Zaandam, the newest ship to join the Holland America Cruise Lines fleet, had her inaugural ceremony in Fort Lauderdale last week. Zaandam is a sister ship to the Volendam, introduced in November, 1999, and is nearly identical in layout. There to break the obligatory bottle of champagne were the official "god-mothers" of the ship Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the two "cuter-than-a-button" 16 year old twins who star in TV (beginning with the series "Full House") and films and now claim to have the most popular "tween" destination on the web; www.marykateandashley.com.
Zaandam and her sister ship, Volendam, are nearly identical to the entire Statendam class of ships introduced by HAL beginning in 1993, except that they are slightly longer. On Zaandam, this extra space provides room for an additional dining venue, an alternative restaurant dubbed the Marco Polo serving "California-style Italian cuisine," and a dedicated Internet cafe.
Zaandam has arguably the most interesting interior of all the recent HAL ships. The theme is "music" and it embellishes the artwork and ornamentation throughout. The centerpiece of the ship in the main atrium is a massive mechanical pipe organ designed by F.C.J. Dingemans of Utrecht, Netherlands. The organ incorporates wooden pipes and drums, and when it is played it breathes life into a menagerie of puppets connected to its mechanism. The organ is also playable by a computerized "player-piano" system from Yamaha. Throughout the ship, one will find sheet music created by famous composers and authentic instruments from the 19th century that are pieces of art in themselves -- look for the Rothphone and bass Sarruso-phone, two double-reeded instruments resembling bassoons made of brass.
Three electric guitars acquired at the Christie's London auction of "Pop and Guitars" in 1997 include a Fender Telecaster signed by all of the members of the Rolling Stones, an acoustic guitar signed by David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and a Les Paul style guitar signed by a Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton and other blues legends. There is also is somewhat tarnished looking alto saxophone signed on the mouth piece by President Bill Clinton.
HOLLAND AMERICA STYLE
Zaandam carries on the tradition of Holland America as a quieter, more sophisticated cruising option at an affordable price --well within the reach of the average family. The cabins are generous in size and well appointed in furnishings with ample closet space, couches, a writing desk and plenty of drawers. There is a safe in every room, and CNN is offered on the in-cabin television system as well as TNT, 3 onboard movie channels and shipboard information. In the mini-suites (and higher) you will find mini-bars with refrigerators and VCRs with videotapes available in the library at no charge. The suites and penthouse suite are stunning and surprisingly affordable. The penthouse features separate living room, dining room and bedroom and even comes with a butlers pantry, with stainless steel appliances, accessible through a separate door to the outside hall. The suites offer huge balconies, generous entertaining fearues such as dining tables and a bar and lavish bathrooms with jacuzzi tubs.
WHAT IS NEW ABOUT ZAANDAM?
Holland America is positioning Zaandam to sail year-round in the Caribbean in 2000 (next year the Maasdam will become HAL's year-round Caribbean ship) and the company has taken steps to increase the ship's appeal to families who want to cruise in the easy-to-access Caribbean while their kids are on summer vacation. An expanded children's program is in place including a dedicated children's area with one full-time youth counselor onboard and additional counselors standing by ready to handle large crowds of kids on the cruises when they are needed.
Zaandam has the decor and expanded dining options that will appeal more to families than other Holland America ships, but this ship is still most likely to appeal to cruisers who are already Holland America devotees. For the activities onboard and the stage shows presented in the main theater you aren't likely to find much that is different from the other Holland America ships. You definitely will not find the type of family and teen activities available on the mega ships Carnival Destiny or RCI's Voyager of the seas.
The Caribbean and "50's" night-time celebrations on the open-air pool deck are going to be more lavish and lively, according the HAL's director of entertainment Bill Prince, and the stage shows will have a slightly younger appeal though they will still be similar to what is found on other Holland America ships.
Like Volendam, Zaandam also has a 24-hour Internet cafe managed by Digital Seas. The Internet connection is extremely fast and reliable and it is possible to access the AOL service as well as regular Web pages and Internet based e-mail. One can use the AOL Instant Messenger to communicate with friends and it is possible to log into the CruiseMates chat room at night. Cost for the Internet cafe is 75 cents per minute, if you choose to use the Digital Seas email program you can send a single email for $3.95. It is also possible to send video and voice mail over the Internet -- a message up to 20 seconds will cost you $4.95 plus computer time (75 cents a minute).
Dining options have also been expanded. It is now possible to order room service from the dining room menu as long as you order an hour before the dining room opens for your designated seating. For the Marco Polo alternative dining room featuring "California-style" Italian cuisine all that is required is to make a reservation; there is no additional charge. In addition, the Lido restaurant normally used for buffets for breakfast and lunch will be open as a "Bistro Restaurant" for an alternative dining venue during the dinner hour.
Zaandam sails on alternating Western Caribbean and Eastern Caribbean seven-day cruises. The Eastern Caribbean itinerary features Nassau, San Juan PR, St. Thomas and Holland America's private island Half Moon Cay. The Western Caribbean itinerary features Cozumel Mexico, Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Half Moon Cay. Rates are competitive with other ships and cruise lines cruising year-round in the Caribbean.