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Zaandam - 5/28 - 6/4 - Alaska Cruise - LONG

Peggy Sue

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5/28 – 6/4 Alaska Inside Passage



We just returned from a wonderful Alaskan inside passage cruise on the Zaandam. With the exception of a few short hours of rain one morning in Juneau (liquid sunshine) we enjoyed sunny days and vivid bright blue skies. If a single word could sum up our view of Alaska it would be INSPIRATIONAL. A host of others come to mind too .. like amazing, beautiful, breath taking, awesome .. but for me personally, experiencing Alaska was a spiritual journey …one that treated the senses of sight, sound and smell to daily delights.



My dad, 75, joined us on this journey. It has always been one of his dreams to see Alaska and we thought this would be a great way to celebrate his 75th year. He enjoyed every minute of this experience.



The Zaandam provided every comfort we could possibly want for this journey. We shared an S suite, just a few steps from the concierge lounge. My dad became fast friends with the stewards and hosts – enjoying the coffee station and all the wonderful treats in the afternoon. He doesn’t indulge in many sweets ..but he really enjoyed an afternoon chocolate or two. The suite was very comfortable for the 3 of us. We had an egg crate put on the sofa bed, and my dad said the bed was “OK” and certainly something he could easily survive for 7 nights. Having the dressing room off the bath provided plenty of privacy for everyone, and we certainly put the verandah to good use every day. We folded up the bed every morning and our steward made it up every evening when we went to dinner. The egg crate wouldn’t fold up with the couch, so it had to be removed and replaced daily, but it easily rolled up and fit in the closet beside the door. There was plenty of drawer and closet space for our clothing, which included jackets, etc. Our suite was in excellent condition, and our steward was a delight. (and yes, we received a new towel animal every evening .. they were all adorable … we dismantled them every evening and put the towels in the bath … you really couldn’t move them anywhere ..but we did enjoy them and the few minutes of guessing exactly what the creature was)



We were on the Volendam last November and we found the service to be a bit rushed and not as personable as we had experienced on our previous HAL cruise. We also noted the staff seemed to be a bit disgruntled and over worked in the dining room and the number of cabins assigned for cleaning etc. We were very glad to find the staff on board the Zaandam appeared to be quite content and happy and we received excellent service from all we encountered - delivered with beautiful smiles and a little time to stop and chat and get to know a little about them and their home/family.



The Zaandam has gone through the SOE program. We really enjoyed the new explorations café -- it was a great spot to sit and relax, listen to music, read, use the Internet, etc. Very relaxing atmosphere – This make over receives an A+. I singed up for one of the culinary classes, however I guess they didn’t meet the necessary minimum of students, because the class was canceled. I was disappointed, as I didn’t have an opportunity to attend any of the culinary demonstrations. I did see the demo kitchen and it looked quite nice. Oh well, yet another reason to book another cruise with HAL.



We enjoyed dinner in the Pinnacle two evenings – Service was outstanding and all of our selections were delicious. My husband loves the porterhouse – my dad and I created our own version of surf and turf .. we ordered the filet and cedar plank shrimp – both were excellent.



The dining room was also very good. We didn’t see meat loaf on any dinner menu .. however we didn’t eat many lunches in the lido..so maybe it showed up there one afternoon.. They did have “Dutch” night one evening .. complete with the hats .. but I didn’t see any sole on the menu. We had an amazing waiter from Bali .. he was so energetic and flamboyant .. Our assistant waiter, wine steward and dining room captain (not sure if that’s the correct title?) were all very efficient and friendly. The second formal night featured surf and turf .. lobster tail and a 3-4 oz filet … it was very good! Dad and David had no problem requesting and receiving another lobster tail … it came out as a complete dinner again … After a long day in port we decided to eat in the lido as we really didn’t feel like getting dressed for dinner. We enjoyed an excellent meal and service .. We all opted for the prime rib, which was tender and tasty. They were serving Alaskan ale .. Cold and delicious .. Every night the dining room menu also featured two salmon dishes. The menu did not state you could order broiled chicken or steak any evening..it did state you could order a baked potato with any meal. The lido also gets high marks for breakfast .. all items were hot and delicious .. and the fresh ham was very good. We enjoyed breakfast one morning in the kings room .. Although I think we enjoyed the lido breakfast better than the dining room offerings. There were several other suite passengers dining there as well.



