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

Cabin

We had booked an ocean view cabin on deck two, 2625.  It was right in the middle of the ship and next to the middle stairs up to the promenade deck.  I chose this cabin, since I was aware that the seas can be rough during some parts of this cruise; and by being lower and in the middle of the ship, we would feel less movement.  That proved to be helpful a couple of days.  On this HAL class of ship, most of the balcony cabins are considered suites and were more than double the price of the ocean views.  With it being a cold weather cruise, I knew that Carol wouldn’t be out on a balcony even if we had one.  I planned on being on the outer decks where I could see all sides of the ship, so the ocean view was a perfect choice for this cruise.

   

I had requested that the beds be separated, rather than having them together as one bed.  This way the space on the sides of the beds would all be in the middle and we could easily look out the window, as well as get out of bed easier.  When we first entered the cabin, they were still in a single bed configuration.  I asked our cabin attendant to change it when he had time, which he did.  Due to this confusion, I was able to get photos of both bed configurations.  Our cabin was 197 sq. feet; which is larger than the veranda cabins we normally get. 

   

Our cabin had a love seat and small cabinet with a lamp on it.  Our friends, Hans and Barbara, also had an ocean view; but their cabin had a larger couch and no cabinet/lamp, since their couch made into a bed.  Our configuration worked out beautifully, since we were able to put Carol’s TravelScoot into the space in front of the cabinet.

   

The cabin had so much storage space, with five closets and two under bed storage drawers that we didn’t even need to use.

   

The desk was large enough to be quite functional and the chair fit completely under it, so that it didn’t take up extra space from the room.  On this cruise I was able to use it to get a head start on the review with my MacBook.  The only issue with the desk area was that the only electric plugs in the cabin were above the desk and there were only one US 110 plug and one European 220 plug.  We always bring a 220-adapter plug, so we had in effect two plugs that could be used.  We also brought a multi-head plug, so we could plug in more than one device in one of the plugs.  We never had more than three devices needing to be charged at one time. 

   

Our biggest complaint about the room was related to the TV; which will be upgraded in April during the dry-dock.  The volume would regularly increase and decrease; which was most frustrating.  It was also too small for the cabin, which should be corrected soon.  The other gripe was the remote control.  In order to go to a channel, we would have to click up on the remote for each channel to get to the one we wanted, rather than having a direct input.  Since all the announcements were on channel 44 with the front facing camera; and the news channels we watched most were on channel 31, there was a lot of clicking to be done, and it was slow.  The only other complaint was the window.  It was extremely filthy and was never cleaned before, during, nor after the cruise.

One thing we had heard about before the cruise was that we couldn’t use magnetic hooks, because the walls weren’t metal, like most ships.  We actually were able to use them, but only for very light items.  The hooks we use have very strong magnets and normally hold a lot of weight.  Fortunately, the room has two large hooks on either side of the cabin to hold heavier things.

The bathroom was larger than most we have had on cruises.  Mainly because it has a bathtub with a shower head.  The tub itself was too small for us; but it did provide more room to take a shower in, which was nice.  The water pressure, however, was pretty weak.  The shower head was very adjustable, which we appreciate.  I don’t like shower heads that are fixed and too low.  A soap, shampoo and conditioner dispenser was next to the shower.

       

One thing we really liked was that the bathroom had a full-sized medicine cabinet.  It was triangular in shape and held everything we had and could have handled a lot more.

I normally don’t put photos of the cabin door; but it was different from the normal plain off-white doors we normally have.  I also thought it was interesting that along the hallways they have a decoration that is a music score. It would be interesting to know what song the notes represent.

   

We had two very good cabin attendants, Warman and Donny, both from Indonesia.  For the most part, we really enjoyed the cabin and would happily book another just like it, after the TV upgrade.

   

 

Dining (Link to Menus)

I have included copies of the menus for the main dining room along with photos of some of the food items at the Menus link just above and at the top of each page of the review.  Below is our opinion of the various dining venues.

Main Dining Room – The food for the most part was good; as was the food quality.  We had dinner in the dining room every evening except one when we went to Pinnacle Grill.  The daily menus had a reasonable selection of items to choose from.  But the items that were available every day didn’t include shrimp cocktail or escargot that we are used to having with Celebrity Cruises. It was just as well they only had escargot once during the cruise.  It was made without any garlic in the butter, which made it quite bland.  I thought it was strange, since I had probably the best escargot I have ever had on the Nieuw Amsterdam a couple of months earlier.

