Holland America Cruise Aboard the Zaandam
We took our first ever cruise this weekend! Since we had not been on one before, this three day, two night cruise aboard a Holland America ship, the Zaandam, would be sailing from Seattle to Victoria, then finishing back home in Vancouver. The sailing was for the purpose of repositioning the ship from its summer route of Seattle to Alaska. After Vancouver the ship will sail to San Diego where it will spend the next six months cruising back and forth between San Diego and Hawaii until spring. The Zaandam is considered a small ship by cruise standards, although it certainly didn’t appear that way to us. It held 1,432 guests along with 600 staff, weighed over 61,000 tons and was 781 feet in length. Inside it had 10 guest decks, 12 elevators, three restaurants, six bars, two outdoor pools (one with a sliding glass roof) to go along with a spa, movie theatre, casino and both tennis and basketball courts.
Amtrak Train to Seattle
After looking at a couple of different options to get to Seattle, we settled on the Amtrak train service, which was another first for us. We arrived at the station at 6:15 am and because we paid the $12 up charge for business class were quickly expedited past the line-up of passengers and were sent on to clear customs. A quick scan of our passports then our bags went through the scanner we were done. It couldn’t have taken more then two minutes, airports could really learn something from the train station about processing passengers. So far so good, we settled into our extra wide and extra spacious business class seats and waited to go.
The train made it into Seattle about 11:00 am, just four quick hours later. It was a very comfortable and easy journey. The train station in Seattle is next door to Quest and Safeco stadiums making the train easily our choice of transportation the next time we go to Seattle for a football or baseball game. It was a great experience, which we would recommend, but do spend the extra dollars and travel in business class.
First Impression of Holland America
We had to take a short cab ride from the train station over to the pier and were about a half hour early for boarding. We figured we would grab some lunch before getting on the ship. However, when we arrived and got out of the taxi, there was a greeter pointing us up an escalator where we met a second greeter who directed us to a very nice lady among a row of a dozen or so check in stations. We sat and chatted as she clicked away on a laptop, five minutes later we had our room key/ charge card and were sent off to board the ship early. We wound our way around the metal staircase that lead to the ships entrance, at each corner there was another greeter saying hello and welcoming us aboard. As we were early and the rooms we not ready, we were directed into one of the ship’s main dining areas on the Lido deck where a full buffet was available for all guests. Talk about a great start, seamless, quick and efficient. We were already happy with the cruise and hadn’t even moved yet.
When the room was ready we were pleased to discover that for some reason we had received a free upgrade from an Ocean View Stateroom to a Verandah Suite with an outdoor patio. The experience just kept getting better. We spent the next couple of hours checking out the ship, looking a restaurant options and finding the best spot for a pre or post dinner cocktail. At about quarter to five the horn sounded, the band started and we were off to Victoria.
Dining with Holland America on the Zaandam
We had some good meals both nights in the main dinning room along with some great appetizers and deserts (need a bike ride tomorrow). Our two main courses included Prime Rib and Lamb for Jeff and Red Snapper and Rigatoni and Prawns for Tara. We also had some great breakfasts and afternoon snacks (Tara’s favourite was the cheese fondue) to go along with a wine tasting event. We also did a Champagne tasting with a very knowledgeable Sommelier from New Zealand. We met some great new people at dinner Danielle and Mike, a daughter and father from Seattle and Trish and Nick another couple also from Seattle. That is another great thing about cruising, it is a great opportunity to meet new people.
We took advantage of as many areas of the ship as possible. We chose to stay on board while the ship was in Victoria and as many people did get off in port we were able to secure great reclining seats in the Explorer’s Lounge and spent a few hours reading and relaxing, while Tara enjoyed a pretty good Chai Latte. The Ocean Bar featured music by the Neptunes each day starting at 6 pm and we were able to catch an hour the first night. Daryl at the Piano Bar entertained each night until midnight and we caught a few of his tunes both evenings after dinner. Both nights ended in the Crow’s Nest with DJ Matt spinning the tunes until who knows what time.
Our Rating of Holland America
Overall, we would rate our first cruise experience as an ‘A’, it was fantastic. The crew of Holland America and the Zaandam do a great job, the staff never pass by a guest without a friendly hello and they have their duties completely dialled in making it seamless from the guest’s presepctive. We can’t wait until next time!