Year Started: 1873
Ships in Fleet: 15
Summary: A high quality upper mainstream cruise line with smaller ships and value prices. A cruise line for people who want to step up from mainstream at great value prices.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Africa, Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Scandinavia, The Orient
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, The Orient, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Central America, Hawaii, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Central America, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Transpacific, West Coast, Erope
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Eastern Seaboard, South America
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Eastern Seaboard, Hawaii, Mexico, South America
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
My husband and I just returned from a twenty-day cruise aboard the Noordam (May 28-June 18, 2008). The cruise itinerary included a 10-day loop in both the Western and Eastern Mediterranean. This was our seventh cruise and the first aboard Holland America. Our most recent cruise was January 2008 aboard Carnival Conquest, and we looked forward to a quieter and more elegant journey on the Noordam. Overall we had a pleasant trip, although we did not feel that the experience was a significant improvement over previous journeys on other cruise lines. I am in my late fifties and my husband is sixty-two, so we concluded that HAL would be a great choice. However, we do not plan to travel aboard a large HAL ship in the future.
We stayed in a superior veranda suite (8073). Spacious and well organized, we were very comfortable in the room and on the balcony. If the side chairs near the sofa are moved slightly, there is plenty of walking space and easy access to the balcony. The only change I noticed from previous cabins was the ceiling appeared lower on this ship. The décor in thecabin was pleasant, with warm colors and attractive artwork. This was is sharp contrast to the busy carpet and mismatched art in the hallways. Our floor had a very busy modern blue carpet, Polynesian wall panels in shiny blues and purple and floral wall art framed in bright red matting. The overall hallway décor was neither calming or attractive. My husband and I traveled with one large bag each and found that there was plenty of room under the bed for luggage storage. If you plan to travel with several large pieces of luggage you may find the closet space inadequate. The closets have adjustable shelves than will accommodate long and short hanging garments as well as folded items. Additional storage is located in bedside drawers, end tables and desks. We purchased the pricey suite amenities package ($636.00) because we wanted to have clothing washed and pressed each day (no self-laundry facilities on board and you may not iron in the stateroom). We didn't realize that we could purchase laundry facilities separately. The suite amenities package did include a variety of extras that we could have done without such as bar set-up, coffee cards, canapés etc. No one fully explained the amenities included; we asked the booking agent at HAL on two occasions prior to leaving. We were unsure of all the options available to us until we asked the staff at the front desk on day 11 of our trip.
Issues and Areas in Need of Improvement Food quality aboard the ship was unexceptional at best. The only exceptions were the pastries served in the dining room and the lido café. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill three nights (additional fee). If you plan to do this, avoid any of the menu items beyond grilled meats as we were very disappointed with the seafood entrees. Be sure and ask the wine steward about prices for wine at the Pinnacle Grill. The most modest bottle was in the 50 dollar range and the prices varied dramatically from wine served in the main dining room.
Food service was often slow in the Vista dining room. (A 2.5 hour dining window was not uncommon and on one occasion we were awaiting dessert at the 3 hour mark). The second ten days of the cruise the ship appeared more crowded. We were told this might have been due to cabins that contained three or four travelers (more kids). Reservations were then encouraged in the open seating portion of the dining room, although this didn't eliminate waiting or being asked to return to the dining room at a later time. We enjoyed dining with a variety of travelers, however conversation was awkward at a table for ten. Tables for six seemed to provide the most comfortable dining environment. Some large cruise ships provide a variety of dining locations (with the same menu). This seems to eliminate waiting and the unfortunate crowding that occurred in the narrow hallway outside the Vista dining room.
Casual dining was provided on the Lido deck (9). There are food service stations and the lines could be quite lengthy. We noticed lines at occasional breakfasts and lunches that exceeded 30 persons for omelets, waffles, and sandwiches -- perhaps individual menu items should be minimized in order to more efficiently feed the larger number of passengers. Passenger bottlenecks also occurred at the juice, drinks (water, tea) and the pasta lines. The Lido café seems to have been designed for self-service, however the current process has staff members impeding the effectiveness of the layout. We concluded that this was less an issue with poor service than a confusion regarding the small ship service model and the systems required for larger numbers of travelers.
Port Visits and Excursions The security staff was always professional and efficient. The port lecturer (Ian) was helpful during his office hours in the library/internet area and anytime we debarked from a visit. There were two additional lecturers on the cruise. The first ten days the lecturer provided scholarly talks on the history of the Mediterranean. I attended a very enjoyable lecture on piracy. The second portion of the trip was less inspiring. The talk I attended was very simplistic (female lecturer), with a power point presentation full of spelling and grammar errors. I wondered how these folks were selected by HAL. Apparently no one reviewed this presentation.
