Zaandam Cruise Review by Flaneur72
- Sail Date: January 2016
- Destination: Antarctica
The itinerary was excellent. We had fine weather throughout, notably in the Falklands and the Antarctic. The cruise of the Chilean fjords and glaciers I also found fascinating. The Zaandam stopped at 4 Chilean ports: Punta Arenas, Chacabuco, Castro, and Puerto Montt and all were interesting. The excursions, though pricey, were very good – we visited 3 separate penguin sites, near Puerto Madryn, in the Falklands, and in Isla Magdelena (the most spectacular) and all were different as well as fascinating. The Antarctic experience was less satisfying because although plenty of icebergs there was comparatively little wildlife. To see more watch a BBC nature documentary or take an adventure cruise where zodiacs bring you closer to the shore. The Antarctic lecturers, however, were excellent, plentiful, informative, and interesting.
The Zaandam is in good shape, very pleasant public spaces, the two-floor dining room impressive. Our room was cramped, though the special washroom was large and certainly accessible. Staff was always friendly and helpful. The Lido buffet was amongst the best I've enjoyed (by contrast the Star Princess was loathsome), clean, organized, lots of variety, full of tasty treats at all times – as a foodie, this was the best feature of the cruise ship. The poolside grill was also tasty and efficient.
But unfortunately not all was good with the food on the ship. The dining room food was usually varied and decent – except soups were poor, steak sometimes tough and tasteless, and fish dishes uniformly a failure. The so-called premier specialty restaurant the Pinnacle Grill also had poor steak – an extraordinary failing, especially given the fact you had to pay extra, roughly $60 a person. The bistro offered bad coffee at a price, yet another sin on a cruise.
The most irritating aspects of the cruise, however, was the mix of greed and meanness. HAL is one of those lines which charge for bottled water, whether in the room or going on an excursion. Indeed they constantly seek to sell booze and wine, all manner of trinkets, shoddy clothes, trashy art – it is pathetic and gets on your nerves after a week. The wine (a good selection however) is over-priced. Entertainment was often mediocre, except for a classical music duo called Adagio, and they were superb – surely the administration can put some more money into better performers? We just stopped going to the shows at night after a series of failures. The video of the Antarctica experience was poor: either the videographer lacked the talent or the equipment to do the job right – and you had to purchase the video sight unseen. The charge for internet service was exorbitant, especially when other lines give free hours or no charge service. The self-service laundry was tiny on a ship the size of the Zaandam plus you had to carry a kilo of coins to get the machines to work. So many small disservices to their clients.
Disembarkation at Valparaiso was a shambles for most people, though we benefitted from the excellent wheelchair service the ship provided and the fact we independently booked a transfer to a Santiago hotel.
Would I travel HAL again? Likely not. Fortunately we sailed out of Valparaiso soon after on a Crystal ship, and that experience has been far superior. But I don't regret the trip on the Zaandam because the itinerary was so fine.
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