Larry and Linda Adams
Age: 41 to 50
Occupation:IC Designer and Tech Pubs Mgr
Number of Cruises: 6 to 10
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: July 1st, 2000
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
We just returned from a wonderful cruise aboard Holland Americas's new ship, the Zaandam.
This was our sixth cruise. Previously, we've been on the:
Majesty of the Seas (RCCL)
Viking Serenade (RCCL)
Sun Princess (Princess)
Legend of the Seas (RCCL)
The ship is gorgeous. We like new ships for that exact reason. Everything was new and in perfect condition. We had a minisuite with a balcony on the Navigator Deck (7). Our daughter had an inside cabin just a few doors down from us. Her cabin number was 7086. I mention this because 7086 is a great buy; it's considered an inside cabin, but it has a window that looks out over the back of the ship! I might have read that the inside cabins are a bit smaller than the outside. Since this cabin is at the end of a hallway with all inside cabins on one side and minisuites or suites on the other side, maybe it is smaller than a regular outside cabin so they sell it as an inside. I really don't know, but it was a great cabin. If you look at a layout of the ship, the layout does show the window. We noticed this and were anxious to see if she indeed had a window. Sure enough, and with a nice view.
The main activity of the ship takes place around the Lido pool. This is domed pool area. We are not fond of domed pools usually. From reviews we've read and our experience on the Legend of the Seas, the dome is generally closed even in nice weather. This makes for a stuffy atmosphere. But, on the Zaandam, except for one brief period of rain, they kept the dome completely open the entire week. It was a lovely area with the steel band, loungers, tables and chairs, and the hamburger and pizza food area.
We spent a good deal of time on the Sports deck which is sort of the balcony of the outdoor pool area. The ship was completely maxed out. When we booked our cruise, HAL wasn't even allowing a 3rd or 4th person to book into a cabin which is why we booked a separate cabin for our daughter. Thanks to our wonderful TA, Lori Cunningham, we got a great! deal on the extra cabin. Thanks, Lori. Suffice to say, the ship was more than full. Even so, there was always a lounger available and the ship never, absolutely never, seemed crowded. It was impressive.
They always had tea at 4:00 up in the Crow's Nest, which is the disco area at night. That was nice, but on Thursday, they had High Dutch Tea in the regular dining room (which is beautiful, by the way). It was quite the lavish affair with a billion delightful sandwiches and petit fours. Very, very nice.
I won't say alot about the food, but it was very good. There was a nice variety and it was all delicious. We only ate in the dining room at dinner. For lunch, we generally ate from the Lido buffet. I have to say that this buffet was probably a cut above the buffets on other ships we've been on. For breakfast, we always had room service so we could enjoy it on our balcony. Although our daughter had her own cabin, she spent most of her time in ours. She's 23 by the way; we didn't dump some little kid off into her own cabin. There was plenty of room for all of us to lounge around on the balcony. The balcony has teak railing with clear Plexiglas so we could see out easily. Very nice.
My favorite food place on the ship was the Java Bar. I'm definitely a coffee snob and enjoyed many cappuccinos. You could also get espresso, cappuccino, and lattes at dinner and from room service.
The Zaandam has an alternative Italian restaurant. The first full day of the cruise, they take reservations during specific hours. Within just a couple of hours, all the reservations were taken for the entire cruise. We did not get in on this; I didn't realize how popular it would be. So, if you're interested, be very aware of the reservation time and get in line early. I heard there was quite a crowd.
There were just a couple of negatives for us. One thing we enjoy on cruises is taking aerobic classes and using the workout area. The Zaandam has a very nice workout area with plenty of equipment. But they only had one aerobic class per day, which was always early in the morning, and no step classes. We talked to the one aerobic instructor they had who said she'd teach step every day if they had them. Steps are not all that expensive and other ships do have them. It'd be nice if HAL got "in step" so to speak.
The other negative was the availability of spots on the more active-oriented shore excursions. We turned in our shore excursion request form by 4 p.m. of the day we embarked, but two of the excursions we wanted were sold out. We then turned in another one that evening (we haven't been on the ship more than 8 hours yet), but no luck. The excursions we did take were nice, but... Twice I heard the shore excursion people mention that they only had four spots total on a couple of the tours. That's not too many for a ship that holds almost 2000 people. We are planning to go to the Mediterranean next summer. We've heard that a new HAL ship, the Amsterdam, will be in the Med. We'd love to consider cruising on her, but won't due to our experience with the shore excursions on this cruise. We are aware that you always need to get your shore excursion form in early, but have never before had a problem when we turn it in the day of embarkation or early the first full cruise day. I'd hate to go to the Mediterranean and not be able to see what we want due to a similar situation.
Our cruise was Eastern Caribbean. We visited Nassau, San Juan, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay (HAL's private island).
Nassau is a dump. Normally, we'd have taken a tour, but the stop was only from 7 a.m. to noon and we didn't want to get up early. You never get a good impression of a place by shopping around the dock area, so maybe I shouldn't judge by that. We could see Paradise Island from the dock. I think I'd go over there, if I went to Nassau again. Somebody we talked to went diving in Nassau and enjoyed it alot.
San Juan was very interesting. We took a walking tour in Old San Juan. It was fascinating. We visited El Morro and got alot of Puerto Rico history. The cobblestones in Old San Juan are blue, made of volcanic rock. They were laid in the 1600s. We took a cab to see the El San Juan hotel. The hotel is nice, but the area it's in is not. Our tour guide in Old San Juan gave us a couple of restaurant and Puerto Rican food recommendations. So, for dinner we had Mofongo. Mofongo is mashed plantains with meat in the center. We had Mofongo with shrimp in Creole sauce and Mofongo with chicken in garlic sauce. Both were good, but the chicken and garlic was fantastic. I'm going to look for a Puerto Rican cookbook. The food was wonderful.
St. Thomas is lovely, but we spent most of the day on the beach on St. John. We went to St. John on a replica of a Chesapeake Bay oyster boat, the Leylon Sneed. We could've gotten off the ship on St. John, but that would've meant getting up at 6:30 a.m. I don't think so. The sand is like powder with the most gorgeous water we'd ever seen until we got to Half Moon Cay.
Half Moon Cay, well, I could live there. A very nice private island with that same powdery sand and crystal clear water. Absolutely fantastic. My husband and daughter went Flats Fishing in the morning, then we went kayaking in the afternoon. A fabulous day.
I have to say that, given Holland America's reputation as a cruise line catering to older people, we were pleasantly surprised at the great night life on the ship. Lots of people were up in the disco every night, which sometimes had a live band. They had theme nights, 70's, country western, and a 50's prom night. The name "prom night" cracked me up, since I always refer to formal nights as a prom for adults.
One thing that was different is that all, but the two formal nights, were casual dress for dinner. Our cruise tickets said that there were two casual nights, three informal, and two formal. So, we were a bit overdressed a few nights. I meant to ask our table mates if their tickets said the same, but forgot. Our table mates were terrific, George and Jackie from Memphis along with their son Harrison and his friend Ben. Harrison and Ben are high school seniors and were absolutely delightful company, as were George and Jackie of course. We had lots of fun meeting up with them each evening.
The entertainment was standard cruise fare, but most enjoyable just the same.
This is the first ship we've been on with an Internet center, the Website. We were able to send and receive email from the home folks. I think it was 75 cents per minute, about $4 to send an email message and free to receive one. The Website was great.
If you have any questions or comments, just drop us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Cruising.- Linda and Larry Adams