South America/Antarctica Cruise on the HAL Zaandam
1/6/18 to 1/28/18

Due to the length of the review, it is in 6 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.

Page 1 – Embarkation, Ship
Page 2 -  Dining, Entertainment, Activities, Ports of Call: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Page 3 - Ports of Call: Montevideo, Uruguay; Puerto Madryn, Argentina; Stanley, Falkland Islands; Antarctica Day 1
Page 4 -  Antarctica Day 2; Antarctica Day 3; Antarctica Day 4
Page 5 - Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina; Punta Arenas, Chile; Cruise Chilean Fjords; Puerto Chacabuco, Chile
Page 6 - Ports of Call:  Castro,  Isla Chiloe, Chile; Puerto Montt, Chile; San Antonio (Santiago), Chile


We have been blessed to be able to visit most parts of the world in our travels, and we had been to six of the seven continents.  As a result, it has been challenging to find cruises that go to places we haven’t previously visited.  There are many places that we do want to return to; but new places are more interesting to us.  When we did our first South America cruise in 2011, we could have gone on the same ship on the previous itinerary and visited Antarctica.  However, it would mean that we wouldn’t be able to visit Chile and with that itinerary only having two days in Antarctica, the chance of bad weather cancelling the visit, made me choose not to go to Antarctica on that cruise.  It was the right decision, since the itinerary we would have booked did not make it to Antarctica at all due to weather.

A friend of ours went on the Holland America Zaandam South America/Antarctica cruise in early 2017.  They raved about it and posted beautiful photos from the cruise on Facebook.  That cruise spent four days in Antarctica, which was quite appealing.  After talking with her about the cruise, I booked the same cruise for 2018.  Carol wasn’t excited about spending 22 days in the cold during the most pleasant time of the year in south Florida; but she agreed to do it to make me happy.  And this cruise made me and her very happy indeed!  We can now say that we have visited all seven continents.


We had a non-stop overnight flight from Miami to Buenos Aires.  Carol and I both had aisle seats across from each other.  The announcement said that the flight was very full; so, when we both had empty seats next to us, we couldn’t have been happier.  The extra room made the flight most enjoyable.

After we landed, we had to wait at a very long immigration line for almost 30 minutes, where our photos were taken, and we were fingerprinted.  We then picked up our luggage and headed straight for the Tienda Leone ( booth to pay for our pre-arranged transfer to the ship and meet our driver.  We had used this same company the first time we were in Buenos Aires and were very pleased with their service. 

Everything went very smoothly, until we got close to the cruise terminal.  There were many taxis and busses trying to get through the one lane gate to drop passengers off.  It was a funnel of 4 lanes going into one, with constant jockeying for position.  Needless to say, we were most pleased when we were dropped off.

Checking in with HAL went quickly; but we had to go through immigration again, where our photos and fingerprints were again done.  Fortunately, it was much faster than the first time.  We were on the ship at 1:00 PM, three hours after we had landed.  We could finally relax and begin the cruise.


With the Zaandam being an older, relatively small ship, built in 2000, and weighing in at 61,396 tons, with a passenger capacity of 1,432; I didn’t know if we would be happy to be on it for over three weeks.  It was also scheduled to go into dry dock in three months, which could mean it was showing its age.  I worried for naught, it was in great shape for the most part and a pleasure to cruise on.

The various public rooms are shown below by category.

Restaurants (Link to Menus)

Rotterdam Dining Room – This is the main dining room and served three meals a day.  We ate there every evening except once when we went to a specialty restaurant; and we only had a couple of lunches there.  It is a very nicely arranged and comfortable dining room.  Our tables never felt too crowded, which is important.  It is on two floors, with the anytime dining being on deck 4 and the two set seating’s being on deck 5. 




Lido Restaurant – This is the ship’s buffet on deck 8.  We ate there most days for breakfast and lunch.  For breakfast, they had most everything anyone could want.  There were every kind of other breakfast items available.  For lunch, and I assume dinner, they had a pasta station, Asian station, salad stations and different items of the day.  I visited the salad station most days for lunch, since it was so good. 




They also had delicious bread pudding and some type of fruit crunch every day in the dessert section.  That was the biggest reason for my cruise weight gain. The ice cream section was also quite popular


There was plenty of seating and we rarely had difficulty finding a table.  It wasn’t always easy at busy times, but we always found one.  If we had needed to, there were plenty of tables outside near the Seaview and Lido pool areas.  I was interested in trying out the hand washing machine they had.  It worked quite nicely.


Pinnacle Grill – This is the ship’s steak restaurant.  They also have other items, which are shown in the menu section of the review.  The room is more formal in design than the main dining room and is not particularly large.  We did like the way the room is divided up into sections, so that there were not that many tables in any one of them, which kept the noise level down and made it feel more intimate. 




