60++ cruises so I have been there done that to include many Holland America Cruises. I found this Zaandam experience to be perhaps the worst of all my Holland America cruises. It simply is not up to par. There are no huge differences but multiple small things that overall add up to a lot of disappointments. Sadly many of the small shortcomings could seemingly be fixed at little or no cost but somehow it goes on. The once very proud premium Holland America line is not what it once was. A few observations: The Lido: The ice and water dispensing machines in the Lido and by the pool were out of order for the entire 22 days. Ice was served in a walmart looking plastic container that means everyone was picking up the lid and then replacing it which no doubt transferred a lot of germs into the ice. The water was in metal pitchers sitting there open to the elements and even more contamination. The coffee machines also seemed too often not quite right. The hot tea water dispensers worked about half the time if you were lucky meaning more backups and waiting as passengers tried to figure them out. The salad selection in Lido was poor at best with pretty much the exact same selections for lunch and dinner most every day. It appeared to be an attempt to serve the least expensive possible ingredients over and over compared for example to the Oosterdam that had a wonderful selection. The cooked to order omelet had only one cook and no helper so of course the lines got long and were just more trouble than it was worth. The Lido staff was very pleasant and helpful in spite of the lack of working equipment and overall poor food selection. Shame on management for not providing better support by keeping the equipment up to date and working. The stateroom: I had an outside ocean view room on Dolphin deck. Overall the room is fine though dated. Some new flat screen larger TVs would be a cheap but good improvement. Also a refrigerator should be standard these days. One plug is not enough to charge all the cameras and gadgets that most passengers now carry. As usual on Holland the room stewards were excellent and their good service and constant smiles makes up for other shortcomings. For the fourth cruise in a row on Holland even though requested well in advance that as two men travelling together we wanted two beds only to arrive and find one bed meaning it had to be redone. Sounds like a small thing except after flying all night it would be nice to walk into the room and be able to take a nap without hassles/waiting hours for beds to be redone...and of course more work for the steward rather than get it right to begin with. Once upon a time apparently the stewards were given a print out showing bedding preferences of newly arriving passengers but apparently that no longer happens or if it does no one pays any attention to it. Self service laundry: In spite of showing several on the deck plans there is only ONE for 1400 passengers. No explanation as to what happened to the other ones which no longer exist. Even the deck plans in the elevators still list non- existent self service laundries so good luck if you came on board expecting three or four only to find ONE (deck 3). Entertainment: Some good ones like Neal the magician and a few others but overall second rate at best. HAL singers and dancers/props in my opinion were pretty awful....something from a high school presentation and just generally not professional in the least. Appears to be another CCL attempt to minimize expense by providing sub par entertainment. The Wiang Movie theatre has good but unrealized potential to be a big plus....but for some reason the screen is mounted so low on the wall that the projection barely clears the front passengers heads so you literally have to sit up very straight to see over the heads. Movie selection is really poor. Even on sea days same crappy movie shown maybe at 3, 7 and 10 pm....and on port days when many passengers do stay onboard no movies at all. WHY in the world can't Holland buy a high definition DVD player, mount the screen properly , and play a variety of movies with multiple showings all day every day? Holland has a big library of dvds that passengers can borrow for stateroom viewing so why not show some of them in the theatre on a big screen? I suspect most of the passengers may well have a better video system in their home than the Wiang theatre. The popcorn is good though. One wonders if any of the ships officers or CCL execs have ever even been to a movie there and if so why in the world don't they fix some of the obvious problems? Several days sitting in the crows nest in the morning with a few other passengers trying to read books in quiet the music being played (can we ever just have quiet?) was a mix of soft rock and some ghetto RAP....give me a break Holland do you really think your older passenger demographics want to listen to RAP music? Get a clue. Casino: If you like the smell of stale cigarette smoke then this is your place. I avoided it like the plaque as it flat out STINKS. On the plus side it seems most of the smokers are finally getting the idea and other than a few die hards there were no smokers on the decks other than the back pool area starboard where it is smokers heaven. The Library: One of the best things about the Zaandam is a large well stocked library with excellent seating etc. Better than the Oosterdam Library which though serving more passengers is smaller and not well laid out at all. Walking deck: The Zaandam has the usual good Holland fake teak full circle walking deck with four laps to the mile. Unlike other Holland ships no water fountain on the deck. For some strange reason the maintenance guys seem to almost go out of their way to schedule some minor maintenance tasks and block off parts of deck access just at sailing time