I wasn't planning on taking a cruise this month but I was playing around online and stumbled across a 5 day Pacific Coastal on HAL. The days fit in perfectly with my work commitments and best of all it was on Zaandam. For a long while I have wanted to try this class of HAL ship having previously sailed on the larger vessels. She did not disappoint. I know much has been written about Zaandam so I won't bore you with every little detail but I would like to share my thoughts of the ship. I literally booked this a couple of weeks ago and was trying to find information about the interiors since dry dock. I had done a fair amount of research for this class of ship and was familiar with what they ship looked like prior to this recent dry dock (thank goodness for the internet and for Youtube videos). There was very little out there on the new decor so I have taken a bunch of photos which I will upload at the conclusion of this review. I hope that it will excite those of you with Zaandam bookings and I hope it will encourage some of you to book a Zaandam voyage.
What a breeze. One of the joys about joining a cruise mid-way is the pleasant boarding experience. Only a handful of us were joining for the 5 day San Diego-Vancouver itinerary so we were processed very smoothly and went on board around 1:30pm and into our stateroom.
We have only sailed on larger HAL ships; Westerdam and Eurodam to be exact. For our prior three HAL trips we booked Neptune Suites. However, for this short trip we had a mid-ship Vista Suite. Upon entering it felt like a calm space. You could tell instantly the room was recently refreshed. I only had internet images to compare to but I could identify the new components easily. It had that new room smell which I love. New bedskirt, new bed accent throw, new sofa or possibly just new upholstery (I could not get a straight answer out of anyone!), new curtains, new net curtains (very pretty ones), new accent pillows, new desk chair (or newly upholstered). I found the entry way a bit cramped. The hallway as you entered the stateroom was narrow and I felt the many closet doors were awkwardly placed especially when trying to access the bathroom. Overall storage in the Vista Suite is really good. The bedroom and living area can be separated almost completely by a curtain which is always a nice feature. The living area is spacious and very comfortable. The cocktail table was incredibly heavy and took some effort to move it. It did not raise in height so dining ensuite as a couple might be challenging. We only had room service once for breakfast and found the table height an issue. The new TV (I think it was new) was very small and it was screwed into a large black platform that you could pull out and swivel. The whole thing looked like a make-shift improvement and was not thought out well, in my opinion. The balcony furniture was comfortable and clean so I wonder if that was also new. I did not take specific photos of the balcony furniture but when you see the images I will upload at the end of this review you can see it through the balcony door.
I will keep this brief as we all have different tastes, different levels of expectation and different ideas of what constitutes good food. For context, I live in San Francisco where we are spoiled with amazing restaurants. I also primarily sail on Crystal, Silversea and Oceania so my cruise cuisine expectations are impacted by my personal experience. we dined one night in Pinnacle Grill and one in Canaletto. Both meals were very good and I regretted not booking Pinnacle on the last night for the chef tasting menu (next time!!!). The main dining room food was good, but to me it looked and tasted like banqueting food - like you would get a a nice wedding. I have no complaints I just didn't feel the food was outstanding. In saying that please know we had lovely evenings in the dining room and enjoyed our meals.
We purchased an Elite package. I know there have been many threads discussing the beverages on board. Here are my two cents... I certainly don't need 15 drinks a day but I really loved the fact the package included large bottles of Evian and the specialty coffees from Explorations Cafe. I would have two or three coffees throughout the day and two bottles of Evian which made life very easy with the EBP. Throw in a cocktail before dinner, maybe a glass of champagne and a couple of glasses of wine and we were ahead of the game. On paper the beverage packages always seem to be a bit pricey but for us it worked out nicely. I think the water and coffee could easily add up so it made the daily rate for the beverage package worthwhile. I felt the splurge for Elite was worth it alone for the champagne and better choice of wines. For others it may not be necessary to upgrade.
Sadly we did not participate in any shows or events. For us we wanted a quiet relaxing time at sea enjoying each other's company and having some nice meals. It would have been nice to see the production shows but we opted not to. We also did not visit America's Test Kitchen. Next time we will.
LOVED it. I know its an old ship - that does not worry me. I know there is rust if you look closely - again that does not worry me. I know there are pipes on the promenade deck that are wrapped in old white sticky tape - does not worry me. I know there are occasional smells and issues - again that does not worry me. Why did I love Zaandam? Firstly the size. 60,000 tons is perfect. I am used to sailing on smaller ships - its just my preference. Despite the fact we sailed full I did not feel crowded. The public spaces were laid out well and there seemed to be plenty of little nooks and crannies where you could curl up with a book and a coffee and enjoy a calm day at sea. The Lido, at times, was a bit busy but name me a ship where this isn't the case. We timed our visits to the Lido accordingly and did not have to battle crowds. I love the promenade deck. It is wide and was never busy. We would walk and talk for 'miles' with the sea surrounding us and breathing in fresh clean air. I could not be happier. I also liked the new decor in the areas that have been refreshed. I am certainly used to the brighter and more colorful HAL interiors so, for me, it was refreshing to see the new color palette. I found it calming and the blue/grey/gold resonated with me. Carpet has been changed out in many places such as the elevator and stairs, the main dining room, Pinnacle Grill, Crows Nest and I was told more carpet is on its way but apparently it was not all delivered during dry dock. I am sure some of you know more details than I - but that is what I was told when I asked the crew. The newly reimagined Crows Nest is welcoming with lovely seating areas which have been refreshed (I never saw the old one, remember, so I did not have the image of the DJ booth and dance floor of yesteryear). They changed up the bar in Crows Nest apparently and this new one is really nice. The Explorations Cafe and new library is really lovely and well laid out and its a great social spot or perfect for a quiet read and a coffee. I am not sure what was in this area before but I was very happy to see this new-to-Zaandam feature.
A breeze! We decided to spend the day in Vancouver seeing friends and visiting the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens so we were able to disembark around 9am. Being independent and being able to choose from a selection of disembarkation times was convenient. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast ensuite and then walked off the ship when our color was called.
Were there a few things that could be improved - of course there were, but overall we had a great time. I loved the ship, we met some nice people and we will be back for another HAL cruise and most likely sticking with the smaller vessels. I would like to sail on Rotterdam and Amsterdam. I also have my eye on Prinsendam as that is one I really want to experience as she is steeped in so much history.
I will upload some photos of our cabin #6166. I will also include some photos of the newly renovated spaces. There are two photos of the main dining room carpet and a couple of photos from the Pinnacle Grill. The chairs and carpeting in Pinnacle are really elegant.
If anyone has questions I will be more than happy to try and answer but please remember this was my first Zaandam so I won't be the best resource if you have specific questions about what she looked like before the dry dock.
Thanks for reading,