My wife and I plus two good friends and two family members took the Alaska Inside Passage cruise on the MS Volendam, which sailed from Vancouver July 25th 2012 -- August 1st 2012. Instead of writing a day by day account of the cruise I'd rather list what I liked and what I didn't like about the cruise. This was our fifth cruise and we've previously cruised with, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Radisson and Canard. Please keep in mind there were 1500 passengers on board and this is my opinion and account only.
Things I liked about the ship:
- The Volendam seemed very steady when at sea and without much sensation of motion or movement.
- The three onboard shows we saw were all good. We especially enjoyed the female comedian Chris Pendleton who was really funny.
- At the end of the cruise you are allowed to stay in your cabin until you are called to disembark the ship. Please note that you will leave the ship on deck two (2) which is never announced or written.
- The split-pea soup which is served around the ship and on deck while at Glacier Bay (State Park) was very good and most welcomed. We were there in late July and it was as cold as a January day in Washington DC.
- I really liked that are room steward's swept our cabin floors daily and also cleaned the shower (tub) daily. They both did a super job keeping the cabin clean.
- I really liked having the hand sanitizer stations, which was placed around the ship at the elevators and dining rooms.
- The bathrobe in the room is a nice touch.
- There is plenty of storage. There is only one electrical outlet so bring an extender if you need to plug in multiple items simultaneously. There is another one in the bathroom but it is two-prong only.
- The captain will communicate when wildlife is spotted.
- Embarkation and de-embarkation is the best of any cruise we have taken. Easy, organized, swift.
- This is the first time without a balcony but the port hole view was fine. We did not miss a balcony. It actually got us out of our room more.
Questionable things about the ship:
- The ship's bell (forward) denotes the ship was commissioned in 1999 so please keep in mind this is an OLD ship. My sister in law (cabin 1900) had numerous flushing and backup issues with her toilet. The crew left a total of three written notes that the water would be turned off (for four hours each time) and repairs made (it still didn't work correctly). This was my sister in laws first cruise. So after the second issue we both when up to the front deck to complain and see what can be done. The response was "it's being looked into". The Front Desk never attempted to compensate her or make things right or contact her to see if the problem was solved. So please beware if you have a problem.
- Access to the bow is hard to find and a bit strange to access. It is on the 3rd level. Look for the sign that says "bow". It looks like it is closed off and staff only but it's not.
- Don't bother taking a magnet for your door to ID your door. The door is not metal so the magnet will not stick. We used gaffer tape.
- The gym / spa point of contact (Lestor) was condescending and a jerk to us and other members of our traveling party (he did not know we were traveling together and the incidents were totally seperate and different).
- We also had a problem (cabin 1891) with smelling sewer gas in our bath room. I know enough about plumbing and made sure all the P-traps all were filled with water and I kept the sink and tub plungers closed (problem solved). But here again this is an old ship, with plumbing issues.
- No flexibility on either formal night. My 17 year old nephew came to the first formal night in dress slacks, polished dress shoes, dress shirt and tie...he looked great but was stopped at the door. Their head matre de (Mario) will not let you into the dining room without a jacket. All of the men have to wear either a suit jacket, tux or sports coat. However, you are not required to wear a tie.
- The ship didn't communicate well with passengers. When in port, no announcements are made as to where you exit the ship and it's in a different location in every port. Please give yourself plenty of time in order to make an early excursion to find the location. Even the Front Desk said they did not have that information and to wait for an announcement (that never came).
- Our bed linens were old (but clean) with several small rips. Holland America...it's time you buy some new bed linens.
- The Ledo deck cafeteria stations are confusing and are laid out in a disorganized fashion. The most popular stations are next to each other so the middle is always crowded.
- You cannot view your bill through their T.V.; you have to go to the front desk and ask for a printout. Here again...it's an old ship.
- In my opinion the food isn't bad but it's not that good either. I think if Holland America were buying higher quality meats that would go a long way in improving the onboard dinners. Also their anytime dinning menu selection is not available on the last night. The last night menu theme is international foods from various countries which is the worst food night of the cruise.
- On the last morning of the cruise we used room service. Half way through breakfast I noticed something at the bottom of my wife's orange juice. Under closer examination she discovered it was a huge (one inch) piece of broken glass. She took the glass up to the Ledo deck and asked to speak to someone in charge. When she explained the orange juice was from room service the manager said "it's not my station". You just have to love that kind of response from someone in charge. Oh and my wife was okay but the thought she may have swallowed glass due to carelessness really upsets me.
Things I liked about Alaska:
- We took the Tracy Arm Fjord (high speed catamaran) excursion which is a must do (but a long day). This excursion allows you to get up close and personal to both the north and south "Sawyer" Glacier. Note: it's a several hour boat ride back to Juneau. You'll be dropped off at the ship. We had planned to also explore the Mendenhall Glacier but just ran out of time. Shari of the excursion was excellent, informative and entertaining.
- We also really enjoyed the White's Pass Train Ride & Gold Panning excursion in Skagway. We all enjoyed the Liarsville camp and the gold panning. There is no gold in this part of Alaska but each pan has dirt/gravel with a trace amount of gold. This gives you the feel of panning and finding gold (the gold is yours to keep). Hey, and remember to howl like a wolf when they board your bus. They (Liarsville camp personal) have a lot of fun and want you to have fun too. When we got back from this excursion we walked into town and hiked up the mountain to Lower Dewey Lake. Have good hiking shoes, drinking water and some athletic ability (the hike is rated as moderate) and you'll enjoy the beauty, view and the workout.
- There are so many interesting things to see like: water falls, snow covered mountains, the turquoise mineral filled water at the glaciers, marine mammals, plants, rocks and trees, green lush meadows, wild life and the people are friendly and will ask you "so where are you from"? This was a bucket list trip for me and my wife.
Things I didn't like about Alaska:
- Nothing. It was wonderful.
- Dress for cool weather. Dress in layers and you will be glad to have gloves and a stocking cap in Glacier Bay.
- Don't be discouraged if it is overcast, foggy or rainy in the morning. There is a good chance it will clear up for the afternoon.
We stayed at the Metropolitan pre-cruise in Vancouver which we liked a lot. After the cruise we stayed at The Sutton Place which cost more. Sutton Place had a beautiful view but no wifi or other amenities (unless you want to pay). I preferred the Metropolitan for location, amenities, price, friendliness.