m.s. Zaandam, Holland America Line

Home for my first cruise, 22 days from Santiago to Buenos Aires via Antarctica, the m.s. Zaandam is a pretty typical (apparently) ship for the Holland America Line fleet. I’ll cover the trip itself over following posts and the cruise experience at the end, but here’s a tour of the ship. Note that it’s apparently due for a refit at the end of this season, so the decor dating from 2008 should be refreshed.

The Zaandam is a 60,000 gross ton, 781 feet long cruise ship operating since 2000, home to up to 1,404 passengers and 603 crew, which amazingly rarely felt busy or crowded. There are plenty of places to hide away though I’d explored pretty much every part of the ship by the second day on-board. The floor maps were essential on day one but it was a very familiar place after three weeks…

To start with my room, a standard ocean-view stateroom on Dolphin Deck (level 1) near the aft (rear) of the ship, which was one of the better places to be when the seas got rough. Judging by the room prices though the best ones are in the centre, both from a stability and distance to walk perspective. It had everything I needed, a comfortable bed, desk, sofa, bathroom, and plenty of storage space. Given that I normally live out of a suitcase when traveling it was a real luxury to be able to unpack for a few weeks. It was worth playing a little extra for a window, providing a surprise every morning when waking to find out where we were.

The guest room deck corridors run the length of the ship so appear pretty endless.

With nine guest floors I spent a fair amount of time heading up and down the staircases, usefully adorned with different decorations. My favourite were the Escher drawings, interesting choice given that they can make you feel queasy on land with their optical illusions. Not generally using the lifts provided welcome exercise, though ascending eight floors to get breakfast was a bit of a test first thing in the morning.

The Lower Promenade Deck (level 3) was a great spot for photography, being more sheltered from the elements than the top decks. The first two photos below though were taken at about the same time, showing the importance of avoiding the windy side of the ship! It was also a good place to see impressive waves up close, the last photo was taken on day one heading out from port!

It was a popular spot for walkers, as four laps of the ship equals a mile. The life boats (also doubling as tenders) lived here, and it was a nice place to watch the sunset.

The Promenade Deck (level 4) aft was home to the two floor Dinning Room, which I only went to three times in the end, being quite happy with the food and service in the Lido Market (level 8), which didn’t require smart casual or formal wear to eat or to sit with randoms.

Also two floor was the heavily used Mondriaan Lounge at the bow (front) of the ship, which hosted lectures by the three strong Antarctica Expedition team (mostly excellent, covering topics including the importance of latitude, history of Chile, working in Antarctica, the Falkland Islands / Malvinas situation, the 1902 Swedish Antarctica expedition), talks on the ports of call and excursions organised by Holland America, evening entertainment, and was the holding room while waiting for a tender for anchored ports.

It also provided access to the bow which was too far away and exposed for me to spend much time there.

The Promenade Deck was also home to the upmarket Pinnacle Grill (an extra $35 for dinner here, $10 extra for lunch), the Wajang Theatre and Culinary Arts Centre (cooking demonstrations during the day and films every night though the sightlines were terrible, high backed seats and limited gradient), a gaudy art gallery, a photo shop, and in the middle deck of the three floors an atrium, with this spectacularly hideous centre piece.

Also on this level, and around the ship, were various items including these guitars signed by members of Queen and the Rolling Stones, Indonesian masks, giant festive decorations, and other randoms, which did add interest wandering around.

The Upper Promenade Deck (level 5) had the Explorations Cafe, whose library I made good use of and it was the only place on the ship outside of cabins with desks and power sockets, and a casino, shops, and the funky Ocean and MIX bars.

Lido Deck (level 8) had the previously mentioned Lido Market, which had a broad range of things to eat, including hot meals, salads, pasta, stir fries, and dangerously good and plentiful desserts and ice cream.

Aft from the Lido Market was the back deck, a great viewing spot and home to the outdoor pool, quickly becoming empty once we started heading into the increasingly cold south.

Forward from the Lido Market was the Lido Bar, with the other swimming pool, though it became more of a wave machine during rougher seas. The area had a retractable roof which closed a couple of days into the cruise until near the end given the typical air temperature. Dive-In was a fast food joint which therefore I never ate at, preferring (driven by inactivity and an excessive number of desserts) to spend time at the gym which had great views out the front of the ship.

Above it on the Sport Deck (level 9) the Crow’s Nest had great views and lethargically comfortable seating, though it definitely wasn’t a place to be in rougher seas.

Toward the aft were a practice tennis court and a basketball court, annoyingly noisy if you happened to be sitting in the Lido Market below during game time.

Finally Club HAL and The Loft were for the kids (few on this cruise) and teenagers (some onboard), and a parting view back over the Sea View Pool and aft viewing deck.

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