The shore excursions were efficient and reasonably priced. We enjoyed the journeys to Ephesus, Pompeii, Olympia and the interiors of Santorini and Sicily. If you do not have difficulty with mobility, most of the other sites were easy to negotiate on foot or with a taxi/bus.
Our Suggestions: Do not miss the old town of Dubrovnik and take the walk around the city wall. Take the bus in Malta and visit the Mdina and Rabat, and visit the Souk and the American WWII Cemetery in Tunis.
Onboard Facilities The layout of this ship did not seem to be designed to accommodate nearly 2000 passengers. The Crows Nest was one of the few areas on the ship that provided a comfortable amount of space. It has wonderful recliners with an ocean view and helpful bar service staff. We enjoyed the early shows and thought the Noordam singers exceptionally good. A number of events were scheduled in the culinary arts center. This facility is not large enough for ship-wide events. The lectures and shows scheduled often felt crowded by the overflow seating.
The very tiny atrium area that would comfortably seat only twenty was seldom used. Passengers appeared to avoid the area, possibly due to the garish reflective wall tiles (with blinking lights embedded) and the awkward glass stairway that was often closed. As a consequence, passengers tended to congregate in the library and Explorations café. The library was extensive and the staff very helpful. The coffee bar in the café was understaffed and very busy. We each had a (approx. $30) coffee card good for ten drinks. The wait for service was so long that we only used half that number. It might be wiser to purchase coffee individually.
On deck you will find a variety of areas to relax on lounge chairs. Only in the pool area are the deck chairs crowded together. The aft pool was designated for adults, but the "adults only" rule was seldom followed. Several people did ask for reminders about children splashing and using inflatable toys, but the issue continued. In addition, although there were two small (4 person) hot tubs in the adult pool area, only one was functioning and open during our trip.
Unlike other ships, the steam room required an additional twenty-dollar a day charge per person. We did not take advantage of this, although using the steam room is something we enjoy. We were not interested in paying an additional charges on top of the suite package of 636 dollars. There was a small (three person) dry sauna available to all travelers, however it was often full.
We anticipated a gracious voyage on HAL based upon cruise line reviews and the relative cost difference. Had the service been commensurate with the basic and additional costs, we would have been pleased. Unfortunately, the food, service and amenities did not warrant the additional spending. We did enjoy the ports of call and plan to cruise in the Mediterranean again, but we will look to an alternative cruise line for our next trip.
Eastern Seaboard, out of Fort Lauderdale to Montréal Canada, early May, 2008.
This was my 15th Holland America cruise I imagine the weather in the fall is quite similar to that in May.
The Maasdam was built 1993 and is one of four in the Statendam class. It can accommodate roughly 1,266 passengers after refitting, and weighs about 55,451 tons. The Atrium consists of a very tasteful 3-story sculpture of cube-shaped glass, designed by Luciano Vistosi. The cabin I was in was 725 Starboard, forward, on the Main deck (A).; the couple I was with were on the Verandah deck (without a verandah!) in cabin 100, Port, as far forward as you can go. The Maasdam has, along with the other S Class ships, been refitted with new bedding, etc. The former Erasmus Library has been annexed to one of the rooms beside it, and another room which was used for the internet, to form a newer and better internet centre and library.
We flew down a day early, from Ottawa, Canada, to Detroit and then Fort Lauderdale, which was uneventful, and did not use the hotel to ship packages, taking a cabfrom Pier 66. Embarkation was the smoothest of all the cruises that I have been on, and only took 25 minutes. Part of this is that if you complete all of the on-line forms ahead of time (bringing printed duplicates to discard later in case of computer failure, etc.), there is no paperwork to fill out at embarkation except a short health questionnaire.
After a day at sea, the first port was Charleston, South Carolina, where we saw some of the old mansions on the Kingdom by the Sea tour. New London, Connecticut after another sea day, was where we took the Essex Steam Train tour, followed the next day by Cliff Walk & the Breakers tour in Newport, Rhode Island, which was slightly altered owing to weather. After a sea day, amid interesting North Atlantic seas, we hit Barr Harbor, Maine, and over the next three days, the ports of Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown Prince Edward Island. In each of these ports we went to eat lobster, for the last time on the Dalvey-by-the-Sea tour where it is served cold (which allows it to be snapped out of the shell easier), and where the guide showed everyone (spectacularly) how to properly break up a lobster to eat by hand, and, nearby a lobster fisherman explained his trade. After another day at sea, we passed the Saguenay Fjord in the St. Lawrence but were too late to enter it to see much of anything, and docked at Quebec where we wandered around the walled city; the next day we docked at Montréal. In Quebec preparations are under way for the 400th anniversary of Quebec.