With the cruise being 22-days, I am sure it is challenging to come up with different menus.  As a result, some of the items seemed to be recurring regularly.  I never thought that I would be disappointed to see prime rib on a menu; but it seemed like it was offered every few days.  It was quite good and thicker than I am used to having on a cruise; but they did have it frequently.  They also did a lot with short ribs.  With many of the dishes they didn’t include enough gravy, which was an issue with some of the meats that were particularly dry.  Probably the biggest issue was that the menu item description sounded really good; but when the food came, some of the ingredients weren’t in the dish, or one would need a magnifying glass to find them.  We did like the varied selection of vegetables that were served with the main course.  It makes the meal more interesting.  I found it interesting that the menus on our Nieuw Amsterdam two months earlier, had 8 main course items each evening.  The Zaandam menus only had 7.

The thick soups were very good; but we had to ask the waiter which of the soups were thick, since we didn’t care for the consumes as much.  Early in the cruise, the French onion soup came with almost no onions in it.  When we asked our waiter about it, he said it was a consume and didn’t have many onions.  Wrong answer!  Fortunately, the consume French onion soup did begin to have the normal amount of onions one would expect.

Desserts for the most part were pretty good.  We especially liked the crisps of the day.  It was the fall back if there wasn’t anything else that appealed to us.

We had anytime dining; but found a table we liked and reserved it most nights of the cruise.   The waiters Gayuh and Bambang, from Indonesia, were very enjoyable and did a fine job for the most part.

Lido Buffet – The biggest issue with the buffet is getting familiar with where everything is located.  It helps to walk around both sides to learn what type of food is offered and where it is located for future visits.  I found the breakfast foods to be quite good.  They have stations for omelets, eggs benedict and eggs your way; as well as an assortment of items already prepared.  The scrambled eggs were actually good on this cruise. They are normally too runny, but not on this cruise.

For lunch the salad bar, Asian food and pasta station were very popular.  There were also many other items to choose from so that no one should have gone hungry.  Rather than a sandwich station, where you can have your sandwiches made, they had pre-made sandwiches in bags to choose from.  I much prefer the sandwich station since I like to be able to scoop out tuna, chicken and egg salad for lunch rather than making a sandwich out of it.  For dessert, they always had a crisp and an outstanding bread pudding with vanilla sauce available, as well as many other tasty items.  This is probably why I put on weight during the cruise.

Pinnacle Grill – The food at Pinnacle Grill was quite good.  Our big mistake was not getting the shrimp cocktail appetizer.  The people next to us got them after we had ordered our meal.  They were the biggest prawns I have ever seen.  We will get them on our next HAL cruise for sure.  Photos of what we had are in the menu section of this review.  We both got the 18 oz. bone-in ribeye steak that was very good.  It was probably a bit tougher than I expected; but the flavor was outstanding.  All of the food items were quite delicious, and the service was at a high level.  The combination of the comfortable, quiet nicely decorated room, combined with great food and service makes it an excellent choice for dinner. 

 

Entertainment

The Cruise Director was Nathan Hinojosa.  I liked him a lot, since he didn’t spend a lot of time introducing the evening performances.  When the shows were over, he gave a quick preview of the next night and said good night.  It was most refreshing.  He was also a very friendly guy and I ran into him regularly around the ship.

   

On our first Gala Night, Captain Chris Norman, came out and gave the toast.  It was nice to have a British Captain, since we could easily understand his daily announcements.  With most of the Captains on other cruises we have been on being from Greece, it can be a challenge to understand them.

As mentioned earlier, the theater was always packed for all shows.  Many people arrived 30 minutes or earlier to insure getting decent seats. 

Performers – For the most part, the individual performers were just outstanding.  I was really surprised at how many unique enjoyable shows we had.

Pampas Devils Gauchos – This show was described as “a traditional South American gaucho show, including the Argentinean Tango, Bolas and Argentinean tap dancing, as well as a little comedy.”  I almost didn’t go to the show, since I thought it might be cheesy.  But I am so glad that I did, since the woman and two men just put on a mesmerizing show.  The music and dancing were superb.  What they did with bolas, a ball on a long rope, was also most impressive.  The audience couldn’t get enough of this show.

   

   

   

X-Over Duo – The description for this show was “Two of Europe’s finest young classically trained voices bring to life a range of the most beautiful, well-loved film scores, opera classics, jazz standards and pop songs in perfect harmony.”  The description was right on, except it should have said for it not to be missed.  This couple were amazing, such lovely voices and great music choices.  The name of the group is pronounced “Cross Over Duo”, since they take well know songs and put them in a classical sound.  Their rendition of Mylie Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball, was just amazing.  I like the original version; but this was such a beautiful way to present this piece.  It was just a great show.