We received an invitation to the suite welcome aboard party .. This was held at 11:30 AM on our second day on board in the concierge lounge. The lounge was very crowded, so we said our hellos, enjoyed a drink and left after 15 minutes. We also attended another cocktail party in the Explorers Lounge. They had closed the fire door between the piano bar and the Explorers Lounge and put a sign out stating private party. We asked the assistant cruise director what the event was all about and we were advised suite passengers were invited along with all the new guests getting on in Skagway because they did not have the opportunity to attend the Captains gala welcome aboard held the second evening. Our captain also left the ship in Skagway and a new one joined our voyage. (Their names escape me) The cruise director introduced all of the various ship staff/officers at the cocktail party. We also attended the suite luncheon on the last day of the cruise. It was held in the dining room and the staff from the pinnacle prepared and presented the food. Beef Tenderloin was served along with a lot of other delights. It was a very pleasant lunch.



Dress .. I had heard the Alaskan cruises were more casual in nature and based upon our experience last week we found this to be true. David and Dad wore suits on the 2 formal and 1 informal nights (to avoid having to pack yet again another jacket .. I’m all for eliminating informal nights .. I don’t see the point???) We saw a few tuxes but suits were in the majority .. just the opposite of our 2 Caribbean HAL experiences. We also observed a few men without jackets, or some with no ties, etc. all were allowed in the dining room. Women seemed to also be less formal .. a lot of simple black dresses .. not many fancy cocktail dresses. We also noted a lot of people skipped the first formal night as the dining room was missing about 1/3 of the people. However, on the second formal night all appeared to be present … after all, it was lobster night!!



Ports of call – Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan – we enjoyed them all .. one observation..very disappointed to find all the jewelry stores from the Caribbean have taken up residence in Alaska .. why?? The ship was promoting these stores just as they do in the Caribbean … They were all there diamonds international, tanzanite international, little Switzerland … etc., etc….. Kind of took away some of the quaint charm of these ports … also found the hordes of people overwhelming. Skagway has 800 full time residents … there were 4 ships in port….. We enjoyed the tours we took in Juneau and Ketchikan. We did the rail tour in Skagway .. it was good, but could have been an hour or so shorter. 4 hours on the train was a bit much.



We were scheduled to visit Tracy’s arm, but the captain canceled this destination due to the pilots not being able to see to buoy markers (it was the morning of rain) we understand the zaandam had to cancel this on the first two cruises of the season as well. (we were the third cruise of the season) We were sorry we missed Tracy’s arm but certainly understood the captains decision to cancel.



The highlight of our cruise was our visit to Glacier Bay National Park .. our cabin was located port side and we had fantastic views of the glaciers from our verandah. We turned up the speakers in our suite and opened up the verandah door so we could hear and enjoy the park ranger narration. It was a fantastic day! The sun was shining and the beautiful snow capped mountains shimmered against the vivid blue sky. The glaciers were amazing and we witnessed a small amount of calving .. the water was like glass and the zaandam glided effortlessly through the bay. The park rangers were excellent and shared a lot of interesting facts about the area and the glaciers. We didn’t see much wildlife .. lots of sea birds, a few whale sightings from afar .. but no bears or seals .. however we were quite content with the sheer beauty of this national park.



We only attended one show .. one of the juggler acts. He was good, but honestly was just like the juggler acts we seen before.



Casino – Amazingly there was very little smoke in the casino and we were able to enjoy a few hands of black jack each evening. Normally we find the casino air blue with smoke and avoid the place .. so this was a very pleasant surprise!



On the subject of smoking .. we boarded the ship at 11:30 am. We were shown to the Neptune lounge and we took a peek inside our stateroom .. it hadn’t been cleaned yet, but we did notice a couple of empty cigarette boxes left in the room .. Happy to report the room had absolutely no traces of smoke smell at all! During our entire cruise we really only encountered smoke once and that was on our verandah … I don’t think the person smoking was staying in the next stateroom, as we only smelled smoke that one time.



We enjoyed every minute of our cruise above the Zaandam … The only down side is the long flights from the east to west coasts!;)



I'll be happy to answer any questions ..


