2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We were keen to visit Antarctica but did not cherish the idea of being tossed around in the Drake passage aboard a small vessel. We therefore chose HAL Zaandam although it did mean no setting foot on Antarctica. It was the best decision ... Read More
We were keen to visit Antarctica but did not cherish the idea of being tossed around in the Drake passage aboard a small vessel. We therefore chose HAL Zaandam although it did mean no setting foot on Antarctica. It was the best decision that we made and right from the word go, the cruise was just great. The sights, especially during the 4 days in Antarctica were unforgettable. Living on board for 22 days was every bit comfortable with great food, service and stateroom no 3365. Talks by expedition team leaders were highly informative. Other entertainment activities were also good but perhaps not great.. Getting off the ship for shore excursions was very well managed with no one getting rushed even at the tender ports. Disembarkation and luggage handling was efficient. Only somewhat unsatisfactory experience was the late embarkation process at Buenos Aires. The HAL transfer person simply left us at the kerb outside the port building. We had to ask around for directions to get to the ship, carrying our bags and it was some distance away. Overall, it was a memorable holiday trip Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
This was my 20th cruise on HAL, third to Antarctica, and one on which I attained 4-star Mariner status, so I was looking forward to a wonderful celebration of all the quality and excellence which introduced me to HAL 20 years ago. ... Read More
This was my 20th cruise on HAL, third to Antarctica, and one on which I attained 4-star Mariner status, so I was looking forward to a wonderful celebration of all the quality and excellence which introduced me to HAL 20 years ago. Instead, I found a cruise whose guests included too high a proportion of those for whom etiquette was never a strong point, an indifferent cruise director and front staff, a captain conspicuous by his absence, and a ship whose dining room and Crow's Nest were an ice box (16 degrees Celsius). That the weather was foul for all but eight days did not help, and I feel truly sorry for the dining room and cabin stewards who now have to service four times as many guests, per staff member, as they did 20 years ago. How they manage to remain polite and cheerful under such strenuous conditions is beyond me. They deserve every dollar in gratuities that they receive, yet still many, especially those from countries in which tipping is not expected, remove tips from their onboard accounts. In addition, there were many customers who selfishly cut in lines in the Lido, when obtaining tender tickets, and boarding. At times it felt like we were with football hooligans, which management did nothing to control. I have been taking this specific cruise now every five years, just to research for myself the ice depths in Antarctica as the itinerary is always the same, and it is interesting to compare what I observe with my own eyes to what other groups claim with regard to whether or not there is evidence of global warming. On this occasion, within Antarctica, the weather was worse than ideal, however, the Captain chose not to go even visit the Lemaire Channel (he announced he had spoken to other ships who said it was icy), and blamed ice for his decision not to sail behind Couverville Island, even though a Silversea boat traversed the channel, and which a different Captain on Zaandam had done five years ago. As with most experienced cruisers, I rarely buy the HAL excursions because they are often two to three times the price of locally arranged tours, they see less, they have a mandatory shopping opportunity, and they cater to the slowest traveler. I have repeatedly suggested in my after-cruise questionnaire that HAL provide at least one full day, strenuous excursion for active customers, but to no avail. I arranged exceptional local tours in Castro, Puerto Chacabuco and Montevideo, and because I had been to BA and Santiago twice before, arranged my own walking tours there. At 3 mph, you can see almost everything of historical interest in both cities in a day. With this itinerary, you have to be aware that the weather is usually bad, and so scenic cruising, which is the most unbelievable when the sun shines, can turn a tour called Symphony of Lakes and Volcanoes into a symphony of wind and rain, with absolutely nothing to see. But with that in mind, the ship should be a welcoming refuge where you can heat up and dry off. As the self-service laundries have been removed, there is now no way to dry wet clothes. And because I had experienced an ice box on the Prinzendam to Norway in June, I brought a thermometer with me on this trip, and on occasion, the main dining room and Crows Nest were at an Arctic 16 degrees Celsius (61F). Initially the Maitre d denied it, refusing to look at my thermometer, then when I requested an appointment with the chief engineer, was told that there was a problem with the heating. By half way through the cruise, the number of people with hacking coughs was significant. Tendering was disappointing. At Falklands, because I not on a HAL tour, I was unable to get off the ship until two hours after the first tender departed (tender tickets were required and 800 guests were on HAL tours). And with all aboard always being half an hour before Stated departure time, an eight hour docking can turn into only five hours being available on shore. I am convinced that HALs goal is to get to international waters ASAP so they can open the casino. Given that the ship can sail at 23kts, but most of the time, cruised at 13 - 15kts, it was totally unnecessary to leave any of the ports as early as we did, and on a 22 day cruise with only eight opportunities to disembark, this is a serious error of planning. Etiquette was lacking everywhere. People cutting in line for tender tickets, cutting in line in the Lido, and surprisingly, given that the ship departs at the same time for