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Zaandam Review 8/7/09


DougMacP

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This is my 23rd cruise, (crossings not included) and my 4th on HAL. I’ve done a variety of cruise lines from Carnival to Crystal, the most recent being a Panama Canal trip on the Celebrity Mercury in January.

 

Embarkation: The commute to the ship was a grueling 7-minute drive from my home. I could have made it in 6 minutes, but there was a red light. I arrived at Pier 91 at 1:15pm, and I kid you not was onboard by 1:30pm. The longest and slowest line I encounter was for the welcome aboard picture, which I by-passed.

 

The Crowd: It is summer, school is out and it was a diverse crowd. Seniors, toddlers, teenagers, large family groups, everything and everyone were represented. Any thought that the Lido (covered) pool was adult only was abandoned immediately. The place reverberated with the screams and laughter of children. It was so chilly in the aft pool area that they had to go somewhere, and I’m not that much of a curmudgeon that I would deny them their fun. If you want a less kid (verses kid-less) cruise book before the end of May or in September when school is in session.

 

Stateroom, Public Rooms, Condition in General: The Zaandam is not a new ship. Are there loose carpet seams here and there and a bit of wear and tear? Yes. Is it tired and dirty? No way. The ship has great flow, attractive public areas, fantastic art and is extremely comfortable with cushy and inviting furniture throughout. Of special note, the mattress in my cabin wasn’t a thin piece of foam over a plastic platform (like the Mercury for example) it was a real, honest to goodness thick mattress. My stateroom was functional and clean and kept that way by my stealthy room attendants.

 

Food: My expectations were in check due to a lot of comments about the decline in the quality of HAL’s food from the Boards. I’m a foodie and to be honest can be critical of sub-par food and service. With all that said, I thought the food was good to excellent throughout the cruise. I tend to lean more towards beef and chicken so take that into account. The portions aren’t huge in the dining room, but with 5 courses they shouldn’t be. If that is a concern just order an additional entrée and the waiters will gladly comply. The service in the dining room was professional and appropriate. The food in the Lido was equally a pleasant surprise.

 

Entertainment: More “ugh” than “awe”. Quality entertainment at night on the Zaandam was not so easy to find.

 

The Showroom: I’ve learned never to expect much from the Production Shows on a cruise. The ships don’t pay enough to get top tier talent, the stage isn’t big enough, and the production values (props, costumes and special effects) are about squeezing one more season out of what is already paid for then investing in anything new or fresh. HAL exceed my expectations, but probably not the way they intended. The Production Shows were so tired, cheesy, poorly danced and sung I had to wonder if I was missing something. Was this a parody of a production show? The Headliners, a musician billed as a young Kenny G (is that a compliment?) and magician/comic did provide some good moments and was worth checking out. A most welcomed surprise.

 

Lounge Acts: The Zaandam has beautiful Lounges but less than half the Lounge bands were competent and entertaining. Additionally, kudos to the D.J. in the Crows-Nest who always seemed to find the right songs to get people out of their seats and on to the dance floor. From there it falls off the face of the earth. A venue I love, the Piano Bar was a wasteland every night when it should be packed because of a guy that doesn’t play very well, sings worse and appears to not to like people very much. At the bottom of the entertainment heap was a very good band, with lead singer so vocally challenged she dragged them to the bottom faster than one of the Zaandam’s huge anchors. I really had to wonder if anyone in the corporate offices of HAL even bothers listening to the audition tapes. The other alternative is that they are trying to drive people into the Casino by having such limited quality entertainment at night.

 

Stuff to Do: While the daily program aren’t as packed as the most of the recent cruises I’ve been on, the activities were well paced and interesting. The culinary demonstrations, lectures and computer classes blend well with the regular cruise ship fare of trivia, pool games and bingo. There is no reason to be bored if you want to get involved. A major plus was the Cruise Director Michael who was seemingly everywhere at once, with boundless energy delivered in an engaging and believable manner. The Captain joked at a function that Michael was the best Cruise Director in a 250 mile radius. Personally, I thought he was one of the best I’ve seen in 23 cruises.

