting into the inlets alert visitors that this is a scenic metropolis, not one in a metro-bustle of confusion. Majestic looming mountains surround the scene extra days are more than warranted for Vancouver! Ports of call: Our first port yielded a Juneau in July junket of joy! As you cruise into this small state capital, you are enveloped in lush green velvety mountains glistening with waterfalls small tour seaplanes buzz above, and then Juneau delightfully unfolds. If there were by chance palm trees, the temperate rain forest southeast Alaskan area could pass for Kauai, Hawaii ... well, you might have to add 15 degrees even in summer. We tried a new outing in Juneau this trip we did a five hour tour which involved the Mendenhall Glacier, the rain forest bouquets of the Glacier Gardens, and the Salmon hatchery. On two previous Juneau visits we had avoided the salmon hatchery ... by the name it sounded mundane. In reality the salmon were running and this was exhilarating! Salmon are propagated at the hatchery, and released season after season. After thousands of miles of journeys to unknown seas they return mystically to the hatchery. We were there for the almost spiritual return splashing, slashing, and bolting upward over the steel gates of the inclined hatchery, they make their way home. Just as in nature, the salmon come home to breed, deliver eggs, and die. At the hatchery, nature is helped by increased fertilization and breeding standards and salmon populations are supported by this ecological aid. The hatchery helps both salmon populations, and local fishing. The Mendenhall glacier stop allowed over an hour to tour the visitor's center, and take modest trails to lookout points. Inspiring, this goliath creeping wonder of ice displays its splendor quite easily with a thunderous waterfall just off to the side. The glacier proudly shows its magnificence in a mirroring tidal basin it is a photographically splendid park. Glacier Gardens sets up in a rain forest area near the city of Juneau ... and a drizzle can be expected. This mammoth tour through the forest is on golf carts with a guide, and offers a lush groomed setting and a scenic vista. We were pleased with our tour selection, and we were glad to once again be in one of two state capitals you cannot drive to Juneau is one Honolulu the other. Juneau has so much to offer visitors, it may one day be a separate land vacation destination we would strongly consider. Skagway: This charming small turn-of-the-century looking boardwalk town is just what you expect of a robust pioneer mining town spirit. There is nothing pretensive or theme-park-like about Skagway ... it is the way it was, and is. The year-round population of Skagway is a mere 3500 souls, but in summer with additional employees plus visitors, numbers soar. Skagway is an indigenous term for windy valley ... and both times we have visited her, she lives up to that reputation. The don't dare miss option for Skagway and all Alaskan towns is of course shopping in the local boutiques, but for an adventure ... the White Pass Railway. The route up the gold-rush heartache trail is one of the world's most scenic and spectacular. The narrow gauge tracks climb above the tree line winding over steep gorges, and passing waterfalls and tall trestle bridges ... it is worth two or more rolls of film. With steady nerves you are allowed to stand between train cars for your dramatic photos as the train rounds bends over deep canyons. Your trek takes you into the Yukon and British Columbia area of Canada. You have two tour options ... return by train or take the scenic bus which stops at Liar's town. Liar's town is situated near Skagway and is where the miners camped before heading upward to look for gold. Over 40,000 climbed, many died, over 3000 horses died trying to carry the loads, and in total 30 million dollars were spent by crazed gold-frenzied miners to find nuggets. Gold was found, and 300 or so became rich, but only 10 million dollars of gold was produced ... thus more was spent than found and this defines the gold-craze. It was called Liar's town because the reporters were too afraid to make the arduous trek, thus they remained in camp creating stories ... and thus fueled the frenzy further. Skagway? ... you will fall in love with her! Ketchikan: Each visit to this picturesque Alaskan town we have visited the ESPN sponsored Great American Lumberjack Show. Showing off the skills of days gone by, this entertaining competition is a crowd pleaser. With cruise ships in port the show can fill quickly, so on-board booking may be wise. From pole climbing, to the loud hot-saws, then log-rolling ... the crowd is cheering for their team to win the show. It is quite an Alaskan reality adventure set very near the docks of Ketchikan. After the show you can walk easily to the bridge to see fishermen haul in salmon, then cross over to the lovely and historic Creek Street. This lovely historic row of buildings sits on stilts above the Ketchikan creek, which is brimming with salmon in late June and July. Creek Street is stunningly photographic. We have, in the past, visited the Totem Park which helps visitors get involved with the life and customs of the indigenous peoples of Alaska. Ketchikan is nick-named Alaska's rain capital, but we have always had good luck in that regards. It is a lovely town situated in a memorable mountain and water surrounded location. We have found no location in Alaska other than inviting! Glacier Bay: John Muir, American naturalist gave these words after his first visit to Glacier Bay in the 1800's "This is my first view of such solitude, and magnificence, such ice and snow newborn ... mysterious, yet wonderful." he wrote. We have remarked many times after a visit to Glacier Bay National Park ... "It is like stepping into outer space it is away from humanity completely". There is the deep blue ice, which often fractures and thunders into the currents, and your ship will be surrounded by icebergs aplenty. There are seals, and whales en-route ... both its simplicity and complexity are spiritual. Our day was especially lucky this year, for it was perhaps a warm 50 degrees and a glorious abundant blue sky. The ranger which boarded for the day said there are perhaps only 25 days per year this wonderful at Glacier Bay ... thus it was special and serene. Overview: Our ship, the Zaandam, offered excellent five star dining, and the specialty restaurant The Pinnacle Grill offered world-class fare and presentation deluxe. This extra fee dining facility is really worth that special treat above and beyond what you might expect. Zaandam's entertainment had excellent and engaging acts from a polished crew cast, to magicians, musicians and a popular comedian. Our only suggestion for Zaandam and perhaps other ships in this group would be to add some prints or other art to the cabin bedroom area. The spacious standard cabins have bathtubs and showers, sitting area, bedroom area and are quite above norms for cruise ship space ... just a touch more color and art would be welcomed in the cabins, which Holland American could easily arrange. See your favorite travel agent for advice, and always ask for cabin upgrades and discounts it's your money! For Alaska, plan months ahead and remember, Alaska is more than a state, it is a state of mind a region best left unexploited and retained for its wildness and splendor. It is still your frontier, your past, and a respite for our future generations. Alaska need not be more expensive than a Florida vacation with theme parks, and the weather is compellingly inviting during hot summer months. You may not yet have traveled to Alaska, but one day you will go ... Or, you may have been, thus you hear her calling for your return Alaska is a rite of passage in life that beckons you it is your call of the wild. *** Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2003
We took the fall repositioning cruise on Holland America's Zaandam. It began in Vancouver and ended at Port Canaveral although we joined the excursion in San Diego. There are several excellent reviews of the Zaandam and its ports that ... Read More
We took the fall repositioning cruise on Holland America's Zaandam. It began in Vancouver and ended at Port Canaveral although we joined the excursion in San Diego. There are several excellent reviews of the Zaandam and its ports that can be found here, but we couldn't find any explanations of the trip through the Panama Canal itself. This is what this review will dwell upon. We will say that it was a wonderful trip with stops at ports where we had never been in Mexico, Central America, and South America. There are differing reports as to where to watch the transit of the Canal. Some people like to see the inner workings of the process and the machinery as close as possible; the lower promenade deck is great for this. You can walk around the entire ship and go out to the very front of the bow if you would like. You can stay on the sunny or shady side of the ship and watch the process from a deck chair; people tend to get in the way of your viewing with this option. Staying outside can be extremely hot, humid, and sunny. The weather can be stifling, and you must wear sunblock and drink plenty of fluids. You can also sit inside at one of the several bars and watch through the "windows". After much thought and discussion, we chose to sit in the Crow's Nest of the Zaandam. The Crow's Nest is a bar and nightclub on the ninth deck of the ship on the bow. It has wrap around windows, reclining chairs, a well-stocked bar, and plenty of room, tables and chairs. You can see everything starboard to port albeit not up close. We decided, if we could, that we would sit at the front of the Crow's Nest on the port side in two chairs with table that was right by the windows. The reclining chairs looked really inviting, but when you sit in them, the view is lower than a regular chair, and you see a little less. We were scheduled to begin our transit through the locks around 7:00 am, so we thought that we should claim our chairs and table early. On our day of transit we woke up at 4:15 am, dressed with sweaters (people sometimes forget to tell you that it gets cold in some areas of the ship), and proceeded to the Crow's Nest. We got there at around 4:50 am, and it was open; however, we were not the first people there. There was another couple in the reclining chairs in the middle of the room and another man towards the back. Our table was waiting for us, and we sat down, pulled the table and chairs all the way to the bulkhead, and waited for the trip to begin. We approached the entrance through part of the Bay of Panama; our trip was to take us from south to north. It was still dark out, but you could see the lights of many ships anchored in the bay waiting for their turn to transit. Passenger ships and critical cargo ships pay a special fee not to wait; our fee was between $150,000 and $175,000. Lights of the skyscrapers of Panama City could be seen in the distance, and you could just make out the shape of the Bridge of the Americas which goes over the Canal and connects one side of Panama to the other. The sky lightened somewhat as the sun was coming up; it was overcast with several threatening clouds towards the north. At around 5:30 am, a pilot boat met us, and we took our pilot on board. This is the person who actually guides the ship through the process. There were two pilot boats that met us, and we think that several people boarded the Zaandam. On our starboard side a huge container ship was allowed to go in front of us as we met our tugboats. As we looked to the port side we saw several buildings and an airfield that was used by the United States when we controlled the Canal Zone. The sun rose and the Bridge of the Americas was right in front of us. It was really a neat experience to go under this structure, and we took several pictures of the process. Once under the bridge, we entered the Bay of Balboa; this is a port town and you could see the container ships that are too large to go through the Canal unloading their cargo to railway cars for the overland transit to the Atlantic side. On the port side is the former Rodman U.S. naval base that Panama has taken over and uses for a port. I ran down to the Lido deck to see if I could get any breakfast. Fortunately, they had opened the continental breakfast area early, and I was able to bring muffins, tea, and juice back to the Crow's Nest. Our two tugs approached us as we proceeded to the first set of locks. One tug went to the starboard side, and one went to our stern. This is done to insure that our entrance into the locks is done correctly and safely. As we approached the two locks there were two ships already in the first of the two-step Miraflores Locks. At this time of day, ships can use both the starboard and port locks to go to the Atlantic side; later on in the day only one side is used because of the two-way traffic. You could actually see the big container ship that had passed us up rise as the water was allowed to flow into the first lock from the lake system above. Between the locks there is an area that has most of the controls and the mule tracks. There is also an arrow that indicates which way your ship is to go. This is a holdover from the days when two-way radios were not used. As we waited, the arrow was straight up. On the entire transit, the Captain of the Zaandam gave a running commentary of what was transpiring. Then it was our turn, and the arrow swung to the starboard lock. Water poured out of the sides of the locks as the first area emptied its contents into the Bay of Balboa; it works on a gravitational system. As we approached our first lock, a rowboat brought out the cables that would connect the Zaandam to the locomotives that would help pull us through the Miraflores Locks. We didn't see it, but our crew took the cables and hooked them up to our ship with guidance from the Canal crew. The port side lock was mirroring what we were doing, and you could see the process from a different point of view. You could see the big lock doors open as our sister lock prepared to accept another container ship beside us. Our lock was ready and we slowly proceeded into it. The locomotives pulled us, but we also used our own power and thrusters. Once in the lock, the doors behind us closed, and we began to rise from the water in the second lock. We were only about 4 feet from the both sides of the locks; some ships are even wider than we were. You could see the process happen, and we rose to the level of the second set of locks. It took around ½ hour to complete this part of the journey. The massive original 1914 doors