We just returned from our 2-one day sailings of the Zaandam and the Saphire Princess cruising to and from Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. We had comparable category cabins, category BB Deluxe Veranda Suite 6196 on the Zaandam and Category AE Mini Suite E-728 on the Saphire Princess.
Both sailings were quite fine with some subtle diferences. We ate in the upscale alternative eateries in both cases for dinner. (Sabatini's and Pinnacle Grill, respectively) Although it may not be fair to compare a five year old ship to a one or two year old, one cannot help but do so.
Here is how we would grade the two based on a very limited sampling onboard due to such a short length of cruise:
H.A.L. Zaandam/Saphire Princess
Food (Pinnacle Grill) B-/(Sabatini's) A-
Cabin B+/ A-
Cabin Service A/C-
Food Service B/A
Lunch Buffet A-/NA
Cocktail Service C/A
Cocktail/Wine Pricing C/B+
As I stated previously, both cruises were excellent in their own way. Cruising on two consecutive days on different ships led us to pay attention to things things we might not have otherwise noticed, such as cocktail & wine pricing, bedding, etc.
The things that stood out were a sit down lunch upon embarkation on Princess in the International Dining Room and cabins that were ready at 11 A.M. instead of the usual 1 or 2 o'clock. (These two niceties really made us feel welcomed.) H.A.L. has the new flat screen TVs w/ DVDs, a nice touch. New H.A.L. bedding is another great addition but Princess still gets the nod for overall cabin quality.
We were not pleased with our Princess cabin steward when he balked at putting the beds together as previously requested at booking time. He clearly was offended and had a problem with doing so and it was embarrassing to both of us to have to ask three times for such service. This should never have been a problem had he been trained properly. I.M.H.O.
Cocktail service on the Zaandam was a bit weak this time and H.A.L. cocktails & wine prices were 10-20 percent higher in most cases for exact comparables. This was something I had never noticed previously.
David & I both agreed the Princess experience was a bit better overall but we also concurred that we would happily sail either ship again. We used to always prefer H.A.L. but that is no longer the case. None-the-less our next cruise is on the Oosterdam at Thanksgiving and that may be a better ship to compare with the Saphire Princess anyway. I hope our mini view of these two ships is of some help.