Based on the hull of the flagship Rotterdam and identical in layout to her sister Volendam the MS Zaandam nevertheless manages to exude an identity that is all her own. With an overall interior theme of music, elegant interior finishes and a wonderful collection of antiques, collectibles and art, the ship further enhances Holland America's reputation for providing their passengers with a first rate cruise product. Holland America knows it's clientele well and although the Zaandam is a brand new ship, it fits repeating passengers like a comfortable old shoe.
The Zaandam is the 3rd of a quartet of ships all based on the same hull. The Rotterdam and soon to be introduced Amsterdam are designed for longer cruises with more full suites and fewer mini-suites, more power and a higher cruising speed. With a hull that is designed for ocean voyages the Zaandam has excellent sea-keeping qualities with a smooth and vibration free ride. The Volendam and the Zaandam are both designed for shorter cruises and provide more mini-suites, fewer full suites and only one penthouse suite. Passenger capacity is 1440 with two in a room. On our sailing the ship sailed with 1580 reflecting the large number of families on board. The ship did seem a bit crowded at this capacity. At times the lido pool was jammed and the crew working there was hard pressed to keep things tidy and neat.
The four ships are remarkably alike and comprise a significant improvement over the earlier "S" class ships, Statendam, Ryndam, Maasdam and the Veendam. These improvements include a center stair and elevator tower, increased public spaces and an improved interior layout. The Zaandam and Volendam are unique in that the stern outside pool, the Lido Terrace casual buffet and the Lido pool are all on the same deck, making navigation from forward to aft a very easy affair. Lifting the stern pool up one deck allowed additional mini-suites to be situated below while making the stern pool all the more accessible. The pools are both fresh water and can be heated or cooled as needed. The Lido pool is covered by a moveable, Magrodome roof allowing it to be used whatever the weather may be. Over all there is much to like in the Zaandam.
The best description for the interior is upbeat elegant. The Zaandam exudes a warm feeling that comes from the brighter colors used in her fabrics, carpeting and furnishings. From the Mondriaan Lounge with a bright red and silver stage curtains, gold seats with burnt orange and purple seating surfaces and red carpeting, to the Waiang Theater with bright yellow seating, purple carpet and aqua blue wall finishes the Zaandam is considerably more awash in color than HAL's other ships. And yet nothing seems to glare at you and everything speaks of quality and thoughtful design. Many areas of the ship bring a country club atmosphere to mind. Notable areas include the Seaview lounge, the Ocean Bar and the Crows Nest.
The Seaview lounge is located adjacent to the piano bar with a piano on a rotating platform separating the two areas. The Seaview provides comfortable nooks and crannies to sit back and enjoy the music. It is wonderful spot to enjoy an after dinner drink and have a dance. The music played is contemporary and classic hits of the 40's through the 80's.
The Crows Nest is also nicely designed room located high on deck 9 forward, overlooking the bow. A great place to enjoy the 270-degree view during the day and enjoy nighttime music and dancing. The lounge converts to a disco later in the evening. It is has three distinct areas. Forward it is set up as a typical lounge with a central bar, with seating and tables, along with a dance floor. On the port side warm woods, leather wrapped chairs, a blue ceiling with mirror panels reflecting a yellow carpet seem appropriate for an English gentleman's club. The starboard side is done with a parquet wooden floor, light mint green chairs and a coffered curved ceiling with Murano glass panels that has the feel of a winter garden, perfect for light conversation over a cup of tea.
The Ocean Bar is done in warm colors of fuschia, with seats of dark pink, mustard yellow and deep blue suede wall coverings. Uniquely designed lamps of Murano glass, brass, uniquely shaped burnt orange lampshades and a dance floor of marble and wood finish the decor. A light jazz ensemble provides dance music during the evening.
The atrium area is dominated by an oversized organ that plays music. The organ has animated figures that also play in time with the music and provide some additional interest. However, the organ, which extends through the three floors of the atrium is so oversized that views between decks or across the atrium are almost totally obstructed. The open feeling that an atrium should afford is totally lost. The organ does make for a striking backdrop for photographs. As with the other ships of the HAL fleet that have them, the atrium is really a crossroads and not the people-watching place found on other cruise lines. People do not linger here.