opened, and we were taken into the second set of Miraflores Locks. The process was repeated, and we steamed into the little bay between the locks. We noticed that there were several alligators floating by the beaches and several species of birds on the rain forests just on land. We approached the Pedro Miguel Locks and waited our turn and for the arrow to turn. We could see the container ship on the port side begin to leave its berth, and water leaked from the back doors of the lock as her propellers took hold. We then entered this one lock system, and went through the fascinating process again. The Crow's Nest was filling up by now, and the bar was open. People were getting a bit crabby because some were sitting in front of them. There was a shouting match that lasted about 5 minutes. The good guys eventually won out. Once we had reached the farthest above sea level that that would be, our lock doors opened, and we were escorted into the Gaillard or Culebra Cut. This section of the Canal is what cuts through the Continental Divide. Many thousands of workers died attempting to build this section of the Canal. As we sailed on we were "tugless" but passed several dredging vessels that continually pull out sediment from the bottom of the Cut. We passed a new set of structures that will eventually be another bridge across the Canal. It seemed to be a massive undertaking. Panama is also attempting to finance a third set of locks that will allow the largest "post Panamax" ships to transit. The Cut winds through the rain forest, and we met our first ships going south here. A very large container ship passed us up on the port side; why she did this, we never found out since our transit paralleled her from then on. As we came out of the Cut into Gatun Lake we could see the many lighthouses, signs, and lights along the way that have been installed for the pilots to guide the ships. The Gatun Lake is the source of the water that allows the vessels to be raised or lowered through the system of locks. The lake was formed by the damming of the Chagres River. There are many islands that still exist, and an exact channel must be followed around these islands. We spent several hours traversing this second largest manmade body of water. Many of the passengers on board the Zaandam left the deck and the Crow's Nest since there was "not much to see". We stayed but got lunch from the Lido Deck. As we approached the final set of Gatun Locks we sailed past the Gatun Dam which was an earthen structure which formed the lake. Ships were again anchored around the area waiting their turn to go into the Locks. We had a short wait and watched the Princess Line "Coral Princess" transit the three locks in front of her. This passenger ship is the largest that has ever transited the Canal. There is only about two feet on either side of her when she enters each lock. Twilight was approaching as we began to enter the Gatun Locks with the help of two new tugs. Once we were safely in, we began the trifold process of descending to the Atlantic side of the Canal. The lights of the area came on and gave a surreal effect to the process. The sun set and the lights of the ships docked waiting to sail south the next day could be seen; the Coral Princess was docked and had all of her lights burning; it was a neat sight. We left the third and final lock and sailed under our own power into Limon Bay, past the Port of Cristobal and Colon, and into the Caribbean Sea. None the worse for wear after 13 ½ hours, we cleaned up our area, moved our chairs and table back, and went down to the Lido deck for a massive barbeque that the food service had for the passengers. The transit of the Panama Canal was a great experience. There are so many things to see that you have to see them all; we did, and we hope that this review will help in your transit. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
Or Happy Birthday Bob Cruise. To start off this was a surprise cruise for my wife's (Barbara) cousins (Patty) husbands (Bob) 70th birthday. There were ten in all booked on this trip. Bob the guest of honor and his wife Patty - who ... Read More
Or Happy Birthday Bob Cruise. To start off this was a surprise cruise for my wife's (Barbara) cousins (Patty) husbands (Bob) 70th birthday. There were ten in all booked on this trip. Bob the guest of honor and his wife Patty - who suggested this cruise. Their life long friends Linda and Nelson from Tampa. Our friends Bob and Eileen from Michigan. And our group of four. Bob and Patty live in Florida just north of Tampa. Our group of four are all from North Jersey. With Patty picking out the trip to go on we planned this over nine months in advance. Where she asked us all to come on the trip and she would not tell Bob anyone else was going. Surprise building. My TA Deb took care of all the ship bookings for all of use and got us all great deals on the cabins. We had four sharing the suite. My wife Barbara and I with my sister in law Julie and their friend Carole. Bob and Eileen got a slightly smaller suite with a veranda and our Florida travelers opted for inside cabins. All on the same floor. Just a few doors down from us. Linda and Nelson were on the starboard side while Patty and Bob were on the Port side. The wife purchased us both oversize drag bags. The ones that are about three feet tall - two feet wide and just over a foot deep inside. You can also unzip them a bit to expand their size to get more into them. We had to carefully pack and weigh the large bags as they now have scales at all check in sites and will charge you for the excess over 50 pounds per bag. We did not have any problem being sure we were under weight on the way down to the boat. I also took a small drag bag which I packed with my running gear and a case of Guinness's Stout Pub cans. This came in handy for meeting people on the ship, the Guinness's Stout, and for taking home dirty clothes, using the smaller empty drag bag. I had a small carry on for my camera and some party items. With all four people we had only six bags to check. I had booked everyone in our group onto Continental for the flight down and back. This was an Early morning flight out of Newark. I had pressed and packed everything that I was going to use for the cruise. Suits and Tux all fit easily into the bag. And the other cruise clothes were also packed on easily. This will give me some ideas on how and how much I can pack for our next trip in February. Up early to the Airport - 3:30 AM or so to leave about 5 AM for Newark. We're all ready and off we go across town to Julie's house. Carole is to meet us there at 5 AM to leave for the airport. Her husband Jimmy is driving her. And she said she knew how to get to Julie's house. Not a problem as there is usually no traffic on the roads at this time. Well we get to Julie's and load the extra luggage into the Van. But no Carole yet. We go inside and wait. Did I tell you we have Carole's E ticket to get on the plane. So 5:15 comes and goes and we wait. At 5:20 we get to note writing to tell her to meet us at the Continental check in and the flight information. We are walking out the door at 5:25 AM to go... A car comes zooming around the corner and down the block. Better late than never. Lost in town. Carole did not ask for exact directions as she had been here only one time before and got off at the wrong exit. Her husband Jimmy ended up asking a policeman who directed them to the exact street was. "Dear Jimmy - They were going to leave without me." and Dear Jimmy "I remember the exit said Fair Lawn." We get her one suitcase and carry bag into the Van and off we go. Over to Route 80 to the turnpike. Wouldn't you know it they have closed the turnpike entrance to get on and we have to detour around. Did I tell you Carole is Blonde. So after the detour around we get to the Airport about 6:00 AM. There is not much of a line at the E ticket check in at the curb. Out we go and I line the luggage up for everyone. They check id's and ask about the bag weights. No problems here. Off we go into the screening process. Since 9-11 this has gotten a lot tighter. There are no lines here as in the past and we get through relatively quickly. They screen the carry on bags very closely. I have my Camera in one of the bags. I shoot 200 speed film and have not had a problem with it going through the machines yet. We have to walk to the other end of the Continental area as our gate is not close by. So I pick up most of the carry bags and off I go. The ladies behind. Well I go about 100 yards down and they are already 50 behind. Thank goodness I'm 6 foot plus and they can pick me out of a crowd. We get down to the gate area I get four seats close to the gate entrance. They start calling for the first class and business class people about forty minutes before the flight. A little early from what I remember. Well we are on the plane by 7:00 AM. And it's up, up and away. We bank to the left then its time to head the plane south. Great flight. Air is a bit stuffy. But no problems. I have booked the ladies into seats 17A, 17B, 17C. I have a window seat in 18A. So I am pinned in. I just get my complimentary OJ and morning muffin and read. We land in Orlando, a bit bumpy on the hit, about 5 minutes before schedule. We are at the terminal very quickly. It is about 10 AM as we get off the plane and start up to the tramway to get our luggage. Downstairs to the luggage go round. I pick up all the luggage off the belt and leave it to the ladies. We move all the luggage to the pick up arrivals area and sit down for our short wait. We are outside by about 10:20 or so. Dear Jimmy: "They made me move my own luggage." We call Linda on her cell phone. They are about 10 minutes away at this point. I had originally booked an Avis car to rent to take over to the pier. But Linda and Nelson suggested they pick us up in their van. No problem there - I go with their suggestion. The car rental would be about $50.00 for each way. While waiting. I walk over to the other side of the road at the arrival area we are waiting in. Down below this level there are busses galore for all the cruise lines and Disney. They are slowly loading in the carry bags and luggage. Linda and Nelson pull up at about 10:40 AM. We quickly load the luggage in. This is a close fit and we are sitting with some things in our laps for the ride over to the pier. The route has good markings from here as they specify what turns to take to get to the passenger ship terminal. The ride over is about 40 minutes as the speed limit on this road is 70. The other participants - Bob and Eileen had flown in from Michigan the day before. They were over in Disney and coming over by rental car. And knew about what time we would hit the ship. We had already found out that the long term parking for the ship was next to the pier. So after we had dropped all the luggage off to be checked in and the other carry bag - we dropped the car - all of 100 yards away - at the long term parking. The price was $70.00 for the week. Very convenient for all involved. It also looks like they are expanding the parking in a few other areas. Not bad for this close to the ship. You get a coupon for the car and drive in - park and lock. When Nelson and I walked back - there were Eileen and Bob from being dropped off by the Hertz shuttle service. Great timing. So all eight of us were going into the terminal at one time. Linda had heard from Patty that they were about an hour or so behind us and there was no problem with them checking in at the same time. We were walking through the check in process about 11:30 AM. The Suites have their own separate check in area. No one on line when we were walking up. We presented our tickets and such to the people there. This process was a bit slow going for us. As the people here did not seem comfortable checking documents and getting all the needed paper work done. The others had no problem and were done before us. Too bad the line has not invented a plastic see through id holder for you to use. To speed up the process of taking out id showing it with birth certificates and the like. Then adding in a slot for the cruise card. Holland America did not take identity pictures - that we stopped and posed for - like Celebrity has for their cards. They would just have the card to key into the slot to get on and off the ship. Interesting. Well onto the ship we go..... And how lovely it is as we enter onto deck 4. This is the bottom of the three level Atrium. In the middle is a large pipe organ. A bit out of place on a ship for my liking. I was about the ship and cutting through here every day and night. Only heard it played one time. They should have had a nice concert grand piano on one of the upper levels and had someone play it daily. But the pipe organ was right across from the front office. They may have been a noise problem here. One of the things that could have been changed. We were booked into Demi Suite 7031 - Navigation Deck. We keyed the room and the door opened up. This was about noon and we had heard the rooms would not be ready till after 1:00 PM. So we just dropped the luggage and walked the ship for a bit. DeDe was our house keeper for the week. I only saw him randomly and never in our room. Great clean up service. This suite was great for the price we paid. The size was about two and a half times the normal space you would get in a regular cabin. Then add in the Verandah area also. The size is 563 square feet. This includes the verandah. Spacious - yes. A king size bed with the pull out couch to a double. Dear Jimmy "They only gave me one Pillow." The cabin also has a mini bar which we pulled out all the contents and put the Champagne we had brought on board into it. Along with the other wine, beer and other things we picked up along the way that week. There was a complimentary bottle of Champagne chilling when we arrived. The one thing they could do with a suite - if you have a lot of people in it was get more cabinet space. One whole side of the room had cabinets to put things into but they were too small and could have used another level. The storage area for bags was also small as we could only store four of them under the king size bed and the rest had to go into the closets. There was a closet for each of us. Nice wood tones and the like in the dressing room with floor to ceiling mirrors on the closet doors. But there were not a lot of hangers in them. The dressing room had a small sink in it. This proved useful when getting four ready for dinner. There was only one electrical outlet here to plus into. The bathroom was quite large - considering we had never cruised in this size room before. There is a large vanity