Itinerary: Hong Kong - Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand - Singapore
The Volendam ship carries about 1,400 passengers and was built in 1999 so it is considered a medium-sized, older ship. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong, but since it stays overnight in Hong Kong, we were able to come and go which was very convenient.
While the ship was docked in Hong overnight, we got to visit some of Hong Kong's family attractions like the Peak Tram, Ngong Ping Village and the Big Buddha, riding the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and doing some shopping in Mongkok, Kowloon and Causeway Bay.
Having the ship docked as your hotel is very convenient and since the ship is parked right next to the Star Ferry terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, we got to know that area better as well. At night, we could catch the Symphony of Lights show right from the deck (without the music) of the cruise ship for some amazing views of the Hong Kong skyline at night.
A lot of complaints about cruise ships can come down to personal interactions and experience that is either not worth complaining about (oh the cruise parks so far away from where I want to get to - so do all the other cruise ships...) or whining about how they should have gotten more compensation by being put out because such and such inconvenienced them etc... These are one-off situations, however repeated comments about things like slow dining room service or unstructured teen activities may give the cruise line incentive to improve their operations.
It is no use complaining about internet being slow, it is on almost all ships we have been on as they use limited bandwidth satellite connections when at sea. Just don't use the internet during the popular at-sea times of day since everyone onboard is fighting for the same, limited bandwidth.
This was a holiday cruise and the ship was festively decorated, the largely Filipino and Indonesian crew put on a great Christmas show on Christmas Eve in the showroom.
Restaurant service in the main dining room was slow almost every night, the food was good. They may have been short staffed over the holidays, but everyone on board was very friendly. We also chose the open seating to give us more flexibility and end up at different tables with different waiters every night, but there is also a fixed seating available on the upper level of the Rotterdam dining room where you would have the same wait staff every night so they may get to know you better in that case.
Although there was a teen activity planner that came to the room every night, in reality hardly anything was organized and the kids were left to create their own fun. At least they have a teen club and Oasis deck to keep them occupied at sea, albeit somewhat unstructured vs. for example Sapphire Princess.
Posting review here since when we got home after sorting out the laundry and getting back into daily routine, the comment card the ship sends you by email already expired. You would think they would leave those open for longer than 2 weeks.The email sent to them requesting another comment card went unanswered. I guess they don't want our opinions after all, but there's always Youtube :). We have posted some videos of our journey at http://www.youtube.com/travelraters.
All in all, this cruise was great because of the itinerary and the people we met during the voyage. The cabins were comfortable and a nice size. The crew were all very friendly. Not so hot was the slow dining room service, the unstructured teen activities in an older style ship. There is something to be said for the relatively smaller more personal size of a 1,400 passenger vessel like the Volendam vs. the 3,000+ megaships. There was always plenty of room and plenty of good food at the Lido buffet restaurant where we especially liked the breakfasts.
Be prepared for a very long line getting off in Singapore and another very long line to catch a cab. For our next cruise, we will pre-arrange pickup from the cruise terminal so we won't have to stand in line for over an hour to get a cab and let you know how that goes.
The ship has a helpful location guide and a shore excursions office, but it is best to plan your shore visits ahead of time and decide which ones are best to do through the cruise line and which ones you should arrange to do on your own or for private tours instead. Just remember, if you are on a private tour the ship may not wait for you if you are late!
The ship gives you everything you need to make your own fun and enjoy your vacation. Having such a great itinerary that compliments the ship makes for a wonderful vacation, and all the great people we got to meet (mainly from Australia on this voyage) made for a fantastic trip.