The hallway kind of curved around the restaurant allowing passengers to look through the windows into the restaurant.  Unlike the other two HAL cruises we have been on, I was surprised that more people weren’t eating there.  It was never full when I passed by.  The prices were pretty reasonable at $35 for dinner and $15 for lunch.

Canaletto Restaurant – This is the Italian specialty restaurant.  It is a section of the Lido buffet, which I used each morning for breakfast, since it was quieter and away from the main eating area.  I am sure that it is a pleasant place to eat; but we never did go there.  Since we never ate at the buffet for dinner, I don’t know if Canaletto was popular for our cruise.  I normally would have tried it, since we do enjoy Italian food; but we were pretty pleased with the main dining room and never got to try it.


Dive In – This is the place for hamburgers and hotdogs.  We first tried this restaurant a few months earlier on the Nieuw Amsterdam and really liked it.  They have a nice selection of burgers and hot dogs and wonderful French fries.  Just in front of the ordering area is a Mexican table with all sorts of food items to make tacos, burritos or any combination you like.  It was very popular and really good, and I was surprised I didn’t go there more times..


Explorations Café – This venue probably should be called the coffee shop.  They had many coffee items that were a premium charge along with free pastries and other food items.  There were people there most times I went by.  I never tried anything there, since I was normally pretty full from my other meals.  The library and large seating area is also called part of Explorations Café, but I will show it another section.



Lounges (Link to Menus) -

Wine Tasting Bar – They had a wine tasting bar; but I never saw anyone at it.  No staff or customers, so I am not sure if it was even open during our cruise.

Ocean Bar – This was my go to bar, since it was one of two bars that had happy hour pricing between 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM.  I don’t drink much at all at home, but when on a cruise, it just seems right, especially since we had onboard credit to use.  The happy hour pricing is the basic price for the first drink and $2 for the second one, which is a pretty good deal.  During happy hour they would bring around appetizers.  I rarely had them, since I didn’t want to fill up before dinner.  The room itself was quite comfortable, with a nice view to the ocean.  They had some wonderful waitresses that were really on the ball and very friendly, too.  A musical group began playing at around 5:00 PM each night. 



Mix – I really liked this bar.  It was a recent modification that combined the casino bar, piano bar and other bars into one large space.  It is the most modern looking space on the ship and quite roomy.  Unfortunately, since they didn’t have happy hour in this venue, I rarely stopped there.  There is still a piano bar section, where each night a pianist performed.




The other sections of the bar were quite open including a sports bar area that had sports showing on their TV most of the time.


Seaview Bar – This bar area is next to the Seaview pool at the back of the ship.  With our being in very cold weather most of the cruise, it wasn’t being used that much.  I am sure it is packed during Caribbean cruises.


Explorer’s Lounge – This is a nice size room that is on the starboard side of the ship across from the Explorations Café.  It isn’t really a lounge in my opinion, since they don’t have a bar in it; but they utilize the bartenders in Mix. 





The Adagio duo of a pianist and violinist play there during the evening.

Lido Bar – This bar is part of the Lido Pool area.  With the Lido Pool being able to be covered in inclement weather, this was much more popular than the Seaview Pool bar. 

Crow’s Nest – With this cruise having so much scenic cruising in colder weather, this was the most popular place on the ship.  With the large front viewing area on deck 9, people would stay up there for hours.  As with swimming pool chair hogs who put out stuff on the lounge chairs to save their prime seats all day, people would wake up early and camp out at the best front facing seats.  They would order food and drinks to eat at their chairs, so they wouldn’t lose their seats.  When they did leave, something would be left in their chairs to show that they were taken, even when they didn’t come back for hours.  Since I was outside most of the time, it didn’t affect me; but I did feel sorry for those that never got to have the better seats.


There was a small section of the Crow’s Nest on the port side where Antarctic information was placed.  It was kind of interesting.


My biggest complaint about the Crow’s Nest and many other venues was that the windows were never cleaned.  It made it difficult to take photos from there.  I understood that they couldn’t clean them in Antarctica, due to various regulations; but they only cleaned the very front windows in the Crow’s Nest one time after Antarctica.  The side windows were still filthy.

When the Zaandam goes into dry dock in April, this area will be getting major renovations.


Entertainment -

Mondriaan Lounge – I don’t know why this is called a lounge rather than a theater, since this is where all the evening shows are performed and any activity where a large crowd is expected.  The theater itself is attractive and quite comfortable for watching shows.  It is just not large enough.  There was standing room only at almost every show or enrichment lecture I went to.  Even the late shows were full.  It is a shame, since I am sure that people missed attending very good events due to there not being seats available.



