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Emdbarkation: This was the second Alaska cruise for my wife and me. The first was out of Vancouver 4 years ago and we decided to try Seattle this time. We flew in the day before sailing (as we always do) and stayed at the Edgewater Hotel, I highly recommend it. The Beatles stayed there on their first American tour. Our hotel windo looked right at the original Seattle cruise terminal and we had front row seats to see the Mariner of the Seas and a Celebrity ship (can't remember the name) pull in and out of the port. Great way to get in the mood! Seattle is a great place to start a cruise, great city, great food, very nice people.
The Zaandam departed from the new Seattle terminal about ten miles from our hotel and it was an easy cab ride there about 11:30 a.m. We waited in line about 10 minutes to get checked in and then another 15 minutes before we could board. Once on, it was time to have fun.
Ship: The Zaandam is the sister ship of the Veendam (sailed on that one also, great) and although it's older, HAL has done a good job of keeping her updated. Our room was the standard balcony and it was always clean. Our room steward was very friendly and did an excellent job. Although the ship is smaller than most of today's newer ships, it was still steady at full speed and there was plenty to do. My wife and I enjoy being on a ship (any ship) and so we don't get into the onboard activities as much as we like to relax on the Lido and people watch.
Food: Good. Not great and not bad at all. HAL does a good job of providing an above average menu. One thing to praise HAL about...the first formal night they served Alaskan King Crab in the main dining room. I thought it was going to be some very small portion of a leg and overcooked at that. NO. This was one of the best Alaskan King Crab dinners I have ever had and I've had a lot. HAL did a great job and that meal made the trip worth it. No joke. We did a lot of in-room dining because my wife came down with a resperitory infection on the 4th day and HAL's room service is excellent and the food is very good for room service food, overall.
Ports: We did not do any shore excursions since we like to wait and see what the weather is like in Alaska before we commit. We were lucky and the weather was perfect all week. We went on a half-day whale watching tour in Juneau and we were not disappointed. Saw some Humpbacks and Orka's. We only shopped in the Ketchikan and my wife was in the room fighting her illness when we were in Sitka. No problem there. Sitka is a tender port and it's a long one. There wasn't much time anyway so I'm glad she picked that day to get ill! With that I need to mention that HAL's doctor and medical facilities onboard were excellent. I took her down to the infirmery and they took great care of her. After the doctor examined her, he gave her some antibiotics for her resperitory infection. She felt much better the next day and she was able to enjoy the rest of the cruise. Our room steward checked in on her/us while she was confined in the room and we were touched and impressed by his concern. Great job.
Debarkation: We opted to take our luggage off the ship ourselves and when our time came, we were off the ship in less than 15 minutes...that's from room to limo. Another thing we like about HAL that we wish other lines would do, HAL lets you stay in your cabin until it's time for you to debark. That really makes a big difference when you're dealing with "Post-Cruise-Blues"!