A friend and I took this cruise with some reservations, having seen other member reviews. I realise everyone has different expectations, and possibly we struck it lucky, but there was very little in this cruise that we were not happy with! I have to admit to two things - firstly that this was our first cruise, so we have nothing to compare against, and secondly that they weather was exceptionally good for the whole week, which made the trip even better. Even the Captain commented on how lucky we were because the warm, sunny weather we had was unheard of door a whole week - apparently you would be lucky normally to get one good day! However, overall, it was a fantastic experience on every level.The Volendam might be just a little dated but is kept in fantastic condition and spotlessly clean. The stateroom was very spacious, with loads of storage space, and the public areas are smart and comfortable. The ship never felt crowded, and there were always lots of quiet corners to find a spot to relax. The daily programme of activities was long and varied, although we tried very few of them, as we enjoyed the relaxation and he days went too fast anyway!
The Rotterdam dining room was great, and we saw no need to try the speciality (extra charge) restaurants. The food was excellent with lots of choice at dinner each night, brought to the table promptly, and served hot. The waiting staff were very attentive and friendly. We had opted for the anytime dining, rather than fixed seating times. We booked ahead on three nights, but had no difficulty getting a table when we didn't. The only exception was the last night, when they wanted us to link in with the fixed seating time - but as they did a crew parade during each sitting, I assume it was because of that. The crew parade was great fun, with all the diners joining in during a song by waving their napkins, and we were quite happy to have had to eat at a specific time so as not to miss this.
We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido buffet. Yes, it was busy, but we were happy to take our food to a table on the Lido deck when the restaurant was full, and we always found somewhere to sit. (The rudeness of other passengers was noticeable, though!) The choice and quality of the food couldn't be faulted, and the servers were great, although it is fair to say there are occasional communication difficulties between servers and passengers. I loved the way the waiters changed their uniform to match the area we were visiting, or a special themed meal. We tried the afternoon high tea on two days, and again were not disappointed!
We really enjoyed the song and dance shows in the theatre - a small group of eight performers. Not a West End style of show, but nevertheless enjoyable and well-performed and just right for the size of the venue. Before and after dinner each night, we spent some time in the Ocean bar, where a superb trio, the Neptunes, had a repertoire of the "great American Songbook". They were superb, and I can't imagine getting better lounge-style entertainment anywhere.
Although we only had an inside stateroom, we had paid a supplement to choose a cabin on the Promenade deck (no. 3355), and it was in a wonderful location for quick access to the deck for scenery watching or exercise, plus being just along the corridor from the Atrium, so close to all the public areas.
The ports of call had little to offer. However, as a gateway to excursions, they were a big success. In Juneau, we bought a ticket on the dockside to visit the Mendenhall Glacier, and we pre-booked from home for a full day excursion from Skagway on the White Pass Railroad and by minibus into the Klondike. Again the wonderful weather made the trip extra special (even the guide was taking photos, as she had never seen the lakes looking so fantastic!) but I would definitely recommend this trip. The scenery is fantastic, and the trip included a (very touristy, but quite acceptable) barbecue lunch at Caribou Crossing. This was well worth the visit to see the huskies and the wildlife museum. We booked through Chilkoot Tours (cheaper than through the cruise line) and they were excellent. For anyone who worries about missing the ship, they also offer some guarantees about getting you back. We didn't do a tour from Ketchikan, and an hour's walk was enough to see the place, so we headed back on board.
Glacier Bay was breathtaking, and the Captain arranges some fantastic photo and video opportunities, by taking he ship in really close and turning, so that everyone gets a good vantage point.
Would I sail on the Volendam again? Definitely!!oo