The deck 4 level is on a relatively flat surface, so unless you are sitting in the first two rows, the view to the stage is pretty obstructed by other people's heads.  Other than the few small tables around, there was no place to put drinks except on the floor.  I would think that would discourage people from ordering drinks. 


Deck 5 has stadium seating, which is much better for watching the shows; but it isn’t a very large area.  Since I take photos of all the shows for the review, I had to arrive at least a half hour early to get seats in the first two rows of deck 5, so I would have an unobstructed view.  The only place for guests to put drinks was on the first row.  There were some areas in the back of the room with the counters or tables; but those seats did not have a very good view of the stage.


Wajang Theater/Culinary Arts – This small theater is where movies were shown, and cooking demonstrations were held.  Other events were also held there.


Casino – The ship had a small casino; but it was much bigger than it needed to be for this cruise.  There were rarely any people in the casino.  Almost every time I went through it, which was frequently, the dealers and table attendants were just standing there talking to themselves.  I felt sorry for them, since I assume they count on tips for a portion of their income.  I also never saw more than just a few people on the slot machines.  By few, I mean one or two or none most of the time.  It was most unusual for a ship casino.




Shops -

Boutique – This was an area on deck 5 just off the atrium.  It is what I consider to be a logo store.  It had all the products with the HAL logo on them along with other knickknacks.  This appeared to be the most popular shop on the ship.  For this cruise, they also had many penguin items, including the knit hat I had to try on.



Shopping Arcade – This is the main shopping area with several shops that join each other.  The deck 4 shops never seemed to have too many customers, other than when there was a raffle drawing; and even then, not that many people.  I guess with this being a longer cruise with an older age demographic, people weren’t needing much.




Art Gallery – The art gallery was quite small; but since their art auctions took place in other venues, it didn’t need to big.


Merabella – This is the upscale jewelry shop located on deck 5 across from the art gallery. They had some beautiful pieces; but I think I only saw a salesperson in the shop one time.  I guess they only sell by appointment.


Photo Gallery & Shop – After 49 cruises, we aren’t interested in getting ship photos anymore.  Apparently, we weren’t alone, since I saw very few people looking at photos on the stands.  The shop is on deck 4 right before the theater, so people had plenty of opportunities to look at their photos if they had any taken.  I will say, that unlike some cruise lines, the photographers were not pushy.  They respected our wishes and moved to the next people. 



Other -

Lido Pool – This is a really nicely designed area and is located on deck 8.  It is also quite functional with a roof that opens and closes depending on the weather conditions.  For this cruise it was closed much of the time with the cold weather. 



The pool was heated to 81 degrees throughout the cruise, which kept the area quite comfortable, even when the top was open and the sun was shining when the outside temperature was in the 60’s.  This was a very popular place, just like on any other cruise.  They also had ping pong tables, a super-sized chess board and whirlpools.



There were lots of tables around that could be used for those that were bringing food from the Lido buffet or the Dive-Inn hamburger joint that was located at one end of pool area. 


Sea View Pool – At the back of the ship on deck 8 is a large open area for sitting or lying around the pool.  They didn’t put a lot of chairs out during most of the cruise, since it was too cold for most people to use.



It is a nice design where it provides great views of the ocean on three sides.

I did like the colorful cows.

Explorations (Library) - This is a large area adjoining the Explorations Cafe that contains the library, games, crossword puzzle, computers and a very comfotable lounging area.




Promenade Deck – This deck went completely around ship and provided great views of the scenery we were passing by, while partially protecting us from the elements.  This is a feature that all HAL ships have that other lines have done away with.   



It is on deck 3 and named the Lower Promenade deck.  I am sure there is a reason for not just calling it what it is, the promenade deck.  Deck 4 is named the Promenade deck and there is no promenade.  Deck 5 is called the Upper Promenade deck and there is no promenade.  Go figure!  It doesn’t take long to know which deck is which.  I particularly liked the rear part of the deck, since it was very open and a great place to view the wake and sea birds flying around.


With the deck being a quarter mile in length it was easy for people to keep track of how far they had gone for their daily walk.   It was very popular, especially in the morning for daily exercise.  The lounge chairs were also quite popular, even when the weather was pretty cold.  The provided blankets did make it a most comfortable place to be.  The cabins on the promenade deck had tinted windows to keep people from looking into the cabins during the day.  They worked very well; but I didn't check to see how they worked at night with lights on in the cabins.


With it being well lighted at night, it would be enjoyable to walk on during cruises in warmer climates.


Outer Decks – This ship had so many outer decks that provided great views of the beautiful places we visited.  I will list each area separately, since there were so many areas.