and sink here with a hair dryer - the ladies got a lot of use out of this. The shower / tub was large and you could have taken a Jacuzzi bath if you had wanted to. No one ever got around to it. The shower had a great temperature adjustment to it. Worked real well. The only thing in the bathroom is they only had two glasses for use. Odd. Back to the room. The Verandah was huge. You could easily fit over 10 people on it with the chairs. And we did do this the first night shifting some chairs from the room to outside. The door opens to a normal size but you can clip open the side part to make it a larger opening. This does not help the room A/C unit. This is a nice place to stop and watch the ship go by and take a relaxing nap on. We used it mostly for our daily room parties. They also leave you with personalized stationary for each person. The seating tickets for the second seating dinner were in the room. Along with an invitation to a suite party and other welcome aboard information. All done quite well and laid out nicely. They also have a pair of binoculars you could use to look at the sights. Once we had all dropped off our luggage and carry bags at about noon we all headed upstairs to the lido to look around. The Lido pool layout was very nice in the middle of the ship with a roof that could be opened and closed. This would work great if you are in Alaska. There are also two hot tubs here. The steel band was playing here. You could get some lunch here in the starboard side front area - this is the terrace grill. This area had a few salads and a place where you could get hot dogs, hamburgers and a few other things. There was also an table with hot lamps that they left fresh pizza on for you to take. The only drinks you could get ice tea and water. We headed for the lido restaurant. To check out what else they had to offer. We ate near the pool and listened to the steel band play. Our group of eight was under a time constraint - in that the surprise was still on for the birthday boy Bob. We knew they would be getting onto the ship about 1:00 pm. And just after that we headed down to our room to hide. Back to the party planning. I had bought some party balloons and I blew them up in the cabin. Looked around to find something to get them to stick to the metal ceiling. Nothing. Went down to the front desk and they gave me a roll of scotch tape. Very nice of them. I returned it later in the day. Worked great - now the balloons and banner letters are hung in the cabin. This with "Happy 70th Birthday" on it. The Champagne is chilling and everyone is assembled. We had Julie call over to Patty and Bob's room. To invite them over, we had told Patty to tell Bob there was someone on the ship she knew from church. But Bob does not like to visit people he does not know. So Julie disguises her voice and calls over to tell her on the phone to come over to the room for a drink. This was all pre arranged. To top it off Patty had been conversing with Barbara a few days earlier and had let her talk to Bob. Barbara being the resident cruise person with over 150 days at sea. Bob was joking around said how about you coming with us. But when she said yes. I'll be there right away. He back tracked on that. We left the security lock on the door so it was part way open. Then we sat down to wait knowing Patty would have to talk him into coming over. Not knowing what awaited him. Camera at the ready. They walk in and it's "Happy Birthday Bob". I'm sure we got him on this one. Pictures taken and greeting yelled out. What a great way to start the cruise. Pop the Champagne and pour it out. Nelson made a great toast to Bob. Now were cruising. The theme every night for dinner as we sat down or came into the restaurant was "Happy Birthday Bob". Everyone relaxes a bit and they check out the room and the veranda. It's great. More than even I expected. We all agreed to walk about the ship and meet back here when we set sail. Up to the lido restaurant for lunch. Our second now. There were some very tasty treats laid out for everyone to pick what they wanted. I did get some Rum Raisin ice cream later. My favorite flavor. We sat back outside in the pool area. They also have a nice bar area up near the Lido pool. This is the Dolphin bar. Wicker chairs and tables with umbrellas are on their serving area here. Very nice spot to sit out and grab a drink as the ship pulls out of port. I went up and looked about the ship. Into the gym area. This is a great sized area for this ship. There is a big area to have aerobics and other types of group workouts. In front of this is a group of walking machines / treadmills. There are about 15 of them here across the whole width of the ship looking forward. Slightly behind the treadmills to the port side of the ship were the nautilus machines. There are about 15 of these. And an assortment of free weights. Upstairs on the Sports Deck is the Crows Nest lounge. This is at the forward part of the ship. An expansive area for you to sit in an enclosed area and have a great vista view of where the ship is going. This lounge area has a large dance floor on the Starboard side and a bar on the port side. Nice soft wood tones and salmon colored seating on one side. There are two alcove like areas you could go and hide in that had seating for twenty or so. Going back on this deck level to the Aft - rear - of the ship you would walk around the dome cover to the lido pool. There are ring toss and shuffleboard games here on both sides. Then depending on what side of the ship you are on you run into either a volleyball court - Starboard - or a tennis / basketball court - Port. Both are fully net enclosed so as not to lose any equipment or passengers over the side. As you exit the enclosed area you exit onto the back deck area that sits above the outside pool at the Aft - back - of the ship. There are a lot of lounge chairs set up here for all to use. The outside pool area was below on the lido deck. Here is where most passengers were for the sail away party going on. They had a nice setup for getting any type of drink you wanted. They were also giving you a free colorful HAL sail away plastic drink glass, when you bought the sail away drink. There was a spot to get a beer from as they had a lot of choices set up on ice next to the pool. There is also a small ship bar area here. So if you sit outside and it get's too hot. Do a Jump Up and get over there to cool yourself off. Ideally located. At about 4:00 PM we had our life boat drill. I had no problem getting the ladies all set and sent them out to the assemble area. The wife was dithering around the room a bit and I could only find three life jackets. It took me a few minutes to find mine in another closet that was just inside the entry door. Ahhhh.... the adjustments you have to make to a big suite. So it's get the straps right and get downstairs to the lower promenade deck to check in as they call you name. We were late and thought we had missed our call. But they waded through the names and checked everyone. This is mandatory and worth the fifteen minutes or so it takes to do. If you ever remember to take your camera along do it one time for the pictures of you and those traveling with you. When it's over you end up walking back to your room as the elevators are jammed with people - now walking to their cabins. Come on guys this is a long cruise you should walk the steps as much as you can. I'm just about the last off the deck and back into the ship. But I can find Julie, Carole and Barbara by their laughing. They are one deck up by now and when I get to them they are engaged in some conversation about something funny. Dear Jimmy "It would not be hard to find them on the Ship. Listen for the laughter." Well it was time to pull out of port. So it was back to the cabin for most of us. First to drop off the life vests which I stored on the top of each closet. By now our second and third bottle of Champagne were well chilled. And I had called room service to drop off some hors devours for us at 5:00 pm. Just in time for sail away. We all meet back here and I get some great sail away pictures at the rail. Another reason to have the suite. We watch the sun set back over the pier area we just left. The ships proceeds slowly down the channel. Past the other dock areas that have the Casino ships and out into the Atlantic. The Disney Magic is just ahead of us as we leave. Some other notes from walking around the ship and doing things. I had to go down to the library and confirm our dinner reserve so to be sure to be all at one table. When Holland American had replied they had listed some of the group at confirmed second seating and some at first seating. Deb had faxed and emailed them the switch all to second seating but we never got a confirm back from them. They had left ticket stubs in an envelope in the cabin. I found ours and everyone else had told me theirs was the same letter code. O.K. off I went to check. But there is no one there to confirm the seating just in case. So I walk into the Rotterdam dining room on the lower level. I look around for table "F". Only see numbered tables. I ask one of the waiters passing through where that table is located. He points it out and says "That is the Captains Table". I'm impressed. Guess my TA does have some pull with this line. It's in a central location as I quickly look around and depart. I do get over to the library and find them checking over table seating. There are a few people in front of me in line and I sit down to wait. All of them are older gentlemen. The same theme or question is asked. "I asked for first seating Dinner. I got second. I need to eat early.".... The maitre 'd has replied the same thing. "I have a full dining room for the first seating dinner. I have 328 people waiting to get into the dining room on that seating. I can out you on the wait list." The last gentleman thought he must have had him. He presented a note from his Doctor saying he had to eat early. Oh well. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it. But the answer was still no. I can put you on the list. I just confirm the room numbers of those at the table and they match. I run for it. The Suites have priority on what seating dinner they want. So they may just default you in a suite into the first seating. If I had known this I could have sold our first sitting dinner seats for some bucks to someone right there. Well I walk over to the internet area and talk to the lady from the ship. I ask about response time and a few other things then go through the Casino and past the big screen TV they have next to it. This is the Casino bar area. Very convent. If your getting beat in the casino step away to their bar and TV area. Well back to the room. To give you an idea of the layout - even if you bring it up on the display. As you enter there is a closet to the left. Which I ended up using after I found it. The entry area can be separated by pulling a curtain across to make a small area about five feet by five feet. The ladies used this as a changing area when they were getting ready for dinner. As you stepped into the room there is a bar on left that is about eight feet long two levels with a shelf and out Champagne cooler and glasses and other bar items on it. This is at a forty five degree angle. The top is a mirrored area with built in shelves that took me a day to find. This looks extra glasses and some small liquor bottles in case you want to mix you own drink. They have a wide selection here. But if you take it you pay for it. Underneath there is a mini fridge. Inside it is stocked with a large selection of beer, wine, soda. To the left of the fridge is another storage area. The safe is located in here. You have to set down or sit in a chair to get at it. Not the most convenient thing in the room. I did not find the safe till the fifth day of the cruise. As you step into the room there is a master bed - king size on the mirrored wall to the left. The right side of the room has a large couch that could, and did for us, easily seat five adults. There is a small coffee table with two chairs. You have as you enter to the left about ten feet after you step into the room a doorway that is open. This is the entrance to the dressing room and bathroom. The dressing room table has a sink at one end and a small chair you can sit in. There are three closets in the dressing room area. And the bathroom through a separate door. The dressing room can be closed off with a curtain they have there. The bathroom has a close and latch door. So more than one person can be getting ready at a time. The Verandah I already went over above. I will say it is a great place to hang out with the group or by yourself when you like the escape time during the day. I will depart from a step by step description here. If I did not this review would never get done. I will walk through each room on the ship and describe what it is like and the activities they had going on in it. Along with some insights on the things done. As you can see above I have and will add in quotes from Carole to her husband as we go along. I'll start at the top of the ship and work my way down deck by deck. Forward where you can only reach it by waking up the steps forward just as you are walking around the pool dome cover. This is the Sky Deck. There were a few lounge chairs here. The area has a wind shield on it so as not to have you blow off the ship. This could be used for a quiet place to read in the sun or retreat to the shaded side when needed. Crows Nest Lounge. This is on the Sports Deck Forward. The colors are a peach or salmon for the chairs and decor. There is a large sized dance floor here. The seating areas are at the windows looking forward. There is a good bar area also with stools at it. The side areas have a walk around to get to them. could be used for semi private meeting or quiet area. We had many of the trivia games up here with Ana from the cruise staff. Did well here. never won any of the games but had fun. There was a group of seniors that went around to all the trivia and games. This was a group of ten. With the trivia games you played in teams of six. Here is where you can use a music expert and we did meet up with one. But it only helped a little bit. On one of the most attended games there were eleven teams. And a lot of fun was had with getting the answers. The Sports deck also has a tennis court and racquets to use if you wanted. This is a fully net enclosed area on the port side of the ship. They had the basketball hoop here on half of one court. We had a foul shooting contest here on the second day. The wind does have an effect on where the ball goes. About ten or so