Rain started to pour moments after we entered the warehouse-like structure where my fellow passengers and I checked in for our Eastern Caribbean cruise on the m/s Zaandam. "Could this signal a bad omen for our trip?," I wondered to myself. Yet, after having returned home from our jaunt through paradise, I now know that the rain was most definitely not a bad omen, but more of a welcome way to cool things off in the muggy Florida (and Caribbean!) heat. My family and I had a wonderful trip on the Zaandam.
The embarkation was smooth and painless. Your first photograph (of many) is taken as passengers board the beautiful vessel. Upon actually boarding, there was a line of stewards waiting to escort passengers to their cabin. When we entered, we were greeted by the welcome sight of our luggage, placed neatly on the floor.
We were fortunate enough to have outside mini-suites, on the Verandah Deck. The cabins were very nice, and exceeded what I had envisioned our cabin would be like. It had a queen-size bed that could have been separated into two twin beds. There was a very nice balcony that housed a chaise lounge chair, a small table and chair. It provided for a most luxurious atmosphere: sitting outside listening to the waves and enjoying the beautiful scenery. There was a light for the verandah so you could enjoy it at night, as well. The bathrooms were fine -- I was impressed with the thickness of the towels!
As someone who brought too many clothes, I can guarantee that there is ample closet space. A feature that I was not expecting that was certainly appreciated was the curtain that acted to partition the cabin. I shared the cabin with my sister, so it was helpful that we could just section off the room to get dressed. There was a radio at the headboard which played five channels, one of which played any announcements made over the public address system, that normally only go to public areas. Our cabin steward, Tuwarji, made sure the room was meticulous and was very attentive to whatever needs arose.
Choosing the second seating was both a good thing and a bad thing. It was nice to have more time to lounge around and not have to be dressed and ready by about 5:30. But not actually eating 'til almost 9:00 was a bit tiring. We had young children in our party, but the "yum yum men" (crew members who distributed the mints after dinner) kept the kids entertained. The head steward also attended to the 8-year-old, which was a nice touch!
Dinner was held in the elegant Rotterdam Dining Room, which defined the luxury that HAL is known for. The Marco Polo Restaurant was the designated "alternative" dining room. We dined there one night and it was very nice. The food (everywhere) was delicious and there were many options to choose from. Our whole family just loved our steward, Michael. He was SO nice, friendly and helpful. When we would see him for lunch or breakfast in the Lido restaurant, he came over and talked to us . . . he was the best!
We did not take advantage of the late-night buffets, but the presentation was beautiful. The Terrace Grill, by the Lido pool, was a great alternative to eating in the Lido restaurant. Complimentary room service was offered 24 hours, which was a helpful amenity. Overall, the food was excellent, wherever you ate!
The dance cast put on some great shows! I really enjoyed the Mondriian Lounge, where all of the shows were held. Entertainment including dancing shows, a night of magic, comedians and a singer/impressionist. I am not really into magic, but the comedian was pretty funny. Our family really took advantage of the daily activities. I became addicted to Bingo -- unfortunately I never won, but it was a great mid-day activity. Bingo was hosted by Jim Leary, the assistant cruise director. He was a riot!
Many of the other activities were hosted by the cruise staff: Anthony, Courtney, Joanna and Nathan. They were great! All four were young, good-looking, funny kids who seemed to really like their jobs. These people, together with cruise director, Susan Wood, and Jim, were a major reason our cruise was so enjoyable. Susan was a delightful English woman with a great sense of humor who seemed to really make herself available to guests. We were most impressed with the entire staff.
Every evening my dad and I would go to the Ocean Bar for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. This worked out really well; we were able to preview a menu, and we became friendly with Doris, one of the waitresses. Nightlife was usually dominated by going up to the Crows Nest, located on Sky Deck 9. The Crows Nest had a unique atmosphere, with a live band for part of the evening, and DJ Nathan spinning the hits until the wee hours. Everyone had a great time dancing and drinking!
There was great shopping on the vessel! They had huge sales of all kinds . . . jewelry, makeup, watches. I did not have anything done at the Spa, but they sponsored some activities of which I took advantage. The spa was really nice; it was already booked up early into the trip. The casino was a good size, where many different tournaments were held throughout the week. I stuck to the slots and managed to win a little money, which I couldn't complain about!
Ports of Call
We didn't have much time there, and it cost $25 per person to see the elaborate fish tanks and some of the other more exclusive sights. We were able to go to the shops (obviously!) and the casino, plus the lobbies of the hotel. They had lavish stores (including a discount perfume store and a cute beach-wear store that sold adorable Lilly Pulitzer dresses). Their casino was quite large, with many different tables. Be on celeb-watch if you go; we saw NBA player Dickie Simpkins at the Craps table!
Half Moon Cay
Well, I think that's it. As I hope you can tell, this was one of the best vacations we have taken. I truly commend the Holland America line, specifically the Zaandam staff and crew, for making this vacation a memorable and pleasurable one. I was really sad that my jaunt through what I considered to be paradise was over, but hey, there's always next summer!
Photos courtesy of Alan Walker.
To read more reviews and view more photos of ZAANDAM, CLICK HERE.
Susan Hansen lives in Chicago, Illinois and may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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