A Memorable Week in Alaska aboard the Zuiderdam

Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam docked in Skagway, Alaska. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Today, 1,916 guests are enjoying their second day aboard Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam, sailing into the mouth of picturesque Tracy Arm Fjord before continuing on to the capital of Juneau, Alaska.  And sadly, I’m not one of them.

But last week, I was part of fortunate to step aboard the 936-foot long Zuiderdam for a week spent sailing Alaska’s classic Inside Passage route roundtrip from Vancouver.

Few sights are like the magnificent vistas of Glacier Bay National Park. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Flowers – and totem poles – in Ketchikan, Alaska. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Arrival into Juneau, with Holland America’s Westerdam leading the pack. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I say “classic” because Zuiderdam’s itinerary is exactly that. Long before ships began sailing from Seattle a little over a decade ago, nearly all Alaskan cruises included Vancouver as an embarkation or disembarkation port, or both. The chief advantage of this: sailings included a voyage up British Columbia’s fabled Inside Passage, and time spent in magnificent Glacier Bay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Dusk falls on Zuiderdam’s wraparound Promenade Deck. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our full Live Voyage Report – click each below link to view:

August 11 – Vancouver, BC

August 12 – Sailing the Inside Passage

August 13 – Tracy Arm & Juneau, Alaska

August 14 – Skagway, Alaska

August 15 – Scenic Cruising Glacier Bay, Alaska

August 16 – Ketchikan, Alaska

August 17 – Sailing the Inside Passage One Last Time

Exploring the Gold Rush town (and major railway hub) of Skagway, Alaska. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I’ve always loved Holland America’s Vista-class ships, of which the Zuiderdam is the founding member. But as she prepares to celebrate a decade in service this December, had my favorite ship lost her lustre?


Sweeping hallways and intricately designed public rooms are Holland America trademarks. Seen here is the corridor outside the Art Gallery and Pinnacle Bar on Deck 2. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Sure, there are a few pieces of furniture that could be swapped out and some faded synthetic decking near the radar mast that could stand a change, but throughout the ship I noticed a whole host of improvements since my last sailing.  Chairs in the Ocean Bar on Deck 3 have been replaced with newer, far more comfortable ones than the old, low-back ones that used to ring the atrium. Carpets on most stairwells were plush and brand-new, and the Vista Lounge looked better than ever.  Railings, glass and brightwork were constantly being polished – right down to the brass kickplates on the doors.

In short, Zuiderdam sparkled.

The Crow’s Nest, Deck 10 forward. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Sports Bar, Deck 2 forward. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The aft corner of the Ocean Bar, located midship on Deck 3. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Atrium Bar, Deck 1 midship. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

My stateroom, a Category VA Verandah Stateroom on Rotterdam Deck 7. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Of course, besides the itinerary and the ship herself, it is Zuiderdam’s dedicated crew that made this voyage truly exceptional. From my stateroom attendants to the officers to the women who work at the front desk to the great bar stewards, the fantastic Internet Manager, Librarian, Techspert, Lido staff and Pinnacle Grill waiters, the Holland America cruise experience is one that is dedicated to ensuring that guests are treated more like old friends, and less like just a number; a rarity among cruise lines that operate larger ships.

Ashley & the HALCats perform in the Ocean Bar, Deck 3. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

They’ll remember your name, your favorite drink, chat with you about your day, and then, if you see them again on another ship, they’ll remember still. I don’t know how they do it, but they’re damn good at what they do.

Putting the finishing touches on Holland America’s signature Dessert Extravaganza. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I have been trying for the past seven days to put my finger on exactly what it is that makes Holland America so special.  After all, the line has one of the highest number of repeat passengers in the industry. So what keeps people like them – like me – coming back time and time again?

All of the above.

The Zuiderdam towers over Skagway, Alaska. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

This year, Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam sails to Alaska through September 22nd, after which she will reposition to offer voyages through the Panama Canal before returning to both Vancouver and Alaska in 2013 for a full-season of weeklong Inside Passage voyages.

Arrival into Vancouver on August 18, 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

It’s nice to know that after a six-year gap between my last sailing to Alaska onboard the Zuiderdam that I was able to pick up right where I left off.

It was like sailing with an old, trusted friend to one of the most scenic destinations in the world.

Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam has sadly drawn to a close, but there are more Live Voyage Reports coming very soon right here on From the Deck Chair!


4 Responses to Zuiderdam Live Voyage Report – Recap

  1. Aaron, Your photos are exquisite. what camera are you using?

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Thanks, Andrea! I used to use a Canon G12, but upgraded to a Nikon D5100 for this past trip. It’s a very powerful camera, but not as big and bulky as some of the larger DSLR’s. Really shines when you take it out of auto-mode and determine your own settings!

  2. […] here to read our Live Voyage Reports from Alaska aboard Holland America’s Zuiderdam; Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl; and Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess with Cruise […]

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