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BoardwalkBabe

Back from Zaandam 3/19-3/26

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We are back from our first voyage with Holland America and we both felt HAL was good, but not great. Service and food were both good, but there was nothing special about them.

 

We weren't pleased that time at one of ports was chopped short (what was the point of leaving Tortola at 5pm and then sailing in circles around St. Thomas until docking the next morning?) and having to leave Half Moon Cay at 1:30 made us question whether or not it was even worth it to wait for a tender to get over there (we went and it was nice).

 

We both felt like there was no need to go above and beyond because of their new tipping policy. We didn't change our tips (DH tells me the line at the front desk was ridiculously long with people trying to adjust their accounts when he walked by), but we only tipped one person beyond the usual and that was our awesome server who we saw at the Piano Bar each night before dinner.

 

I felt the photos prices were extremely high and wondered why they weren't offering some kind of photo package. I also didn't like being charged for a Diet Coke with my dinner -- that really felt like nickel and diming to me. I am happy to pay for a soda at the pool, a bar, etc., but I think at a sit down dinner, sodas should be included (they are on Disney ships).

 

Each time we tried to order room service, it was a fiasco. They either called back to say they were out of what we wanted, the food arrived cold OR not at all! The last time I called to order a snack they called back when the order was supposed to have arrived to see if we had actually placed an order. Definitely something wrong with the way they're handling room service orders.

 

The onboard shopping was just so-so and I quickly caught on to the 'wait another day and it will probably be on sale' philosophy. Wish I had known about that tactic before I left; on the other hand, they didn't have inventory to replenish most things so when they were gone at the beginning of the week, they were gone for good.

 

Our cabin was nice and we spent a lot of time relaxing on the verandah. The location could have been better and now that I know that the A port side cabins are located directly underneath the ping pong tables, we'll skip that location. Between the ping pong balls dropping day and night and the pool deck furniture being dragged around... after a while you tune it out.

 

I would say that the majority of people followed the dress code. I did see a man wearing jeans in the dining room on one of the casual nights and there were plenty of girls wearing flip flops on both casual and the informal night. It was a very mixed crowd from an age perspective and we really lucked out with our dinner companions -- they were awesome and we really enjoyed their company.

 

Was shocked at how smokey the ship got. Couldn't stay long in the casino or other places in that general area because the smoke was so thick after dinner I couldn't breathe. UGH.

 

Would we sail HAL again? If the price was right. We felt like we got what we paid for on this trip, but we thought there was going to be a high WOW factor and we just didn't see it. We are thinking we would like to try either Princess or Celebrity for next year's cruise, though.

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I don't know that any ship sailing in the Caribbean is going to give you a "WOW!" factor, that's just the nature of the cut-throat competition in the area. Still, you do seem to have made the most of your experience.

 

Sorry to hear about your room service problems, something we certainly didn't experience on our most recent HAL cruise (but, again, that wan't in the Caribbean).

 

Your comment on the line to adjust tips (and I'll bet they weren't adjusting them up!) along with several similar comments from others recently returned from the Caribbean would lead me to believe that the best people (from management down thru asst. stewards) opt out of the Caribbean for other areas leaving the less well trained and less well motivated to serve in that area.

 

Still, thanks for your honest impressions of your first HAL cruise.

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I was on the same sailing, this is our 7th cruise, first with HAL. I'd second many of the OP's comments. We had a wonderful time on our cruise. The staterooms were fabulous - great size and the beds were comfortable. The Indonesian staff is very friendly, we thought they were fabulous. The ports were good - loved Virgin Gorda. We also loved Half Moon Cay and agree more time should be spent at this port. ST Thomas's traffic is so bad, it's almost not worth the stop. We wanted to go to ST. John's, but after seeing the slow moving traffic, we opted to go to Sapphire beach instead - it took 45 minutes to get there, including a stop at Coki Beach. We would have gotten off at Coki, but we were just there in December. Sapphire beach is beautiful, great facilities, but not good for snorkeling :(

 

Here are some comments, from my point of view, of things that should be improved, and are reasonable expectations of cruising.

