The ship is elegant. Assuming we were told the truth - that the ship was at capacity, 1500 - we were amazed at the spaciousness. Very easy to get around. Never a crowd anywhere. Embarkation was quick and easy. Our cabin was more than ample with easily sufficient closet and drawer space for both of us. Bathroom was spacious with a full size bathtub. A fresh fruit bowl was refilled as we ate it.
Food was quite good, better at the Lido deck cafe buffet than in the dining room - and all day long. Weather forced cancellation of chosen land tours but not ship's fault.
Entertainment was mediocre and a disappointment but not a big thing with us. Biggest fault we had was with service which we blamed on HAL's policy of adding $10/day/pp for tips onto your bill. The rationale is that its for our "convenience" and so that we don't have to search out crew members to reward them at end of cruise. We got the distinct impression that the crew and especially those with whom we came in daily contact - cabin steward and dining room waiter - knew that their tip was in the bank as soon as we stepped on board so just did the minimum.
Our bed was made up as a double bed when we arrived. He very grudgingly separated it into two twins only after twice asking me and my having to twice tell him that I did not request a double bed. One day after coming back from shore at 12:30P and found cabin not made up, I had to search for him, found him sitting in his work area chatting with another crew member and had to ask him to make up cabin. Another time, without being asked, made up cabin at 5P even though he knew we didn't eat dinner until 7:45P. Never saw him. Never asked if things were OK, anything we needed, etc.
Dining room waiter was not any better. Took your order, came back with the food and that was it. Saving grace was Ass't Maitre D who came around and asked if everything was OK. One night when I asked for another entree because one I had ordered - pasta - was just a gooey blob, he personally and quickly brought me another entree. The waiter was nowhere to be found. Twice ran out of towels on pool deck. One day, after taking two juice glasses I had brought down from buffet back up to deck, I asked person whose apparent job was to stand by water server and hand out glasses of water to anyone who requested it, if he would please take glasses from me. He just said "NO. Put them on any table" This was at lunch time so I had to find empty table as I couldn't put my dirty glasses on someone else's table. Quirky practice on buffet deck. Tables are initially set with rolled up napkins containing silverware. But when someone leaves and dishes removed and tabled cleaned, more often than not,no silverware is replaced. So if you're not the first person to use that place you have to search around for it.
We were told that 70% of tip goes to cabin steward and dining room waiter, rest is divided amongst ENTIRE crew. And that tips represent a significant portion of their pay, I resent being forced to tip everybody from dishwasher to engine room mechanics. Message I got is HAL pays them poorly and so you are being forced to contribute. Pass an officer anywhere, don't expect a greeting or smile. We're not used to such a very low level of service and won't accept it. Never again on HAL unless I hear from cruisers that my experience was unusual and peculiar to the Volendam.