everyone, pushing and shoving to get up the gangway ahead of the next person. A number of us took matters into our own hands on occasion telling people to get back, but no one from HAL would do so. The worst was in the Main Stage, where it seems that certain groups believe it is OK to talk loudly while performers are on stage, destroying the ambience for polite guests. Despite being requested to do so as part of his nightly welcome to guests, Bruce (cruise director) refused to ask attendees to refrain from talking during the show. As a real disappointment, my son had his jacket stolen from the lounge. HAL markets this trip as an expedition and employs an expedition team, which on my previous two trips have been genuine experts in their fields willing to impart knowledge to guests no matter what their political leanings or level of understanding. They would also provide running commentary during the scenic cruising about WHAT we were seeing and HOW it got there. However, on this one, with the exception of Bryan, who was fantastic, all they could do was point out snow, icebergs, and many whales, AFTER guests on the bow had seen them first! The leader, Scott, spent much of his lecture time making anti-Trump jibes, and refusing to engage in an actual discussion about causes and solutions. The two best staff members on this cruise (besides the delightful cabin stewards and waiters), were the Assistant Cruise Director, Sandra, and the EXC Guide Kevin, an Argentinian who was knowledgeable and pleasant, and who provided a very in-depth and factual, unbiased view of the UK/Argentinian dispute over the Falklands. As usual, up-selling by staff continues to intrude. It really is annoying when one is wearing headphones in the Crow's Nest to be tapped on the shoulder by a staff member asking if I want to make a reservation in the Canalletto. And taking away the two self-service laundries is a real slap in the face when you are on a three week cruise with a need to pack for both warm and cold clothes. While HAL may think that converting a laundry to a cabin garners $2,000 more per week in room fees, you can never calculate with certainty how many guests stop cruising with HAL because this amenity is no longer provided. And given that the ship had 100 empty cabins, what good did it do to take away the laundry? After 20 years of cruising with HAL, unless they return to the elegant days - by setting expectations such as a REQUIRED dress code in the main dining room, and enforcing silence in the Main Stage - I will probably be trying something different. A real shame, because I achieved 4-star status on this cruise, and have had many happy memories. 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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
The cruise exceeded my expectations in every way. The high point was the 4 days in the Antarctic. I will never forget the joy of watching an iceberg float by with penguins on it - with one every once in a while waving to you, or so it ... Read More
The cruise exceeded my expectations in every way. The high point was the 4 days in the Antarctic. I will never forget the joy of watching an iceberg float by with penguins on it - with one every once in a while waving to you, or so it appears. Than you watch some of them dive off and go porpoising across the waters. Later on, an iceberg goes by and they are jumping on. A little further an iceberg goes by with a solitary penguin on it. Your camera is your best friend at this point to help capture this unbelievable spectacle and all the Antarctic beauty ever present around you. And as if that wasn't enough there were the frequent whale spouts, some so close you could hear them, followed by their majestic arch and gigantic tail appearing as they take a deep dive. Than there was, for me, the beauty of the many variety of antarctic birds that followed the ship. One, the wandering albatross has the largest wing span of any bird, up to 10 feet (over 3 meters). The ever changing sea state, ocean color and sun angle made each soaring maneuver another art piece I had to capture. And haven't even mentioned the icebergs - a prime attraction to say the least. As for the ship, it has been maintained in excellent shape. You couldn't ask for a better crew. Very friendly and as one who can testify to their around the clock effort to keep the ship clean, I was often up at all hours to photograph the sun set at midnight or a sun rise at 3:00 AM. My wife and I had a balcony suite, room 7038, port side on deck 7. Perfect in location and size. We had no problem with motion sickness for the moderate sea states we were in. As I have learned from previous cruses, food can be a problematic. If something is too good, I have a hard time passing it up. I would give the food on this cruise a Goldilocks rating - just right. Except perhaps their soups, which I had to try every night, they were so good. The entertainment was all very well done, particularly the dance routines. My wife and I enjoyed dancing to The Ocean Quartet, whenever the sea state permitted. A cruise setting I will always remember is listening to the Adagio violinist and pianist play. Their music made you slow down and take in the moment. I am so thankful they had a CD, Duo Dolce, of their music for sale in the ship's store. Holland American also has to be given a lot of credit for the holiday decoration they had throughout the Zaandam. I knew it was going to be good when I saw 4 pallets of fresh poinsettias waiting to be loaded at San Antonio. Two shore excisions that were exceptional and you should not miss are, first the Volunteer Point King Penguin Rookery when dock at Stanley/Falkland Is/Islas Malvinas. We opted for the ship's excursion package here as this port requires a rather long tender, about 30 minutes, and a jeep ride to Volunteer Point is such you need to get on the first tenders. The Land Rover ride was half the enjoyment and truly a great King penguin experience. The second excursion was a city and tango show in Buenos Aires. We used LIZ ANDREA (liz2arg@yahoo.com. We were a small group and that gives you more flexibility. Liz is a native of the city so she really knows its story and tells it very well. Great command of English and she has very engaging dialog. Not like some recording or scripted speech. Her stories at the cemetery show she is very knowledgeable and passionate about the history like no other. She arranged a Tango show for us that was top notch. What a perfect way to end our cruise. We also used her for our trip to the airport and for a tour day ending at the airport for our flight out that evening. Very responsible guide and driver. You couldn't do better. Would I do it again - in a heart beat. Would I recommend it to a friend - already have. Truly a once in a life time experience for us. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