people lined up to try it out. The winner made 4 of 5 shots. From what I had seen of this area it was not used much. The other side - starboard - had a similar enclosed with a net area for volleyball. This would have to have been the best attended sport on the ship. We had about 25 or so players who were there during the week. We even played with an intrepid group of ten then eight then six the last afternoon of the cruise in the wind. Here I met Mary and her sister and brother in law. The real estate brokers from Tennessee. Mr. Zaandam and his wife and a host of others. We had a great time of it when we played. Thanks everyone. The facility was fine and as long as you did not crash into the wall or each other there were no problems. At the back of the Sports deck was the Sky room. This was for the Club HAL kids on the cruise. There were not many. They did have three MAC computers here to play computer games on. This was not a highly used area on the ship as there were not a lot of children on board this cruise. I only saw about ten to twenty in all. The room was nice and had a great view to the back of the ship. When there are more children aboard this should be a well used area. Outside the sky room are the wings lounging area for the outside pool on the deck below. There were a lot of lounge chairs set up on this level and in use most of the time. On the Lido deck starting forward. This is where the Ocean Spa Gym was located. The Gym takes up the whole front of the boat. There is a small area you can walk out on but no one seemed to be there any time. The equipment in the gym is as follows: The twelve walking machine here facing forward so you can see the ship as it goes places and walk off a few pounds. There is also about fifteen or so Universal machines. Not many for working out the tummy with mostly leg and arm work. There are some free weights also here on the port side of the boat. The Spa has classes they charge for in the gym. These run twice a day and you can get a discount by buying all the classes up front. There is a large workout floor in the middle for aerobics. I think that's what the classes were about. But I was never around here when this may have taken place. I used the weights and did my daily set of sit-ups in the gym area here. They have a large supply of the small towels here to keep you and the equipment dry. Right next to the gym forward on the Lido deck is the Beauty Salon. This was a great location as in the early AM when I was finished running I would cut through here to get to the gym. They always had an aroma therapy bowl out in the hall. The beauty salon is on the port side of the ship and the massage area is on the starboard side. The ladies on the trip used both areas. The massage they had there was to die for. Or so they tell me. Carole got her nails done while on board. Dear Jimmy - "You paid for that to be done on a ship?" When she could have done them at home? The Spa / Gym / Beauty salon people were always around to greet you or answer all your questions. The Lido pool area is amid ship. This included a pool only about thirty feet long. Not great for trying to swim a few laps in the am. Too many turns. The pool water ran from about three feet deep to about six foot deep. The water was cool the first day but was warmer as the week went on. This is a fresh water pool. To the front of this area are a men's and ladies room along with two shower areas. There are two hot tubs here just next to the pool. But boy the one I was in was way too hot for me. The other one was a bit cooler. There were always a few people here using the hot tubs. Very convenient as the terrace grill was tucked into the corner of the ship here. They served some great lunch treats and had a small buffet and pizza area here. The ship steel band played in here in the afternoon and at sail away. At the end of this area was the Dolphin bar. So if you want to relax this is the place. Good food some music and a hot tub and bar. What more could you want. They had some pool games here - like pitching a plastic golf ball into the tube for prizes on one of our sea days. They also had some pool games here the last day of the cruise but I was up playing Volleyball. This entire pool area has a sliding cover to keep out the elements. It was open most times I was there. When the rain came one day they closed it. The ping pong games were also played here during the week. I got killed the first tourney they had and did not show back for the others. There were a lot of good players on the boat this week. As you move to the Aft section of the ship on this deck you come through the sliding glass doors to the Lido restaurant. This was a nice area that had specialty areas for making omelets in the AM and your macaroni specialty in the lunch time. They also have a sandwich area - which I had never seen on any other ship before this. They always were greeting you with a smile and helping you find a seat. This was most crowded at lunch time. The restaurant has glass windows so you can look out and watch the ship slip through the waves while at sea or see what action is going on near the ship while in port. Just beyond this area to the very back (aft) of the ship was the outside pool area. There were plenty of chairs here for your use. There is also a small bar area tucked in under the deck overhang from above. This was mostly where any of the children were when near a pool on this ship. The younger crowd used this pool area extensively. The sun was nice to catch out here as this area is not shaded at all. Skipping down past the Navigation and the Verandah Decks - these are passenger decks with staterooms only. We'll come to the Upper Promenade Deck level 5. At the forward part of the ship is the upper level to the Mondriaan lounge balcony. This is the theatre area where the production shows are put on. The seating was great up top you could see everything. If you wanted to catch a nap before bed this was the place. The chairs are way too comfortable to sit in for that not to happen when the lights go down. As you exit the balcony and start walking to the back of the ship. As you exit to your left is the Ocean bar. This is a nice cozy place to meet before dinner for a drink. They played music here at night. It was also used for playing some of the games like Pictionary or Outburst. The Senior citizens jitney seemed to have this place pegged as a place to stop. The group of ten that were together were here most days. There was a nice sized dance floor and a lot of seating for groups large and small that wanted to use this area. Directly across from here were some of the gift shops. The clothes, souvenirs, liquor, snacks and cigarettes at a discount. Here is where Holland America differs from most lines. They will let you keep your bottle of liquor you buy in their shop for a small surcharge. You can take it to consume in your room. But if you wish to purchase it without the discount you can have them deliver it to your room when you are ready to depart. They did not have an extensive selection in that regard. But the prices were very good. The other areas here did not have anything that caught my eye. As I have been on a lot of cruises and know what to pack for myself and try not to have to buy on the ship. The other part of the shopping arcade area was to the left as you walked to the back of the ship. This area had their more expensive gifts. Watches, perfume, gold.... ouch. A nice selection of things to buy on board here. They had some sales on watches and gold during the cruise. But not knowing what I'm buying keeps me from it. Dear Jimmy "There are a lot of old people on this ship." To the middle of the ship as you exit the shopping area is the Casino bar. They have a wide screen TV set up here. They get ESPN in off the satellite. But it's a foreign feed from the islands. This is a nice area to sit and watch people go by and to take a break from the casino. They also have some TV's in the bar itself to watch. There is seating for about fifteen at the bar and twenty or so in the lounge area to watch the TV. They had my team playing on Sunday night ESPN game so it was real nice. The Cowboys lost the game. But it was nice to see it. This was a slightly dark area on the ship as it was shielded from outside light on both sides. The wall where the giant TV was separated this area from the Casino. The Casino is located on the port side of the ship. If you entered through the front of the bar area you would find two coin pusher games. These had a variation on just winning the coins that fell down. There was also a slot machine there to give you a second chance to win some coins. It was great because one of the machines talked and played a nautical theme while you dropped the coins in the slot. This one took me for a few dollars. But it was fun to play it. As you enter the Casino from this front area the playing tables are there for you. I think there was one dice table and one roulette table. There were a lot more black jack tables and a Caribbean stud poker table also. My three Dutch friends from Volleyball were playing on a table by themselves on the last night of the cruise and winning a little. This is a major feat seeing that they now have automatic card shufflers and this cuts your odds down a bit. The casino also had a big supply of various slot machines. I would have to say there were over 100 in this area. From the Video Poker types to the $5.00 big hit machines. They also ran a Slot and Black Jack tournaments during the week. This was a well run casino and well attended during the cruise. The wife made her usual trip donation on the video poker machines. Dear Jimmy: "Contrary to what others may say... I did not win anything while in the casino." Around the corner from the Casino bar walking on the starboard side of the ship, just around the corner is the Sea view lounge. This was the piano bar area on the ship. There was someone in here playing most nights. They had some of the trivia games here. And some other meetings of groups. Just as you exit the Sea view Lounge and are walking past the middle bank of stairs and elevators you will end up in the Explorers lounges. This is a green lounge colored area. This was used to host some of the suite get together parties. They also held their afternoon informal tea in this lounge. They were great in this area. As my wife is a coffee drinker and they brought her a cappuccino to substitute for tea for her. They also used this area as a get acquainted party for the suite passengers the day we left Mexico. The bar personnel were top notch and had a big selection of beer and drinks that night for the passengers. Nice open lounge area. Across to the opposite side of ship from the lounge areas on this level were the meeting rooms. This is on the Port side of the ship. Just beyond the Casino. There are the Hudson room for small meetings and religious services. After that there is the larger Half Moon Room which we used as our daily card room on the ship. They has a few games you could use here. There was also a large supply of card tables and chairs for use if you wanted. We used it to play our daily game of 500 rummy. We do this on most every trip. Mostly between the Wife and me. But this time we had five of our travel group playing every day. A fun time. I think Bob bested us all this trip. The next room down this chain of rooms was the Inter net web site cafe. They have about twelve terminals here you can use. If you think you are going to use the internet room more than one time - buy the minute package they offer. And you have to do it before you start up on-line. You can't try to do it after like I did after I got killed keying in a responses on the cruise critic board. Twenty dollars for a short time on-line. Ouch....!!!! But a nice room to have it in. There is also someone manning their help desk most of the day. The last room in this line was the Erasmus Library. Again like most ship libraries at sea. You could check out books and return them when finished. There were also some nice reading chairs you could sneak off into. Dear Jimmy "Barbara had us playing with a deck of 51 the last day." The last room's) to cover as we work our way back id the Rotterdam Dining room. This was the formal dining room for dinner and if you wanted to go and sit down for breakfast or lunch. This was set up differently from most other large two tier dining rooms of ships. As there is only a circular hole in the dining area and a true two tier complete dining area. As you enter on this level this would have been the upper level of the dining area. Off to each side of this upper level are two areas that they could use for overflow dining or private parties. They also had a piano and area for the house musicians to play each night - which they did. They even struck up "Happy Birthday" when we sang for Bob on the day we had his cake at the table. Our table was table "F". This was the Captains table in the middle of the cut out area in the dining room and viewable from the area on the second tier. We would let Bob and Patty get to the dining room before us each night then come into the upper level and shout out "Happy Birthday Bob!!!". By the end of the cruise we had a lot of people joining in on this. The back of the ship had tables at it on both levels. Not the open view and two levels of glass everyone in the dining room could look out. This was a very nice dining room. The ceiling had a twinkling star display in it that would light during the night time dining hours. There were two sweeping stairways from the top to the lower level. We were served by Hendra and Merta was our bus boy. Although they may have blurred the lines here and Merta also worked serving other tables. Great service by their staff. Dear Jimmy: "Any pictures we got from Tom may have been altered. I did not hug the guy at the exit every night." Working now from the front of the Promenade deck level 4. This was the lower level of the Mondriaan lounge theater. Like I stated in the previous description nice views and soft seats. But there was no place to put your drink if you got one. There were no small tables like I have seen on other ships. As you exit the theater from the port or left side of the ship you would run into the Photo Gallery. I think we cut through here a few times. We did not pose for any of the pictures they took. As a side note the ship photographers were not around all that much at dinner. They did get a few people to pose at the gangway as we entered each port. But they did have a lot of people lined up for the formal picture night. I did see some of these set shot pictures and they were very good. After you