 

Things I should have believed: No matter how hot it is in your part of the country or even in Seattle, be prepared and dress appropriately for chilly weather and rain, fog or drizzle. Remember even if it is 65 degrees (F) with the speed of the ship underway the wind chill on deck is substantial. Don’t think I ever was not wearing fleece of some sort.

 

Ports: Personally the trip for me was about seeing Glacier Bay, and it did not disappoint. Imagine if the Teton’s or Rockies had an Ocean at 10,000 feet and you were right next to them? It was magnificent. A Ranger from the US National Parks Service who appears not only to have a degree in geology but also drama narrated the trip. Despite his over to top moments of poetry, native flute interludes and asking us to spiritually become one with the Glacier, he kept us well informed of the history and conditions in the area.

 

I was reluctant to pre book excursions due to fluctuating weather conditions in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. A floatplane trip in the fog would not be my idea of fun. As for wild life watching, we saw so many Whales and Eagles from the ship that after a few days it became commonplace. I just got off the ship and wandered around without paying attention to the ships shopping guides, as they only include stores that pay huge kickbacks to the cruise line. If I had to do it over I would do the salmon bake in Juneau, which drew rave reviews.

 

What HAL does best in one word: Service. From the Officers to the people who clear the tables HAL gets it right. Here are a few adjectives I jotted down during the cruise: Friendly, familiar yet respectful, impeccable, smiling, seamless and gracious.

 

And in the end: A solid performance, more hits than misses and a comfortable platform to enjoy the sights of Alaska.

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Welcome Home.

Thank you for your review.

WHAT -- you didn't run the red light to get to the ship sooner??!!

On our last couple of Alaskan cruises, all the float planes and helicoper tours in a couple of ports had to be cancelled because of fog and rain. That's life -- felt bad for those who were on their first Alaskan cruise.

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Thank you so much for your complete report! I did enjoy reading it. And thank you, too, for mentioning the entertainment so thoroughly. I especially follow comments on that topic.

But please, more! Tell me more!

A venue I love, the Piano Bar was a wasteland every night when it should be packed because of a guy that doesn’t play very well, sings worse and appears to not to like people very much.

Like the man's name. Since I, too, love the Piano Bar/Lounge I like to keep track of who HAL has playing. These guys tend to get additional contracts, and they tend to move around. I like advance warning. ;) Thanks.

 

And yes, Screecher and the HAL Cats seems to be consistant, no matter which version. :rolleyes:

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We were on the Zaandam August 7-14 and totally agree about the piano man. He was often playing to empty tables on our trip. But we loved the string quartet in the Explorations Lounge.

 

Our trip was great too and we arrived in Victoria early.

 

Now, back that laundry....

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Thanks for your review, it was well written and informative!! We are sailing the Zaandam to Hawaii next year and I'm very glad to hear you liked the flow of the ship. The Maasdam was a great ship in that respect too....can't wait to sail the Zaandam:)

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To answer the questions: Not that I name names...but the piano player is Dale. As bad as he was Rachel (of the HalCats) could clear a crowd faster then anyone I've ever seen. Such talent..multiple octaves in one song and the ability to be sharp and flat at the same time. Ugh

 

We got into Victoria a couple of minutes early at 7:15pm.

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Thanks for the great review of my favorite ship! Glad to here she is still functioning as well as she has on our many, many cruises on her.

 

Just love the attitude of the crew on Zaandam!

 

Your review made me wish we were scheduled for another cruise on her.

 

LoyHAL

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To answer the questions: Not that I name names...but the piano player is Dale. As bad as he was Rachel (of the HalCats) could clear a crowd faster then anyone I've ever seen. Such talent..multiple octaves in one song and the ability to be sharp and flat at the same time. Ugh

Thanks for the info. I'll file it in my memory bank, and if I see the name(s) on a Daily Program I can make other plans.

 

I figure that since the "entertainers" are performing in public, and are named in the Daily Program, there's nothing private, therefore no reason not to identify them in on this board.