 

The first being timely room service. Room service was a fiasco on two accounts: one, you were lucky if you could even get through - DH was on hold for 30 minutes one time! second- most of the time they were out of stuff. We only called about 4 times for snacks and each time was a headache. It was either busy,busy, busy or a long time on hold.

 

Second was dining room service. Although we really enjoyed our wait staff's personalities and found them to be very friendly, they were remiss in several areas. First, our drink orders were rarely taken and the wait staff was barely visible, with the exception of removing plates long after finishing. On one occasion, our dining companions were still eating their entrees when our plates were removed, we were handed dessert menus AND they brought over the desert samples. We received our desserts before their entree plates were removed. There is no excuse for this. It was embarrassing. We all started joking that they probably had eject buttons for when they were ready to clear the table. Our companions were not slow eaters, my husband and I just didn't eat much of our entree, so this was clearly a waitstaff issue. On SEVERAL occassions, our salads came to the table missing key ingredients. We could not alert our servers because they were gone and not to be seen again until entree time, when salad plates were quickly wooshed away and entrees placed. Again, no excuse for incomplete menu items. Overall, we were not impressed with the overall quality nor the presentation of the food. It is clear, cost-cutting is in full-swing in the dining room.

 

I think the problems with service probably have something to do with the new tipping policy, I hope not, I hope it was simply because they were overworked, I don't know. But our table was clearly neglected or ignored, and that's unfortunate. There was a kindly staff member who presented my daughter with an origami animal each evening. It was very sweet and she loved it. The wine steward was very good. I probably would have complained about the service, but as I said earlier, we did enjoy the staff and I did not want to get them in trouble.

 

Last peeve (minor) was the movie screen in the Wajang theatre. It was so low, you could not see the whole movie regardless of where you were sitting. Seems like a simple thing to make the movie viewable to the audience.

 

Club HAL was fabulous. Our daughter enjoyed Dale and Summer very much. There were 20 kids in the 5-7 age group and it afforded alot of individual attention. The kids staff clearly enjoy their jobs.

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We were on this same cruise. I was going to do a short review, but decided to add on to BOARDWALKBABE. First of all, I'm sorry I didn't meet any of the CC'ers by name! We were to meet at the aft bar on Sun. and I didn't see a crowd I could jump into! I finally walked up there at 1:10 and couldn't get the guts to tap anybody on the shoulder to ask....

 

Anyhow, We thought the cruise was wonderful! The embarkation was a headache, but no worse than an airport! Our room was small but fine. We had a large interior. I highly recomend a clock in packing as we never woke at reaonable time!!! This is not a bad thing if you don't mind starting your day with lunch!:D This says wonders for the new bedding, as we sleep on feather beds at home and my DH still does not sleep through the night! Our steward (Yus) was wonderful and filled the cooler with ice for my Dt Dew!! Our DR waiters were great, Buddy and his asst. Food was good to great. The lobster was the best I have ever tasted - absolutely "to die for"!!!! I didn't know lobster could taste like that! In AL, what you order is rubbery!!!YUK! BIL said it tasted like Maine fresh. Whatever, my son is going to be dissapointed when he orders it locally! We also loved the king crab legs, sliced open like you get in so few places in the US. I can't tell you how happy I was with the friendliness of the staff! The casino waitress - I wish I knew her name, was spectacular! Matt, our favorite casino table guy has a wonderful personality and ,even though we didn't win with him, made losing enjoyable.....somewhat! - Hey "Marty"! (inside joke in case he reads this!):) There were a LOT of kids on this cruise - not a problem for us and the other familys with kids, but I did overhear an ugly comment at Bingo from an elderly woman about a child crying! My DH jumped out of his skin a couple of times when Mama Lou honked her horn behind him! :D Scared him silly!

 

My Sister, BIL and their 5 yr son won the Snowball lottery for over $3800. It made their cruise! and she even bought our pictures and gave some $ to my 3 kids! EVERYBODY WINS! Yes, if you were on the cruise, that's my DH! He's a sweetheart and loves to have fun! I met a wonderful lady from Maryland at the blackjack table from Maryland - I couldn't remember who on the cruise came frome there - maybe a ccer - didn't want to ask to mess with your carma... if it's a fellow friend here - I hope you had fun!