exited the photo gallery you would be in the Atrium. Across from here was the Front office. Boy were they busy during this trip. Lots of change to make, collecting and checking cabin bills. Giving ship information and so on. I had stopped by here a few times to purchase a deck of cards and to make bill payments. Borrow some tape for decorating our room. Every time greeted cheerfully and I got an answer. Next to this office was the shore excursion office. They were not open when I stopped by to get on a tour. But they responded to my request to go on the Swim with the Sting Ray's and put me in the first group. My friends Bob and Eileen had booked on-line before we even got on the ship and asked me to go along. More on this in the bottom of the review. As you circled the Atrium you would next run into the Java Cafe. This is a coffee and Tea bar. Tucked into the side of the ship. You can sit and sip and relax here. Nice place to watch the other cruise passengers go by with you favorite coffee or flavor of tea. Across from the Java Cafe is the Wajang Theatre. They played some first run movies in here. There was also a popcorn popping machine so you could really get into the movie experience at sea. We used this to muster for one of the trips we took off the boat. This was a theatre that could hold about two hundred people. The chairs were really comfortable. More so than any normal movie house I have been in. The movies were played about three times a day at various times. The last big area on this deck is the Marco Polo Restaurant. This is the upscale restaurant. We went in here one night. There is a cover charge to enter. And if you are in a suite you can get priority reserve on it. We only booked once we came on the ship. The night we were there the restaurant was just about full. The decorations and atmosphere were nice. The portions were a bit larger than in the normal dining room. The wife got a Manhattan steak and did not finish it because it was too big. For me it was O.K.. I ordered a seafood medley which was fine. The service was not as good as the regular dining room. But this was this groups first week on the ship. They brought in a completely new serving group onto the ship the week we got on. The ship did host a small lunch party in here for those in the suites later in the week. We just walked in and they seated us. This was a well attended event with our door greeter dressed up in native costume dancing to the Indonesian music playing. We ate with one of the ships nurses. They contract out this job and she was telling us that she was only on for two weeks at a time. Nice break to get out of the cold. Cruise and have lite work duty. The only other room left to tell about is the Video Arcade. This was only a room about twenty feet by twenty feet. There were about fifteen arcade games in here. Nothing caught my eye enough to play them. And from all the times I went by this room there were not many people in there. The last place on the ship to talk about is the Lower Promenade Deck. This is where I met pilot Gary and his wife. He originally was walking fast in the other direction while I walking a bit slower, drinking a Guinness's Stout, with the wife in the other. In the later afternoon. When he stopped he was asking where on the ship I had gotten the beer. No where. They did not sell dark beers on this ship. I ended up talking to him for awhile and sharing some of my excess during the trip. This deck is a completely wrap around the ship deck. I was up here every morning running. This deck is about thirty feet wide. They do have a lot of deck chairs that you could use to sit out in the fresh air and read or catch some shaded sun during the day. The line also puts out padded lounge coders as these chairs are all wood. The mileage marked said three and a half laps were equal to a mile. I think this was a bit short. About three and a half laps plus about 150 yards may be more accurate. But a great place to get in you walking and watch the ocean go by. They also had two water fountains on this deck. Great to get a drink of water if you needed it. Nelson and Bob were out here really early each morning walking about ten laps or so. They moved at a real quick pace. Well that about closes the review of the ship as to what it was and what you could do and where. The cruise staff of four were great. At all the games I attended they had a fun time with us. But where did they get all those senior citizens from. Did the Florida old folks homes dump a few extra on the ship??? Joking here. Ana was from Australia and was a very nice 23 year old. She hosted many of the Trivia and other games. Scott handled the outdoor activities. Both were great. They also doubled up working at the ports where we tendered in. I also met Erica who was the assistant bar manager for the ship. A lovely young lady from Holland staffed on the ship. We ran into her at about every ship function. Great to talk to. I had the pleasure of also talking to the Captain Olav Vander Waard at one of the suite parties. Well traveled for the line. He is one of the youngest looking captains I had ever seen. Or am I getting older. Naaahhhhh. Some of the things that I remember are the food in the lido restaurant did not change much for the whole week we were on board. Same selections for breakfast and lunch. Even in the paste and omelet areas. The food was not quite up to the level I have had on Celebrity. Maybe it's the sauces they serve on Celebrity that is the difference. The service was just as good wherever I have sailed. I will say that the suite was spectacular. All ten of so enjoyed the cruise immensely. I also attended a short slot lecture given by the casino staff while we at sea on day. They opened up a machine and explained the inner workings and how the wheels were automatically set to roll and pay off. The more you bet, max coins, the more you could win or lose. Depending on how lucky you are. We did go on the Sting Ray City swim tour in Grand Cayman. This was a fun trip with Eileen and Bob. Off the boat to the tender. Then collect everyone from the tour group. This does not work well if the tour guide is four foot nothing and has a sign to hold up to collect everyone. I took it off her and made sure everyone walked through the crowd on the street to the bus departure point. It was a twenty minute trip over to the boat in the first bus we were on. The second bus showed up a little later. But we all go on the boat. Applied some sun tan lotion for the time we would be out there. Donned our life vests and headed out to see the sting rays. After a bit of instructions about feeding and touching the Sting Rays we were there. Pick up a mask and fins and into the water you go. The feeding area is located on a sand bar about a fifteen minute ride from the boat dock. There were about twenty boats anchored about the sand bar area, which was about as large as a football field. The water depth varied from two feet to the slope where it dropped off to twenty to thirty feet deep. Most everyone stayed close to the boat. The guides were the only people who should handle the fish. It's spectacular to see them there swimming about. The guide was saying that this has been going on for twenty years or so. When they swim by and brush you it feels like wet velvet. I swam all around the sand bar area and into other groups that were there. A lot of people were on the sand bar in a lot of tours. Large and small. We stayed here about forty minutes or more. Then back to the boat for the trip back. We got back onto the bus and we were greeted with the Cayman Islands only singing bus driver. Please let's not get stuck in traffic. After about ten songs we were back and off the bus. A trip worth taking at least on time. The last stop on the Trip was the out island - Half Moon Cay. A Holland America Island. You tendered in here and had to get tickets for this. Bob and Patty along with Linda and Nelson got off the ship early and hit the beach. The rest of us did not get off till about 11:00 AM. The private island was quite large and could have held about twice the number of people that were on our ship. They had some nicely shaded areas and a lot of beach chairs. I swam out about a third of the way to the ship but the beach patrol boat came out and asked I swim back. But the wife bet me I could not get to the ship. Darn. The beach was about a mile to the far point if you wanted to walk. I played beach volleyball here with about twelve other passengers and Scott from the Cruise staff. Nice facilities here. Well worth the tender in to use them. They also served a buffet lunch in the middle of the island. The shows on the ship were fine along with the Comedy shows. I do not go to a lot of shows and entertainment. But what I did see of it was good by cruise standards. The last thing to cover here is the departure. The first day we filled out a form to say if we were traveling with others in the group. We were as Linda and Nelson were driving us back to the airport. Bob and Patty were also taking some of the extra luggage and their cousins. So we filled out the forms and sent them in. Bob and Patty did not get the correct luggage tags as ours and I went to the front office and exchanged them no problem. The last thing to do was re-pack for the trip home. Minus all the beer I carted down this should be a breeze. I put a lot of the heavier items into the small bags. Packed our large bags. Tagged all of them and along with Carols bag and Julies suitcase. She was still working on packing it. I left the tag next to it and told he to tag it when finished. Dear Jimmy - "Tom packed his own suitcase and he took care of all the luggage for me. You never do that." Well we get our departure numbers and in the am about eight or so they start calling numbers to get off. Anyone want to by a number 8. We go through the document check to get back into the United States. This is a bit more since 9 / 11. You have to have proper id to get back in. Wouldn't you know it the wife and Julie get stuck for a short time. They only have their town issued pool cards for their picture id. After this delay it's down to pick up the luggage. Well I find everything but.... Julies garment bag. When I ask her did you tag the bag. She says "Tag?? what tag". Now I feel like Al Bundy. Why me!!! I go find someone from the port area and ask them where the lost / untagged luggage would be. They lead me over to three pieces. There it is. Insert roll eyes here. Well we get the luggage together and we get out into the sunshine. I know where Nelson parked his car so I make two trips and get everything over to his van to pack into it. We say our goodbyes to Bob and Eileen. And we walk over and pack the vans for the trip to the airport. The drive to Orlando airport in not a problem. We get out and drop all the luggage at the curb. The attendant weighs the two large bags and they are a few pounds over. He lets us go on this. I think he was distracted. Dear Jimmy "It pays to wear a tight shirt slightly un buttoned when traveling." Well we walk into the airport and sit down. Just opposite where we are is a pet gift and souvenir shop. The wife has to buy our dog a gift. Dear Jimmy "Barbara bought the dog a gift but Tom nothing." Well after this we get into the line to go down to the gate area. The line was really long. But it moved very quickly. Not much of a problem. Got down to the gate and got the ladies seated. Then went back to get them a Cinnibon and a drink. No problems for the flight back. We got into Newark about 4 pm and found our ride home. My brother in law came and got us. All the luggage into the van and off to home. Jimmy came later and picked Carole up. Dear Jimmy " I had a great time. Laughed a lot. But missed you." Thanks to everyone on the trip. Deb my TA for setting everything up. Patty for suggesting and getting Linda and Nelson to go. Bob and Eileen for coming in from Michigan. Julie, Carole and the wife Barbara for having a good time and laughing it up. And our guest of honor Bob for being a good sport the whole week. Till next time - February 14 day cruise to the South. Tom Treimel Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
Zaandam 12/27/03 - 1/3/04 (new year's cruise) Cat BB (cabin 6101 - first cabin near the bow on Verandah deck) I sailed on Zaandam with a group of 14 friends and family for New Years eve. We flew into Jacksonville, saving $200 per ... Read More
Zaandam 12/27/03 - 1/3/04 (new year's cruise) Cat BB (cabin 6101 - first cabin near the bow on Verandah deck) I sailed on Zaandam with a group of 14 friends and family for New Years eve. We flew into Jacksonville, saving $200 per person over fares to Orlando, and stayed the night at a hotel near Universal Studios (the Radisson Universal Studios, booked through Hotwire for $49 per room for the night). The hotel was clean and quiet, much better than the Super 8 our friends stayed at in Cocoa Beach - they actually slept on towels in their clothes after finding bugs under the pillow in one of their rooms. We drove to Port Canaveral the next day, dropping our rental car at Avis and taking the shuttle to the pier. This wasn't a problem going, but the Avis shuttle situation was a mess when we returned. More on that later. EMBARKATION We got to the pier around 2:30 pm. There were no lines (I don't consider three people in front of me a line), and although my sister had to pick up her documents dockside, we got through quickly. We ran past the photo people (one of many quick get-aways!) and were led to our cabin by a white-gloved steward - nice touch! Chocolate covered strawberries from our fantastic travel agent, Jacqui, made our embarkation even sweeter. CABIN The last cruise I went on was Millennium for my honeymoon in June 2002. We had a cat 1A balcony stateroom (now concierge class) on that sailing. The cabin and balcony in our cat BB verandah stateroom on Zaandam were a bit larger. Although some had to sit on the bed, we were able to fit ten people in the cabin for cocktails before dinner on a few nights. Our cabin steward helpfully added extra chairs to our balcony (joining the chair and chaise already out there), so our friends could enjoy the balcony as well. The bathroom was larger than I had expected, and the shelf space in the medicine cabinet was a great help. Any items that didn't fit in the medicine cabin we placed on the shelf beneath the sink. Having the full tub with jacuzzi jets was very nice. We had ample closet and drawer space, and our cabin was attractively decorated in mauves and reds, with cream striped wallpaper, a queen bed (two twins together), sofa (I think it was a pull out, but didn't check), desk and chair, refrigerator