Holland America -- Volendam -- 14days Hong Kong to Singapore
This is our own views on cruising with Holland America. Being experienced cruisers we take every cruise as our first and try not to compare, as so many try to compare companies and end up spoiling their trip. We like to cruise on itinerary.
Just recently undergone a refurbishment although did look like it had been done quickly and maybe needed a little better finishing touches.
Embarkation -- A little chaotic, boarding in Hong Kong is done in the end of a shopping centre, you drop your bags on pier then a longish walk to check-in. It took around 2 hrs. from dropping bags to being on board, at least chairs were supplied so the waiting in lines was limited.
The compulsive safety drill was professionally done, being repeated a number of times for passengers went ashore to enjoy Hong Kong due to a late departure.
Food overall was very good, the buffet variety was good although at times was not very hot, if brought to the chefs attention they were happy to make sure you were given it hot. We opted for 'any time dining' we never booked or waited to be seated. We were willing to share tables. Menus were always varied and food was well cooked and presented, waiters made sure any changes were done. Although waiting staff seemed to be thin on the ground which at times caused some delays but being on holiday there was no need rush.
Entertainment was quite poor, 3 visiting comedians was a bit over the top. The ships own show team seemed not to do a lot, the quality of the singing & dancing was quite amateurish.
Cabin was very well kept and maintained to a very good standard, cabin steward worked very hard and seemed to have a lot more cabins too service which may show the reduction in staff. Towels were of a good quality. Bath robes supplied for use.
Dis-embarkation was simple from the ship. Long queues for immigration, there are no porters to assist with luggage, one problem was the very long queues for taxis which required a walk through a small shopping area. Taxis were plentiful though one you get to the rank. If you are going to a hotel it is worth have the name & address of the hotel for the taxi driver as many hotel chains may have more than one hotel. If you are an independent and require transfer to the airport take a taxi. On the dis-embarkation information stated $39 each, but on the reverse stated taxis cost around $25 for the cab.
If this is you first visit to the area it is worth investing in a guide book to cover the ports of call
Currency -- Most ports of call will accept US$, try getting small notes, it worth getting a small amount of local currency in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand & Singapore.
Visa's these are issued on board, Holland America adds a large handling fee.
These are still cheaper than organising your own. These are charged even if you do not go ashore. Holland America do charge an exorbitant handling charge, for Cambodia we were charged $45 and actual visa cost $20 (making around additional $37,000)
Gratuities $11.50 per day per person, you can remove or adjust this amount.
Ports Of Call
Hong Kong -- If you need to arrange your individual transfer's just head follow the signs for taxis, all are metered & most take credit cards (cost about Â£20gbp) Hong Kong is very easy city to get round yourselves using the underground/metro. Get yourself a metro map, this way it will show what exit you want from each station saving a great deal of walking. Try to avoid Hong Kong taxis for short journeys as you may be stuck in traffic for long periods.
Halong Bay -- Tender Port - Junk trips are easily available on the pier exactly the same as ships tours at a fraction of the cost (around 15-20 US$) plus admission to caves. We actually visited some place the ships tour did not. At the fish farm you could purchase live sea food and the lady of the junk would cook it for you at no cost. A trip to Hanoi is not recommended as it involves a 3-4hr trip each way.
Da Nang -- A trip to Hoi An is a must, easy to negotiate an on portside taxi / minibus who will take you to Hoi An with a visit en-route to the Marble Mountain. Marble Mountain is marble statues are produced and shipped all over the world some weighing many tons. You can take the lift up to the top, not actually a mountain, but if you visit on a cruise tour you are expected to walk up or stay on the coach. Hoi An is a trip back in time, one of our favourite places of all. You need to purchase a tourist ticket at one of the booths, this allow you to visit 5 places on the map ranging from temple to restored houses. By doing your own tour will give you a lot longer to visit at your own pace.
Nha Trang - the shuttle bus will drop you in the town, not a lot to see in town. Taxis available outside the port gates, bargain hard. Usual tourist sites to see in the town but there are some nice places to visit within a short drive.
Phu My - for Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City the port is around 2hrs into the city. There are plenty of Mini buses available portside a seat will cost about 30-35US$, don't be tempted to go outside the port gates these will rip you off and waste your valuable time. Holland America transfer $59 each.
The government buildings / museums close for lunch 12.30-14.00. Getting around Saigon is easy, taxis are metered and cheap.
Sihanoukville, Cambodia -- shuttle into town supplied free of charge which drops you off near to the central market, a trip back in time sells everything from usual tourist items to live fish. You will be soon surrounded by tut tut drivers, all seem to speak very good English. Slightly different to the usual tut tut, actually motorcycles with a trailer, so make sure you are happy with its condition. Not a lot to see as this is quite a new port of call for cruise ships.
Laem Chabang , If you want to organise your own transfer its easy to do, do a Google search for Bangkok airport transfers. A good quality car for 2 cost us 1800baht each way (Bangkok Airport Transfers) Taxi / Minibus available in terminal for Pattaya (30mins) Bangkok (again 2hrs) prices are a bit higher than booking online prior, but allows you get together with others to keep the prices low. Getting around in Bangkok is easy using skytrain or tut tut.
Koh Samui -- Tender Port -- Pier is awash with taxis, Koh Samui is a large tourist area and this was evident in the prices, be tough on haggling. The island is not that large and a road runs right round the edge.
Singapore - cruise port is easy walking to metro so getting around is very easy.