       

   

Duo Yalba – The show description said, “They have captivated audiences from all over the world because of the wide variety of music styles they perform.”  These guys were something else!  They were so talented.  The table behind them had all kinds of different instruments that they used during the performance.  They each played multiple instruments during the performance, normally multiple ones at the same time.  The pan flute, balilaica and other exotic sounding instruments provided such a beautiful tone.  It was relaxing and then they would play something else that got your feet taping and hands clapping.  During the performance one of the guys was making funny expressions at what the other one was saying or doing, which provided a bit of humor to the show.  It was an amazing experience.  I was so glad that they did a second show, which was just as good as the first.

       

   

Bailamos – This was an interesting show, since it was basically Latin music, but the three male singers were all from Canada.  They did a very nice job and played a nice music selection.  At one point they brought up a bunch of passengers to do the macarena with them.  The audience loved them.  Everyone was very pleased when they performed a second show during the cruise.

       

   

Fogwell Flax – Fogwell is a British comedian, who also does vocal impersonations of singers.  He would tell some jokes, some original; but many I had previously heard versions of them.  But he did present them in a very animated way, which still made them enjoyable.  In between strings of jokes he would do his vocal impersonations, singing songs of well know singers.  He was a good impersonator.

   

Rogerio Tutti – He is a composer, conductor and a pianist from Brazil.  He performed contemporary and other styles.  He is a very talented pianist and the audience enjoyed the music selection.  He did have a tendency to talk too much between pieces; but it was still enjoyable.

   

Luke Burrage – Luke was described as an entertainer and juggler.  I really didn’t want to go to this show, since jugglers are not an act I normally enjoy.  Luke’s juggling skills were quite good; but his personality and humor that he put into the show made it quite entertaining.  He is quite a character.

   

Five O’Clock Somewhere –  This British couple were called multi-instrumentalists with a blend of cutting edge technology.  It was interesting to see how they used looping and sampling technology to create an interesting backup sound for some of their songs. I enjoyed their music selection as well as their interaction.  The two are very different musically and they are an engaged couple.  Adam is a wild and crazy heavy metal type guy and Tabitha is more of a classical musician.  They find a way to make it work.  Tabitha has a very nice voice; but the way she shifts her voice while singing almost sounds like yodeling.  She overdid it; but I still enjoyed both shows they performed.

   

   

   

Joe Devlin – Joe is called the “Matador of Magic”.  He is very talented with a great stage presence.  Most people seemed to enjoy his act, which I also did; but I had seen too many of the same tricks before.  Since we have done a log of cruises, we have seen a lot of magicians.  Most of them do similar types of tricks, so I knew what expect, which takes away from the experience.  But he was a very good magician.

   

   

Andrea Amat – I should know by now that when a daily bulletin calls a performer a virtuoso, it means that they are playing an instrument.  I always forget that and assumed she was a singer.  Andrea is a Spanish Flautist.  She is very good at what she does and has an interesting repertoire; but I am just not big on listening to the flute.  She also talked too much telling us about what she was about to do.

   

Simon Palomares – This comedian was very good.  The audience loved him.  His material was original, and he presented very well.  As a result, he got lots of laughs. 

   

 

 

Production Shows –
With the Zaandam being a small ship, it has a small stage.  I set my expectations low, since they have a much smaller cast of performers with limited stage sets.  They had four singers and six dancers who worked very hard to give us enjoyable shows.

Classique – This show was described as “Elegant Classical Pop hits and Opera classics – A musical journey stopping in Spain, Ireland, France and Italy.”  The music selection was very good for my taste.  The dancers were just outstanding, some of the best I have seen on any cruise we have been on.  The singers did a very nice job presenting the varied music selection.  With this being the first production show, I was looking forward to future shows.  My expectations were definitely exceeded for this show.

   

   

   

   

   

   

Rock Legends – Since I am a rock fan, I loved the show.  It had a great selection of well-known rock music.  The singers did the songs justice and the dancers had another outstanding performance.  The choreography for the show made it most enjoyable. 

   

   

   

   

   

Dance – This production show focused on dancing.  The dancers did a great job and put on an excellent show.  The singers also performed a great selection of music.  This was a most enjoyable production show.