 

A few funny moments - we followed my DH down the path to the baths in Tortola! He was in such a hurry after waiting 45 min. for the ferry and sitting inside the hot box for another 30 min., we went down the up and missed the caves! We're not even sure we hit the right beach as we never saw the poeple we rode over with!!!!! Best snorcking ever!

 

St. Thomas - we took a cab to Coki beach. Good call. We ran into people staying at Saphire who said the water was so rough you couldn't see anything. I walked over to the one of the bars, and mentioned to DH the odd cigar smoke - yes, everybody laughed as they pointed to the "weed smoking" locals sitting on the bench 10 feet from me!!! I did see 5 others behind and to the side of us doing the same once it was pointed out. This is a shallow, tiny beach - I felt like a dummy! I only hope my kids didn't notice! Once again, great snorcking - even beter than Tortola!

 

Nowhere enough time on Half Moon Cay!!! Thousands of fish ! RUDE info desk guy!

 

Wonderful cruise - Worlds better than the one we took 8-9 years ago on Carnival! We will be doing this again soon!:)

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Thanks everyone for your imput on the Zaandam. If the food and service in the dinning room is that bad I will definitely say something, when it comes to me sitting down and enjoying my meal I do not want my dinner rushed or my dinner companions...

 

You did not mention why you left HMC early, was it because the weather had changed and it was making it unsafe to transfer the passenger back from the island on the tenders.

 

Regarding room service after serveral cruises I have learned that we usually only order coffee and an english muffin in the AM just to get us going then go to the lido and have breakfast... ;)

 

Still looking forward to just checking out of the real world for a few days and sitting on our balcony and watch the world go by. Thanks again though for the heads up regarding some real issues...

 

Deb

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Thanks for all the info ... We are leaving in 2.5 weeks

 

Sorry about the room service ... Dining on the Balcony was one of the highlights of my Princess cruise. Were you able to order from the dining room menu for Room Service or just an abbreviated one? How were the alternative dining rooms?

 

Anything else we that a MUST do or we should shy away from:cool:

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I also just got back from the Zaandam cruise. I keep waiting for our cabin steward, Johan (Jo-Han), to pick up after me...it's tough to come back to real life!! I too am sorry I didn't get to meet fellow CC'rs. Couldn't find the group:(

 

The first night out was pretty rough seas. The Rotterdam was about half full for our seating (8:30), and upon leaving the dining room, I saw them shampooing the carpets because a couple people apparently didn't make it to the bathroom/their cabin in time. I get car sick all the time, and started taking sea sick pills two days before the cruise. My stomach never even hiccupped. My friend was feeling quesy after dinner that first night, and I gave her two pills, and she felt fine within a half hour.

 

We never ordered room service. The first three days, we put out the card for breakfast, and it arrived on time and hot. It wasn't til the 4th morning that I saw all the choices up on the Lido deck that I realized how much we'd been missing!! But it is wonderful to sit out on the balcony every morning having coffee, croissants and fruit without having to get dressed!!

 

The spa was absolutely wonderful. We had a hot stone massage that was to die for. I highly, highly recommend Joanne. She has magical hands.

 

This was a purely relaxing cruise for me and my best friend. Time to get away from the kids and DHs. I was told there were 1600 people on the cruise, and this week there would be over 2200. I must say I found it wonderful that the kids had such a great time. I saw them several times running around on a scavenger hunt or another activity, having a wonderful time. I did overhear two elderly couples complaining about how the children were "running amock" on the ship, and that they were "appalled" that the children were going through the Lido buffet in their bathing suits. As I said, I enjoyed seeing them...especially since I never had to hear "But Mom...." directed towards me!! We were seated with the ship's doctor, his wife and son. They had two other children on board that we never even met, since they were always doing something with ClubHal. Would've luved to buy the ClubHal t-shirt that says "Dam Friends" on the back, but was told they're not for sale:( The doctor's son would always leave the table after the main course was served and eaten. He didn't even stay around for dessert most nights! I have to guess the average age of Holland Amercia cruisers will plummet after this spring break season.

