My wife and I just returned from 19 days in Australia and New Zealand, 14 of which were visiting various ports via the Volendam.
Sydney is truly a beautiful city largely due to its spectacular harbor. It exudes some of the natural scenic attributes of San Francisco, without the 7 hills and the weather and beaches of Los Angeles (with higher humidity).
We didn't visit any of the beach communities as we live one mile from the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles county, but we did take the very worthwhile Captain Cook's 2 hour coffee cruise (10 am-12 noon). This and attending the opera Tosca at the architecturally stunning opera house were the highlights of our 2 1/2 days in Sydney. The congeniality of the Australians was the other highlight.
We stayed at the Ibis King's Wharf- a very modern, clean, nonsmoking hotel with an excellent staff. The rooms are small (typical of most European hotel chains), but very comfortable for our stay with great much needed air conditioning. On the day of our embarkation, the hotel manager hailed a cab, negotiated a fair price, and put are suitcases into the trunk.
Our room on the Volendam was on the main deck, standard outside room, slightly forward of mid ship. It was very clean, spacious and quiet with all the amenities of a Marriott hotel (where we usually stay)and exceptional cabin stewards, Mojo and Sabar. Of the four cruises we have taken, with 3 different cruise line over a period of 30 years they were the best cabin stewart we have had thus far. The service and the food in the Lido, where we had almost all breakfasts and lunches and at least a third of our dinners, was excellent. The lack of trays was actually a good idea resulting in less wasted food and better sanitary. There were also plenty of staff waiting to assist and the food servers and cooks were great. The main dining room had the same food though presented differently, with of course somewhat slower service, but still excellent. All staff work very hard to provide this level of service. I sometimes feel guilty watching them and also extended a sincere thank to all for their efforts. The $11/day gratuity is minimal for the amount and quality of work of the cruise staff.
The front desk staff and guest manager were great, some of them even knowing us by name. One time we needed our door lock repaired and another time our room safe opened and they took care of it almost straight away.
We would most gladly book another cruise with HAL with an itinerary which appeals to our interests.