This was a long planned bucket list trip to see South America and especially Patagonia. The on-board service was absolutely excellent with HAL's customary exemplary service in the bar, restaurants and cabin, and with the sea going and ... Read More
This was a long planned bucket list trip to see South America and especially Patagonia. The on-board service was absolutely excellent with HAL's customary exemplary service in the bar, restaurants and cabin, and with the sea going and port tender management. Although we were in gale or storm force winds for much of the open water sections of the voyage trip, the Zaandam is extremely sea kindly and the motion was never uncomfortable. We splurged on a Neptune Cabin and concierge service which was well worth the premium with just nothing to fault it. The Zaandam is a newer R class ship and although similar to the older S Class Ryndam, Veendam and Maasdam upon which we have made previous cruises, is generally much "sharper" and more salubrious. Unfortunately however the Carnival "cheapscate" ownership of HAL once again reared its ugly presence, as previously for us with an Alaska trip which included an on-shore hotel component, with a truly dreadful hotel - this time after a bait and switch where a reasonable four star hotel originally scheduled for our trip at time of booking was substituted by HAL with a truly lousy three star - in Buenos Aires. To add insult to injury my wife's designer sunglasses and costume jewelry were stolen from our room when we were taking our bags downstairs for delivery to the ship (an action necessitated by the failure of the hotel to do this job). These are my general comments; insofar as the specifics of this cruise are concerned, the following provide some summary thoughts: In addition to the lousy hotel, the BA trip was marred by the prevalence of "Argentine Time" - 45 minutes to more than an hour at least late for everything - and generally sloppy management in BA. The best part was the Delta Cruise and Tango dinner which would probably have been excellent if we had started on time. As it was we were so late that the cruise through the delta islands was in pitch darkness. Montevideo was also marred by an inadequate guide and bus service, although others on board who did not use the HAL tour enjoyed it. After a rough two days at sea the on shore components started getting much better with the stop at the Falklands - a really well managed tender experience. The shorter penguin tours - they are adorable - was more than sufficient and the quaint town and environment were most interesting. Punta Arenas was our first stop in Chile, when the different attitude between the Chileans and Argentinians became obvious, and not just because the clocks worked! We had an emergency tender operation at Punta Arenas due to a dock conflict that the ships crew managed really well. The cruising through the Magellan Straits and Beagle Passage were delightful with awesome scenery before our next stop to Ushuaia and a visit to the southermost tip of South America. After more gorgeous Patagonia cruising we had a brilliantly managed rounding of The Horn before more Fjords and a delightful stop at Puerto Montt, where the German restauranteur and market trip was brilliant. Disembarkation at San Antonio was excellent, after which we made our own, very successful independent arrangements for driver, Santiago tour and hotel - a lesson learned! Overall, an excellent cruise which, as with our Alaska trip some years ago, started out really badly by HAL's failure to provide an on-shore experience that is anywhere remotely comparable to their on ship board experience, but ended real well. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Our ninth cruise with HAL. It's likely going to be our last with the awful experience we're having on this cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago. Currently enroute from Stanley, Falkland Islands and the problems just keep piling ... Read More
Our ninth cruise with HAL. It's likely going to be our last with the awful experience we're having on this cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago. Currently enroute from Stanley, Falkland Islands and the problems just keep piling up. As we're in an upper-end cabin, we had the "Signature Experience" which included two nights in a Buenos Aires hotel, an "event", and appropriate transfers. At virtually the last minute we were moved from a 5-star hotel to a hotel only open two weeks in a less-than-desirable area of Recoleta (downtown). This hotel was filled with problems - apparently HAL saved a few bucks in the process however. When we arrived at the ship we had (for the first time on any cruise) our passports confiscated by HAL staff! We were given a printed card as a receipt for the passports - which had a signature line NO ONE would sign! We've asked repeatedly on board for HAL to explain this unusual situation, but no one in management will return our calls. This ship is 20 years old. And perhaps not much longer for HAL's inventory, as they are now ignoring maintenance items that would seem to be routine. Examples: *. Heat/cooling in our cabin is generally non-functional •. Overnight today our thermostat even quit working •. Sun curtains in the dining rooms (on the back windows) are "stuck" in a midway position (our waiter said they haven't worked in months) •. Hallway