Zaandam Cruise Review by Celeste
- Sail Date: August 2003
- Destination: Alaska
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
250,000+ people have entered their email