This was my very first cruise and thanks to Holland America & the Volendam, I can't wait to for my next cruise to some destination. Here are my observations.
We arrived at the Canada Place cruise ship terminal early enough to be the first group to be brought on board. We found out that we had to leave our suitcases with the cruise ship terminal porters, who helped us attach Volendam luggage tags so that they would end up on the correct ship.
Next was the security check as US Customs and Immigration, which went smoothly. Right before boarding, we had the Embarkation photos taken as well as being given a coupon book to shops on our ports of call.
It's truly amazing just how much can be fit into such a small space. I was most impressed that all cabins appeared to have a bathtub standard. The bathroom also features a cabinet behind the mirror to keep all the healthy and beauty items. There is one hair dryer mounted on the mirror but I also found another one in a work desk drawer.
The stateroom had three closets with adjustable shelves. One for the suitcases, and one each for the two people sharing the room. The room also features a work desk with chair, sofa, table and small bedside drawers on each side of the combined twin bed as we were a couple.
Robes are included, as well as a safe that works with any card with a magnetic stripe (as long as it is not your stateroom key). The rooms are cleaned twice each day, with two chocolates delivered at night.
If you have electronics that need recharging, bring an extension cord and/or power bar. I found only one outlet.
Public Area Decor & Musical Entertainment:
Very nice paintings and other works of art can be found all around the ship. Our voyage had a classical duo (the most well received by fellow passengers I spoke with), a piano man Don, a solo guitarist, and a quartet (Jenny and the HALcats) playing the latest tunes.
There seems to be more sales toward the end of the cruise, so abstain for purchasing any gifts at the beginning. The shops include jewelry, alcohol, and a gift shop on Deck 5.
Deck 5 Cafe, Library, and Computer Lab
The Inspirations cafe provides sweets and coffee for a modest additional cost. This is also where computer terminals for internet access can be found. Be warned, the rates are very pricey and the speed will be slower than what is available on land. The library not only features many books but family games, chess board, and a scrabble table. When selecting a book, be aware that the the shelves are automatically closed in the late evening. The Computer lab offers computer courses around the Windows 8 operating system. It was remarkably informative.
Also on deck 5 is the casino with slots, pachinko, and table games. There are slots, poker, and blackjack tournaments on various days.
Deck 8 Food: the Lido
Lido is the place to get self-service food. Be aware that the first 48 hours will have the crew serving you for hygenic reasons. They are open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even a late night snack. Check each day's itinerary for the exact times.
Deck 4/5 Food: Rotterdam Dining Room
Passengers have the choice between reserved seating and coming in without a reservation but this usually means sharing a table with others (a great way to meet new people). Food selections vary by the day on the menu but there are some items that are offered everyday.
Check you itinerary for dessert night, held on just one of the 7 nights. Very tempting offerings can be found on deck 8 by the central swimming pool (not the one at the rear of the ship).
Deck 9: Crow's Nest Nightclub
This was the place to go at night for a drink, dancing, karaoke, and Name That Tune games.
Plenty of space for people to get a good view of the wonderful Alaska landscape.
Spa & Gym:
We went to a seminar held to a gym where I learned quite a bit about detoxification of the body but also found out what state the body can be in to never contract cancer!
There is a movie of the day shown twice or 3 times a day in the Wajang theater on Deck 4. Movies presented on our voyage included, "Silver Linings Playbook", "Skyfall", "Life of Pi", "White Fang", "Oz", and "Promised Land". Popcorn in bags are provided.
Two of the 7 days has a cooking class for an additional charge (also in the Wajang theatre). It was a lot of fun to help cook one of three dishes (appetizer, main course, or dessert). Participants are split into groups of two. If you are interested, be sure to sign up early as space is limited. You then get to eat your creations in the Pinnacle Grill nearby afterwards.
Pinnacle Grill becomes Le Cirque New York:
Again, for an extra cost, one can dine at Pinnacle Grill. On some nights, it becomes Le Cirque with a menu inspired from its New York City namesake.
Bingo is offered 4 times during the 7 days. One of the games saw the grand prize as a cruise for 2. The remaining games offered large cash grand prizes but the catch was that you had to fill every square of your bingo card by a maximum number of numbers called out. Even the host Chase said that this would be difficult but not impossible. 6 cards for 4 games cost $35 but a 3-card option is also available for less.
Bean bag toss and ring toss are also available for a quick 30 minute distraction. This are usually held in the atrium on Deck 3.
Shows are featured on most nights in the lounge. Shows were either by the regular cast of performers, a comedian Kevin Jordan, or a magician.
Ports of call & excursions:
Excursion tickets can be purchased on board while sailing toward the port of call for convenience but a huge premium is paid. Getting of at Juneau, we were amazed at how many booths offered comparable excursions at cheaper prices. This is true for all ports of call on this cruise (Ketchikan & Skagway).
Our housecleaning staff worked very hard to keep our room clean twice a day. Two of the days saw us get fruit. Cruise director Brett Rudolph was a treat to interact with - don't be afraid to approach him. Let him get to know you - you won't regret it. Culinary Arts host Beth was also quite warm to passengers, doing what she could to be welcoming and assisting in any way she could during the demonstrations that she hosted. Chase is the show host, who hosts Bingo, Ring Toss, Bean Bag Toss, Name That Tune. Be prepared for some very dry humour and a deadpan delivery from him.
Everything went according to the posted schedule. There was a little bit of a line up but not a long delay. We were staying in Vancouver, so were we able to get our luggage in the main waiting area before submitting our Canadian customs declaration and leaving. The taxi line was long but it was either that or walk to 6 blocks our hotel with our heavy suitcases.
I loved my first time cruise experience, thanks to the crew of the Volendam. If you are preparing for your first cruise, I hope this information helps.