when lots of people are on deck and trying to walk the decks. Several times the deck chairs were piled up and left in a big mess for hours at a time. Unlike other Holland ships I noticed that the deck chair cushions were often left out overnight to get wet. One badly broken chair sat for two days before it was removed. Also unlike other Holland ships they actually TIE the chairs to a rail with some cheap string/twine to keep them from sliding in rough weather. Other Holland ships long ago built a small wooden teak railing to hold them in place.....but i guess at age 15 the Zaandam hasn't quite figured that out yet? The doors to the bow of the ship housing all kinds of equipment were left standing open day after day which seemed to me to be a security breach at best. Elevators: Several of the elevator doors open or close at glacier speeds and remained that way for 22 days. I suspect a can of WD 40 would have fixed them but again nobody much seemed to care. Shore excursions: Nothing new here. As with all Holland ships (and most other cruise lines as well) the object is to sell as many overpriced tours as possible....and naturally this means going out of their way to NOT give you any information about taxis, internet, atms, exchange rates or any information that an independent traveler would find helpful. This is not going to change so best advice is do your homework before the cruise on the ports if you prefer to go out on your own. The "scare tactics" used to push the tours that you may well miss the ship if you don't go on a Holland Tour are dishonest at best....shame on cruise lines for trying to scare a bunch of older people with these BS tactics. Newsletter: I write the same thing after every cruise but of course nothing changes. The newsletter is AWFUL. Zero imagination, typos and errors, and if anyone proof reads it they sure aren't very good at it. The newsletter being the number one way to communicate with all the passengers is a marketing lesson in missed opportunities. How about featuring ONE of your HARD WORKING service staff in each days' newsletter with their picture and a brief bio of where they are from, their hobbies, their family etc? The passengers I am sure would enjoy it and comment to the staff member and it would be a big source of PRIDE for the staff and the cost to Holland would be pretty much ZERO. Holland/CCL certainly doesn't mind working them long hard hours and even expecting them to do a late night crew show so how about a little RECOGNITION for the very people that are your best asset? . The staff: Carlos the cruise director was excellent in my opinion. Very nice and personable guy who seemed to be everywhere all the time and genuinely interested in personally getting to know as many passengers as possible. In 22 days I saw the captain ONE TIME walking quickly through the LIDO. Never saw him anywhere else except for official functions. A good hotel general manger makes it a point to walk through every restaurant and public area EVERY day to see for himself what is going on. This does not seem to be the case on the Zaandam. As usual the lowest paid Indonesian/Fillipino staff seem to carry the ball and without their good service and constant smiles I suspect a lot of long time Holland customers would be long gone as CCL continues to cut staff and cheapen the Holland brand. The itinerary: Overall about what I expected. For me the two Peru stops were terrrible at best. Lima is a big traffic jam city with hardly a tree left standing. My favorite ports were by far the three Chile stops. Ship Log: The final day all passengers receive a "ships log" to recap the journey. For many no doubt this goes into a scrap book. But once again no proof reading and obviously nobody gives a hoot about accuracy. Our cruise log lists the distance from Vancouver to Victoria at 2443 kms (actually 80 km) . From Puerto Chipas Mexico to Corinto Nicaragua is shown at 2363 km (actually approx 800 km)....the last two ports are left off completely. The distances shown are obviously WAY OFF but again nobody seems to proof read anything. The number of passengers is shown as 1989 rather than the 1400 that is the real number. SLOPPY. Sorry if this all comes off as a whine session but it is frustrating to a long time cruiser such as I am to see the overall decline of what was once a proud well run cruise line like Holland America. There is still much that is good with Holland. I do like the classic design of the ships without all the silly bells and whistles of rock climbing walls and the like. The itineraries are overall good. The wait staff is still among the best at sea in spite of having to service more rooms and people with smaller numbers of employees. Holland is no different than other lines in turning the once mostly inclusive cruise into way too much nickle and diming but that seems to be unavoidable these days. There is a fine line between too much cost cutting, lack of maintenance, and too much nickle and diming before you start to lose customers. Holland/CCL might do well to make sure not to cross that line excessively as it is becoming very apparent to many long term customers what's up since the CCL takeover. If any of the execs at CCL in Miami ever read any of these reviews it would seem that they might actually FIX some of the sloppy work and issues that are raised by real passengers over and over. I understand full well that CCL is out to squeeze every penny out of every passenger but even that is no excuse for just stupid and sloppy management.  

22 Days Vancouver to Valpariso

Zaandam Cruise Review by dockman

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: October 2014
  • Destination: South America
  • Cabin Type: Large Ocean-View Stateroom
60++ cruises so I have been there done that to include many Holland America Cruises.
