First, I would like to mention that the Aussies & Kiwis are the nicest, friendliest and most outgoing people in the world!
This review is for the MS Volendam which left December 20, 2009 from Auckland, NZ and disembarked in Sydney, AUS on January 6, 2010 (17 Nights). We visited 11 ports (including Auckland) plus scenic cruising of the While Island Volcano and Milford Sound.
We had an early arrival at Auckland airport, around 5 AM and you can't board the ship until around 11:30 AM. We wanted to see Auckland, but were having some trouble locating anyone to take us around for 2 hours. Then I found http://www.tourauckland.co.nz/ on the Internet. It's Roger & Lorraine of Auckland and we made arrangements with them to meet us at the port. They were a lovely couple who took us around in their car and we felt like they were our family. We highly recommend them!!!
The Volendam: This is an older ship in great condition. This is the first cruise (been on 15 +) that really felt like a vacation. The Lido Buffet for breakfast had little or no lines and no problem finding a table. That was really a relaxing way to start the day. In the lounges, or by the pool, or in the showroom, they didn't keep bothering you about drinks. Service in the Dining Room & Lido Buffet was excellent. The Volendam had lots of NO SUGAR ADDED desserts and they were REALLY TASTY! Each Night at Dinner there was ONE NO SUGAR ADDED dessert selection as well as TWO flavors of NO SUGAR ADDED Ice Cream.
We took the Ship's excursions which were all good and there were no problems except for a rough tender back from Half Moon Bay. New Zealand & Australia are simply AWESOME & BREATHTAKING. Plus they are full of lovely, helpful people who seem to love to have guests. The Scenic cruising of the White Island Volcano and Milford Sound were extraordinary!! We, of course, attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet and met lots of lovely people.
We did have VERY ROUGH seas after leaving Milford Sound on the Tasman Sea. It lasted about 10 hours. Glasses were flying off the table and chairs moving around in the Lounge. My Wife and I both became seasick. I got her meds at the Front Desk, the next morning, and she was fine by lunch time, just very sleepy.
Christmas & New Years Eve were celebrated on board. Holland America went ALL OUT for New Years Eve. Party Hats & Tiaras were given to each guest. There was free champagne, Noise makers, horns & streamers. In the show lounge they had thousands of balloons tied up with netting and released them at New Years. That was a really great party.
Some Extras: There were several coin operated washing machines & dryers on 4 or the decks. The pool had a sliding glass cover. There were 2 Chocolate buffets. The bathrooms had bathtubs. The Public Bathrooms were spotless and had lovely tile work. Plus there were rolled up washcloths to dry your hands with. (A very nice touch). Holland America also had FREE computer classes and some FREE cooking demonstrations. The embarkation procedure moved along quickly. The disembarkation procedure was really relaxing. No calling out colors or numbers. You just show up at the appointed time and no line whatsoever. The Australian authorities had been on board while we were at sea and took care of all paper work. Again, Holland America's scheduling resulted in this being a relaxing, no long lines procedure.
Sydney Airport: We had a little time until our flight and found this sit down take out restaurant. (Trattoria Prego) Italian Food in Australia cooked by Asian Cooks?? We are from New York City so we know good Italian food. This food was simply great!!! If you're flying Qantas or Air New Zealand you're in for a wonderful (but a little long) experience.