In a lot of ways, the whole exceeded the sum of the parts as we had a wonderful time (despite a number of little issues) because of very good weather (other than cyclones at the end), exotic ports of call, and a great crew. Embarkation was a non-event for this cruise, as we had done the ship's previous cruise to NZ -- getting off and back on in Sydney was a breeze. Disembarkation was also smooth (despite the misinformation described below).
On the positive side, the crew overall were superb .. cabin stewards, restaurant and buffet people, the Pinnacle grill staff, the (too few) wine stewards, and the front office staff were all warm and helpful. They made a point of remembering our names and our food/drink preferences. We enjoyed breakfasts on a wonderful balcony (albeit with periodic smoking (even CIGAR) problems from next door) and lovely meals in the Rotterdam dining room. We opted for the open dining time but never waited for a table as the maitre'd took care to seat us at a table by ourselves without delay.
In terms of issues, previous reviews of the Volendam accurately describe it as needing some refurbishing. In addition to the visual evidence of wear and tear, there were also noise problems --- many of the noise and other problems owed to the number of children on board. The main pool became theirs, and the rules against diving and jumping into the pool were totally unenforced. Children ran through the buffet in bathing suits and bare feet; young children were also allowed to run freely in the nightclub. According to an announcement from the captain, teenagers actually trashed one of the lounges one night. While the captain was legitimately upset, it is hard to feel sympathy for HAL, given its encouragement of children with its pricing policies. It would have been good to know beforehand this cruise was specially marketed to families.
While service overall was very good, we often bypassed the services of the special Neptune Lounge. Manned by sweet but (to be charitable) inexperienced people, they often seemed overwhelmed by minor requests and seldom provided accurate or timely information. One laughable example was being told definitively by the two staffers that very few taxis would be available on disembarkation in Sydney and that to get even those, a person would have to walk for five minutes and bring the taxi to where you left your luggage -- not at all true on either score. Stick to the front desk ..
Entertainment was only fair overall -- while the singers and dancers did an OK job, they repeated their shows from the previous leg; a comedian held over from the previous cruise had little or no prepared material for his performance, and the multi-instrumentalists were bad on multiple instruments.
We made the most of the itinerary, taking taxis to distant spots to get to the best snorkeling and swimming. The ship could not make the last scheduled stop in the Isle of Pines --- the captain, who was consistently informative, told us of cyclone problems that required that change.
The cruise director was exceptional, deftly handling almost every major event as he had no obvious number 2. The person providing shore information did a nice job although not always with great information on actually getting around to the spots she described. We did very few of the limited activities on board, but enjoyed mightily the well stocked library and DVD collection.