I found this Zaandam experience to be perhaps the worst of all my Holland America cruises. It simply is not up to par. There are no huge differences but multiple small things that overall add up to a lot of disappointments. Sadly many of the small shortcomings could seemingly be fixed at little or no cost but somehow it goes on. The once very proud premium Holland America line is not what it once was.
A few observations:
The Lido:
The ice and water dispensing machines in the Lido and by the pool were out of order for the entire 22 days. Ice was served in a walmart looking plastic container that means everyone was picking up the lid and then replacing it which no doubt transferred a lot of germs into the ice. The water was in metal pitchers sitting there open to the elements and even more contamination. The coffee machines also seemed too often not quite right. The hot tea water dispensers worked about half the time if you were lucky meaning more backups and waiting as passengers tried to figure them out.
The salad selection in Lido was poor at best with pretty much the exact same selections for lunch and dinner most every day. It appeared to be an attempt to serve the least expensive possible ingredients over and over compared for example to the Oosterdam that had a wonderful selection.
The cooked to order omelet had only one cook and no helper so of course the lines got long and were just more trouble than it was worth.
The Lido staff was very pleasant and helpful in spite of the lack of working equipment and overall poor food selection. Shame on management for not providing better support by keeping the equipment up to date and working.
The stateroom:
I had an outside ocean view room on Dolphin deck. Overall the room is fine though dated. Some new flat screen larger TVs would be a cheap but good improvement. Also a refrigerator should be standard these days. One plug is not enough to charge all the cameras and gadgets that most passengers now carry.
As usual on Holland the room stewards were excellent and their good service and constant smiles makes up for other shortcomings.
For the fourth cruise in a row on Holland even though requested well in advance that as two men travelling together we wanted two beds only to arrive and find one bed meaning it had to be redone. Sounds like a small thing except after flying all night it would be nice to walk into the room and be able to take a nap without hassles/waiting hours for beds to be redone...and of course more work for the steward rather than get it right to begin with. Once upon a time apparently the stewards were given a print out showing bedding preferences of newly arriving passengers but apparently that no longer happens or if it does no one pays any attention to it.
Self service laundry:
In spite of showing several on the deck plans there is only ONE for 1400 passengers. No explanation as to what happened to the other ones which no longer exist. Even the deck plans in the elevators still list non- existent self service laundries so good luck if you came on board expecting three or four only to find ONE (deck 3).
Entertainment:
Some good ones like Neal the magician and a few others but overall second rate at best. HAL singers and dancers/props in my opinion were pretty awful....something from a high school presentation and just generally not professional in the least. Appears to be another CCL attempt to minimize expense by providing sub par entertainment.
The Wiang Movie theatre has good but unrealized potential to be a big plus....but for some reason the screen is mounted so low on the wall that the projection barely clears the front passengers heads so you literally have to sit up very straight to see over the heads. Movie selection is really poor.
Even on sea days same crappy movie shown maybe at 3, 7 and 10 pm....and on port days when many passengers do stay onboard no movies at all. WHY in the world can't Holland buy a high definition DVD player, mount the screen properly , and play a variety of movies with multiple showings all day every day? Holland has a big library of dvds that passengers can borrow for stateroom viewing so why not show some of them in the theatre on a big screen? I suspect most of the passengers may well have a better video system in their home than the Wiang theatre. The popcorn is good though. One wonders if any of the ships officers or CCL execs have ever even been to a movie there and if so why in the world don't they fix some of the obvious problems?
Several days sitting in the crows nest in the morning with a few other passengers trying to read books in quiet the music being played (can we ever just have quiet?) was a mix of soft rock and some ghetto RAP....give me a break Holland do you really think your older passenger demographics want to listen to RAP music? Get a clue.
Casino: If you like the smell of stale cigarette smoke then this is your place. I avoided it like the plaque as it flat out STINKS. On the plus side it seems most of the smokers are finally getting the idea and other than a few die hards there were no smokers on the decks other than the back pool area starboard where it is smokers heaven.
The Library:
One of the best things about the Zaandam is a large well stocked library with excellent seating etc. Better than the Oosterdam Library which though serving more passengers is smaller and not well laid out at all.
Walking deck:
The Zaandam has the usual good Holland fake teak full circle walking deck with four laps to the mile. Unlike other Holland ships no water fountain on the deck.
For some strange reason the maintenance guys seem to almost go out of their way to schedule some minor maintenance tasks and block off parts of deck access just at sailing time when lots of people are on deck and trying to walk the decks.
