Holland America Line Zaandam Review
Our cabin was fine. But our dining was uneven, and several areas were overdue for a refit to make it more contemporary.
A venerable cruise line with a lineage dating back 14 decades, Holland America is not quite a luxury line, but the fleet incorporates a number of amenities that carry them a cut above their mass-market competitors.
Launched in May 2000 and carrying 1432 passengers, Zaandam is typical of Holland America’s comfortably midsized ships. A vague musical theme inhabits the Zaandam, most notably the giant Dutch pipe organ sitting in the lobby. Sailing most of the year in Pacific waters, Zaandam summers in Alaska and spends winters in Hawaii, Mexico and points south. We hopped on to take the pulse of the ship.
About Our Cruise
Though we wouldn’t recommend against sailing on Zaandam, we also didn’t find much to get excited about. This might be in part due to the fact that that some of Zaandam’s common areas haven’t received a facelift since the ship first debuted, more than a decade ago. The gym was stocked with outdated equipment; the musical theme sprinkled through the ship includes a few choice artifacts (a Bill Clinton saxophone, signed guitars from Eric Clapton and Iggy Pop) but the ambience was hardly as cutting edge as your average Hard Rock Café. A dry dock planned for late 2013 could address some off these issues.
Meanwhile, meals are usually one of Holland America’s strong points, but we found our dining experience in Zaandam’s Rotterdam Dining Room more uneven than it should have been. We noticed a recurring problem with dishes delivered not matching the menu descriptions. However, the Lido buffet was fine, and we had a pleasant meal at Canaletto, the ship’s Italian venue. The surcharge steakhouse, Pinnacle Grill, provided a very good dinner one evening, along with a lunch for which the small add-on was not justified.
Overall, our Interior Cabin was fine—not large, but adequate, and we slept comfortably. Lighting seemed a bit dim and we would have appreciated a mini-fridge in the room, but the shower was a decent size, there was ample closet space and we liked being able to borrow DVDs from the front desk, an amenity not common to most other mainstream lines.
At certain hours (mostly in the evening) we found smoke prevalent at mid-ship on Deck 5—the casino seemed reasonably well ventilated, but smoke at the adjoining Casino Bar seemed to linger. In fact it was usually impossible to pass through mid-ship on this deck without taking a stiff dose of smoke into our lungs. We also found the deluge of marketing material from the spa, shops and art dealer to be excessive and wasteful.
We liked the live musicians, especially the string quartet Adagio Strings and a slick band called the HALcats—both performed daily at various venues. Otherwise, we found the stage entertainment depressingly old-school. There was a good array of enrichment activities on the daily schedule. While the computer classes and cooking demos were somewhat basic, a number of guests enjoyed them, and they were professionally handled. Holland America’s traditional Indonesian afternoon tea was a delight, served in the Rotterdam Dining Room, while Explorations Café was a fine library and coffee shop that we loved working in—when we could find an empty seat.
Holland America’s ships cater to a somewhat older audience. You won’t find rock climbing walls, flashy entertainment or pulsing discos. Although there was a long list of activities, especially on sea days, the Zaandam didn’t try to get in the way of the destination. For us, letting the destination shine was a good thing, and it made our cruise an enjoyable one in the end.
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