CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Holland America Line Zaandam by Ron Saia Alaska March 29, 2003

This was my 34th Cruise and first on a Holland America ship. Aso, my 2nd cruise review on Cruise I had heard and read all the negative things people had to say about a cruise with Holland America. Yes, I was concerned, not so much about the food and service as I was about tye age group, entertainment and other nighttime activities. Let me put all these bad thoughts to bed for all of you reading this review.

This was an Alaska Inside Passage 7 day Cruise on the Zaandam. We arrived at the pier around 1:00pm after an overnight stay in Vancouver. We were greeted by the baggge personnel who promptly took our bags and showed us the way to the embarkatation.Due to the fact we were so early we had a one hour wait until they called for us to be processed. All this took 15 minuets and we were on our way to board the ship. We were greeted by more H/A staff and directed to our cabin ( 6179 ) with a balcony, Veranda deck.This by far was the largest of any cabin we have had even on ships of greater size and tonnage.

The bathroom was large with lots of storage and even had a spa tub.Our cabin had a king size bed and lots of hanger and drawer space for two people.

Most of all I enjoyed the large balcony with the longe chairs and pleanty of room to move around.One of the most disturbing factors we had experienced on other cruise ships was the noise factor. Either the room was creaking and squeaking or you could hear all your neighbors around you. None of this was an issue on this ship, we never heard a sound.

Now the ship. Yes Holland America is not known for all the glitz of the newer ships and that is true on the Zaandam. The ship lacks any brightness to it and this was true in almost all areas of the ship.The main show lounge just had a coldness to it and you never really felt at home in there.The main atrium had some huge carving as the centerpiece that was actually an organ that played several times a day. But no one was impressed.Other ships we have been on had those grand atriums with glass elevators and were majestic in size and statue.But as I said, Holland America is not known for the glitz.

Now about the food and service. We were overly impressed with the food quality in all the areas especailly in the main Rotterdam dining room and the Lido buffet where we had almost all of our meals.In seven days we never had a bad meal at any time, tghe hot food was hot and the cold food was cold.The assortment was great and very well prepared. The breakfast and lunch in the Lido was different and pleasing each day. Yes, you had your standard eggs and bacon but so much more.

One nice touch was a bellman walking the halls ringing a dinner bell each evening announcing the dinner hour.Also, fresh flowers were placed in your room each day. Nice touch Holland America. The highlight of the food was our reservation at the Pinnacle Restaurant. This was a mealmade in heaven. The service was outstanding, and we had three serves taking care of us and from soup to nuts the food was mouthwatering especially the 11oz steak filet that you could cut with a fork.The deserts were fabulous and all this for $20.00 each person extra.Yes that seems expensive and people complained about the cost, but I would pay that without question to experience that dinner again.Please, if you go try it, you will nt be disappointed.

The entertainment was what I expected, not great, the staff tried to perform like Las Vegas show performers but never pulled it off.However, they had a ventriloquist that was a first class act, he brought the house down with his act truly a great show. The rest of the entertainment was just ok. So don't expect much and you will have a great time.

The Casino was small and took our money but there was some big winners. Nice friendly place with a bar next to it where my wife spent most of the time while I was gambling.

The inside passage was wonderful. We had beautiful weather which is really rare so it made the journey that much more enjoyable. We got to see whales, bald eagles and lots of seals and goats and once we spoted a bear on a distance shore line.

The scenery was absolutely breathtaking everywhere you looked. The stops at Juneau, Ketchikan,Skagway and Glacier Bay are absolutely worth seeing. we found the ship tour packages to be pricey,so we took only one, the whale watch and medenhall glacier. Not sure it was worth $250.00 but that was cheap compared to some of the other tours being offered like the helicopter over and on the glacier at $440.00 ea and the dog sled ride at $325.00ea. We went on our own and had a great time.

The weather was beautiful with seven days of sun and mild temperatures, unheard of in Alaska so we lucked out.No way to predict the weather so you hope for the best.The captain took the ship down a small channel on the return trip to Vancouver and that was exciting, you could almost reach out and touch the trees. We arrived back in Vancouver around 7:00am Saturday and everyone was off the ship in a very controlled fashion. We picked up our luggage and jumped in a cab to head for the airport and the trip home. A word of caution, there were 4 ships on the same 7 day agenda so we were at the same same stops at the same time and we all arrived back in Vancouver at around the same time and 6,000 people headed for the airport by bus, cab, car rental limo etc.

The lines at the airport for checkin , customs and security were very long. I suggest taking a later flight in the afternoon some time since the airport was empty by 1:00pm. Of course you will have a long wait for your flight since you will be at the airpot by 10:00am.Maybe take a Vancouver city tour to kill some time this is not expensive.

In conclusion, hats off to Holland America, they know how to pamper and spoil you. I believe this is what Cruise vacations are supposed to be about.

The other cruise lines should take notice in Holland America they seem to have their act together so you will enjoy your vacation and go home feeling you got your monies worth ten time over. I was glad to see that H/A made us feel we were the only ones on board the Zaandam.

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