This was a repositioning cruise, the first of the season. There are to be future ones in June, but from Boston to Montréal and vice-versa, before the Maasdam sails to Europe in July. Other versions of this cruise may take place in August out of Boston and HAL's latest ship, the Eurodam will be making trips to Quebec City from New York; the Maasdam will make one trip from Montréal to Ft. Lauderdale in the fall.
The couple I was with did not take a verandah because of the time of year. There were many passengers not suitably dressed for May in the North Atlantic. Cruising at this time of year is a little strange, since we are used to warmer Caribbean destinations. I went swimming from Fort Lauderdale until just after Charleston, when the outside temperature was too cool to use the outside aft lido pool. Except at Newport, the skies were clear, but temperatures started to drop, the coldest being in Sydney where it was about 4C I used long underwear twice on this cruise. There were some rough seas as well, for even though we were in the lee of the Gulf of Maine or the South Shore of Nova Scotia for part of the time, winds got to force 9+ on the Beaufort Scale; there were a lot of people sea-sick.
There was a new dinner arrangement on the Maasdam. There was the traditional late-seating arrangement on the upper level of the Rotterdam dining room, but on the lower level, there was a form of free-style seating for which you had to make some type of reservations (I never did figure it out, neither did some of the passengers used to completely free-style dining on some cruise lines). We chose the more traditional setting. Parts of the Lido are also open for dinner. Service was good, but there seem to be issues of timeliness which are not of the waiters' making. For example, when the staff is called off to do the Baked Alaska parade or the Chef's dinner which also involves staff doing other activities, there's a back-up. Our wine steward knew what she was doing and was quite helpful. The Maasdam, like all of the "Statendam" class ships, lacks access to the lower dining room from along the Promenade Deck (owing to the kitchen filling up the entire deck), which can be a minor inconvenience.
The Pinnacle restaurant is a later addition to all of the Statendam class of ships, being constructed by removing several of the public rooms and building it in. The Pinnacle is available for lunch as well as dinner, and the sirloin is as good as the Alberta A beef which used to be served on all the HAL ships. People with verandahs can eat breakfast free in the Pinnacle and there are some other perks relating to the restaurant.
The pools were well maintained. The Lido indoor pool (with the sliding roof) is chlorinated, while the aft outdoor pool has a slight salt content and less chlorine (which I prefer). This is new. The pools are not as warm as they used to be, but that is because of not wanting to help spread disease. The inside pool had to be completely drained for part of the cruise, as the seas were so rough.
In HAL's more recent ships, the Ocean bar is less of a focal point of the ship, but that is not the case with the four S class ones. Unfortunately the art auctioneers take up too much space when running the auctions. Many found the Crow's Nest awkward during rough seas because it so very high up.
There were two wine tastings -- one free which did take place -- and one which had a cost, but which had to be cancelled because of a lack of attendees.
Past Cruises: 1st-(Old) Noordam, 1998 (retired Nov. 2004); 2nd-Statendam, 1999; 3rd-Zaandam, 2000; 4th-Statendam, 2001; 5th/6th-Ryndam, 2002; 7th-Zuiderdam, 2003+ 8th-Veendam, 2003; 9th Volendam, 2004; 10th/11th-Westerdam, 2006-01; 12th-Amsterdam, 2006-11; 13th/14th-Zuiderdam, 2007; 15th Maasdam, 2008-05.
To let you know, I enjoyed the cruise (my first time with Holland America). However, I must complain about the food service, taste and presentation in the dining room.
The food (though basically the same Menu) at the Lido at night was soooo much better. The staff was much friendlier and the food looked good and tasted much fresher.
It was not a pleasure to dine in the dining room. After three times, I decided to eat the rest of my meals in Lido.
This was our 9th cruise. I love cruising, but this was the worst one yet!
From the unfriendly staff, to running out of certain foods often, it was very disappointing.
By far the food was only average at best. The cabin guys were good (did not know how to make the towel animals), but that was it.
Others told us they had been on the same cruise last year and it was much better. They were not enjoying this cruise either.
Having been on another Holland America ship doing a transatlantic, the difference was very noticeable!
I would not recommend this cruise to anyone!
We have sailed on numerous cruise lines, including Celebrity, Princess, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).
We have ranked Holland America at the bottom of the list, along with Norwegian Cruise Line, due to poor service, dismal entertainment, and poor food quality.
Holland America Line Zaandam by sassyredhat Hawaii April 3, 2008
We are 61 and 59 years old. This was our 7th cruise, 5 with HAL, and our 2nd cruise to Hawaii.