       

       

   

   

   

Variations – Once again the production cast put on a very enjoyable show.  The music selection was a nice mix from various genres I enjoy.  One of the male dancers was missing from the show; but if I hadn’t been watching how many singers and dancers they had, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed they were missing someone.  This was a very talented cast.

 

       

   

   

   

Activities

For the most part, the activities on the ship were very limited.  I had read that HAL had greatly decreased the activities department staffing on all their ships, which was quite concerning for HAL loyalists. It was most disappointing on a cruise that has so many sea days.  Fortunately, on this cruise, there were more speakers due to the destination we were cruising to.   I would be very concerned about doing a Transatlantic on a HAL Ship, since the activity program is anemic.

Cruise Critic Meet and Greet (www.cruisecritic.com) - Unlike on Celebrity Cruises, which we have more experience with, HAL doesn’t have a formal method for signing up for a Meet and Greet get together where people on a www.cruisecritic.com roll call can meet other cruisers they have been communicating with to set up private tours or many other discussion topics.  With HAL someone has to communicate with HAL to set up the meeting and let them know how many people will be attending, so they can provide a large enough space.  Since I was keeping the roll call list, I volunteered to set it up.  We had 104 people conversing on the roll call, with 70 that said they wanted to have a Meet and Greet.  I set up a meeting in the Crow’s Nest for 10:00 AM on the first sea day.  53 of the 70 people who signed up came and an additional seven that hadn’t signed up, so we had 60 people that got to spend the 45 minutes getting acquainted with each other.  I had made up name tags with everyone’s Cruise Critic names to help people identify who was who.  Unlike Celebrity, no officers, Cruise Director or his staff came to the meeting.  It is a shame, since it is appreciated when they do.

   

EXC Wildlife Encounter:  Wildlife Viewing – During part of the cruise, the EXC Guide, Wallis, would come down to the back of the promenade deck and help point out wildlife.  The first day she had the activity, she couldn’t believe how many people came out.  With Wallis wearing a penguin knit cap, she was always easy to spot.

   

Antarctic Expedition Team Lectures – There were three enrichment speakers on the ship, Dr. Peter Carey, Gabriela Roldan and Dr. Margaret Bradshaw.  They covered various topics relative to Antarctica and the area we were cruising in.  Some days there would be three separate talks during the day.  Later in the cruise, there was just one.  I wish they had more talks, since it was the main activity I was interested in and apparently most people on the cruise, since the talks were normally standing room only.

Navigator Web App - HAL ships have a Navigator web app that connects directly to the ship’s Wi-Fi at no cost.  It is a wonderful tool for seeing what the activities are for the current and future days of the cruise.  You can even save them in your own section of activities you want to attend.  It is also useful for checking charges to your account, booking specialty dining, booking spa services, booking excursions and for seeing what the evening menus is in the main dining room.

 

Ports of Call

I have included many full size high resolution photos from some of the ports in a SmugMug photo gallery.  Here is a LINK to it if you want to see them after reading the review.  The link is also at the end of the review.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Since we have previously visited Buenos Aires, I didn’t bother setting up any excursions.  I did want to go to Plaza de Mayo to revisit the beautiful Metropolitan Cathedral, where Pope Francis was Archbishop prior to becoming the Pope; and to explore the area around the square.  I asked the people at the ship excursion desk, how much I should pay for a cab, so I knew not to get ripped off.  I took a cab from the terminal to the Casa Rosada for $10 US plus tip.  Since many of the cab drivers did not speak English, I knew they would understand where the Casa Rosada was.  The return trip was only $8 US plus tip.  Cabs are quite reasonable in Buenos Aires.
 
After being dropped off, I was disappointed to see that the area in front of the Casa Rosada had construction work going on, which obstructed the view of it.  I could still see the balcony of the building, where Evita Peron came out to speak to the people; and where she is depicted in the musical to sing Don’t Cry for me Argentina.

In the square, there is the beautiful May Pyramid with a statue of Liberty on top of it.  The 61.5-foot-tall statue was built in 1811 to celebrate the first anniversary of the May Revolution, which was the first successful revolution in the South American Independence process.

   

There were lovely buildings around the square.  Just beautiful architecture.

   

   

Close by, I could see my main destination, the Metropolitan Cathedral.  I liked the frieze in front above the columns.

   

The interior was much larger than it appeared from the outside.  It was also quite lovely.  The nave itself was quite impressive.

   

On the sides were gorgeous chapels.  I took photos of almost every one of them; but will only include my favorites.  I realize that I have put in too many pictures; but I don’t want to forget them.