Several times the deck chairs were piled up and left in a big mess for hours at a time. Unlike other Holland ships I noticed that the deck chair cushions were often left out overnight to get wet.
One badly broken chair sat for two days before it was removed. Also unlike other Holland ships they actually TIE the chairs to a rail with some cheap string/twine to keep them from sliding in rough weather. Other Holland ships long ago built a small wooden teak railing to hold them in place.....but i guess at age 15 the Zaandam hasn't quite figured that out yet?
The doors to the bow of the ship housing all kinds of equipment were left standing open day after day which seemed to me to be a security breach at best.
Elevators:
Several of the elevator doors open or close at glacier speeds and remained that way for 22 days. I suspect a can of WD 40 would have fixed them but again nobody much seemed to care.
Shore excursions:
Nothing new here. As with all Holland ships (and most other cruise lines as well) the object is to sell as many overpriced tours as possible....and naturally this means going out of their way to NOT give you any information about taxis, internet, atms, exchange rates or any information that an independent traveler would find helpful.
This is not going to change so best advice is do your homework before the cruise on the ports if you prefer to go out on your own. The "scare tactics" used to push the tours that you may well miss the ship if you don't go on a Holland Tour are dishonest at best....shame on cruise lines for trying to scare a bunch of older people with these BS tactics.
Newsletter:
I write the same thing after every cruise but of course nothing changes. The newsletter is AWFUL. Zero imagination, typos and errors, and if anyone proof reads it they sure aren't very good at it. The newsletter being the number one way to communicate with all the passengers is a marketing lesson in missed opportunities.
How about featuring ONE of your HARD WORKING service staff in each days' newsletter with their picture and a brief bio of where they are from, their hobbies, their family etc? The passengers I am sure would enjoy it and comment to the staff member and it would be a big source of PRIDE for the staff and the cost to Holland would be pretty much ZERO. Holland/CCL certainly doesn't mind working them long hard hours and even expecting them to do a late night crew show so how about a little RECOGNITION for the very people that are your best asset? .
The staff:
Carlos the cruise director was excellent in my opinion. Very nice and personable guy who seemed to be everywhere all the time and genuinely interested in personally getting to know as many passengers as possible.
In 22 days I saw the captain ONE TIME walking quickly through the LIDO. Never saw him anywhere else except for official functions. A good hotel general manger makes it a point to walk through every restaurant and public area EVERY day to see for himself what is going on. This does not seem to be the case on the Zaandam.
As usual the lowest paid Indonesian/Fillipino staff seem to carry the ball and without their good service and constant smiles I suspect a lot of long time Holland customers would be long gone as CCL continues to cut staff and cheapen the Holland brand.
The itinerary:
Overall about what I expected. For me the two Peru stops were terrrible at best. Lima is a big traffic jam city with hardly a tree left standing. My favorite ports were by far the three Chile stops.
Ship Log:
The final day all passengers receive a "ships log" to recap the journey. For many no doubt this goes into a scrap book. But once again no proof reading and obviously nobody gives a hoot about accuracy. Our cruise log lists the distance from Vancouver to Victoria at 2443 kms (actually 80 km) . From Puerto Chipas Mexico to Corinto Nicaragua is shown at 2363 km (actually approx 800 km)....the last two ports are left off completely. The distances shown are obviously WAY OFF but again nobody seems to proof read anything. The number of passengers is shown as 1989 rather than the 1400 that is the real number. SLOPPY.
Sorry if this all comes off as a whine session but it is frustrating to a long time cruiser such as I am to see the overall decline of what was once a proud well run cruise line like Holland America.
There is still much that is good with Holland. I do like the classic design of the ships without all the silly bells and whistles of rock climbing walls and the like. The itineraries are overall good. The wait staff is still among the best at sea in spite of having to service more rooms and people with smaller numbers of employees.
Holland is no different than other lines in turning the once mostly inclusive cruise into way too much nickle and diming but that seems to be unavoidable these days. There is a fine line between too much cost cutting, lack of maintenance, and too much nickle and diming before you start to lose customers.
Holland/CCL might do well to make sure not to cross that line excessively as it is becoming very apparent to many long term customers what's up since the CCL takeover.
If any of the execs at CCL in Miami ever read any of these reviews it would seem that they might actually FIX some of the sloppy work and issues that are raised by real passengers over and over. I understand full well that CCL is out to squeeze every penny out of every passenger but even that is no excuse for just stupid and sloppy management.
 
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