carpets are worn and dirty as are the deck areas around the Lido pools Internet service is unusable despite the high cost and claims that the service supports "video and audio streaming". This is a bald-faced lie - it rarely is even able to send email! Service on this ship is provided by Speedcast.com, who are well aware of the problems and blame HAL for "overselling" the system. We have been continually annoyed with the aggressive solicitations by crew members for dubious up-sells and "special events". They bothered us during dinner with these phony wine tastings, and then started calling our room just before dinner and offering the Pinnacle Grill or Cannalato Restaurant "experience" for $5 less than the published (upgrade) price! I've asked the office repeatedly to put us on the "Do Not Call" list without any positive results. HAL is engaged in other, airline-type "upgrades" to what used to be an all-inclusive experience. The breakfast room service menu has few choices now but several pricey "Upgrades" available. So does the dining room menu. We are offended by these changes. Dining room food has been its usual high-quality, with friendly and competent waiters. However service has been slow with long waits between the starters and main course common. We were also surprised to see primary-school-aged children on this cruise. HAL staff refuses to intervene with the parents of some of the more troublesome in the group. Much of the rest of the crew seems sullen and disinterested. This is especially true with the servers in the Lido deck food areas. Food service and quality there has been lackadaisical to say the least. However by far the biggest shamozzle was the issuance of "tender ticket" reservations. You'd think that HAL had never done this before. At 7:30am almost 100 people were already in a queue down the hallway for an 8am ticket call. These tickets are meant for people who have firm (non HAL) day trip bookings so they can go ashore as early as possible. But it has turned into a free-for-all, with non-English speaking passengers in particular not understanding the process and no one from HAL available to speak to them in Chinese. When the ticket issuance started, the Chinese passengers were being given individually 2, 4, up to 8 tickets on the earliest tender transfers despite these people neither NEEDING the early transfers nor everyone standing in line like the rest of us. The day of the tender to Stanley, these same passengers were giving the additional cards away to others without cards, or holding much later tender times. HAL staff ignored the complaints by the other passengers who were prepared to follow the system, such as it is. In Ushuaia, at the last minute we were forced to tender due to some problem with the pier. This meant an even bigger free-for-all trying to get tender tickets. This showed how ill-prepared the crew is for any unplanned change. With a short port call at Ushuaia scheduled (Noon to 7PM), this left large numbers of passengers with shortened or missed tours - extremely unfortunate as Ushuaia is an especially scenic location. The last passengers who wanted to go ashore got there over four hours later than planned, with only 3 hours left for touring. HAL would not extend the onboard time (even though we had daylight until after 10pm). When any cruise line actively markets to newer cruise markets like China and don't do anything to educate these new cruisers on the experience, it does a disservice to all the passengers. HAL management admitted that they had no Chinese-speakers on their staff. We had a large number of Chinese who were doing things that were out of the ordinary - for example filling up plastic bags with food from the Lido. Bad food handling practices in particular are often the cause of norovirus on these ships. HAL staff just shrugged when they saw these things occurring. Haven't these passengers been told they can use room service 24/7? We did enjoy the cooking demonstrations on most days, and many of the musicians on board seemed very talented. We aren't much for the late night shows so didn't attend them. We used the spa area for massages and the staff in these areas is always competent and friendly. As the cruise progresses pricing goes down - we always wait for the inevitable "sale" flyer. 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7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
Overall the first week' s weather was poor, rainy, misty and windy although the temperature was about what we expected ie cool, at times even cold. The ship was pleasant enough, with good food and cleanliness and excellent service. ... Read More
Overall the first week' s weather was poor, rainy, misty and windy although the temperature was about what we expected ie cool, at times even cold. The ship was pleasant enough, with good food and cleanliness and excellent service. However, being used to UK cruise lines such as Fred Olsen and P&O we found the on board activities sadly lacking. Many of the activities seemed to be designed to make you spend money ie art auctions, jewellery talks, shoe insert sales, a huge casino- all of which we've had on UK ships, but the latter also had social activities such as choirs, art classes, crafts, creative writing, even ukelele lessons. The regular day time activities were cookery demonstrations, sponsored by an American TV show, Windows lessons, sponsored by Microsoft, and one lecturer talking about geology which although interesting would have been more relevent if it had included more about the history and wildlife of the places visited. Evening entertainment was mixed, but the outstanding contributions were made by the on board tango dancers who were the best dancers we've seen in twenty cruises. Kevin who gave the port talks and a history of the Falklands War was also top rate. Excursions were extremely expensive. We only bought the tour of Buenos Aires and the transfer to the airport as we had no choice. This however meant that we had to sit in the airport for over ten hours waiting for our flight back to the UK. Mostly we bought tours dockside, all of which worked out