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Thanks for the very nice review of the Zaandam. We will be on her next December for the Panama Canal cruise so it is great to see all the good things you have so say about her. See a lot a reviews for other ships on this board but not too many about the Zaandam. Wonder why that is?

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TopSail -- Thank you.


I wasn't able to find much on the Zaandam either. Rev Neal did an extensive review when he sailed from Vancouver to Ft. Lauderdale last year .. you might search for that.


I'm not sure if it was the SOE upgrades, but we really liked the Zaandam and would give this ship higher marks than our recent Volendam experience .. The ship was well maintained throughout our cruise and every staff member we encountered was delightful.


Enjoy your cruise!



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Arubalisa also did an excellent review of the Zaandam.


I sailed on the Zaandam in March and loved the ship. Our balcony room was very spacious. We loved our meal in the Pinnacle. We had room service every morning for breakfast. It was always on time, sometimes early. The food in the dining room was good, not great.

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Hi Peggy,


Thanks so much for posting your trip report. We (Mom and I) are going to be on the Volendam June 15th sailing. It is our 1st cruise and 1st time to Alaska. We are of course very excited and full of questions. I love how you described your impression of Alaska. :D It makes me want to go even more than I do now!


Can I ask did you have any problems or a long wait at Canada Place before boarding? And did you need or use the "jackets" you brought with you? I think I may be over packing.:confused:


Thanks again and welcome back


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Thank you for your kind words.


We did not have a long wait in Canada Place at all. I was very impressed with the Vancouver airport and their cruise terminal. we arrived around 11:15 am .. cleared through security swiftly (I like that all cruises clear through one central sercurity area .. once clear, you're off to your cruise line check in) and then US customs/immigration then onto our curise line .. they had just opened up the processing windows, so we were among the first passengers. We were immediately invited to board the ship .. we stopped for a brief picture then up the gang way and onto the ship where we were greeted and escorted to the Neptune Lounge. We stayed there for about a half hour then went up to the Lido to grab some lunch before heading out to explore the ship. We were in our cabin by 1:30 and our luggage arrived 2 PM.


There were 3 ships leaving from Canada place .. but we really didn't notice any crowds .. I thought they did a much better job of moving people/luggage than Ft. Lauderdale.


We flew in the day before and stayed at the marriott Pinnacle down town .. It's a long trip east to west so we were very happy to have an evening to recoup and relax before heading off to our cruise the next morning.


Leaving the ship was also breeze .. there were only 2 ships in port that day .. no crowds anywhere. We were at the airport and through all customs/immigration before 10 AM .. we could have easily made an 11 am flight .. but ours was at 2 .. so that was a long wait .. but a comfortable enough spot to veg for awhile.


Next trip we will allow some time to explore Vancouver and the surrounding area .. it really is a beautiful place and the people were so nice and welcoming.


In Juneau I wore my light rain jacket over jeans/sweater .. it was in the high 50's .. when the rain stopped, you didn't need the jacket as the temps went into the high 60's in the afternoon.


Skagway .. wore a sweater and jeans .. no coat .. bright/sunny day. most were dressed the same way .. 4 ships in port WAY too many people in the small down town area though .. a lot of people had jackets, but they were carrying them.


Ketchikan .. was warm .. in the 70's .. we all wore short sleeves .. no coats.


Glacier Bay .. in the low 50's .. you we wore turtle necks, sweaters and our jackets and used one of the HAL blankets when sitting. It wasn't windy .. but even with the ship moving slowly, it was quite chilly. we brought our hats and gloves, but didn't use them. we saw other on board who were wearing them. depends upon where you hail from .. being from Boston .. it was like a crisp fall day to us


We didn't pack heavy coats, but rain jackets .. one that repel the water ..


Last year they had the best summer weather with warm days ... don't know what the summer will hold this year, but if they remain sunny I suspect you won't need to bring anything heavy along .. the key was layers .. I didn't bring heavy wool sweaters .. just a cotton blend.


We scaled back the amount of stuff we packed too, and glad we did!! My suggestion is to be prepared for rain more than cold .. but bring some layers along for glacier bay ... you're going to want to be out doors to experience this wonderful day!!


have a fantastic trip .. and hope you'll come back and share your experiences!!



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Hi PeggySue,


Really enjoyed your review. We were on the Zaandam the week before you and enjoyed her immensely. Sorry to hear that Captain de Boer left during your cruise. We thought he was very down to earth.