and (not complimentary) mini-bar. I had heard complaints about the ice buckets being plastic. Our bucket was plastic, but was within a chrome outer bucket. We thought it was fine. The cabin was kept very clean. We made use of the robes in our cabin and enjoyed breakfast on the balcony every morning using the convenient doorknob order forms. We also used the safe in our closet for passports and wallets. Our friends and family were in a group of obstructed view staterooms (though the views weren't particularly obstructed, just overlooked part of the promenade - plenty of light came in, and they could see out of their windows), and one party (my other sister and friend) had an inside cabin. The inside and oceanview cabins were almost exactly the same, except for the window (of course). They were very nice-sized, especially for standard accommodations. The cabins were decorated in mostly peach tones. The oceanview cabins all had bathtubs (no jacuzzi jets though), while the inside cabin had a shower only. FOOD One couple enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill on Dutch Night. They thoroughly enjoyed their filet mignon and sautEed mushrooms, as well as everything else they dined on. The service was reported to be excellent. With the exception of Dutch Night, I ate in the main dining room (the Rotterdam) every night. Those who did eat at the Rotterdam for Dutch Night enjoyed it. As a vegetarian, I didn't know what to expect for meals. I had been increasingly disappointed with the vegetarian selections over my last few Celebrity cruises. The vegetarian selections were very tasty in Rotterdam. There were veggie options for each course every night, and I was presented with the standard vegetarian menu and the following night's regular menu during each dinner. My table mates loved seeing the next night's menu in advance. There is one vegetarian dinner menu with about ten entrEe choices (plus soup, salad, etc. options) to order off of for the duration of the cruise. I ordered from the regular menu some nights and the vegetarian menu on others. My sister, who isn't a vegetarian, ordered off the veggie menu one night - she had to try the corn cakes, which she very much enjoyed. Everyone enjoyed their dinners throughout the cruise. We ate lunch in the Rotterdam a few times - a nice treat when we had the time - and grabbed lunch at the Lido most days. There were many selections at the Lido, and I chose options from the stir fry bar and sandwich/deli station a few times. The "starry" ceiling of the dining room was really beautiful. We only noticed a vibration problem one night, but it wasn't bad at all. Our group was too large to be seated at one table, so we had a table for 8 in the center of the lower level and a table for six by the windows (also on the lower level). The table by the windows had awful service until multiple complaints were lodged and an appointment made with the maitre d. Our table (173, I think) was usually finished with our entrees when the other table (160) was being served salads. Our waiter, assistant waiter, and head waiter were fantastic at table 173. In an attempt to mix up the seating arrangements so our friends at 160 could experience the table 173 level of service, I sat at 160 one evening. My regular waitstaff came by to visit! The service was truly fantastic (with the exception of table 160, who didn't even receive favors on New Years - they were told the ship had run out!) throughout our cruise. We all loved Nas, our Yum-Yum Guy. He was extraordinarily friendly. We also ordered room service several times - people raved about the BLTs, and when I ordered multiple cheese and cracker plates for when people came by the cabin for cocktails, we were presented with a large silver tray with the items beautifully arranged. PUBLIC AREAS There was some very interesting and very pretty wallpaper throughout the ship, and the art was varied (from musical instruments in glass cases to a sarcophagus). There were a few shops (I purchased a beach bag to store items in on the second day after losing my camera in the Crow's nest - it was never to be seen again, though more honest passengers turned in digital cameras to the lost and found each day) and the infamous pipe organ. We collectively liked the pipe organ - it made for an unusual centerpiece. We visited the Java Bar on several occasions; there was one particularly unfriendly staff person attending it at times, but we did enjoy the coffee and tea. The Explorer's Lounge was a nice place to relax, but we especially enjoyed the Crow's Nest. It was a wonderful place to watch the sun set, and we enjoyed pre-dinner hors d'ouvres there many evenings. The wonderful Carlos Santana (not really his last name, naturally) was very kind to bring me trays of vegetable crudite whenever I was in the Crow's Nest during cocktail hour, since most of the choices served were not vegetarian. This is just one example of the fantastic service we were treated to throughout the cruise. Manuelito, also in the Crow's Nest, was fantastic, as was Peter, who frequently brought us drinks on the aft deck. We enjoyed the hot tubs every evening (and some afternoons). One was not particularly hot, but the other was fine. There were some problems with unattended children running around, one who fell and hit her head, though her parents never appeared. Some of the children were clearly under ten, and there was also a group of teenagers that congregated and flirted with each other at the hot tubs. We were able to order drinks at the dolphin bar and have them served to us in the hot tub. I didn't spend any time in the regular Lido pool, as we preferred the aft deck to lay in the sunshine. There were the typical problems with chair hogs, but nothing more irritating than on other cruises. The pool on the aft deck was refreshingly cool, and there was a bar there as well. There was a drink of the day available each day for $3.75. I don't recall how much drinks were otherwise. The promenade was very nice, with traditional teak lounges. We watched the sunrise from out there on our ridiculously early visit to Half Moon Cay. We took advantage of the shuffleboard courts quite frequently. I didn't spend much time in the casino; I lost $20 in nickel slots, and never did figure out how the machines worked. The Wajang Theater was nice - we brought coffee in from the Java Bar and snacked on fresh popcorn. It was cold, though - bring a sweater. We also watched movies in our cabin a few times (fairly current movies were playing on the movie channels). EXCURSIONS/PORTS The white river tubing in Ocho Rios was fantastic. The guides were very friendly and the trip down the river was beautiful. Sodas and beer were served to us in our tubes at the end of the excursion. Half Moon Cay was wonderful - the $6 flotation mat was a perfect choice. Although Zuiderdam was also docked at the island, it didn't feel crowded. There was a BBQ, but we headed back to the ship a little early to find lounges on the aft deck and didn't partake. We had a short wait for tender tickets for the ride out there, but caught one immediately on the way back. Our Snorkel and Beach Party excursion in Cozumel was more beach party and less snorkel. Given how many beautiful reefs there are in Cozumel, it was disappointing to snorkel at a site right on top of the cruise ships where there weren't any fish until the guides chummed for them. The beach we sailed to was gorgeous, though. There was beach volleyball, horseback riding (for a fee), lounges, hammocks and flotation mats. Unlimited beer and margaritas were available on the catamaran for no extra charge. The scuba excursion received excellent reviews. If you choose to shop around the market by the dock, be prepared for pushy vendors. Grand Cayman was pretty, as always, even if the excursion was a bust. We ate an expensive lunch at one of the restaurants (I had french fries and salad for $20) and shopped around. MISCELLANEOUS Although the ship was booked to capacity, we never really felt crowded. I never really waited for an elevator, but took the stairs most of the time since the ship isn't too large. Waiting at the shore excursion desk to book excursions was slow and painful. I did miss the interactive tv system on Celebrity. Passengers were generally friendly, and while the crowd was a bit older, there was still a range of ages represented. Events like trivia were not particularly well attended, but that just gave us more chances to win "bum bags" (aka fanny packs). We went to the Crow's Nest every night after dinner, and it wasn't usually crowded at all. The music selection was interesting, to say the least. DJ Martin played some of our requests, but we don't think he was all too fond of us. There were some issues with dining room attire. I understand that people have different understandings of what constitutes formal, informal or casual clothing, but in my opinion jeans and half shirts are never appropriate. It was disappointing that the dress code wasn't enforced at all, especially on a holiday sailing. New Years was very nice, however a group of passengers (including me) were waiting outside the kitchen doors in the Crow's Nest until less than a minute before midnight trying to get flutes of champagne for the toast. We made it just in time, and after midnight staff came around re-filing flutes very frequently. There were noticeably fewer staff around on New Year's to deal with drink orders (we understand that there was a staff party that night), so there were some significantly longer waits and large crowds by the bar. The dessert tables in the Crow's Nest on New Years was a very nice touch, though I don't understand why it was placed in the smoking section. As far as our Avis experience upon debarkation - we had to wait for three shuttles to go by before there was space for us, and only one shuttle appeared to be running. We had to tip for luggage service that literally included the driver throwing our baggage off the shuttle. It took almost two hours to get the cars and get on the road. The cruise was terrific, and the first-time cruisers in our group are looking forward to sailing again. While the Zaandam itinerary for next New Years doesn't fit with our schedules, we are certainly looking into other Holland America ships since the service was so outstanding. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
Embarkation: We had a challenge on getting flights down to Florida but did get a flight into Ft Lauderdale and drove the 3 hours to Port Canaveral. Orlando would have been the logical place to fly into but since we booked on such short ... Read More
Embarkation: We had a challenge on getting flights down to Florida but did get a flight into Ft Lauderdale and drove the 3 hours to Port Canaveral. Orlando would have been the logical place to fly into but since we booked on such short notice this was the best we could do. The car rental agency, Budget, that we dropped our car off at got us to the boat quickly. They parked right at the luggage drop off where the dock workers unloaded our luggage to be loaded on the Zaandam. It was a couple of hundred feet to the embarkation center, through security, up a flight of stairs on an escalator and we were completing our boarding paperwork (5-10 minutes). Then it was onto the ship. This was our first cruise on Holland America so we really didn't know what to expect. The HAL Kids Club representatives who gave us an itinerary for the week of the kids programs greeted us at the gangway. We went up the gangway and were on board at 3PM. We walked around exploring the ship with our 2 children ages 7 and 10. There was the required pre cruise lifeboat drill. We were back at our cabin by 4:30 and our luggage had already arrived! The fastest I have ever seen my luggage arrive in the 3 cruises I've been on. I had a good feeling about this cruise. I wasn't disappointed. The Zaandam: What a boat!! Everything about this ship was impressive. The artwork throughout the ship, the reading areas, the library/internet room, the formal dining area, the lounges, the Pinnacle Grill, were all very well decorated, elaborate and "classy". We loved the size of our cabins (the room seemed a little bigger than the super liner rooms we had been in previously). Much of the lido deck area was a casual atmosphere with the casual buffet area, "outdoor grill", 2 bars, 2 swimming pools and 2 hot tubs. A real positive was the retractable roof over the swimming pool area. Early in the cruise it was extremely windy and at times overcast. The crew within seconds could close or open this enormous roof to adapt to the changing weather conditions. We did not use the spa located on the lido deck. The casino was small by cruise ship standards and contained about 8 card tables, a roulette table, a craps table and about 100 slot machines ranging from nickel to 5-dollar slots. It never seemed overly crowded and didn't overpower the upper promenade deck. There were 4 lounges on the upper promenade deck, several meeting rooms, the internet/library, a liquor shop, 2 clothing shops, the upper part of the Rotterdam formal dining room, the upper part of the showroom the Mondrian Lounge, and jewelry shop. The promenade deck contained the main entrance to the Rotterdam dining room, the main entrance to the showroom the Mondrian Lounge, Main Office, Movie Theater (really movie theater like with free popcorn), photographers showing area, coffee or high tea area, and kids arcade. There was also a basketball/tennis area, volleyball area, HAL kids club area and disco lounge called the "Crow's Nest" with large windows running along the exterior (really sharp) at the top deck. Overall, I never felt crowded or boxed in. When I was in the promenade or upper promenade areas it felt elegant. I wanted to be dressed up, refined, and enjoy the moment. I'm not sure how the Freddy Mercury or Iggy Pop autographed guitars hanging on the walls fit in with the overall refined theme in these areas but somehow it worked. We stayed in 2 inside cabins. It was fine because we weren't in there but to change or go to sleep. The only time it mattered was when you woke up. You had to look at a watch to figure if it was day or night. I did go into an outside cabin and was impressed with how large the window was. The last time I took an outside cabin; it wasn't worth it because I almost broke my neck trying to get an angle to look out the tiny porthole. That wasn't the case on the Zaandam. We also went into a suite one night to socialize with a family we met. The suite had a large balcony about the size of our room. The interior was twice the size of our cabin. There was also a separate changing/sink