much cheaper and as good considering the frequent poor weather which hid the views. Outstanding was Rex Eagle's minibus tour on the Falklands, an easy going informative trip on our one glorious day to see penguins and much more, and all at a fraction of the ship's price. Some towns such Puerto Chacabuco and Montevideo were a serious disappointment, but Cape Horn itself seen at dawn in appropriately rough weather was strangely moving. Go if you want something different, and to visit the Falklands, but bear in mind that the Fiords, which are really island channels, are not nearly as picturesque as those of Norway, and much more difficult to get to. Gala evenings are also not up to the standard we've had on UK ships, often with little dressing up and formality,or the free cocktail parties at least twice a cruise. The captain's welcome was brief, coming only with a glass of fizz. However the captain did a sterling job getting us ashore, often by tender, in often extremely windy conditions. Overall, a cruise with ups and down, literally, but this is of course, my personal view. Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
INTRO This is a long report, because the voyage around Cape Horn includes so many different ports, environments, scenery and weather that it is impossible to describe it in just a few paragraphs: there is just so much to see, ... Read More
INTRO This is a long report, because the voyage around Cape Horn includes so many different ports, environments, scenery and weather that it is impossible to describe it in just a few paragraphs: there is just so much to see, experience, and enjoy. In all, we sailed a total of 4385 miles from San Antonio to Buenos Aires. OUR ITINERARY Our main objectives for this trip were to visit Ushuaia, Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands, so everything else we saw was a bonus – and what a bonus! This was a cruise par excellence and it delivered so many new vistas, day after day. ARRIVAL IN SANTIAGO After the seemingly endless lines of shuffling passengers at Santiago airport, we were finally able to connect with the excellent Sebastian, who organised our baggage, and then directed us to a minibus that transferred us to the Sheraton Hotel in San Antonio. TIP: at the Sheraton we sampled the local brew called Catafelte (named after a berry that resembles a blueberry) we can definitely recommend it. EMBARKATION Coaches transferred us to the port of San Antonio. Embarkation was very smooth and very well co-ordinated. As we were embarking, passengers from the previous cruise (westwards) were disembarking, but the HAL staff kept everything under control. TIP: this is a busy container port, so you have to wait after check-in until another coach can ferry you safely to the ship. After you check-in with Guest Services, your passport will be held on board the ship by HAL staff, and you will receive a Passport Reclaim slip that you can use to reclaim it when you reach the Falklands. Being separated from your passport is a bit unnerving, but rest assured your passport is safe. TIP: when you reclaim your passport from Guest Services, you will find it contains an Exit stamp for Chile, an Entry stamp for Argentina, and a 7-day Visitor Permit stamp for the Falklands! Note: we are not sure how this routine works when you sail in the opposite direction. THE SHIP The Zaandam seems to be the ideal sized cruise ship. Nothing is very far from anything else, and as you might expect, she is very clean and tidy above decks and below. We found the ship layout very easy to navigate, and really appreciated the unobstructed Promenade Deck (3 times around = 1.6 km). She is one of the smaller HAL ships, but never seems crowded (in our opinion). DÉCOR We found the décor on the Zaandam to be very interesting, with a strong emphasis on music (displays of musical instruments). There are a few good paintings of ships in the stairwells, and some amazing 3-D trompe l’oeil pictures at the entry to the Main Dining Room (MDR). The public rooms are bright and colourfully decorated. TIP: the Main Stage theatre is small and the sightlines are not always good from the balcony seats on deck 5 (except for those seated in the middle section). The seating is comfortable and the acoustics are great. THE CREW The crew of the Zaandam always manage to be upbeat and are very pleasant company. They are busy, but always seem able to find a few minutes to share a joke or a comment, and their hard work makes life as pleasant as possible for the passengers, so we want them to know how much we appreciate their efforts. Our cabin stewards (Putu and Made) were excellent. They kept our cabin neat and tidy and were always cheerful and friendly. FOOD We found no reasons to complain about the food in any of the restaurants onboard the Zaandam. The Lido Market serves a range of interesting dishes from all over the world including Asia and Italy. It tends to get a bit hectic at times, especially when people are lining up to get served at the buffet stations. We usually ate dinner in the Main Dining Room and never regretted any of our menu choices. The menu is always very inventive, and every day it lists some dishes that you might call standards for the less-adventurous diners (for example, salmon and strip-loin steak). We like to take one dinner in the Canaletto restaurant, and we were encouraged one lunch time to try the Italian Cellar Master’s Dinner. This event takes place only once per voyage, and it was scheduled for the evening that we set sail from Punta Arenas. For the princely sum of $49 per person, we enjoyed an outstanding 4-course dinner, where each course is paired with an appropriate wine! We don’t think you could buy 4 glasses of wine for that amount! Our first course was a Lobster and Shrimp salad, paired with Prosseco. After that we moved on to a Mushroom Risotto paired with Chianti. Next came a Chateaubriand (meltingly tender) paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon, and if you can manage to find space for dessert, you can enjoy a Mascarpone and Pistachio plate paired with Limoncello! Each dish is beautifully prepared and presented by the delightful Canaletto Team – catch it if you can! TIP: a quiet word with the maitre d’ can get you a table with delightful dinner companions – we were lucky every evening. MARINERS’ LUNCH This is a special event for members of the HAL Mariners Club (aka, repeat customers). The food was excellent (it’s a set menu) and you get an opportunity to meet the Captain and the Cruise Director in person. Mariners also receive a small Delft tile featuring the ship, as we have at other Mariner Lunches. ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT In the Main Stage we were entertained by a comedian (Martin Beaumont) and a Chilean flautist called Viviana. Song and dance shows featured on two nights, and these were very good indeed – we appreciated them because they added to the variety. There were no aerialists/acrobatics on this cruise, perhaps because of the many sea days or the stage wasn’t large enough to accommodate them. Crew members from the Philippines gave a very good cultural show one evening. Although it started at 11:00 p.m. (after their days work!), the show was very well attended. Guest speaker Al Trujillo presented entertaining lectures on oceanography and related topics, and Kevin from the EXC Tours group presented well well-researched talks on each of our destinations and the excursions on offer. America’s Test Kitchen, trivia and other games were available. The covered pool area and the pool water were warm and could be used every day. FELLOW PASSENGERS A much younger demographic (our opinion) than those we have met on other HAL voyages. The number of passengers using walking frames, wheelchairs, scooters, or sticks was minimal. Most passengers seemed to be experienced cruisers, and were prepared for the roughest seas at the bottom of the world (although some confessed to this being their first cruise!). There were large groups of travellers from France and Germany, a few Australians and New Zealanders, some Americans, but the largest group seemed to be from Britain. As most of the Europeans chose later dining times, there was no problem getting seats for early dining. SMOKING Smoking is restricted to the starboard side of the Lido deck aft (deck 8), allowing most of us to avoid the deadly cancer fumes. However, on certain days smokers are still allowed to poison themselves (and others) in the casino. We could detect the smell of smoke in the MIX bar, in the shops area, in the Ocean bar, and in the Atrium. We can always find a detour to avoid the fumes, but staff who work in these areas don’t have that option. Come on HAL, prohibit smoking throughout the inside areas! CLOTHING TIPS You need to carefully consider your clothing choices for this trip, because you will be sailing from a sub-tropical zone, through southern latitudes to the sub-Antarctic, and then back to sub-tropical again. Bring a hat, gloves and a waterproof jacket and dress in layers as required. It is often too windy for an umbrella to be useful. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
The Zaandam is our new favourite ship. Its smaller size means fewer decks and less crowding. Our cabin on deck 6 was one deck above the fixed-time dining room and most public areas, and just two decks below the lido. It is practical to use ... Read More
The Zaandam is our new favourite ship. Its smaller size means fewer decks and less crowding. Our cabin on deck 6 was one deck above the fixed-time dining room and most public areas, and just two decks below the lido. It is practical to use the stairs rather than the elevators. Less crowding meant that we did not have to show up at least half an hour early to sit together for performances in the theatre. Our cabin was bright and thoughtfully laid out, our balcony was deeper and more usable than the non-suite balconies on HAL’s larger ships, the ship is in excellent cosmetic condition, and the crew are cordially efficient. One curious point is that the magnetic bulldog clips we’ve used on other ships to hold papers to the cabin walls would not stick in this one. This was our first experience of HAL’s EXC program and we like it. Lectures by the two guest speakers on sea-days were deservedly well attended. The port talks were informative, useful and a welcome change from the past pitches for ship’s tours. The EXC host went out of his way to be helpful and to offer advice for independent travel. The Zaandam’s port tendering (three ports) went as smoothly and efficiently as one could expect. Entertainment was the best we’ve experienced in some time. HAL has a reputation here on Cruise Critic for cost-cutting, and nowhere has that been more obvious in past cruises than in the quality of the entertainment. The classical group Adagio, for example, used to be a quartet. Then it became a trio and, more recently, just two indifferent players. The Adagio duo on this cruise included possibly the best violinist I’ve heard at sea, better than he should have been but unfortunately at the end of his contract. I hope he’s re-engaged. And the rest of the performers, singers and dancers were a definite step up from those on the Westerdam last year and the Eurodam the year before. The food quality and presentation were at least as good as we’ve come to expect, especially at the evening meal in the dining room. Evening meals in the Pinnacle and Canaletto were excellent. Lunch in the Pinnacle remains one of cruising’s best bargains. I’m still unhappy that HAL does not buy more provisions locally and give its chefs more rein with the menus. Why should the two Chilean wines I most wanted to order off the wine list both be out of stock for the duration of a 16 day cruise that included three Chilean ports? Why can we not see the most common regional dishes on the evening menu? Bar service was typically good but a bit slow. The prices continue to inch up, with most drinks now being between $7 and $10. It wasn’t difficult to find a server except, oddly, in the Explorers Lounge, where drinks service during Adagio’s evening performances was either missing or very scarce. Because there’s no bar in the Explorer’s Lounge, the drinks, and the servers on this cruise, come from the Mix bar one room away. That, however, is the only instance where the on-board service was less than we expected. The Zaandam’s guest-facing crew were great. The captain took us much closer to a glacier than I thought he would, and made a small route change so that we could view a large iceberg. We enjoyed this cruise and look forward to coming back for more. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