 

I agree the lobster was incredible. Made a pig out of myself and ordered 3. Our waiter Reza didn't even bat an eye. On that night, none of the appetizers appealed to me, so I asked Reza if I could have a shrimp cocktail. He said he couldn't promise anything, but would try. Sure enough, I received it, and it too was yummy:)

 

About the only things I could complain about, and it's really only observations, is I wish they would change the room safes to punch key system. It's a pain to have to open it with a credit card, and if the other person wants something from the safe, and you're not around, they're sunk. Our shower water went from hot to lukewarm. It was not a big enough deal to me to even mention it, so I don't know if it could have been fixed or not. Finally, I would like the option of bringing home the cabin steward. It's not fair that you get used to all that pampering, and then have to come home and pick up after yourself;)

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We never ordered room service. The first three days, we put out the card for breakfast, and it arrived on time and hot. It wasn't til the 4th morning that I saw all the choices up on the Lido deck that I realized how much we'd been missing!!

 

Darn, I guess we all forgot to tell you that you can write in anything on the breakfast order form - even if it's not listed. As long as it's available in the Lido or DR then it will show up on your breakfast tray. Something to look forward to next time.

 

Finally, I would like the option of bringing home the cabin steward. It's not fair that you get used to all that pampering, and then have to come home and pick up after yourself;)

 

You can have your own "cabin steward", though! According to one Cruise Job Agency, cabin stewards can be had for between $1800 and $2200 a month (plus room & board, of course). It's probably cheaper to just book another cruise!:rolleyes:

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You can have your own "cabin steward", though! According to one Cruise Job Agency, cabin stewards can be had for between $1800 and $2200 a month (plus room & board, of course). It's probably cheaper to just book another cruise!:rolleyes:

 

lol...learn something new everyday!! And you're right...I think I'll just plan on taking another cruise:)

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Richnorto,

That was me at the Blackjack table. I started to ask you about the board when I heard you were from AL. It is tough to have a conversation and concentrate at the same time. Glad to hear your sister won the snowball jackpot. A lady sitting behind me won the cruise bingo. It was her first cruise and her DH wasn't with her. The internet was down for most of our cruise so she was unable to contact him. He is in for a big surprise. Do you know who won the cruise lottery?

Soccerfootballmom,

I met the ship doctors wife on our excursion in Tortola. We all did the dolphin swim. She was very nice. She said her husband does 2 weeks on the ship for a mini vacation. I heard from someone else that the doctor wasn't seated with his wife and had to have his seating changed. They thought it was ironic that the doctor had his seating assignment mixed up.

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JaniceB,

 

It doesn't surprise me that their seating assignment was messed up. From what I understand, they messed up their air travel arrangements as well, and Paige was going to have to travel with the kids early, while the Doc would be coming later in the day! They said they had a wonderful time at the dolphin swim. They are supposed to be going on one of the Alaska cruises in September...this time without the kids:) I didn't realize it, but the doctor was telling us that Holland America is the ONLY cruiseline that ALWAYS has American doctors on board...I found that interesting:)

 

How was your cruise experience?

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Hello!

 

We have just returned from Orlando. I just wanted to say that my family and I just loved the cruise, poor music aside. I am sorry we missed you all, I arrived at the pool at about 1:20 and was unable to locate you. So sorry for the screwup.

 

We thought that the cruise was just lovely. The new Oasis and Loft were a huge hit with the kids and we just loved the new Explorations Cafe, the library selection is larger than before and the coffees reasonably priced ($1-2).

 

We had the best meal ever at the Pinnacle. Our experience on the Rotterdam was uninspiring, and this was such a great surprise!!

 

All in all we really enjoyed the cruise and hope to cruise the Zaandam again someday!:cool:

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JaniceB

I'm glad we did meet - at least in a roundabout way! :) The cruise winner (not me:( )was on the 6th floor I think and the name started with J or G... Not much help! I was looking for my kids who were supposed to meet me on the 5th and they were on the 4th - gave up on me and hit up my sis for Bingo cards. Not a bad investment as she only went to play with us and wound up winning! She's already planning the next cruise - it's paid for!

