Holland America, Still A Very Good Cruise Line, But, Used To Be Better

Zaandam Cruise Review to U.S. - Pacific, Northwest

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Reviews: 4
Helpful Votes: 151

Overall rating:

3 out of 5

4 Night Pacific Coastal Northbound (San Diego To Vancouver)

Sail date: April 28, 2014

Ship: Zaandam

Cabin type: Suite

Cabin number: 7001

Traveled as: Couple

Reviewed: 7 years ago

Review summary

Holland America (HAL) provides a very enjoyable cruise experience.  I would rate both their service and food as being very good.  

However, after sailing HAL eight times since 2003, we have observed that their level and quality of food and service has continued to decline during our last three voyages over the last several years.  Up to a few years ago, it was consistently excellent.  HAL is owned by Carnival, and I would like to think that the overall decline we have observed is just an aberration and has nothing to do with parent Carnival applying cutbacks on the prestigious HAL.     

The attitude of the crewmembers is superb and they always do their best to make your cruise a memorable experience.  However, while the crewmembers always have a good attitude, their capability to meet your expectations is sometimes lacking perhaps due to their empowerment, support or training.  This lacking in meeting your expectations has become more and more present over the last several years.  Still, overall, we did find our expectations fulfilled.   

The condition of the ship was fair to good.  When we were last on this same ship, the Zaandam, in February of 2012 for an 14 Day Hong Kong to Hong Kong cruise, we commented to the ship management that we felt the ship was showing it’s age.  They assured us that the Zaandam was going to dry dock to be refurbished.  We were looking forward to being on the Zaandam again, in part, to see how well it was refurbished. In fact, we had the very same cabin this time, the Pinnacle Suite, Cabin 7001,  as we had the last time so it was easy to see the improvements if any.  For some reason, they changed he name of the suite from the Penthouse Suite to the Pinnacle Suite.   While we did see some improvements, we were still disappointed in areas that were not improved or the use of lower grade replacements such as cheaper carpets.  Plus over the years we have noticed little things such as they use to have beautiful towels with the Holland America color logos and now they have just plain old white towels without logos.  They use to have glasses that would fit into the glass holders in the bathroom so they would not slip off during rough seas and now they just plain glasses that do fit into the holders and they slip off the counter.  The glass shower door that broke while we were on this ship in February of 2012 has been replaced with an ugly curtain that does not even fit the opening.  All of these are small details, but they add up and it is the little details that sometimes can tell the whole story.  All of this seems to confirm a possible sad pattern that perhaps parent Carnival is simply making too many cutback on what was once a great cruise line.  Holland America is still a very good line and I am sure that to any passenger who is new to Holland America, that all they would see is a very good cruise line, as they would not know how Holland America used to be even better.  I do hope that either Holland America gets back to the greatness that they once were or that our experiences are just aberrations. 

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

5 out of 5
Food is good to even excellent. Used to be better years ago. Pinnacle Grill is superb and well worth the extra fee.

Onboard Activities

We did not participate in any activities this time so I can not comment.


We did not see any shows during this voyage so I can not comment.

Children's Programs


Service and Staff

5 out of 5
The staff has done their best to meet our expectations. They always express a positive and cheerful attitude. They will go out of their way to make your voyage a memorable experience. However, sometimes the staff does not seem to have the capacity to meet your expectations or needs.

Ship Quality

3 out of 5
We were on this same ship, the Zaandam, in February of 2012 and when we commented that it was showing it's age, we were assured it was going to dry dock and will be refurbished. Well, it has gone through dry dock since, however, some things were not refurbished well and other replacements were done on the cheap side such as the carpet.

Cabin / Stateroom

3 out of 5
We were on this ship in 2012 before it went into dry dock. The ship was showing it's age. Now we were in the very same room again after dry dock and their refurbishments. Whiles we saw some refurbishing, overall it was a little disappointing such as there use to be gores custom carpet with a designer pattern which has been replaced with a cheap plain carpet. The broken glass shower door that was on our last cruise was replaced by a cheap ugly curtain that did not even fit the opening.

Ship tip

When you first get on the ship, make sure to make a reservation for the Pinnacle Grill. It is a speciality restaurant with an added fee but is well worth the extra charge. They book up quickly, especially for popular times.

Ports of call

San Diego, California

5 out of 5
Make sure you go to the Gaslamp Quarter.

Victoria, British Columbia

5 out of 5
Do not miss the High Tea at the Empress Hotel. One of the best High Teas I have ever had!

Vancouver (Canada Place), British Columbia

5 out of 5
Vancouver has lots of great restaurants. Do not miss China Town, but, visit during the daytime and avoid it at nighttime. Gastown is a must to see. We felt Granville Island was over rated.
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