My wife and I are recently retired and have long wanted to cruise an "around the horn" itinerary. This Holland America cruise fit the bill the perfectly. Overall, an outstanding cruise, a decent value and a great itinerary. ... Read More
My wife and I are recently retired and have long wanted to cruise an "around the horn" itinerary. This Holland America cruise fit the bill the perfectly. Overall, an outstanding cruise, a decent value and a great itinerary. We departed from Rio de Janeiro. Our flight departed the east coast for Miami on Halloween. Many of the airport and airline employees were in costume and having a good time. We ended up,with a business class upgrade for the overnight flight from Miami to Rio. Since we have been to Rio before, we didn't do anything touristy other than stroll on Copacabana Beach. I paid for our Airbnb for the night of the 31st so we could check in immediately upon arrival the morning of the first. HAL emailed us the day before embarkation to warn us that check in was going to involve two security checks and to expect delays. Because of this, we left early for the pier. Our uber driver was completely unfamiliar with the cruise port but found it without too much difficulty. Other than confusion about where to drop our bags and where to line up for check in, things went relatively smoothly. There was almost no signage but following the heard and gentle inquiries had us on board in about 30 minutes. We were very pleased with the ship almost as soon as we boarded. Our cabin was ready for immediate occupancy and our bags all arrived shortly after lunch. We were expecting a small ship having recently cruised Carnival Horizon but the ship seemed plenty large with plenty of amenities. The public areas were all very tidy and clean and outside on the decks, conscientious maintenance was evident everywhere. We found the flow of the ship very easy to get around. As always, we selected an interior cabin for economy and for the dark cave sleeping experience. We were on the second deck so we felt almost no roll and the pitching was quite sleep inducing. The cabin could serve four passengers with two beds, a drop down bunk and a sofa bed. The beds were made up as twins, apparently our request for one bed was not received but this was fixed while we were at lunch. There was an astonishing amount of closet space for two people. The tile in the bathroom looked like a 1960s motel room but otherwise, we found the cabin spacious, comfortable and appropriately updated. Dining was very good to excellent. We tried the main dining room for breakfast once and the service was so slow, we never returned. The buffet on the Lido deck, however, had outstanding breakfast options so we went there every subsequent day. The omelette station rarely had more than three people in line, the eggs Benedict were fresher and better than the dining room and the waffles were hot and freshly made. It could get crowded around 9 am so we often ate outside by the pool. We never did try the dining room for lunch instead using the buffet every day. The salads were excellent and days we wanted to try sandwiches, soups, pasta or other offerings, everything was good except the pizza. The Dive In burgers could be a bit of a hot mess but good and the dogs were also nice. The fries were always hot and crispy. We enjoyed open seating dinners in the main dining room. The food was hit or miss but the service was usually good and we had a wonderful group of dining companions almost every night. A few nights, we did not feel up to a long dinner and ate at the buffet. We had some unbelievably tender and flavorful steaks at the buffet one evening. A friend had treated us to a dinner at the Pinnacle Grill and it was outstanding. The steaks were superb and the service perfect. There were three formal nights but we only attended one. My wife felt unwell the night of the first one and the second one was during our scenic cruising of the glacier channel. Because it was light so late and we enjoying the spectacular scenery, I think many people opted to skip that formal night and hit a buffet for late dinner. The entertainment was also hit or miss. The singers/dancers are, I'm sure, very talented and hardworking but the show was poor. I think the performers were saddled with repetitive choreography and uninspired music selection. On the other hand, it was great to see a real live band performing. A guest juggler was just so so and a guest flautist was unusual but extremely talented and a good show. The highlight of the entertainment was a spectacular combo of BBC cinematography with live music. High definition films of polar regions and animals were accompanied by the live band playing the original score. We caught a few of the other acts in the bars and lounges and all were very talented. The enrichment opportunities were one of the ship highlights for us. Guest speakers addressed topics of maritime history, ship construction, glaciers, environmental concerns and applied oceanography. The port lectures were outstanding also; real and practical information about the ports without a word about shopping. The ask the captain presentation was very informative and well done. Our absolute favorite offering was the America's Test Kitchen. Once or twice on sea days, the presenter, Allison, would demonstrate two to three recipes along with advice on kitchen techniques, cookware and gadgets. The set was completely professional, the production engineer was very slick and the entire program was perfectly executed and utterly enjoyable. We found service to be very good throughout. Our cabin steward, Edward, was fantastic. The servers in the buffet were very