This was a girls's trip for my Grandma, Mom and I. We sailed on the Volendam from May 27 - June 3. I am 29 years old and I was surprised at how many young people were on the cruise ship although I would say that most of them were also cruising with their families. We live in BC so were able to visit my sister at UBC the day before heading off to sea. There was a long line up through security and customs but I think it only took about 1/2 an hour to get through. Before we got on the ship we tried to bypass the photographers but they caught us and had us pose for pictures. A little annoying but the pictures turned out great. They took a group shot of the three of us and then an individual face shot of each of us. Grandma really liked her photo which is saying something. That was the only real time they forced us to have a photograph taken. (I remember on the RC we had to have a photo everytime we got off the ship at every port, but not here.) There were also photos taken at formal dinners and around the ship at Glacier Bay. It is worth having the pictures taken because there is no obligation to buy them. The 8 x 10 prints are $19.95 each or if you buy 3 photos your 4th one is free. Expensive but really good quality.
When we got on board we were sent to the lido deck for lunch while we waited for our rooms to be ready. The food at the lido was excellent...lots of different dishes to choose from. And the entrees were different every night. There were some of the same things like salad bar, buns, cheese, etc. The only free drinks available during lunch and dinner are water and real brewed unsweetened iced tea (if you like sweetened iced tea, like me, bring singles to add to water) The bar waiters are always walking around so that you can order soda/pop and alcoholic beverages. A soda/pop is $2.24 (including 15% gratuity). At breakfast free milk and juice (apple, orange, cranberry, grape, pineapple, etc) are available.
We ate dinner in the upper dining room at 6pm every night. The food is absolutey amazing! I had an extremely hard time getting back into the routine of making dinner for myself when I got home. (We joked that we'd have to do it in stages. First night back eat at 5 star restaurant. Second night eat at 4 star restaurant. Third night eat at 3 star restaur....you get the picture.) We sat with another girls' group from Alberta. A grandmother, two daughters and granddaughter, similarily aged. We had an awesome time at dinner and sometimes met up with them at shows or the crow's nest. It makes me wonder if HAL set our table up that way or if it was a coincidence. Either way, it made our trip more enjoyable!
Wash your hands regularly and use the hand sanitizer before eating. Use extra if you are having finger food! On our last day of the cruise the captain made a special announcement telling us that lots of people developed stomach flu. I remember him making the announcement about hand washing at the beginning of the cruise. Maybe it should have been announced everyday or have attendants at the sanitizer stations (like on my RC cruise a few years ago.)
The room was spacious with a large window. There was a lot of cupboard and shelf space for all 3 of us. There was room to put a large suitcase underneath the beds. There were 3 of us so I slept on the couch which turned into a bed. It was comfortable. The TV in the room has plenty of channels not that you will be using it alotbut there's CNN, espn, some movie channels and a few ship channels that show the captains log, weather, time, distance travelled, etc. There is one channel that shows the view of the front of the ship. Another channel to show some of the previous days lounge shows and events. The bathroom was very spacious. It even had a bath tub. We started getting towel animals on day two or three.
Pools were open from about 11am to 7pm and the hot tubs from about 11am to 8pm. It would have been nice if the pools and hot tub were open later to relax in after a long day when there aren't as many activites happening.
It was raining and very foggy on the way up the inside passage so didn't get to see much. We could really feel the waves, but none of us got sea sick. It became very sunny on Day 4 and stayed that way for the rest of the trip. Apparently that's very rare and there are only a handful of really nice days every summer. We got 4 of them!
My Mom and I took part in as many activites as we could. There was bingo ($20 for 3 cards), a culinary centre for cooking classes (I watched the cruise director Patty "make" brownies), movies every night with popcorn (the culinery centre was converted into the movie theatre), ping pong on the lido deck, tennis, trivia games, jugglers Wilde and James, a comedian, Volendam dancers & singers (They were amazing! There are 4 guys and 4 gals who have to memorize steps and songs to 5 different shows!). The Crow's Nest had disco night, line dancing night, 50's night, karaoke (I got up the nerve to finally try it!), etc. So much fun!! There is also a library on board for the avid reader. They had a good collection of recent books. I didn't spend much time reading except on At Sea days and just before bed. There is an internet cafe within the library, but I would suggest using the internet at the libraries in the ports. It's free!
The staff members aboard the ship were great! Very hospitable. Our room faintly smelled of smoke from a previous cruiser so our room attendant brought in some freshener soon after we asked. Our dining room waiters (Tri & Sukimar) were excellent. The cruise director, Patty, DJ Darren and the rest of the entertainment staff were excellent as well. They really work long hours!
When we cruised Glacier Bay the weather was beautifulsunny and blue skies and it stayed that way for the rest of the trip. The 2 park rangers on board were speaking over the sound system, so you could hear them where ever you were on the boat. The crew served split pea soup on deck. Yummy! I saw a brown bear, and some eagles. There were puffins too, but I didn't see them. Good binoculars are a must as you are too far away from shore to see wildlife.
On the at sea day back to Vancouver we saw some whales far in the distance and some porpoises (similar to dolphins) nearby the ship. Better binoculars would have been good to have.
I have an issue with cigarette smoke (I get headaches from exposure), but I didn't notice it very much on board. A small portion of the crow's nest allows smoking but the ventilation must be very good because when I stayed on the other side of the room I didn't notice it. Smoking was allowed on one side of Deck 3 and in the casino, which can easily be avoided.
I would definitely cruise HAL again but perhaps on another ship just because I like variety.