We did quite a bit of research before choosing the HAL Volendam cruise which departed Vancouver on June 5th, and we picked this cruise because it included Glacier Bay which I felt was a 'must see' part of the cruise.
Our itinerary was:
Wed Jun 5 5pm depart Vancouver
Thu Jun 6 cruising Inside Passage
Fri Jun 7 10am-10.30am Tracy Arm service call
1pm -10.30pm Juneau
Sat Jun 8 7am -9pm Skagway
Sun Jun 9 7am -4pm cruising Glacier Bay
Mon Jun 10 10am-6pm Ketchikan
Tue Jun 11 cruising Inside Passage
Wed Jun 12 7am arrive Vancouver
We booked through 'Vacations To Go' and thoroughly recommend them.
We selected BB6222 which was a balcony cabin near the rear of the ship on the port (left) side on the Verandah Deck, deck 6. At the end of the deck hallway towards the rear of the ship was a door which led out onto a stern viewing area with lounges, not many people seemed to discover this spot and it was a pleasant retreat with stairs up to the Lido and Bar on deck 8.
The cabin was reasonably spacious (similar dimensions to our balcony cabin on the Equinox) and not generally affected by noise problems. However the main dining room was immediately below and if you happened to be in the cabin when they were making P.A. announcements they could be disturbing and quite clearly heard.
THE GOOD - HAL/VOLENDAM
- Embarkation and disembarkation was smooth and effortless, very well handled by all concerned and our bags arrived at the cabin in very good time.
- The crew were probably the best part of the HAL experience - cabin attendants were always friendly and helpful, staff in the Lido buffet always had a smile.
THE GOOD - ITINERARY/EXCURSIONS
We were so lucky with the weather during the cruise, we had some cloud and drizzle on the first and last days cruising the Inside Passage but the rest was absolutely fantastic which made the awesome scenery even better.
Glacier Bay is breathtakingly awesome!
The scenery was simply spectacular, from the reflections in the calm waters to the majestic snow-covered mountains and the grandeur of sitting close to massive glaciers, listening to them 'speak' to you in the stillness of the pristine wilderness.
THE BAD - HAL/VOLENDAM
- In our opinion the cabin was quite 'old and tired' with chips and marks on the desks, very basic television and not much else. One of the full-length windows leading out onto our balcony had several huge cracks which ran from about waist height down to the floor. When I pointed it out to the cabin steward he said that they were aware of it but hadn't been able to get a replacement window yet.
- We had opted for 'Open Seating' (anytime dining) but when we were given our I.D. cards they showed early fixed seating. When we tried to change this back to our booked dining option we were first challenged with a fairly aggressive "So you want to change your dining preference?" When I pointed out that our confirmation stated Open Seating and that I was not changing it but correcting their mistake I was then told rather brusquely that Open Seating had been over-subscribed and if we didn't take the fixed seating then we may experience extensive delays. We still went with our preferred Open Seating and never had a problem with getting a table for the entire cruise.
- Throughout the cruise we found the food to be average at best. On the first night of the cruise we went to the Pinnacle Grill which was a waste of $25 per person, the food was not particularly good and the service was off-hand.
- We only tried room service once for breakfast and it arrived so late that we almost missed our excursion.
THE BAD - ITINERARY/EXCURSIONS
The park ranger informative talks were held in the theatre at the same time as the ship was cruising by spectacular glaciers. You had to choose whether to listen but not see, or see but not listen. It would make much more sense to broadcast the ranger talks on outside speakers so that you could combine viewing and listening.
Cruising Alaska was an awesome experience, one of my lifetime highlights.
Would I do another Alsaka cruise? - probably not.
Would I recommend HAL? Only if the itinerary/timing is one that you can't do with anyone else.
My photos and review in the HAL forum can be viewed here