Second time cruising with HAL. Had previously been on the Oosterdam to New Zealand and this time was introducing my father to cruising as he has long been a critic and swore he would never go on a large ship. We had two days in Hong Kong prior to departure and it was busy in town as was Chinese new year. Embarkation went smoothly after a fairly long walk through the shopping centre. It was quite amusing as the route that you had to take traversed a number of floors and corridors of a busy shopping centre and HAL had placed staff at each point to direct you. There was an orderly system in place using numbers and drinks available. Seemed to be a large number of Australians on board but also considerable Americans and Canadians. We were very happy with the size and amenities of our Oceanview stateroom. To be honest it was larger than our room in Hong Kong. Beds were comfortable, plenty of storage space and a nice lounge. I had read extensive reviews about the Volendam and was slightly apprehensive about the conditions on board. I needn't have worried. I can't comprehend how previous reviewers have described this ship as old and run down. My father is extremely discerning and not once did he find something to complain about. There were so many nooks and crannies to explore and the artwork was great to look at. We became regulars on the Lido poolside for the sail-away music sessions and also loved the Explorations café and library. Crows nest chairs were extremely comfortable and one of my only gripes was that you couldn't get coffee service up there (the bar staff there told me to go down to the Lido and bring up my own cup of coffee and we saw a few people doing this. I recall on the Oosterdam the café was next to the Crows nest so this wasn't a problem. We loved the Lido restaurant and the regular Philippine and Indonesian themed nights. Food was of an extremely high standard in all restaurants and only negative was the night my father had rack of lamb when it was served very rare. My father didn't send it back but the server was aghast that he hadn't eaten it. We loved the formal nights and the final night international night. Activities onboard were many and varied. I did the Asian beer tasting and found it excellent (as was the beer). The entertainment was varied and of a pretty good standard. The comedian from South Africa was excellent (can't recall his name), we went most nights and would generally sit up the back as my father would want to leave after a few songs/minutes. The one exception was the 'amore' performance on the second last night. He loves his music and both the male and female lead vocals were exceptional and the performers had obviously put in a lot of practice and thought. We loved it so much we almost went back for the 10pm act. Service was of a high standard and I really take my hat off to the long suffering front office staff who had to endure the ridiculous questions and downright rude people. I had the misfortune to lose my credit card in Hong Kong so had to spend some time at reception sorting out a cash deposit and got to see the staff in action. They all deserve medals. My favourite was a man who came across to complain that the tour desk had refused to book him on a tour (which was booked out), "I don't care if it's booked out-I want you to book me on the tour right &^*%$ now '. The team handled it well.
Our room attendants were both very discreet and always seemed to be able to sneak in and do the room when we were away. The briefings by 'Ian' on what to expect in each new port were exceptional and spot on. His photos of each port and what to do were insightful, knowledgeable and amusing. We did the Halong Bay cruise and the transfer to Saigon from Phu My. In Laem Chabang we took a privately arranged tour for just the two of us (Thailand Attractions with Jo- thoroughly recommend it). We went to the Bridge on the River Kwai and the Thai Burma Death Railway cemeteries and Hellfire Pass and museum. Was a 3am departure from the ship (and we still got served in the lido at 2.30am) but well worth it as Hellfire pass was humbling. Coming back to the ship on time was a nightmare as it was a 4 hour drive and it was raining and traffic was heavy. We returned to the Volendam with 20 minutes to spare.
Loved all the ports and especially Sianhookville. So undeveloped it was hard to find commercial souvenirs. We walked a few blocks away from the markets and found the most amazing little cafes and bars. Saigon was also excellent and if you are doing this cruise certainly look at the HAL transfer option as it gives you the freedom to wander at your own pace around Saigon. All in all we loved the cruise on the Volendam and it converted my father (he's already planning his next cruise). I would cruise on this ship again. Disembarkation was smooth