Bow Deck and Deck 6 Forward -

Deck 2 Aft -

Deck 6 Aft –

Deck 7 Aft –


Deck 9 –



Deck 8 forward –


Sky deck -



Launderette -  There used to be several launderettes on the ship, but there was only one deck 3 during our cruise.  I am putting photos in here, just so people can remember what they used to look like, since it will be gone after dry dock.  It is a shame, since it is quite popular and a way to save money to wash your own clothes. 



The ship also offers a laundry bag that you can fill with as many items as you can stuff into it for $20, which is quite reasonable.  With it being a small cloth bag rather than paper, it can be really stuffed, since the sides won’t bust out.  Carol was able to stuff 31 items of underwear in a bag.  Below is the size of the empty one and a full one, I found in the hall in front of someone else’s cabin. 



Fitness Center – The fitness center is small with a nice variety of equipment.  It is also nice quality Life Fitness equipment; but they only had five elliptical machines, which is what I use for cardio.  I did use the gym one sea day in the middle of the cruise.  I was lucky that there was one elliptical machine available when I went.  I did get plenty of exercise on this cruise running around the decks all day.  But since I go to the gym at home regularly, I didn’t want to miss three weeks straight or I would have very sore muscles the first day back at my gym.  It worked, and I haven’t had any issues since getting home.  I did like that the windows looked out to the sea on two sides.





Greenhouse Spa & Salon – The spa was like most other spas on cruise ships, with a nice thermal suite with heated ceramic beds.  They also had hot tubs, massage rooms and steam/sauna rooms.





With this being a 22-day cruise, I am sure that the beauty salon was kept busy.



Club HAL – This is the area on deck 9 at the back of the ship for young children.  On this cruise, we only saw a couple of kids.  They were very well behaved too.  Since adults aren’t allowed in the kid’s areas, I took a photo through the glass door.


The Loft – This area is for teenagers, which there were none on board that we saw.  I couldn’t see much from outside the glass door.



Hudson Room – This was a nice size meeting room that was used regularly on deck 5. 


Digital Workshop – This area used to be the Queen’s Room conference area.  It is now the Microsoft training room for the various free classes offered during the cruise.  They had some excellent subject matter for people that needed training in Microsoft products.  The classes appeared to be full whenever I went by.  My only problem with this workshop was that it was only open during classes, which meant that I could only get photos of it was full of people.  For those people having issues with the internet or their devices, it was difficult for them to get help from a professional.


We chose not to purchase the 250-minute internet package for $100; which was the right choice.  The internet speed was terrible, even when we weren’t in Antarctica, where slow speed would be expected.  Since we use T-Mobile, we were able to use their free international data program in all ports except the Falklands.  It was faster than the ships internet.

King’s Room – This deck 5 conference room had a large conference table in it.


Atrium – The atrium extends from deck three through deck 5.  On most ships, the atrium is a large open area, but on the Zaandam, the open area is mostly filled up with a very large organ.  It is a most unusual decoration. During the upcoming drydock, the organ will be removed and the area, mainly on deck 3 will have major renovations to modernize the ship. There are some sitting area around the atrium, but it is dominated by the organ.  I will be interested to see what the area looks like after the drydock.




I have included a lot of photos of the organ, since it will help past passengers remember this unique feature of the Zaandam.


Each day at noon, the organ played a tune and some of the statuettes would move as though they were playing their instruments.  I have included a short video below.  I probably should have made it longer, but you will get the idea.

Atrium Terrace -  This is a very comfortable area on deck 5 just off the atrium.  The chairs are comfortable, and it is a relatively quiet area.  It was a popular reading area.


Future Cruises – On deck 5 between the Explorations Café and Explorer’s Lounge is the future cruise desk.  Since there is a benefit to book while on board, there were normally people waiting to meet with the representative.  The King Tut reproduction was a nice addition.


Guest Services – On deck 4 next to the atrium is the area where guests come to get various issues resolved.  It can be billing questions, cabin key cards that don’t work or almost any question that guests have.  It isn’t an easy job to deal with people with issues; but they did a very good job and remained pleasant.

Shore Excursions – This desk on deck 4 next to Guest Services was very popular early in the cruise when people were trying to find and book excursions for upcoming ports.  It was unfortunate for many people that they waited until they got on the ship, since most excursions in the Falkland Islands were either booked ahead of time or as soon as people got on the ship.  I had heard people complain that they weren’t able to book any excursions to see penguins in any of the ports.  I am sure it was most disappointing for them.  Coming all this way and not getting up close and personal with penguins would be a bummer.

Basketball Court – On the starboard side on deck 9 near the back of the ship they had a nice size basketball court.


Practice Tennis Court - On the port side on deck 9 near the back of the ship they had a practice tennis court.  Not a popular activity in cold weather.

Elevators - We really enjoyed having the day of the week on the elevator floormats.  It did help us keep track of what day it was.

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