Zaandam Cruise Review by Travelling Learners
- Sail Date: March 2017
- Destination: South America
- Cabin Type: Vista Suite with Verandah
My wife and I are not cruisers with years of experience. We fall into the late sixties early seventies age range. We have been on two river cruises and three ocean cruises. Two of the ocean cruises were with Holland America and the most recent was on the Zaandam from Buenos Aires to Vancouver.We had a Vista suite compared to an outside ocean view cabin or inside cabin. For a long cruise (ours was 36 days) I encourage people to seriously consider the larger accommodation. There are times when one just needs to get away and enjoy the quiet and comfort of a larger room. By booking earlier the difference in cost is not that much.
On the other hand taking an outside ocean view cabin fits the bill for many folks. Especially those people who are on a cruise of 7 days to 14 and are also individuals who love to socialize in the common areas. Inside cabin might also be ideal for folks who prefer spending most of their time away from their cabin. Simply -- know yourself and plan accordingly.
I read a recent review submitted by a cruiser who was on the same ship as us at the same time, but for only part of the journey. The person did not have a good experience. However the examples of their concerns left me dumbfounded.To suggest there was limited leisure options for sea days based on Bingo or trivia caused me to review the daily schedule I brought home with me and to re-read my notes.
I don't know how the cruiser missed the culinary shows, the guest lectures on either Global affairs or on the sea life related to places we were traveling to or seeing on sea days or the movie theatre and a host of other things that were on board.. I am amazed the cruiser did not hear the musicians who played in the lounges during the late afternoon or at night. I tried to imagine how one could not spend an hour or more observing the actions of people at the art auctions (even if you were not into art, the experience of watching others was fun). The evening entertainment was very diversified and of exceptional quality. Yes it might be that one comedian's sense of humor compared to another was not to one's liking but it was obviously appealing to others. Or perhaps one singer might not appeal to one group of folks but did to others. However, over the course of the voyage one would be hard pressed to say nothing in the way of entertainment was good. For me it was outstanding and exceeded expectations.
Food seems to be a complaint most often heard from reviewers. Again what were the expectations when booking a cruise? My wife and I ate in the dining room 8 times over the 36 days. We ate in the Pinnacle dining room once and the Italian restaurant twice. We ate many meals in the Lido and enjoyed the casual hamburgers/hot dogs around the pool. The dining room service was very good. Not perhaps the same level of service one might experience in an extremely high end restaurant in a major North American or European city but I did not expect that level of service. What I received was terrific.The service was of a high quality in the other restaurants as well. Quality of food is a tough one to review. Again what are the expectations? The dining room and specialty restaurants provided food that was hot, well presented, and tasty. If one is on a long cruise and chose only to eat in the dining room it is possible the experience would prove monotonous, both in service and quality of food. But if one spreads their choice of food and venues each day or every couple of days the Zaandam offered value for money. If I offered any negative critical remark it would be for the Lido.The breakfast options were good and service was as expected for a buffet. Dinner entrees offered diversity but too often I found the food a bit on the cool side. On the other hand the temperature was just right for my wife.
My recommendation when it comes to dining is be realistic about setting expectations. If you have made a great financial deal with an inside cabin and expect the cabin service and accommodation to be similar to a five star hotel you will undoubtedly be disappointed. If you expect the dining room and Lido restaurants to provide quality of food and service as if the servers were private butlers and each food item was prepared exactly as you wanted it you will be annoyed with that expectation not being achieved.
Common areas are great on Zaandam. The library is well stocked. Only complaint would be with passengers who raid the shelves on the first day and take ten books and not return them until the end of their cruise. The Crows nest lounge is a great place to view the world as it slips slowly and quietly along. Other lounge areas are equally nice. Pool areas can be a bit noisy but isn't that what one should expect on a cruise ship?
The Captain was very experienced and possessed a subtle sense of humor. Three cruise directors for three portions of the cruise provided us with different personalities and which one appeals to a person is anyone's best guess. All did their job well.
The South America cruise from Buenos Aires to Vancouver met our expectations for exploring bits of the geography and being exposed to culture of many countries. We spent a few days in Buenos Aires before joining the ship and the city was fantastic. Many things to do and very cosmopolitan. I recommend spending at least a day and preferably more visiting the city before heading off on the Ocean waves.
Montevideo was well worth touring. Due to the brief time in the city I would recommend taking either a planned Holland America cruise or local tour as there is much to see and too little time to see much of anything.
Port Stanley was our first Tender port and the process was quick and easy. Don't plan a tour until you get ashore. The city is easy to walk around and there are many tour operators at dockside who will take you to any place you want to explore. A great little museum worth the visit.