personable even when trying to keep up with clearing tables at busy times. The bar staffs were all excellent. No complaints about service. My wife and I treated ourselves to the Thermasuite package. For the two of us, it was $349 for the entire 16 day cruise. It gave us unlimited use of the Thermasuite in the spa area. Most of the time, we were only two there. Sometimes, there was another couple there. Only once was there more than four people. I thoroughly enjoyed the steamrooms and hot tub and we both enjoyed the heated loungers. The ports on this cruise were all great. In Punte del Este, we just did a short walkabout the port. We saw a few sights and enjoyed the sea lions but were back on board in time for a late breakfast. Buenos Aires was a first time visit for both of us and we walked several miles and thoroughly enjoyed the city. We had a scheduled tour in Montevideo which showed us the highlights but left plenty of time for lunch and exploring on our own. Our arrival to the Falkland Islands coincided with Armistice Day and we were privileged to be able to attend a church service and a military parade and memorial ceremony. In Ushuaia, we had a prearranged tour to the Tierra del Fuego National Park which was outstanding. Our third And final prearranged tour was in Punta Arenas and it was a bit disappointing. There is absolutely nothing at the port so you need to take a shuttle into town if you don't have anything set up. Our tour went to a scenic overlook, spent way too much time at a mediocre museum, then had a very brief stop in the downtown plaza. For Puerto Montt, I went ahead and paid for a cruise line tour of Petrohue Cataracts and Puerto Varas. We were very happy with this tour. At the end of the cruise, I purchased a cruise line tour/airport transfer. The tour to two wineries, lunch, a bus tour of Santiago and a shopping stop with airport drop off was very expensive at $200 per person but it was extremely well executed. In addition to the ports, the scenic cruising days were just a spectacular. We went around Cape Horn, the Straits of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, the Sarmiento Channel and the Chilean Fjords. We were privileged to see glaciers, fjords and even an iceberg. For us, this was the highlight of the cruise. As far as complaints, there were a few. During the scenic cruising, commentary was provided in the Crow's Nest, outside decks and on the cabin TV. The Crow's Nest got uncomfortably crowded and even then, the sound system was terrible and the commentary was inaudible. I think the commentary should be broadcast in all common areas so regardless of where you choose to observe the beauty, you can hear the details. Also, the ship seemed to be very poorly provisioned. We purchased an eight bottle wine program. By the fourth night, it seemed they never had anything on our wine list. To their credit, a substitute bottle was provided and usually a higher level wine but it seems silly to create a wine list, sell a program, and then be told almost every night, that your choice of wine is not available. Also, by about day three, there was no draft beer. By the end of the cruise, only a fraction of advertised bottled beers were available. I found alcohol prices extremely high. Overall, a great experience. We were reluctant to disembark and would have gladly sailed back to Buenos Aires. If you are interested in Patagonia and seeing some great scenery and exciting cities, this is a highly recommended cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
My first ever cruise - wanted to visit as many South American countries as possible. 14 hour flight from London direct to Santiago (spent 3 days there beforehand which was amazing). Cabin on Dolphin deck very adequate, if slightly dated. ... Read More
My first ever cruise - wanted to visit as many South American countries as possible. 14 hour flight from London direct to Santiago (spent 3 days there beforehand which was amazing). Cabin on Dolphin deck very adequate, if slightly dated. Had 16 nights on board and visited some amazing places including ports in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Chilean fjords were spectacular and weather on the whole cruise was gorgeous - blue skies, sun and calm seas everywhere. Only rained once in Buenos Aires! We went to every port - my favourite was Stanley in the Falkland Islands. As weather was so good, we were able to go on the bow when we rounded "The Horn" which was as calm as a mill pond! Ship's facilities all good. Food was very good - only downsize was not too much veggie fare and you had to book your lunch/evening food in the main restaurant the night before or at breakfast. We didn't do this much as we didn't want to have to plan where we ate every day. We took water bottles which were a bit of a trial to fill several times a day. We were told to refill them at the "Lido" (buffet style restaurant) from the jugs, but lots of the waiters told us we had to use the glasses to avoid contamination. After a while we asked at various bars throughout the ship. Mostly accommodating but we did get hot water a few times! Zaandam could really benefit from a water fountain somewhere on board. When we were on board they were charging $5 (plus surcharge) for Evian water bottle so beware of these extra charges. Staff mostly all lovely and polite, especially our stewards and serving staff at main restaurant. Captain very informative and enjoyed the 12.00 daily updates. Entertainment was fun and we particularly liked the Zaandam dancers. There was so much going on that you would never be bored - we enjoyed just chilling in the various bars, whale watching (we saw some tails!) and indulging in the odd cocktail - expensive so we bought them in happy hour. All in all, Zaandam is a lovely ship - walking round the deck every day was just a joy in the amazing weather. Loved my first cruise and hope to save up for another one next year. Read Less
Zaandam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.7
Service 3.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.0

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