We're in our late 40's with a 11 yr old daughter. We try to do one big vacation each year and always try to ensure it's a high-end experience. For example, last year was an exclusive Tuscan Villa for five days followed by ten days in 5 star hotels in Florence and Rome. With that background, hopefully my feedback will be of interest to those who share my feeling that there are no luggage racks on Hearses. My goal for this cruise was to book the best cabin on the ship I could get. We didn't go on vacation to save money. Cost be damned. Fun...isn't it? ;>)
Cabin 7027: Clean and spacious. Mostly quiet when the verandah doors are closed but lots of deck noise from the Lido deck above when you're on the verandah during the day. Oh well, let's pour another cocktail and look for Bears. Plenty of storage. Bring an extension cord (Thanks Forum!). Extremely generous size cabin if you have just 2 adults. Even with our daughter using the pull out bed, which she loved, we never bumped into each other. The verandah was large as well and we spent a lot of time out there with a glass of wine, light music and our daily room-service delivered hors d'oeuvres because, luckily, the weather was drop dead gorgeous 90% of the time. This cabin is also plenty large enough for 2 adults and 2 kids who could sleep on the pullout sofa. I doubt you would want 4 adults in there but, hey, it's your cruise.
The binoculars in the room, which are very powerful, enabled us to really gain an appreciation for the coastline, glaciers, whales, otters, eagles, and mountain goats. One day a Hummingbird even flew right up to my face while I was looking through them! Almost dropped them overboard! Alaska is completely under-rated in my book.
Cabin Service: Extremely professional, fast and efficient. Definitely service with a smile. We took full advantage of the dry cleaning and laundry service that comes with the room and were completely satisfied.
Neptune Lounge: I was pretty sure it would be a good perk and now realize I won't go on another cruise without having access to it.
Dining: Definitely not The Ritz or Four Seasons but what is? Volendam food is pretty darn good. We greatly enjoyed The Pinnacle on three of the nights including Le Cirque night. I'd put that food and service level up against nicer restaurants in most large cities. We enjoyed perfectly prepared breakfasts in our room each morning, delivered right on time. Tip: if you want something that's not on the room service menu, i.e. Dijon or salmon/capers, just write it in and I bet they bring it to you. We enjoyed the MDR three nights and two lunches. We had one so-so dinner at Canaletto one night, which was the only 'miss' the entire cruise(My veal was tough and our daughter's meatballs, which she didn't plan to eat anyway, were surprisingly undercooked). Not a huge matter to us but maybe to others.
We like our Red wines so after reviewing the Volendam wine list in advance I decided we'd bring our own case of wine. Their list is really good in the Pinnacle (everything up to and beyond Opus One) and not terrible in the MDR and lounges but I wanted what we're accustomed to and I really didn't want to pay $120/bottle for what I normally pay $30 for in Florida. We also ordered many drinks in the lounges and restaurants so I didn't feel bad about bringing our own to our cabin. We paid the $18 corkage a couple of times and it was preferable for us. At The Pinnacle our server quickly offered to decant the bottles without our even asking. Simply great service.
Kids: Two or three times during the cruise, our lovely daughter enjoyed hanging out with the 5 to 10 kids who were her age in Club HAL. They were all well behaved and polite. There's plenty for them to do there for 2-3 hours at a time. The Club HAL Staff was Excellent. We're not the Disney Cruise type. Volendam was great for us. She read 10 large books while on board and we loved the Library and Chess games. She had a great time.
Entertainment: In terms of Shows, honestly as a family, we never made it past about 10pm so the only shipboard entertainment for us was Adagio Strings and the acoustic guitarist - both were excellent. Many nights after dinner we just really enjoyed the DVD library back in our cabin. I stayed up a couple of nights until 12 or 1 at the tables in the Casino and had fun meeting other blackjack players. Lot of nice passengers on this cruise. The Casino staff were also some of the most pleasant, laid back and accommodating I've run into. Just great people. If you're a regular player I'd strongly recommend setting up a line of credit in advance. It was very convenient.
Excursions: None were with HAL. We enjoyed what we did on our own including walking in town, Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Salmon charter fishing in Ketchikan and Liarsville Salmon Bake/Gold Panning in Skagway, which by the way got a really bad rap on the Internet so I was very wary but it was actually a great time and the food was good! (Highly recommend bestofalaskatravel.com for Liarsville and ketchikancharterboats.com for fishing (!!). The Salmon we caught arrived today via FedEx 1-Day Air and it was well worth the money for the charter and processing. Salmon were plentiful in Ketchikan. Nice weather. Three of us fished on a 31' Silverton. Price was very competitive.
The Volendam Staff: Captain Peter Bos, Restaurant Mgr (Tall guy with white hair, really nice), Neptune Lounge Staff: Kristine and Olga, Room Stewards, and every other staff member we came into contact with bent over backwards to ensure we were completely satisfied, safe and informed. Each request we made was acted on quickly, efficiently and with a smile. Captain Bos also did a fine job with our Renewal of Vows ceremony, which helped me win big time points with my lovely wife of 20 yrs and it's something I highly recommend. We were the only couple who reserved it on this sailing so the Captain and Rebekah (Volendam Party Planner) spent a relaxed 45 mins with us in the Explorer Lounge. We enjoyed getting to know them and they are both top notch individuals. I'm sure all of the HAL people are.
While I'm on the subject of Captain Peter Bos let me say that his focus on Safety and the passenger's enjoyment of the sights of the Inside Passage is second to none as far as we're concerned. The PA announcements were informative but not overbearing.
In closing, our cabin, its location, the service level, and amenities that come with it exceeded my expectations. The Volendam was the perfect size for a 7 day cruise. Many times as we explored the ship we felt like we had a lot of space to ourselves. Our assessment is that HAL is a well managed, high quality organization. We also stayed over in Vancouver on our own for four days after disembarkation and Love that City. I would do this exact vacation again in a heartbeat.
Lastly, the CruiseCritic site and Forum members provided a wealth of info for us, which helped us know in advance what to expect. We are very grateful so please feel free to ask any questions you have if you are considering the Volendam. I'm not an expert but hopefully I can return a favor.
Bon Voyage and arrivederci!
Chris and Lauren