Volendam Cruise Review by cmlk14: Going to Alaska
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Going to Alaska
We flew into Vancouver a few days early. We stayed at the Renaissance Vancouver Harborside Hotel,which we liked very much.It is only a few blocks from where you get on the ship. Had an ocean view that was really a nice view of the harbor. There is a building in front of the hotel that blocked part of the view, but we still really enjoyed it. The pool here is open 24 hours! So nice not to rush back early to use the pool. The staff here is very nice. We took the Hop on Hop Off Bus, which was just ok,it took us to the sights, but the prerecorded commentary was nothing special. We got off at Granville Island to the market for lunch. Grabbed some deli type food and ate outside. We were wishing we could take some of the beautiful produce from the market with us! We also stopped at Gastown to shop a bit in the souvenier stores. The next day we grabbed the hop on bus (we had a two day special) and went to the Aquarium in Stanley Park. It was a nice Aquarium and I am glad that we took the time More
to go as the information I learned about the artic animals was a nice tie in to the Alaska trip. About noon it became very crowded,so we left.Getting the Hop on bus back to our hotel was a lengthy process, about 1 and 1/2 hours. We grabbed a cab to Canada Place,where the ship was docked, from the hotel. This is a short walk, but not so fun with luggage. Cab was $5.00-no need to buy a transfer.Cab airport to hotel was $30 to $35.00.
AT THE VOLENDAM- we got there at 2 pm and just walked right through, no lines, no waiting. We had a large inside on the Veranda deck. It was spacious, with ample storage space for two or more. Our stewards were great. We brought on 4 bottles of wine in our carry ons with no problem, but they are going to change that for 2014, so you can only bring one each. The boat was nice. They closed the cover over the pool area in the center so people could swim all through the trip even though it was too cool to swim on the outside deck pool.
THE FOOD: Holland America offers a huge variety of food for breakfast and lunch at the Lido and we ate there most days. The food is a bit bland,but overall good. Dinner was another story. Dinners were really repetitive with the same menu (mostly) in the dining room as in the Lido, and very limited. Stuffy,formal food. Always steak, salmon and chicken, just a hunk of protein,not creative, little variety. In fact if you like salmon, this is the ship for you- every day had at least two salmon offerings. One day they had a salmon bake on the deck (I wouldn't bother to take an excursion to the salmon bake-you will have more than enough on board)that same night there were two salmon entrees in addition to the salmon entree on the every day menu. These were all just hunks of salmon with sauces. The service in the dining room was attentive but so slow. We ate in the Lido a lot of nights because we didn't want to get out of really casual clothes and into "smart casual" or take the time to sit for 2 hours at dinner. I wore less of my "smart casual" clothes than I expected. We only went to the dining room on the two formal nights and once for the mariners brunch. The dinner service in the Lido was a surprise. Long lines. You had to stand in the whole long line to get anything and since there are no trays you had to go back more than once to get everything. They are closing off half the Lido at dinner and reserving it for staff. We could barely find a seat on the guests side. The tables weren't being cleared and we finally pushed used dishes to the edge of a table and sat down. No one offered us a beverage at all. Surprisingly poor situation, and I hope Holland America fixes it!
ENTERTAINMENT: Bleh! All the movies were involving Alaska, and mostly B level stuff. The song and dance revue at the start of the cruise was really, really bad. The magician was good and I would go to that. Usually I don't care about the entertainment but this trip has a lot of days at sea, and we were hard pressed to find something to do. Did one culinary show which was pretty lame as well.
SCENIC CRUISING: We spent a day in Glacier Bay and another in the Inside Passage. Both were wonderful. We sat at the Crow's Nest for Glacier Bay and had a great view. They served pea soup which was surprisingly good, and had park rangers on board to narrate. Our Captain got close to the glaciers and turned the boat so everyone got a great view. It was a very nice day. The Inside Passage was also just lovely. Starting in the afternoon until the sun set, we were sitting on the open rear deck watching the scenery. At different times during the cruise we also saw whales and porpoises.
DISEMBARKING:The end went very smoothly. It took a bit of time, but it moved along well. We returned to the Renaissance for overnight. They had a room ready for us at 9 AM! We took the subway (a 10 minute walk from the hotel) and then walked 20 minutes to reach Van Duesen Botanical Garden, which was awesome. We spent several hours there and just loved it. Less
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Cabin review: MM6134
Room 6134: one of the few insides on the Veranda deck. Great size, plenty of storage, closets, drawers. Love being on the Veranda Deck. So close to the Lido, and rarely took the elevator anywhere so no waiting. Walk in shower. Quiet.
Port and Shore Excursions
We took the catamaran trip to Tracey Arm from the Volendam. We transferred to the smaller boat at sea and went up into Tracey Arm while the Volendam continued into Juneau. The catamaran took us to the Volendam at the end of the ercursion, so we only missed about 2 hours of time in this port. This excursions was an amazing experience. The small boat brought us through miles of incredible landscape filled with high peaks and waterfalls. We went right up next to a couple of the falls, so close you could almost touch them. Then we went over to the Sawyer glacier, saw it calving and saw seals on the ice. This was a beautiful trip. The Volendam also cruises into Glacier Bay, which was really wonderful, but the Tracey Arm trip is different and we were glad we had both opportunities. Very worth it. We needed several layers as it was cold and windy. They had some food (burgers) available to buy on the boat. This was a really fabulous experience.
We got into Juneau with plenty of time to shop and eat. We ate crab at Tracey's which is right near the ship. A picnic table and paper plate establishment with good crab. We had chowder, crab cakes (spicy) and crab legs, all really good. Then we went to the Red Dog Saloon for a drink and ended up staying the rest of the evening to listen to Brian sing old country (Johnny Cash) we had a great time there.
Saxman Native Village
We wanted to see and learn about the totems. This site was too far to walk and the tour gave access to the "Native Village." The totems were great and our tour guide did a nice job explaining the customs and native stories. We saw 2 carvers who spoke with us, also good. The rest was pretty much a rip off. There is no native village, just one empty clan house. No displays or demonstrators or other buildings. In this clan house you will see a native dance, maybe 10 minutes presentation. You will also see a poorly done documentary movie of about 15 minutes. This trip should have been $10 or $15. There seem to better much better things to do in Ketchikan, I would not bother with this.
We took the park ranger led free tour of Gold Rush National Park. It is only a few buildings, but the ranger really brought the development of Skagway and the Gold Rush to life. And best of all, it was FREE!
We took the Traditional Tour with Discover Skagway . For only $45.00 we went in a van up to the Summit, a beautiful drive through the mountains with many photo stops. Our tour guide filled us in on the gold rush and the geology of the area. We also went to the Gold Rush Cemetary. This was an interesting and well priced tour.