My husband and I and 5 friends cruised Alaska's Inside Passage on Holland America's Volendam from 9/19 to 9/26. This was our first cruise and I will tell you that we loved the experience. We will cruise again. Maybe with HA and maybe not. The things we liked outweighed what we didn't but here is our assessment.
1) We loved the ship. We had a veranda room on Level 6 and the verandahs next to us were occupied by some of our friends. A a first time cruiser I wasn't sure what to expect as far as room size but it was biggger than I expected, particularly the bathroom. All in all I thought the room and the overall ship were great. Very clean.
2) The Crow's Nest. What a great spot to watch the beautiful Alaskan scenery!
3) Glacier Bay. I can not tell you what a fantastic experience Glacier Bay was. It still takes my breath away to think about it. My husband got up early the morning that we were to arrive in Glacier Bay and he saw the Alaska Park Rangers pull up in a boat next to the Volendam and board. Those park rangers, four of them, were with us all day. One was broadcasting as we entered Glacier Bay and bascially narrated everything we saw. It was as if we had paid someone for an excursion to Glacier Bay. Two of the other rangers were giving talks about the glaciers in certain spots and talking about the native people. Because the Volendam is not quite as big as some of the other cruise ships we were able to get all the way to the Johns Hopkins glacier which proceeded to calve while we were there. A huge calving event. You just have to see if for yourself.
4) The food. We thought the food was good. I'm not going to tell you that every meal was gourmet but some were. I had rack of lamb in the Rotterdam Dining Room and it was fabulous. We ate in Pinnacle Grill one night and it was quite good. Is it worth the $25 surcharge? Some of us thought it was. Some of us thought it wasn't. The breakfast buffet in the Lido has just about anything you could want and it is good and the buffet line servers go out of their way to get you what you want.
5) Canaletto Italian Restaurant. It's actually just a blocked off area next to the Lido grill BUT we all thought it was fantastic! A $10 up charge and totally, totally worth it! A beautiful balsamic vinegar reduction on your table, an awesome antipasta platter brought around for you to select from, and probably the best meatballs I have ever eaten, excellent service. Everyone loved their dishes. Our group ate there 2 out of the 7 nights. Personally, I think they should take the Pinnacle space and make it Canaletto.
6) The Staff...99.9% are great!
7) The Gym....not large but adequate and one of the best views on the ship. Great spin class!
There are so many good things to say about our trip that I hate to bring up the negative but here goes...
First, my husband and I purchased the Suite Amenities Package for 2 and what a NIGHTMARE that was! It was like pulling teeth to get what was included in the package. Basically, the spirits that were to be in the room upon embarkation were not there. They finally delivered some of it at 11:00 p.m. that night and some of it the next day. Our friends just called room service once on board and they got what they ordered much sooner than what we paid for a month in advance. Next, the package includes laundry but they didn't give us any laundry tickets in the beginning. The package included a breakfast someplace other than the buffet or Rotterdam on disembarkation day that we never got. I still don't know how that happened. It's too long of a story to type. The package also included either high tea or canapes delivered to the room everydday. We got it one day and never again. The package included dinner for 2 at the Pinnalce Grill ($50) and we went on LeCirgue night with 3 of our friends. We were told they would just bill us the difference of $14 (b/c LeCirqu) is $39). Not only did they bill us for the entire $39 they billed the other 3 people to our room also. Anyway, I would NOT buy the suite amenities package...big, big ripoff.
Next, room service. What a nightmare! I still to this day don't know who I should call for what. If you call one number they say, "Oh, call the other room service number." They keep telling you that your steward will do this and that for you. We never saw our stewards. We had 2 of them. They cleaned our rooms and finally figured out to bring us ice 2x per day but that's it. If you wanted something in your room....good luck! Our friends next door had dirty dishes sit in their room all day. They called 2x and no one ever came to get them. We asked if we could have the stuff in our mini bar changed out for things we would use instead of what we didn't want. I asked if they could change out the cokes for water and more pelligrino. Never happened. I asked them if they could bring club soda and they were totally clueless. Never happened. The rooms were cleaned well and we always had a cute towel animal on our bed at night. In my opinion they need to divert manpower from making towel animals and instead make sure that their guests have what they need or want. Bottled water...just go to the Explorers Cafe and buy yourself a few big bottles. Don't ask room service. I was in the gym on the second day of the cruise and a woman who was doing spin class with me had a big bottle of water. I asked her where she got it and she said it was in her stateroom. No water in my stateroom. One of the guys working in the gym overheard our conversation and he said the biggest complaint that the ship gets is that it is hard to get water. Anyway, I could go on but suffice it to say their room service needs serious improvement. I think a guest should be able to pick up the phone, give their request and have it fulfilled. I shouldn't have to call 3 different phone numbers and wait 2 hours for a can of bloody mary mix.
Last but not least....wine/alcohol service in the Rotterdam. If you want a cocktail, bring your own wine and pay the corkage fee or go to another bar and get your drink. It's like the room service problem. Your food waiter is not your alcohol waiter. One night in the Rotterdam we were seated at the table for a half an hour and not one of us yet had a cocktail/wine in front of us. Which is STUPIDITY on the part of HA because you are paying for it! It was very odd and we finally just gave up and brought our own.
All in all, we very much enjoyed our cruise but I would probably explore another cruise line for regions other than Alaska because we just were not satisfied with the service in our room or the Rotterdam. As far as the suite amenities pkg goes, we felt that we were just plain robbed but whatever. Live and learn. I loved Alaska and would go back tomorrow if I could.