Our cruise from Hong Kong to Kobe this year was our seventh HAL cruise and the second on Volendam. Whilst she is remains a comfortable mid sized ship with spacious public areas and decently sized cabins, she is showing her age.
My main observation is not so much about the ship but what appears to be cost cutting by HAL. Compared with our last cruise on the same ship, there were far fewer activities, virtually no lectures or talks except by the port lecturer who showed a collection of novelty photos, and fewer serving staff at the Lido. A cruise to Asia provides a wealth of opportunity for presentations on local history and culture, not lease about China. What a pity that this opportunity was lost.
The port lecturer appeared to be confused as to his clients. This is not unusual on HAL cruises, but on this cruise in particular, the port lecturer came down pretty much on the side of the HAL Shore Excursions Unit, rather than providing accurate, comprehensive and timely information for those (like us) who prefer to make our own arrangements. For example, the lecture on Beijing made it clear that it was far too difficult to catch the bullet train from Tianjin to Beijing. Much better, we were told, to take the two hour "luxury coach" journey provided by HAL, than spend half an hour on the fast train.
HAL also has a preoccupation with on-ship wifi. So the port lecturer only reluctantly provides information on on-shore wi-fi, and much of that is inaccurate.