area outside the bathroom. The bathroom had a tub rather than a standup shower. The suite was quite impressive. The Crew: I had been on 2 cruises on Carnival super liners. The crew was often distant and in the background. What a difference. I got to know the wine steward, the maitre d, waiters, the buffet cooks, and crewmembers. They would greet our kids by their first names and call me Sir John and my wife "Mum". I had to ask, "Please just, John." I found the Indonesian and Philippine crew to be intelligent, articulate, genuine, engaging and very friendly. One night the Indonesian crew performed songs and dances from their 12,000-island homeland. It was quite a cultural experience. The following week the Philippine crew would do a show with their cultural songs and dances. Food/Entertainment: The food was very good. On the Lido deck there was an omelet chef at breakfast as well as hot/cold buffet. During the casual lunch there was a hot/cold buffet served on the Lido deck dining area, there was a sandwich bar in which you could design your on sandwich, or a pasta bar where you could do the same, there were several types of salads available. There were hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, and pizza available at the Lido deck grill. Ice cream was available in the afternoons. We only ate in the formal dining room during dinner. There was the requisite lobster tail night. There was always a strip sirloin or filet mignon on the menu. Some type of seafood was featured each night as well as fowl such as breast of duck or chicken. Thankfully, there was a kid's menu. One night, Wednesday night, there was a cookout on the Lido deck. We attended this instead of the "Dutch menu" in the formal Rotterdam dining room. There was also another dining room called the Pinnacle Grill. For an additional $20 per guest you could eat in this very upscale restaurant. There were several types of aged beef. This was definitely a step above the formal dining room. One gentleman we spoke with said that at the Pinnacle he had the best steak he's ever eaten. In retrospect we wish had tried it. It didn't seem worth it because we had our kids with us who eat plain pasta, hamburgers and chicken nuggets. We should have taken them to the casual dinner and then gone ourselves to the Pinnacle when they went to HAL kids club. Oh well, next time. The entertainment in the main theater, the Mondrian Lounge, had its highs and lows. I wish rather than a featured entertainer playing a one-hour show, they had several performers play each night in a one-hour variety show. Some of the entertainers were just not that talented to carry a performance by themselves. It was easy to lose interest. The 2 nights that the Zaandam song and dance company provided the entertainment I found it more varied and enjoyable. There was string quartet playing in one of the lounges, A sing-a-long piano player in another lounge, A quartet playing jazz or big band tunes in another lounge. While I haven't focused on it too much the median age of the guests on this cruise was pretty high. There were many elderly guests on board. This is not a party ship. There was disco entertainment at for the late night crowd in the "Crow's Nest Lounge". This was the focal point for the late night crowd. I didn't see very many singles or young couples. During the day a steel drum band played reggae tunes on the Lido deck. Girl watching was very, very, limited. We were fortunate enough to pick a school vacation week so; there were more than a hundred children on board for our kids to meet. It was easy enough to make acquaintances and it was a very social atmosphere. The Islands: We stopped in Tortola, ST Thomas and Half Moon Cay. TORTOLA During the Tortola visit we took an excursion to the Baths at Virgin Gorda. This was a very physical trip. The Baths are inlets good for snorkeling, swimming, sun bathing and viewing sea life. There are several caves to explore that have been formed by falling rocks. This is a very physical trip which includes hiking down a trail to the beach and much bending and crawling to explore the caves and inlets. It is very beautiful. We were very happy we went. Upon our return to the Zaandam, we decided to explore Tortola. Some acquaintances took cabs to other beaches. The open air cabs were available right off the dock. We took a short walk into town but there wasn't much to see. The kids got some trinkets and my daughter had her hair braided at a bazaar at the dock facilities. ST Thomas My wife and I had been to St Thomas before. We took the Zaandam tender boat to St Thomas spent a short period of time looking at the downtown bazaar but didn't spend any time jewelry or electronics shopping. Instead we loaded the family onto a ferry boat that took us to St John, a neighboring island. St John is very quiet compared to St Thomas. The boat ride was about 40 minutes. From the dock at St John we took an open air taxi $8 each way to Cinnamon Bay. This is one of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen. The water was crystal blue. The beaches were like Talc. We were ecstatic that we went. The cab ride back was a bit hurried since wanted to make the 2:15 ferry back to St Thomas. In talking to some of the guests waiting for the tender boat, the liquor shopping in St Thomas was very, very good. The ship duty free shop was about $1.00 more per bottle and had less of a variety. In either case, you could not bring the liquor back to your cabin it was held for you until the last day. Half Moon Cay Half Moon is an island owned by Holland America. The beach here is very beautiful as well. The theme here is beach, ocean and sand. There are a number of beach activities like parasailing, snorkeling, fishing and swimming. There are a small number of stores and an open air bar. My daughter got her braids redone here. The Tortola braiding didn't hold up well. The stay here was very short. Maybe 4 hours. That was okay with us because the day was overcast and not very warm. There was a cook out with the same menu as the Lido deck barbecue. Hamburgers and hot dogs. If you can, wait till you get back to the ship. Once again there were not dock facilities for the cruise ship so we took a tender boat to and from the island. Overall: We were looking for a vacation to relax, be entertained, and entertain our kids and to feel special. This cruise certainly did that. If we were looking for a party, this was not the ship. We felt special and well taken care of. We felt that this was indeed 5 star quality. Our kids loved this trip. Their concerns about seasickness, making friends, the food, and nothing to do, never materialized. When the boat was rocking, they thought it was fun! While we might explore other cruise lines for a younger crowd or better entertainment, I wouldn't hesitate to try this line again if the same value was there. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
I just returned from my cruise aboard the Holland America M.S. Zandaam and while I had a good time (how can you not on board a cruise ship?) it was definitely in my opinion not a five star cruise. I believe it was nice and as should be ... Read More
I just returned from my cruise aboard the Holland America M.S. Zandaam and while I had a good time (how can you not on board a cruise ship?) it was definitely in my opinion not a five star cruise. I believe it was nice and as should be expected for the money, but not necessarily a five star cruise in my opinion. I only have one other cruise experience to go by and that was a 7 night Royal Caribbean Cruise aboard the Grandeur of the Seas and I enjoyed that experience as a whole moreso. Embarkation and Disembarkation was smooth. I find Port Canaveral to be very easy to get around and getting aboard ship took no time at all. When I took the Grandeur in New Orleans it was much slower and chaotic. Seas were very choppy and rough but I blame that on the weather moreso than anything. The Zandaam ship has very nice rooms. We started out with a C cabin (outside stateroom) that was very nice and were given a option to upgrade to a Verandah suite which was very nice. The rooms are definitely more spacious and taken very well care of. The balconies are of a nice size. We ate breakfast out on the balcony on one occasion and it was very enjoyable. I would say the rooms are nicer on the Zandaam than that of the Grandeur. Service on the ship was good to excellent. I did enjoy the service on the RCCL Grandeur more because they went out of their way to know your names and joke around with you and at the same time remain professional all the while. I think for the most part the help on the Zandaam were friendly enough but didn't understand as much English as I would have liked to have seen. I found there was some confusion at times with language barriers. Food was comparable to that on the RCCL Grandeur for lunch and dinner. I didn't care for the desserts on the Zandaam as much as the RCCL Grandeur and the breakfasts were not that great at all on the Zandaam....Matter of fact, I could have missed out on that altogether. Beef on the Zandaam was either not a good grade of beef or not cooked to be tender enough. Filet Mignon was just not as tasty as I would have liked. The chicken and potato meals were divine on the Zandaam and there was one dessert that was spectacular in the dining room. It was a Chocolate Mousse Tulip. Outstanding! I found on the Zandaam time constraints were too rigid. The Lido Dining room closed at 8pm and on the RCCL Grandeur it stayed open till at least 10pm. Room service after 10pm on the Zandaam was almost nothing......unless you liked cold sandwiches or broth....you didn't have much to pick from. One thing I would suggest that the Zandaam do that the RCCL Grandeur did was offer the opportunity to have breakfast, lunch and dinner in your room from the dining room menu. The only time this was offered was for the first 45 minutes of the first seating in the evening only. It would have been nice to have had this available for all three meals. All pools closed around 9pm which definitely was not good for many. Anyone with kids would want the pools open longer than this. The Midnight buffet on the Zandaam was nice, but no where comparable to the RCCL Grandeur. Entertainment on the Zandaam was good, but on the RCCL it was great. The RCCL brought on such guest as the Platters and other outside entertainment that were really excellent. The Zandaam had one really good outside performer named Vinnie Talarico. He had an amazing voice and I was really impressed. The Holland American Zandaam performers were comparable to those on RCCL. On the Zandaam there was not a lot of scheduled performances like the ones on the RCCL....It definitely lacked there. Costumes for the Zandaam performers were better as a whole than for the RCCL performers. The RCCL Grandeur had their cast perform a farewell performance the last night that was just hilarious, and the Zandaam had no such thing...... Activities were sparse on the Zandaam but I think that is due to the large part that the majority look to be 60 years of age or older and in many cases older than 70. There were at times hours where we had nothing to do on days at sea as far as activities other than eating or lying out in the sun or swimming. I probably saw 2 dozen kids under the age of 18 the whole trip. I just made 40 and was definitely one of the youngest aboard. There was plenty of bingo which was fun. There was the usual belly flop contest, Newlywed contest and such but no karaoke which I enjoyed a lot on the RCCL. We did have one night of lip-syncing which just isn't as good in my opinion. There was plenty of live music and all was very good on both ships. Don't worry about visiting the casinos but that's on any cruise ship for the most part from what I hear. The ship is kept up very well and is small in size when I look back on the size of the Grandeur.....The atrium can barely be called a atrium to me but of what it is it is very nice. There is a wine guy in the dining room that is just wonderful. His name is Armando. I highly recommend you getting to know him if you take this ship. The cruise director and his immediate staff were not as friendly on the Zandaam as on the Grandeur but were still very nice. They did not mix as much with the people as they did on the Grandeur. The ports of call were Tortola VI, St. Thomas VI and Half Moon Cay Bahamas. Tortola was a poor island and needed much cleaning in a lot of areas. From the ship it looked beautiful but once on land you could tell the difference. We did take an excursion to the Cane Garden Beach which was very beautiful but the shoreline on the beach was very narrow and crowded. Beware to those of you who have small children, topless sunbathing is permitted here. I had to take a double take when I first got there. I suggest to Holland America to make Tortola a half day only at port and spend more time in St. Thomas. St. Thomas was beautiful with lots of shopping available. Tortola had very little to shop at in comparison. We did take the Atlantis Submarine Excursion in St. Thomas which was nice, but I think just going to Coral World would have been nicer. One of the employees at Atlantis Submarine even told us that to her Coral World had more to offer than just the submarine ride. However, the submarine ride was neat, and we did get to see many things even 5-6 Caribbean Reef Sharks and more. The only thing that was disappointing to me was that the Coral Reefs were not as colorful as I had expected them to be. Holland America definitely needs to make sure more time is spent in port at St. Thomas. There just wasn't enough time to spend in the hours that we had there. Finally, the last port day was at Holland America's private beach called Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Its a very beautiful beach and the barbecue they furnished was really good. The water is magnificent here even though it was too cold for me to swim in. (Others were swimming though.) My only suggestion here is that they open more stores and such for souvenirs and so forth. Overall, I think the Holland America M.S. Zandaam deserves a 4 star rating on their ship and services. I think the RCCL Grandeur of the Seas maybe deserved a 4.5 to 5 star....That is the only difference in the two. I tried to hit the points that I thought were important to me. If you have any other questions that you would like to email please feel free to do so. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
I'm going to try to give my objective opinion about my B2B on the beautiful MS Zaandam. All in all we had a wonderful time and would sail her again in a heartbeat! Transfer: We took Basik Shuttle who picked us up at the Crowne Plaza ... Read More