Embarkation port was San Diego. We arrived at 12:30, which is when we usually get to the terminal. We knew, from reading cruise boards, that the ship had sailed Code Red on the previous cruise. HAL offered a full refund if we wanted to cancel. Some did, but we chose to stay.
Zaandam is a beautiful ship, well maintained (I only saw some minor wear and tear), and very easy to navigate. We were on deck 6, Verandah, near the aft elevators. We loved the location! Very quiet.
Verandah suites are very spacious, have a lot of storage, whirlpool tubs, Elemis bathroom products in small bottles, hairdryer in the drawer, stocked mini bar, flat screen TV w/DVD player. Balcony has a lounger, a chair, and a small table. Petitions are metal and go to the floor on one side, almost to the floor on the other side, clear plexiglass on front side.
As usual, service was absolutely outstanding. Dining room food was very, verygood, as well as was food in Lido. We had early, traditional seating. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in Lido, and dinners in the dining room. We thought breakfast and lunch was just ok in the dining room, however, dinners were great.
There was live music throughout the ship, and numerous huge floral arrangements.
HAL ships have a movie theater (Wajang), which we love for all those sea days. Movies were fairly current.
Our favorite place is Explorations Cafe. The library is fairly extensive, comfortable computer areas, ample seating, and good game area.
Entertainment was actually pretty good. The Indonesian and Filipino crew shows were held late, but they were good also.
A "must see" is the chocolate extravaganza ! See the carved fruits, chocolates, cakes, breads, ice carvings -- everything was really something.
There were no announcements in the cabins at all, and no photograpers except on formal nights. There were 4 formal nights -- days 3, 5, 11, 14.
We had been to Hawaii before and seen all the main attractions, so we opted for smaller tours. In Hilo, we did the Waves and Waterfalls tour, which included the Tsunami Museum. It was an interesting tour, the falls were beautiful.
Honolulu was the Little Circle Island tour. The tide was out when we arrived at Halona Blow Hole, so we didn't get to see the geyser, but it was a nice tour.
Kauai we took the Wailua River cruise, mostly because of my walking limitations. It also was a nice tour. The Fern Grotto is just now getting back to normal after Hurricane Iniki decimated most of the foilage.
Maui was Ulelena Theater. This is the reason we went back to Hawaii. I didn't see it last time, and DH wanted me to see it. It's hard to describe this experience. It is so much more than a Cirque de Soliel adaptation, and was worth the effort to see it.
Kona we saw the Seahorse Farm, and what a fun treat. This is a "bare bones" facility, but so educational and fun. We got to hold a seahorse! This is a good tour for anyone.
The weather in Kona was cloudy, due to the volcano eruptions. The locals call it "VOG" -- volcano fog.
This was our favorite cruise, although we sometimes didn't have enough to do. We aren't pool people, and what activities were scheduled sometimes overlapped. We played Trivia everyday, and met some nice people.
Easy and fast check-in and boarding. This ship is elegant and spacious.
The service is exquisite. There was no part of the cruise that did not rate as excellent.
The food in the restaurant was wonderful, and our dining steward was just as great. He knew what we liked and made us feel special every evening.
The ship is immaculate. The crew all spoke to us whether we were in a hallway, elevator, etc. The captain had a lovely Mariner's brunch.
My husband and I were impressed with everything about this cruise.
We most definitely will book another cruise aboard this ship. Holland America is the best line and the Maasdam exemplifies the elegance, service, and cuisine that makes this cruise line stand above the rest.
Here is a copy of a letter we sent to Holland America about the horrible experience we had in March 2008 on the Veendam. This letter only discusses the ship. It does not discuss the horrible experience we had in Cozumel. We asked that we be compensated for at least half of the $1,784.76 we paid in advance and in good faith. We did hear back from Holland America and they offered us an upgrade if we buy another trip. How gracious! Not!
When we embarked on our cruise on March 9, we were shocked to find our room filthy and in a state of total disrepair. When we booked our cruise in January, we initially wanted to be on a higher deck but were told that none of the rooms were available. We agreed to a room on the lowest level because the Holland America agent assured us it would be just as nice as any other, and we would be able to have a double bed, and that the room would be located in the middle of the ship. Based upon the company's reputation and the website, webelieved we had little to be concerned about.
We entered the room, which was located at the farthest end of the ship (the second room from the end) to discover two single beds, sticky goo on the nightstand and dresser surfaces, dirty walls, a sticky/dirty temperature control knob, stained and dirty carpet, and a dirty bathroom counter, mirror, and medicine cabinet. It took two different trips and a telephone call to the front desk for the room to be properly cleaned and the beds put together. We resigned ourselves to the room's location.