The Lido Terrace is the casual buffet dining area, with twin buffet lines. The buffets offer a wide variety of foods for lunch and casual dinner and set a high standard. The breakfast menu pretty much stays the same from day to day. Highlights include a special station for breakfast omelets and another where different ethnic foods are served each day. These can include overstuffed sandwiches to stir-fry. Highly anticipated each day is the make it yourself ice cream sundae station. Various flavors of ice cream and soft serve frozen yogurt are made available along with all of the toppings one needs to make a delightful concoction. Tables were cleared and cleaned quickly and the entire area is kept spotlessly clean. One minor oversight is that while fresh refills of coffee are offered by roving waiters, hot tea is not, making it necessary to visit the drink station for refills. Since our ship sailed absolutely full the Lido Terrace was crowded at times and sometimes finding an empty table was a problem.
The other casual dining venue is the Terrace Grill, which is located forward of the Lido pool. The Terrace Grill offers hamburgers, hot dogs and fixings for making tacos. Also served here are fresh pizza that was really very good and a definite improvement over that sampled on other HAL ships. Each day two different pizzas were offered. The Terrace Grill was the place for the kids to get their daily nourishment and was well used whenever open.
The Rotterdam Dining Room is the main dining room. There are windows on three sides of the dining room offering great sea views. It is a two-story room and is decorated in a baroque style. Open ironwork chandeliers hang over the open center section, suspended from a ceiling sparkling with tiny lights that twinkle. The primary color of the room is a light gray, complemented with splashes of color, gold accents, glass and brass. Tables are set with Rosenthal china and crystal. The room is very appealing and a delightful place to have dinner.
The Zaandam also has a specialty dining room called the Marco Polo. Reservations are required to eat here, but the effort to get them is well worth it. Make your reservation early in your cruise or you may be shut out! Passengers booked into the suites are given first preference for reservations. This alone is almost enough justification to get a suite! The restaurant has it's own galley, chefs and dining room staff. The decor is that of a sophisticated Italian restaurant with beautiful paintings, dark woods and tables for 2 to 10 people. The menu here is fixed for the week but daily additions are made. The food here is wonderfully presented and equally tasty.
Other features of the Zaandam include the Ocean Spa Gymnasium with a full array of exercise machines and an aerobics area. Typical spa offerings such as facials, beauty treatments and full body massages are offered. There is a jogging track, paddle tennis and volleyball courts on Sports deck. Near the stern of Sports deck is the Skyroom, which is used for kids activities. This room was a beehive of activity during our summer cruise. Walk around the promenade 3.5 times and you have covered a mile. The Waiang Theater offers nearly first-run movies at various times of the day and hot popcorn is offered. A full casino includes slots, craps, roulette and blackjack. There is a library with leather-covered writing desks and plenty of comfortable reading chairs. Two meeting rooms, Half Moon and Hudson Room are available for private parties, card playing and doing puzzles. An Internet cafe provides those needing connection to the outside world a way to do so. The cost is 75 cents per minute of connection time. The Java Cafe offers a variety of coffees and cappuccino.
Our cabin was a standard outside and at almost 200 square feet it was roomy and comfortable. It had plenty of storage space and closets. The bathroom included a tub/shower. Inside cabins are only slightly smaller at 188 square feet and the bathroom has a shower only. Mini suites are 288 square feet including a verandah and offer such niceties as a whirlpool tub, VCR and mini-fridge. Full suites are 576 square feet plus a verandah and include a king size bed, a marble bathroom with changing area and walk-in closet. Stationary with guests name imprinted on it; free laundry, pressing and dry cleaning and other services are also included with full suites and the single Penthouse suite.
Holland America adds certain signature touches that have become a tradition with the line and serve to differentiate it from everyone else. Being called to dinner by dinner chimes. Hot pre-dinner Hors d'oeuvres served in the lounges. Lemonade and iced tea served on the outside decks (including Promenade deck) in the morning and afternoon. Extensive use of fresh flowers (over $5,000 per week is spent on fresh flowers alone) and the extensive collection of antiques and reproductions all enhance the cruise experience.
The other thing that makes sailing with Holland America a wonderful experience is their equally wonderful Indonesian and Philippine service crew. These hard working people always greet you with a smile and a warm welcome. While communications can sometimes be a bit of a problem, a smile, some patience and a willingness to please soon overcome this issue. Soon you find yourself being greeted by name, your cabin number remembered and your drink preference being offered. Be sure not to miss the crew show that is offered once each cruise. This show is produced and presented by the crew, who practice on their limited spare time, and what is lacking in professionalism is more than made up by their charm and naivete.
Entertainment is typical and includes review type extravaganzas and individual performers such as comedians, jugglers and puppeteers. The shows seen were professionally presented and were well received by those attending. A wide variety of daily activities are also offered and announcements are thankfully limited to only a few brief messages each day. The ever-present bingo games and art auctions can also be found and there are three shops for those interested in shopping while on board.