Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: March 24th, 2002
Itinerary: Southern Wayfarer Cruise
My husband I just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Zaandam. We booked a mini-suite with verandah. The room was very comfortable and clean as was the ship. The staff (not the officers) went out of their way to accommodate any and all of our wishes. The Officers however were extremely standoffish and unfriendly, which surprised us, as we have cruised on other Holland cruises and found all personnel to be friendly and interested in meeting their passengers. We were most disappointed with the Rotterdam dining room food. The seafood was not fresh and re-used in other appetizers or entrees. I had two frozen desserts that I returned because they were freezer burned and tasted awful. The salads were not cold but served on warm plates. On the lido deck - buffet, I opened a box of cereal one morning and found that spider mites had gotten there ahead of me. The box was full of cereal and cobwebs. When I brought it to the stewards attention, he simply shrugged and removed my tray. The best meal that we had on the ship was at the Marco Polo Restaurant, however the wait staff and wine steward were not friendly, and reservations were not easy to get. The policy is you can dine here one time on the cruise and request to be put on a waiting list if you would like to return a second time.
We were very disappointed in two of the six islands that we visited. Bonaire is not yet ready for cruise ships. The town is limited in terms of shopping opportunities, is dirty and is clearly an industrial town that caters to scuba divers, not ship tourists. We looked into renting vespa's and found them expensive to rent and not in good mechanical upkeep (bald tires etc) The pier is undeveloped and accounts mostly of bars and restaurants that were not open. We noticed numerous passengers disembarking to explore Bonaire and within the hour returning back to the boat with no shore purchases or enthusiasm for this port of call. Isle de Margarita, Venezuela was also a disappointment. The town of Polmar was filthy and a 45 minute taxi ride from the pier, it offers even less shopping or exploring opportunities than Bonaire. A $500 per person air tour of Angel Falls on the main- land of Venezuela is available, we met no one who participated on this tour. At the Crew's suggestion we decided to explore the beach that was a 5 minute walk from the boat. The beach appeared clean and was enjoyed by locals who did not bother us. My husband and I were both dismayed when we found out from the ship's infirmary nurse that the beach and water we waded in were polluted with raw sewage. There was no posting or information from the ship regarding this.
The rest of the islands we visited, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay were just as we expected; Lush, beautiful tropical islands with shopping and lots of exploring available if one so desired. The ship did not offer long stays in any of the islands, our longest port of call was 8 hours in St. Thomas. Half Moon Cay - Holland's private island offers a beautiful beach and ample activities. We met many folks who had cruised with Holland before and felt as we did that the line has not maintained the "excellence and quality" that they advertise and have experienced in the past. Perhaps this reflects the recent merger with Carnival [Holland America Line has been a part of Carnival Corporation since 1989 – Editor’s Note]. We did not appreciate the insistence of the cruise director - Eric - to be sure and rate them a "9" of excellence on the departing survey. The ship's services and wayfarer cruise simply did not met that level. It will be a long time before my husband and I book another Holland America Cruise, and we will not recommend them to fellow cruisers. We will try other cruise lines before HAL is given our hard earned vacation dollars in future trips.