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Thank you for the thoughtful review of the Zaandam. We certainly enjoyed our trip to Alaska with her in 2006. We have learned not to bother with most of the entertainment on board and prefer to relax in one of the lounges where the Rosario Strings (or whatever they are called now) are playing, or hang out in the Crow's Nest, depending on the type of music being spun. I'd like to spend some time at the Piano Bar, if the pianist is good, though DH isn't one to sing along or to suggest songs. Doesn't stop me!

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We're going on our first Holland cruise in eight years. We had only done one other which we enjoyed very much. They had a band on board that had an unbeliveably bad singer. It was a man, maybe these two can team up.

 

I was hoping for a better band on the Zaandam in October, we kept telling ourselves it couldn't be any worse, maybe it can :confused:

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We were on the Zaandam August 7-14 and totally agree about the piano man. He was often playing to empty tables on our trip. But we loved the string quartet in the Explorations Lounge.....

 

I wounder if its the same guy we had on our June cruise. He was really bad.

But other then that. The Zaandam is a great ship with a GREAT crew.

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I wounder if its the same guy we had on our June cruise. He was really bad.

But other then that. The Zaandam is a great ship with a GREAT crew.

 

This guy was so bad that the first time I heard him singing, I thought the paid performer was on break and one of the passengers was singing!

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This guy was so bad that the first time I heard him singing, I thought the paid performer was on break and one of the passengers was singing!

 

 

I swear!!! I WAS NOT on your cruise!!!! LOL, I had to jump in on this one because you made me think of what my beautiful 9 year old granddaughter asked me the one and ONLY time she heard me sing. "Gamma would you please stop that? The poor doggies just ran away, they were so scared of you."

 

LOL And she said it so innocently!! Now you know that if you can scare 2 huge dogs (greyhounds), then ya gots a real bad voice!!!

 

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Maybe the person who hires these people has a hearing problem. :( Why is it every ship seems to have a Screamette or Screecher with the Halcats?

 

How long is each act/contract on a ship? I am hoping for Hawaii Zaandam next March but couldn't bear more of the same entertainers! Last trip had a terrible piano bar person on Noordam in Feb, can't remember the name, do you remember, Ruth?

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Too funny...Seems we've struck an entertainment nerve. Honestly I don't think Rachel is going to last long. The beverage manager and other officers were cringing along with the rest of us. What amazed me was that she was completely oblivious. When the HalCat's played without her, the whole room applauded. Then when she sang, one or two people would clap and she was "oh, thank you so much!" You'd think she'd notice the difference.

 

As for the piano player, alas...don't think there are too many Ron Van Dykes or "fingers" Fred Potvin's out there. The two piano players that ruined me for everyone else.

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Last trip had a terrible piano bar person on Noordam in Feb, can't remember the name, do you remember, Ruth?

Who could forget the terrible Dave Mann. Loud, louder, loudest. No voice---no decent singing voice, anyway. No technique on the piano keys. Doesn't know the meaning of the word "soft". Poor selection of pieces. Obnoxious.

And then, instead of going home, never to be seen again, he was sent to the E-dam! :eek:

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DougMacP, thanks for one of the most entertaining reviews I've read in a while. You're an excellent writer. Maybe you could get yourself hired as a comedian with HAL;). In fact, I enjoyed your Zaandam review so much, I'm going back to read your other reviews of your previous cruises with different cruise lines.

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Great review, Doug. Melinda and I are taking the 14 day Circle Hawaii 11/2010 and the ship is in drydock in January so maybe a few touch ups will occur. We are looking forward to it and I keep looking for reviews like yours. Thanks so much for taking the time to write an objective review.

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In fact, I enjoyed your Zaandam review so much, I'm going back to read your other reviews of your previous cruises with different cruise lines.

 

Thanks.. You'll find the format hasn't changed much..I just write less the older I get. Actually the review I wrote that I liked the most was for the Norway..which when the ship was pulled out of service (now scrapped) it disappeared from the Cruise Critic site. Out there in cyberspace everything exists somewhere and I found it

 

Click here: Cruise Review - The Norway

If that doesn't work cut and paste

http://cruises.about.com/library/cruisereviews/uccrurev49.htm

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