 

Localady

I'm sorry your dining wasn't as good as expected. We had the 8:30 and everything came out in order for the table of 8 and was wonderful on the 5 nights we ate. I wouldn't recommend the Mango soup though!:eek: YUK! Who mixes fruit and onion (at least that's what it tasted like)!

 

FYI - If you want to order room service for dinner or snacks, do it before 4:00! We sat on the phone 25 - 30 min every time we tried to order after 4:30. NO kidding - I timed it! Breakfast or coffee is a good wakeup call in the morning - it comes on time (the 3 days we remembered to order), but the coffee swings from great to uggh.:rolleyes:

 

Debi

We didn't actually leave Half Moon Cay early - half a day is just nowhere near enough time to appreciate such a beatutiful place! The water was like glass, fish everywhere and shallow way out. The girls (9 and 12) spent the whole time playing on the water slides.

 

BTW - I was one of those in line at the front desk, not to adjust the tip, but to remove charges we didn't make on our bill. Keep your receipts to check against your bill and if a charge doesn't seem right - the front desk has copies with signitures to double check. We had charges from the crows nest and never even made it there!

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Soccerfootballmom,

 

All in all we had a nice experience. We had one bad experience that I will explain in another thread, but we were compensated for it.

 

I am sorry we did not all get to met at the aft pool bar. I was there around 1 and stayed until around 1:30. I ask a few people if they were meeting people at the pool bar, but they said no. I was able to watch a lady sketch a guy at the bar and met some other nice people. We should have made a second meeting and/or had name tags or wore a certain color.

 

My DD's had one problem with room service, not sure what it was but I will find out and I tried once to call and never got an answer. I did have dinner delivered to our stateroom one night and didn't have a problem getting through and we received in a very short time.

 

I hope to write my review soon.

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I too am just back from Zaandam. Also went to the aft pool but could not find anyone. I would agree that the cruise was nice but not great.. Our cabin steward and wait staff were both very efficient and friendly but not as interactive with us as i have been used to. The kids missed the napkin animals!! But no real complaints as they both did the job very well- cabin ALWAYS cleaned quickly, fresh fruit replenished...etc. In the dining room i thought the food was just average. Some nights very good, other nights just ok. As far as the lobster it was good but no where near as good as we get every summer in Cape Cod!!. We enjoyed all the ports- did St John as well as the Baths on our own without any problems. The kids LOVED Club Hal. I loved the Explorations Cafe- especially the music stations- i would love one of those for my house!! I think my biggest disappointment was the music and entertainment. I thought the band SeaCrest was the worst cruise ship band i have ever heard. Very limited repetoire (must have heard Hawaii5-0 theme a dozen times). They could not do the "electric slide" and they even messed up YMCA. Those are fairly insignificant but the biggest thing with them is that they had no personality- rarely engaging the audience. I also thought the variety shows were just ok but the ventriloquist and the magicians with the monkee were wonderful.I thought the cruise director Michelle did a nice job. All in all we had a wonderful time as we always do on a cruise but i think next time we might try Celebrity or RCCL.

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I have to agree that the SeaCrest band was the worst. I agree that they overplayed Hawaii 5-0 and the when they played a Reggea song I thought I was listening to William Hung from American Idol, not a pleasant thought. We missed the magician and ventrilooquist shows, but we saw them on the last night when everyone returned to do a show. We really enjoyed them. The magician picked the right couple to use in his show. Do you think that was planned? The night we saw Paul Tanner he picked an 84 year old lady out of the audience to come on stage with him. She goosed him and we all thought we would die of laughter. I have heard some say the were not fond of him, but we found that show very entertaining. He also had his daughter in the audience and he introduced her. I did not think his closing show was as good as the first one, but we still liked him. We saw the Zaandam dancers once. I enjoyed the show, but the rest of my family would have preferred to not go at all.

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Did any of you bring and wireless laptop with you and how did it work on the ship. Do you also have to buy a prepaid card or do they just charge you credit card....

 

Debi

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We did not bring one, but our kids tried to use the internet in the Exploration Cafe and it was down most of the time. I only saw 1 person using a computer in a public area and that was not until Friday. I read another post that said the internet was down the week before, also.

 

Hope this helps.

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