Zaandam Entertainment & Activities
The Mondriaan Lounge is the venue for production shows, specialty acts and enrichment lectures. We found the one production show presented on my cruise to be startlingly amateurish. The taped sound track was enhanced by live musicians.
Also available is the Microsoft Digital Workshops program, comprised of complimentary classes led by Microsoft-trained "techsperts." Passengers can learn to use computers to enhance photos, produce and publish videos and create personal blogs.
Surprisingly, there were no bridge experts, and bridge players organized their own play.
There is music throughout the ship. A dance trio plays in the Ocean Bar. A pianist plays standards in the Piano Bar. A combo plays easy listening rock in the Crow's Nest. A string quartet plays light pre-dinner classical music in the Atrium, and after dinner in the Explorers' Lounge. (Ballroom dancers, please make note: The dance floors are very small.)
Affinity group meeting times (e.g., Friends of Bill W., Friends of Dorothy) are posted in the daily program. A crafts instructor helps passengers make a project each day at sea.
The cruise staff hosts bingo, trivia quizzes and line dancing. Zaandam offers self-guided tours of the artwork decorating the ship by iPod. There are art auctions conducted by Parke West Galleries. The casino has the usual table games (Texas Hold 'Em, Caribbean stud, blackjack), roulette and slot machines from 1 cent to $1.
Zaandam Public Rooms
Explorations Café and Library is a center of shipboard life. There are numerous stations for computer use. The default page is the New York Times (the room's sponsor), so it is possible to keep up with the world's news online. All the ship's public rooms have hotspots for wireless Internet, so passengers can access the ship's Internet services with their laptops. Explorations also has a coffee/tea bar, where most specialty offerings are under $2, and a large and well stocked library of books and games.
Most public rooms are located on Decks 4 and 5. On Deck 5 from fore to aft are the Mondriaan Lounge (upper level), the Explorers' Lounge and Explorations Cafe and the Rotterdam Dining Room (upper level). On Deck 4 from fore to aft are the Montriaan Lounge (lower level), the Photo Gallery, the Purser's Office, the Wajang Theatre and Culinary Arts Center, and the Pinnacle Grill and the Rotterdam Dining Room (main level). As on other Holland America Line Ships, the kitchens block access to the dining room on Deck 4, so you must go up or down one deck to the rear stairway to reach the main level of the dining room.
The ship's shops are four: a perfume shop, a jewelry shop (with some clothing), a logo shop and a liquor store (with some sundries). There are the usual daily specials: designer watches or inch of gold, for example. The shops could be on just about any other line's ship. (Won't some line please hire a decent buyer?)
Zaandam Spa & Fitness
Among our favorite features of this ship is its wraparound teak promenade deck (Deck 3) with wooden deck chairs (four times around equals one mile). Fitness staff organize a mile walk each morning at sea. (Warning: Don’t book an outside cabin on Deck 2!) For the more active passengers, the ship provides basketball and paddle tennis courts. Traditional shipboard games like shuffleboard and Ping-Pong are also available.
There are two outdoor swimming pools (one with a retractable magrodome for inclement weather) and two hot tubs. Fitness trainers offer yoga, aerobics, spinning and Pilates (some for a fee). An ample number of plastic sun loungers surround the pools. (Pool towels are supplied poolside).
The gym (Deck 8) has a splendid location overlooking the bow. It is very well equipped with exercise cycles, spinning cycles, ski machines, treadmills, weight training machines and free weights. The machines are all of the Cybex brand. There is a mat area for free-standing exercising.
The Greenhouse Spa (Deck 8), run by Steiner, the London salon and spa people, is accessible to passengers who have booked treatments. Located within the spa, the Greenhouse Retreat consists of a grotto of wet and dry heated spaces with mists, sauna and steam room with ceramic loungers, a heated salt water pool with added salts and a hydrotherapy pool with water jets. Entry is via day or weekly pass.
Elemis health and beauty treatments include a variety of facials, wraps, manicures, pedicures and massages; if you plan to partake of more than one or two, ask about packages, which can save you a bit. Also, typically the biggest discounts for treatments occur during port days, so booking when in port is another way to save. Speaking of saving money, do beware that Steiner staffers are required to offer health and beauty products for sale. You are not required to buy -- and if the therapist is too pushy, you should file a complaint.
The minimum age for using the spa is 18, but some services (pedicures, for example) are available to younger passengers who are at least 13 and accompanied by an adult. There are also hair salon services for women and men.
Zaandam For Kids
Because our cruise was over a holiday, there were quite a few children and teenagers onboard. Children and teens have separate public rooms on Deck 9. Club HAL Kids is for children ages 3 - 7 and Club HAL Tweens is for kids ages 8 – 12. The Loft is for teenagers ages 13 - 17. Signs limit access to these areas of the ship to the appropriately aged passengers.
Club HAL activities are scheduled at sea from 9 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 5 p.m. Activities resume at 8 p.m. and last until 10. From 10 p.m. to midnight there is group babysitting for $5 per child, per hour. (Personal babysitting may be available at a mutually negotiated rate after midnight.)
To participate in Club HAL children must be potty trained. Younger children must be signed in and out of the program by their parents; older children and teens may come and go as they please. The teen program is not as organized as the program for younger children, which is broken up into half-hour activities. The teen area is more for "hanging out" and self entertaining with video games, karaoke, videos and music. In the evening there is a party for teens in the Loft. When in port, the ship's company provides all-day activities for children, including lunch. On sea days children are expected to lunch and dine with their parents.
On Deck 10 there is outdoor space for children, a veritable fort with wooden palisades for climbing and defending. On our cruise, the children's and teen areas were well patronized, and there was adequate supervision of activities. When we visited, we were accompanied the whole time we were in the Club HAL space, a good sign that children are protected.