This trip was planned as my elderly mother's last "big one" before retiring from travel completely. We actually hadn't heard of Holland America before but decided to take this cruise as it ended up in Auckland our home port. Before finalizing I read many reviews most of which were to our liking.
We found the ship wonderful with like minded passengers and plenty of activities to suit everyone. Being a long cruise, there was plenty of time to try everything on offer without having to rush around a ship as you do on shorter cruises. However, nothing is perfect.
Being Kiwis our dollar was getting thrashed and therefore we were careful in what we spent. We took several bottles of wine onboard and were very grateful to HAL for allowing us to do so. However, we did purchase bottled wine for dinner at the Rotterdam - big mistake - a few days into the cruise a fellow passenger gave us the heads up on THE WINE CARD - a great saving over buying by the glass or the bottle. However, it is not advertised as such by the ship.
I purchased a gym package which entitled me to do all the classes such as yoga, pilates and spinning for $200. The gym facilities and fitness instructors were outstanding. However at the spa, my elderly mother was "encouraged" to get skin products when she went to get her hair done. No price was mentioned at the time but when she went to sign for the bill she was most upset to see it was over $600. I was however able to return most of them. I was also told by a fellow "novice" cruiser he was also "encouraged" to get his teeth whitened and was charged $500 afterwards and was too embarrassed to question it. So anyone using the spa I would advise to question the price of all products they are offering.
The cabin was on Dolphin Deck midships and one of the smoothest rides I have ever encountered. It was quiet, spacious, big window and comfortable beds. If it had a fridge I would have rated it with a top mark. (We had done a short cruise on the Sun Princess earlier and were upgraded to a balcony. However the cabin was a lot smaller than Volendam and the bathroom was tiny). The cabin and ship were kept spotlessly clean.
We had open seating which I preferred over fixed dining as it gave us flexibility to dine especially in port. We preferred to eat at the Rotterdam and all meals were tasty, well presented and quite healthy. Breakfasts however were disappointing as the toast was always either burnt, soggy or both. The bacon also was fatty and very overdone and impossible to eat with a fork as it just crumbled. They constantly ran out of cereals or fruit but made up for it with the fresh omelettes made before your eyes which I particularly enjoyed.
We dined with an officer once and I was disappointed that the officers were not around more. (I always remembered cruising in the seventies and eighties as being a lot of fun when the officers partied too!) There was one evening called a Black and White Ball where you could dance with them and it was probably the most fun I had all cruise.
The live shows each evening were wonderful with lots of variety and they also incorporated live local cultural shows from various ports. We also attended the Park West art shows and these were really interesting and informative as well as being entertaining. The Art Director was particularly knowledgeable and nothing was too much trouble for him.
The ports were good with ample time in each one although I would have preferred Tahiti to Suva. We tendered 3 times and it was well organized with minimal waiting time.
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and found the Volendam full of wonderful surprises. The front office staff were most obliging and helpful, as were 99% of the crew. The captain kept us informed most days on the ship's nautical happenings as did the cruise director with activities and I would have no hesitation to sail with HAL again.