We originally booked direct with HAL for Lower Promenade Ocean View #3334 about 9 months before the cruise - at the holidays last year, the prices dropped and we were credited. Then, after final payment, the B category balcony prices dropped so we upgraded for free. That turned out to be a splendid choice - the balcony in Alaska was worth it. We didn't feel any additional movement really from being aft, and a Bonine a day took care of any seasickness. The cabin was roomy and in good condition and the bed and pillows were very comfy. We had no toilet or AC troubles and our location right next to the stairs was so convenient. We heard no noise from anywhere or anyone and we were blessed with no smokers on the balconies next to us. All of the ship was in good condition as far as I could tell and our room stewards and MDR waiter were great. The ship has a lot of open public space so you never really felt too crowded, except at the Lido buffet and Crow's Nest comfy chairs. The Volendam had the BEST public women's restroom of all time in my opinion.
To me, if you are going on the Volendam expecting superb, "white glove" service and exquisite dining, then you will be disappointed. You need to choose Oceania, Crystal or Celebrity. However, Volendam is a great value for the money paid and the fabulous itinerary and ports. It's not a bad cruise for the food and service, just not a great cruise. If you have small kids, I'm not sure Volendam is for you. I didn't see very many and I preferred that. If you have kids, I think Carnival or Disney or Princess and the larger ships are better choices. I think that the rooms on the lower decks at the cheapest prices all have issues unique to the location and I don't think the plumbing on any ship in the lower, cheapest cabins is going to be completely reliable. There is a reason they are the cheapest rooms.
We really enjoyed our cruise immensely, mainly due to the beautiful Alaska scenery, fabulous weather (sunny with NO rain), our private balcony, and the great ports with plenty of time in each port. We did NOT book this cruise for the ship entertainment, nightlife, food or activities. We chose the Volendam based solely on ports of call, time in port, departure port of Vancouver, and smaller size compared to Zuiderdam or Westerdam. We chose HAL over Princess because we are 50-ish and 60-ish and we wanted a more adult clientele which HAL caters to. We were so tired after each port that we never went to a single show and never took part in any activities. Honestly, I can't fathom why anyone would care so much about cooking classes or computer classes or afternoon teas when sailing in Alaska. Why miss any of the fantastic scenery? There is ALWAYS wonderful scenery anywhere and the Volendam has lots of great walking choices on outside decks. The food was hot, good, and there was always plenty of it. Good enough for us. We weren't interested in dressing up for formal night more than once so we skipped the other formal night.
My biggest complaints: you can't hear the captain's wildlife announcements in your room; half the Lido was usually closed for staff only and that half was almost always deserted while the passenger side was jam-packed; the MDR lunch hour was way too short - only open for 1.25 hours; on port days when we got back very late after our excursions, the Lido and MDR were closed and the only choice was room service which takes way too long - ridiculous; seemed like all the good indoor spots in Crow's Nest and Explorer's lounge were ALWAY taken when we wanted them.
We couldn't hear any of the captain's announcements clearly in our room and besides being a nuisance that we missed wildlife announcements, that seems like an imperative safety issue to me. Also, I am all for the staff having their own dining area to get away from passengers for a while, but it should NOT be at the expense of the passengers who are paying for the staff's salaries. I don't see why the staff can't have their very own dedicated cafeteria. The MDR and Lido hours were ridiculously short. I definitely prefer Carnival in that respect - there is always pizza and burgers 24 hours.
I really liked our room stewards and the service in general from nearly all the staff. The food seemed very good overall to me with only a few misses. The only HAL excursions we booked were in Skagway and they were both unique and GREAT. We loved the Summer Sled Dog Mush Camp and we absolutely, positively LOVED LOVED the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari to Davidson Glacier. The train ride in Skagway is very popular, but a train ride is just too boring for us. The Glacier Wilderness Safari is such a unique experience that really kicks butt compared to a train ride, IMHO.
I also can't understand why anyone would want to spend a lot of time shopping in the towns - you can shop anywhere. Alaska has priceless scenery everywhere you look for free. There is even plenty to see very inexpensive, but Alaska is once place where you should totally splurge on excursions.
Overall, we absolutely thought the Volendam was a super value for the money, and we would definitely book again.