I'm going to try to give my objective opinion about my B2B on the beautiful MS Zaandam. All in all we had a wonderful time and would sail her again in a heartbeat! Transfer: We took Basik Shuttle who picked us up at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the Orlando airport. They were well on time and we had a smooth ride to Port Canaveral. They were waiting for us upon arrival and I can recommend them without hesitation. Embarkation: A breeze, it took us about 15 minutes to get our documents. No fancy blue or even a plastic cover for them but who cares.....and there we were, onboard the lovely vessel. The rooms weren't ready yet so we had lunch in the Lido and around 1PM the announcement came that we could go to our staterooms. We had cabin # 2657 on the Main deck and it was a spacious outside cabin with plenty of storage space. Our cabin attendant was Banbang and I think he was the most attentive person I've ever met. He took good care of us and our cabin was always spotless clean. Dining Experience: What can I say, we did the B2B which means we had the same menu for 2 weeks in a row but we did not care. We had plenty of choice and did not have had a bad/bland/not so good meal during those 2 weeks. Our table was # 167 on the lower level which meant we had dinner at 8.30 PM. Our waiter for the 1st week was AJ and our busboy was Jaya. Made was our sommelier. ( We took the wine package which was very convenient and they had good wines on the list.) They were great and we had a real good time with them. The 2nd week we had Sinta as our waiter and Agus as our busboy. Also no complaints what -so-ever! We also met Joost Olthof, he's 2nd Maitre D', Dutch like us, so we had a good time with him as well and I think he had a great time too. We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido nearly every day and again no complaints. We went to the Pinnacle Grill twice and it was outstanding Entertainment: We've visited the Piano bar frequently, with Sonia Marie, the Explorer Lounge with the magnificent Champagne Strings, and at the Lido pool the Caribbean Steel Band. High Society played in the Ocean Bar, they were ok. The Crows Nest was fun too. I saw one show which was called Party Grass which was good and there was a comedian who was hilarious but I don't recall his name. But we're not party animals so for us the entertainment was ok. Gym and Spa: We went to the gym every day, it was well equipped. We did sauna twice, very good and very clean. Took a massage and the masseuse had magic hands. The turn over day was fun, like you own the whole ship, there were only 6 of us for the B2B. The only thing which was a bit annoying was, that between 8AM and 11.30AM on the whole ship one couldn't find anything to drink, all the bars were closed, no coffee or tea or ice water because they were cleaning the machines so beware that if you stay on the ship you have to take precautions. Disembarkation: Because we planned to stay in Orlando for a couple of days we had embarkation# 25, we were off the ship by Pam. With pain in our hearts I must admit. Excursions: On all the islands we hailed a taxi to drive us around which turned out to be great fun. On Grand Cayman we had 'Elvis' as our driver, the King's still alive! So look out for him if you want to have a blast! Half Moon Cay: In one word HEAVEN and we were lucky we could visit the island twice. A shame we had to leave at 12.45 PM but better than nothing! Well I think I've covered it all. If you have any questions, ask away. After a day of hard work it's good to think back to a great vacation on board the Zaandam. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
We are inexperienced cruisers and this was only our 2nd cruise, having done an Eastern itinerary on the Zuiderdam in Feb. '03 as our first experience. We were so impressed with HAL's service, the quality of the food, the beauty ... Read More
We are inexperienced cruisers and this was only our 2nd cruise, having done an Eastern itinerary on the Zuiderdam in Feb. '03 as our first experience. We were so impressed with HAL's service, the quality of the food, the beauty of the ship, and the value of cruising, that we could hardly wait for a second chance! When a mailer arrived with great last-minute deals, I was off to the travel agent within the hour! We were lucky to find that one of the best Zaandam deals coincided with Spring Break week...so we were able to take our 3 college-aged kids, plus my son's fiancee, along. We booked 3 cabins in all: a balcony minisuite for my husband and myself, and 2 inside cabins (minimum NN stateroom guarantees) for the kids. With only a month before sailing, we had a lot to pull together...but with the help of the web to prebook shore excursions & our dear neighbors' kindness to offer petsitting, we were ready and EXCITED on Embarkation day! Since we live in the area of West Palm Beach, we are only a 2-hr drive from Port Canaveral and decided it would be far easier---and less costly---to drive & park. This worked out extremely well, especially at disembarkation when we were able to grab our bags, head to the parking lot, load up and go. (Access in and out of the port is very easy, and the ship's berths are easily sighted from the highway on the way in so it is impossible to get "lost".) Parking was $10 per day, so we would recommend this for folks living in the area, or driving their own car from another area. Security was good, but very efficient and the lines moved so quickly that we were onboard about 30 minutes from the time we entered the terminal building. STATEROOMS: We were escorted to our stateroom and found most of our bags had already arrived. The kids were upgraded from Cat NN to Cat L larger inside staterooms, and were given adjacent cabins. Though lacking a window, their cabin amenities were nice and we were surprised at how roomy they were; very comfortable for 2 persons each. Our Cat B was very nice! In addition to a comfortable queen bed, we had a sofa, chair,coffee table and large armoire-type desk in the sitting area, a mini-fridge and self-service bar, tons of closet space, a TV with VCR, and a compact but very functional bathroom that included a bathtub with whirlpool and a wall-mount hairdryer. There was a mirrored cabinet for storage in the bathroom, and 2 nice cotton bathrobes for our use in the closet. The balcony was somewhat small, but there was room for a chair, table, and chaise. The two of us could enjoy it with room to spare, although our room was often the Family Rendezvous Headquarters and it got crowded on the balcony when 6 of us tried to pile out there all at once! THE ZAANDAM: This is a very lovely ship with interesting artwork and lovely public spaces. The Lido had excellent food, and the pools were very nice (although often the aft sundeck was crowded with seating hard to find). The main pool often featured a steel drum band playing reggae, which added a festive touch and helped the pina coladas go down (more) easily! I did not notice kids "running wild" or dominating the pool as was written about by another reviewer on the same cruise...in fact, much of the time, the pool was underutilized and the hot tubs available from what I observed. We used the spa one day, and found it to be very nice; there are Port Day specials for spa services and I had a very relaxing massage, which was quite a treat! We never did try the alternative restaurant, but dined nightly in the main Rotterdam dining room and thought the food was excellent! There are many choices on the menu; the soups are superb,the entrees are delicious, and portions are just right so that you are satisfied without feeling "stuffed"! The java bar was a bit of a disappointment---the coffee was very good, but the cappuccinos were tiny. We had room service for breakfast on 2 occasions and were very happy with prompt delivery of hot food exactly to our specifications. We are not big night-lifers and the few shows we did attend, were rather "cheesy" production shows...good costumes, ok talent. The exception was comedian Fred Klett, who was completely HYSTERICAL! (We have since heard him on "Bob and Tom" and again, we were in stitches!) As for overall service, HAL did not disappoint! Our room steward magically kept our room in tip-top condition and our fresh fruit refilled without ever being "seen" until our 5th day into the trip, when he asked us by name how our day was! Our waiter and asst waiter knew our beverages from the first day onboard, and we never had to ask..they were brought to the table as soon as we were seated. The Lido staff asked our names the first day, and used them every time we saw them throughout the cruise...amazing! We have heard that these people are often not tipped due to HAL's "tipping not required" policy; that is a shame, because the staff goes so far out of their way to give personal attention and make the cruise enjoyable! We are glad they will be setting standardized tips (so we have read) beginning this year, because so many folks take advantage of the current policy as an excuse NOT to reward the very good service (which they not only expect, but often demand)! Our itinerary included two sea days, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, and Half Moon Cay. COZUMEL: We had prebooked a snorkel/Catamaran sail/beach party through HAL,and must say it was one of the highlights of our trip! We had considered visiting the ruins, but due to some tight time constraints (we were to be in port 6 am to 2:30 pm) we were concerned that we would be rushing through the experience. As it happened, we arrived in port nearly 2 hours behind schedule, as our Captain had to divert during the night to rescue some fishermen who were adrift at sea and had sent out distress flairs!! This added a real element of excitement to the trip, but shortened our time in Cozumel and resulted in cancellation of all trips to the ruins after all. (HAL issued shipboard credits to those passengers; surprisingly, we did not hear any complaints from disappointed travellers.) We had hoped to do a little shopping after our excursion, but that will have to wait until our next trip! GRAND CAYMAN: Of course...we booked Stingray City! And this is a MUST do, an absolutely incredible experience! We had ample time to explore a bit of the town and had lunch at a little diner (I believe Coretta's) to try some local cuisine. The prices were high, but the conch fritters were excellent and we had a nice chat with the owner herself, who has been in business for 20-some years with 2 locations. We picked up some Tortuga Rum cakes and fudge as gifts for our petsitters while we were strolling around town. MONTEGO BAY: I had prebooked my husband and son to golf the White Witch at Rose Hall; it was a very pricey round of golf, but a spectacular, world-class oceanview course and a lifelong memory! The guys went by cab both ways, with no problems. Unfortunately, I had not pre-booked anything for us ladies....we took a shuttle into town and found that to be a BIG MISTAKE!!! From the moment we stepped off the van, we were hounded to come spend money, get our hair braided, buy marijuana "for a great price", etc. Two of the girls got their hair braided and as soon as they were done, I herded them back onto the shuttle & right back to port. Along the way, we saw all kinds of marijuana growing wild along the roadways (which could have been had for free! haha!) The drive was hair-raising, with people cutting others off at high rates of speed, merging within inches of one another, etc...but despite the white knuckles, it was fun looking around at our surroundings. Jamaica is geographically beautiful; however, the parts of MoBay that we saw, were downtrodden and it was evident that there is a lot of poverty in the area. HALF MOON CAY: This is a very lovely island, I believe it is actually (or, was?) Little San Salvador island. White powdery sand, crystal clear, aquamarine Bahamian waters, and upscale improvements by the cruise line including pavillion shelters, beach volleyball courts, a playground, a chapel, walking trails, several beach bars, a shopping enclave and post office, etc. The beach barbecue was very tasty, and we enjoyed our day very much! This time of year, the water is somewhat chilly so only the braver souls actually did any swimming. Overall, we had an absolutely wonderful time on our second cruise and it was one of our best family memories ever!! We were very glad to see such a nice mix of passengers on this cruise; retirees, families, young couples, and children. HAL has added us to its list of loyal customers and "hooked" us on cruising for good! We have considered trying other cruise lines but worry that they may not be able to live up to our expectations offer 2 great experiences with HAL! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
In my cabin we were 3 females, we started our cruise off by having my jewelry taken while we were at the mandatory lifesaving lessons. Fortunately, after confronting the steward my jewelry just happen to reappear by the end of the evening ... Read More
In my cabin we were 3 females, we started our cruise off by having my jewelry taken while we were at the mandatory lifesaving lessons. Fortunately, after confronting the steward my jewelry just happen to reappear by the end of the evening after i went to the desk and requested my luggage be returned as i was missing something VERY important. I was also very disappointed in how the children ages ten and under were allowed to monopolize the pool on the Lido deck the whole week with no supervision, screaming, running jumping in the pool. The food in the dining room was not up to the standards which I had heard about from previous passengers. Some nights the soup was even cold and the meal not edible which was the consensus of the other seven guests at our table. We constantly had to check our daily charges as we had to dispute charges that were not ours. Without an explanation we did not even come close to spending the amount of time on the islands as was scheduled for the cruise. Even the morning of disembarkment we had charges from the nite before not ours. That seemed to be the talk in the morning on the deck by everyone back at Pt. Canaveral. I personally feel that my experience on this ship would keep me flying to all my vacation destinations. I hope that this was an unusual week for the ship as so many passengers were extremely unhappy. Sincerely Catherine M. Lindquist Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.7
Service 3.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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