Punta Arenas, Chile and Ushuai Argentina are easy ports to walk around but we found the area limited for casual exploring. We did go out of the cities into the non urban places and loved the country side. Choices are many. The ship's location guide, (Ryan) was a wealth of knowledge and presented information each day on ports of call and was always at his desk. (I think he had a roll out bed in one of the drawers).
Puerto Montt, Chile is another tender port and again the transfer went smoothly, (except for the periodic time when passengers chose to ignore the cruise staff directions because those passengers felt they deserved or where entitled to special considerations). I would recommend the Holland America excursion to Petrohue Falls and lake cruise. Yes, the tour is a bit touristy, but the country side is beautiful and the experience is very relaxing.
Valparaiso, Chile is a city I first visited in 1964. It has changed a lot in the past fifty odd years. I am not sure what to recommend with this port. First, one needs to expect to see poverty throughout South and Central America. It can be unsettling and one needs to be prepared for it. Thus when you reach Valparaiso you will find the city, though rich in history, is also challenged with the conditions of poverty which can make the touring/visiting experience a difficult one. I encourage folks to consider taking a tour for this location. Or if one wants to see a bit of the country those people who went to Santiago, who I spoke with enjoyed the trip.
Coquimbo is a small place and distance from the ship to the city requires a transfer (provided by the ship). My wife and I chose to go to the Elqui Valley and we did not regret it. Beautiful scenery and a great lunch/stop at Vicuna. Yes, it is a tourist tour but there were no other tourists, other than us, so it was not the type of rush and push one often associates with bus tours.
General San Martin is one of those ports that you need to read up on to make a decision as to what you want to do. It is a desert area and not much to see unless you are into deserts. The tours that are offered by Holland America might be the best options for those who wish to go ashore.
Callao/Lima is a longer stop. Most of the passengers I spoke with enjoyed this port. (Callao is a bit seedy and dangerous.and the recommendation to passengers is to not walk around the place). Interestingly, this was the same recommendation given to me and others way back in 1964 when I was in the Navy. How little things change. Some folks did the tour to Machu Pichu and loved it. We visited the area of Pachacamac and found the site quite interesting. You can walk around Lima without a concern.
Salvaerry has many options and is worth trying to get a couple of other passengers to join you to arrange for a private car tour. It provides more flexibility and the cost spllt among four or six people is worth consideration.
Manta, Ecuador is the home of "Panama" hats and buttons. This is another place you might want to check with the location advisor as to how best to tour the location. Puerto Caldero, Costa Rica is very limited with respect to walking around. Consider taking a tour and check with the location guide as to what is available dockside. Depending on the time of year you take the cruise the tour options might be more limited. Holland America offers many tours and perhaps folks who traveled on one of their excursions will write about them. In Puerto Chiapos we took a ship tour and went on the "Chiapas through the ages" tour. Again, for us it was an interesting tour and not too many other tourist were out and about in the town.
Cabo Sans Lucas is well known to North Americans. It is very touristy and easy to walk around. It is a toss up for folks with respect to what to do. All kinds of tour operators are at dockside if one seeks a guided tour to surrounding areas.
San Diego is a wonderful port. You can walk off the ship and take a Hop on Hop Off bus or arrange for guided tours or simply walk around the city.
Victoria is also very easy to walk around. As soon as you walk off the ship you are in a nice neighborhood and it is an easy fifteen walk to the downtown area. There are also buses from dockside to downtown. A beautiful city, easy walking and lots to see and do in such a brief time in port.
Vancouver is, in my mind, a city that cruise folks should research before making their transportation home arrangements. Spending a couple of days in this city is a great way to end their tour. A nice safe city with all kinds of areas to explore.
Weather wise we hit the jack pot. Though the clouds came out in Stanley and the wind blew a bit in the Magellan Straits it never rained the entire time we were away. We were told that the ship was not able to dock at a couple of places we visited on its previous trip due to weather conditions. Also that the rain and clouds etc made some aspects of the South American cruise taken earlier in the season a bit problematic. For us the mid March to late April proved to be the best time for this cruise.
Simply, this was a good introduction to people places and things associated with the "Americas". Just plan your trip with a good understanding of knowing you are and what you want out of a cruise. Oh yes, -- there was quite a range of ages on each portion of the cruise. A bit older for the first part. Mid sixties to late seventies from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, a little younger from Valparaiso to San Diego and a number of younger families from San Diego to Vancouver.
Also, keep in mind that the ship will take your passport when you board so have another piece of photo ID with you for when you go ashore. As well, American dollars are widely accepted so don't worry about currency exchange.
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