We arrived in Sydney on Oct 17 to acclimate ourselves to the time change. We stayed at the Bayswater Sydney in the Kings Cross area. What a find. Good rates and near the metro. Get a weekly pass from the Metro that is down the road from the hotel. It includes all trains, ferries, and buses in the city. $45 each and the best way to get around.
Our cruise left from the Overseas passenger terminal at Circle Quay, right across from the Sydney Opera House. What a sight! The Rocks area is right by the ship so when you check in at the cruise ship, you can get off and walk around. If it is Saturday you can enjoy the market right up the street.
We checked in about 11 a.m and there was some delay because of a computer problem. We had to stand outside for awhile and fill out our forms for the health questions, etc. Met a lot of nice people in line.
Once we were let inside, it took a long time to check in. There were not many personnel to check us in.
Once on board we were directed to our room. We were on the Veranda deck forward starboard.
Once we found our room we were delighted at how large it was. We had a Veranda Suite. It was very well appointed and had floor to ceiling windows leading to a large veranda. It had one chair, a chase, and small table. We asked if we could have another chair and they gave it to us right away.
Our room stewards were always so kind and kept our cabin super clean.
The cabin had a large leather couch that was so comfortable to sit and have breakfast and watch a movie on our own DVD.
Everyday at 5 pm they would bring in fresh ice for us to fix our drinks.
A few things about our cabin:
We had a small frig that we kept our wine and sodas in.
Large queen bed with the most comfortable mattress and 6 pillows with different levels of thickness. Large flat screen TV with two news channels and a few movie channels. Lots of storage for your clothes. A safe.
The bathrooms had a whirlpool tub and a great shower with great water pressure. I am totally impressed with how the space is used in the HAL bathrooms. A place for everything.
Our room steward could not have been better. They called us by name and kept our room super clean. They even placed a small napkin like carpet by our bed at night so if we got up we did not have to have our feet hit the carpet.
The Volendam is a beautiful ship. Extremely clean. It did not feel like the ship had 1300 people. It is well laid out also and easy to get around. The staff was always happy to help you. The captain always kept us up to date on our location and any issues of interest to us. We were not able to get into two ports because of weather or berth problems and we were always told why and reimbursed port fees.
The food was mostly very good. We always had room service in the morning and mostly they gave us too much food. It was always hot and each morning we got a call seeing if everything was ok.
The main dining room was outstanding. Victor, the restaurant Asst. Manager was our favorite. Always a smile and we taught him a new American phrase everyday. He enjoyed it and we got to be good friends.
The Lido had a great menu everyday. Nothing was ever repeated in the 34 days we were there. However the food, except for the soups, were never hot. Always lukewarm or cold. I talked to the manager, as I had gotten ill on an earlier cruise because of food that was just sitting there, and was concerned about things not being prepared well (not on HAL). He said he would take care of it. It never got better. HAL - DO NOT SERVE FOOD SUPPOSED TO BE HOT COLD.
What we did see was really good. By the end of a full day of sightseeing, by 8pm we usually just had a light dinner and went to our cabin to relax.
One thing we liked was the talks on the ports and the shore excursions. We did take some excursions from HAL in ports that were small like Komodo and Lombok, but mostly we would find out things to do on our own or with friends we met.
HAL has to come up with a better way to get a connection. To charge what they charge and have to wait like you are using dsl is ridiculous. Also when asked to adjust charges the manager did not seem too happy to help.
All in all this is a great cruise and they only do it once a year. Next year it is again in October. This is a wonderful opportunity to see a wonderful continent and meet the people of Australia.
Also the prices are very good for this type of cruise.
We love HAL and are working on a trip to the Baltic as we speak.
You should be very proud of your staff and your ship - the Volendam.
Once thing to add. We were never, ever pressured to buy things from HAL. We appreciated this as some cruise lines do this.
Our room stewards names were Made and Trisna.