One correction, we did stop in Tracy Arm on our cruise. However, we did not proceed all the way back to the Glacier because of the amount of ice in the water.


I agree with all of your comments regarding the SOE upgrades and especially like the Explorer's Cafe, too.


We can't wait to go back to Alaska!



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We had no rain in Juneau; just lots of sunshine which made our landing on the glacier even more special. Just misting rain in Ketchikan while we kayaked.


We were not allowed by the Park Rangers to go into a five-mile inlet area of Glacier Bay because the seals were having their young on the floating ice. This restriction will last for a month so ships will not go in that area until the last of June or first week of July. Supposedly, we missed the glacier that calves the most but it didn't bother any of us because wherever we went in Glacier Bay the glaciers and mountains we did see were spectacular.


Glad that your cruise was excellent--let's go back soon!

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Hi Peggy -

I found it! Thanks for the neat read and so glad you enjoyed our incredible state. I bet Ketchican was a bit crowded, most of the cities I stopped on with the Alaska Ferry - Sitka, Ketchikan, Petersburg all seemed pretty small for multiple cruise ships.


One difference I have noticed in dress from us folks in Alaska and those from the lower 48 is that we do as you suggest, layer, a lot. And we also usually have a layer that is hooded (a hoodie to be up with the times). Whether it is a sweatshirt, anorak or cotton top, lots of us on the Alaska Peninsula wear hoodies, even all summer. The higher neck cuts the wind even when the hood is down, and the hood is nice for the drizzly times.


So glad your Dad had a great trip, too. Good to know that your suite was comfortable for three.


Talk to you soon, Lee Anne

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Peggy Sue -


Thanks for such a great review! Glad to hear you enjoyed the Zaandam! I'm also glad everything work out well - what a great treat to be able to cruise with your Dad. :)

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Thanks everyone for the kind commetns


fsdj9017 - happy to hear you were able to see some of Tracy's arm! We only had the opportunity to see very small "burgers" in glacier bay .. when in Tracy's arm..were they large ice burgs you were sailing around? glad to hear you had a great cruise too. Staff had told us that the first 2 cruises of the season also had excellent weather!


tim2sail - I agree .. lets go back soon!! So, after the seals have given birth .. do the ships normally go up both of the arms of glacier bay? It was indeed a very special day!!


LeeAnne .. so glad you found the post!! Of course I'm envious you get to enjoy the beauty of alaska all summer long!!



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Hi PeggySue,


There were some good-sized ice bergs in Tracy Arm. Some were the prettiest color blue that you can imagine. The Park Naturalist said that the clear blue ones were over 20,000 years old!


If someone could give me some instructions on how to paste or upload a file I could show you some.


If you'll give me your email address, I'd he happy to send you a couple of nice photos.



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Hi SWayne


The only tip I can offer is just ... "get out there" ... Alaska is beautiful .. We did tours in every port and really enjoyed them. The only tour we purchased from the ship was the rail in Skagway .. we'd read this "sells out" .. in hind sight, I don't think this was true and we could have probably purchased at the train station .. every port has plenty of local tour vendors to choose from once get off the ship ... their in plain sight .. no pressure to buy anything, but we found them to be very helpful.


Have a fantastic time and please post to let us know how you enjoyed the Zaandam.


Please feel free to ask any specific questions you may have.



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SWayne, you may wish to check the Alaska board under "destinations" for more ideas of what to do on your trip.


We arrived home on Friday from a cruisetour that started on the Volendam May 25. We only had two ships in port in Juneau and Skagway, and that was enough.


I thoroughly enjoyed the White Pass RR-we only did one way as that was the start of our land tour. In Juneau we did whale watching with Orca Enterprises (booked independently) and in Skagway the Pilot's Choice helicopter with TEMSCO. That was booked through HAL as the independent slots were all taken. Cost more through HAL, but it was worth every dime.


We had rain in Juneau, but it didn't start to really come down until we finished our whale watch. Skagway's weather was glorious-warm, sunny with just wispy clouds. I have wonderful photos from the glaciers.


Now for a question-I don't see anyplace on CC for reviews of cruiseTOURs. Is it allowed? We spent so little time on the ship relative to the entire vacation that I wonder if that is why there isn't even a spot for them under the "special interest" area.

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