We sent Holland America photographs, which showed the condition of the furniture -— it was so bad it would not be accepted for donation by a charitable organization. It is inexcusable to ask your guests to spend a week in a room with chipped furniture, scratched walls with holes in them, and stained carpets. The temperature in the room was hard to control and fluctuated from being too hot to being too cold.
With the exception of our hard-working and attentive cabin steward, none of the ship's executive staff bothered to follow up and assure that our grievances had been resolved.
Nowhere in the literature we reviewed about the cruise line or on the website did it say we would have to endure such a nightmare. Your promotional materials assure quite the opposite. Holland America honored none of the promises made by the agent who sold us the trip, the promotional materials, or the contract.
The condition of our room made what should have been a relaxing and enjoyable holiday a very stressful experience that we would have done anything to avoid. Like so many others, we had a choice of which cruise line to sail and based upon positive comments at some of the travel websites we chose Holland America.
The Ship We had a cabin with a veranda on deck 8 which was comfortable, not spacious, but with good closet and drawer space. The beds were comfortable, our cabin steward was excellent, the food was generally very good with a wide selection for dinner, the dining service was very good, and we enjoyed most of the entertainment. The ship has two pools, which at some of the peak times were insufficient to handle all of the interested passengers. But most of time, there were enough chairs. I suggest that ship excursions be booked before hand online, as the ship's desk had a long line the first couple of days. Also, bring something warm as the air conditioning in the public areas was on high, and it was uncomfortably cold in the hallways, lounges, dining areas, etc. Each cabin has a thermostat, so it was not a problem there.
Grand Turk We spent several hours at the complex by the ship. A very nice beach, lots of lounge chairs, and shade if desired. There is also a huge pool behind Margaritaville which was very nice. An added plus was there wasa good band at the pool. We did not go into town, but the couple that we were traveling with did. Their comment was it was not much. We did not snorkel or dive, but heard that it is quite good there. Our friends had sticker shock when they got the bill for two margaritas at Margaritaville, so be prepared if you order a drink.
Tortola We were tendered in as there were 4 ships in port when we arrived. This process took about an hour, but was handled efficiently by the staff. We opted for a local tour of the island in an open air bus, of which there were many waiting, for $20 per person. We had some very good views of the island and the tour lasted about 2 hours. The roads are narrow, bumpy, and with lots of curves. We returned in late afternoon, during which time the ship had docked. That evening, there was a Caribbean BBQ buffet on the pool deck, which was very good.
St. Thomas It is necessary to get a green card and immigration ID. This was required of every passenger on board, regardless if you were getting off the ship or not. This was done by decks, and the first announcement over the loud speaker was at 7 AM. Once our deck was called, it was a very fast process. We left the ship mid morning and took a taxi ($4 per person) to town as the ship docked away from the downtown area. In addition to the hundreds of shops, there was an open air market, mostly clothing and costume jewelry. Since there were 5 or 6 ships in port, the downtown was very busy and crowded. There were a lot of open air tour taxies, and we took a tour of the island for $25 per person. Again, lots of nice views of the island, and much smoother roads. We stopped at Coki beach for a break. Typical clear blue water, nice beach but not too large, and very crowded. The van took us back to the ship, so we did not need a taxi on return. There were also tours that included beach time as well.
Half Moon Cay It was as nice as many other reviews said it would be. We were the only ship in port and were tendered in and out. The beach and water are great, with plenty of lounge chairs. We had prearranged to rent a clam shell, and got another when we got to the beach, after being told aboard ship that they were all sold out. Additionally, there is some shade available and a few hammocks. Good swimming, shallow water. Did not snorkel, but it looked like there was not much to see in the snorkel area. They handled the BBQ lunch very well, and there were sufficient facilities for the large crowd. The food was good; hamburgers, hot dogs, steak sandwiches, ribs, chicken, salads and soft drinks.
Overall, we were pleased with our trip. The Zuiderdam is supposed to be retrofit within the next few weeks, and we heard that they were going to add about 100 rooms.
If you like the smell and use of cigarettes you are going to LOVE this ship.
Smoking in the cabins. Smoking in the bars. Smoking in the Casino. Hallways and common areas permeated with SECOND HAND smoke.
Smoke in the photography shop from the adjacent bar. Smoke in any hallway that has smokers in their cabins. Complaints at purser's desk result in a reading that smoking is allowed from their brochure. "If you feel ill from cigarette smoke go to the infirmary", staff says. Hotel manager was conveniently never available for smoking-related complaints.
First time on this seagoing second hand smoking machine and it will be my LAST.