       

       

       

   

   

Perhaps the most famous statues are those surrounding the Mausoleum of General San Martín, the main leader in the fight for independence from Spain.

There were also beautiful statues to admire all around the interior.

   

I was particularly enamored by the beautiful tile floors.  It was a challenge to get photos of them, since there were many people in the building.

The dome and altar area were quite ornate and just gorgeous, as were the colorful stained glass windows.

   

       

      

After leaving the cathedral, there was one other place I had wanted to go to.  It was the obelisk that I had seen when we were in Buenos Aires the first time.  Since it was only a few blocks away and it was a most pleasant day, I headed that way.  Not far from the square, I saw an interesting statue.

   

When I arrived at the obelisk, I took several photos.  It is an impressive structure at 221.5 feet tall.  It was built in 1936 to commemorate where the city was founded 400 years earlier.

On my return walk to the square, I passed by an office building with an amazing entrance decoration.  Not your normal office building look.

   

When I got back to the square, I decided to see if there was a way to get a better photo of the Casa Rosada.  There was a narrow path just in front of it, so I was able to get a partial view of the beautiful pink building. 

While there, a fellow cruiser told me that they had hoped to see the interior of the building; but that they were told by the security guard that they would have to make reservations at least a week ahead of time.  The guard also told them that they might want to visit the Casa Rosada museum behind the building.  That sounded like a good idea to me also.  It is quite a modern building that was built in 2010 on the spot where the city’s first fort was built in 1580.  The new structure protects the remains of the old building and has used the rooms to display historical objects.  The view looking down into the museum was interesting. 

   

Some of the original brickwork is still visible throughout the museum.  The museum is free. 

   

Unfortunately, the descriptions are only in Spanish, so I did not know what I was looking at; but it was still worth seeing.  There were some very interesting things to see; and my limited Spanish knowledge helped a little bit.

   

Upon exiting the museum, I was able to get a nice view of the back of the Casa Rosada; which I had not previously seen.

After I had finished my exploring, I looked for a cab to take me back to the port.  I tried to communicate where I was going to a couple of cabbies; but they didn’t speak English.  I didn’t anticipate that it would be a difficult request.  I then remembered that I had looked up the address for someone on our Cruise Critic roll call, who had arrived a few days before us.  I showed it to the driver and he knew what I wanted.  I was certainly glad I had written the address down, where I could access it from my phone.   

The mandatory muster drill was scheduled for 4:00 PM, since we were to leave at 5:00 PM.  There was very little information in the daily bulletin, except that the drill was on deck 3, the Promenade deck.  For some reason, HAL calls it the Lower Promenade deck.  Since that is where the promenade is, I will refer to it as the promenade deck.  We like to arrive early to pretty much everything, and muster drills are no exception.  We were in good company, since many people came down to deck 3 to look for their muster station, which is listed on the cabin door and everyone’s room key card.  There were no staff available at all to tell people what to do when they arrived.  Some people went outside to find their muster station, which is what I did.  There were people mulling around, some carrying life jackets, some wearing their life jackets and most people with no life jackets.  I had called earlier to find out if we needed life jackets, since there were no instructions about them; and found out they were not needed.  By 4:00 PM, many people were out on the promenade deck and no one knew what they were supposed to be doing.  The horns blew, and an announcement was made to go to the muster stations and that life jackets were not needed.  By then, most people were already standing around their muster stations. 

 

There was absolutely no one around to organize the passengers.  At 4:05 PM, a few officers came out and tried to tell people what to do.  Since they did not have bull horns, very few people could hear them.  A little while later, a team of staff came out and tried to get people to get in lines along the wall, but they didn’t seem to know how people were supposed to be lined up.  When these staff people were trying to explain how to use the life jackets, most people couldn’t hear what they were saying or even see them.  Fortunately, they did use the PA system to tell about the different horn signals.  This was our 49th cruise and I have never experienced such a disorganized muster drill.  It seemed as though it was the first time any of the staff had ever done one of these drills.  If this had been our first cruise, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what I was supposed to do in case of an emergency.  It was very disappointing.

After completing the muster drill, many people wanted to go to the sail away party by the Seaview Pool.  5:00 PM came and we were still docked.  Nothing was happening on the dock to get us on our way.  Finally, around 5:20 PM, an announcement was made that Argentinian officials were not ready to clear our ship for leaving.  Good grief, what could keep a ship from leaving?  There were some officials standing on the dock looking at the ship; but nothing was happening.  Finally, around 5:45 PM, we were on our way heading out to sea.  Not a pleasant start to a cruise.

 

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