Volendam Cruise Review by oodles: 2 weeks Auckland to Sydney, OCT/NOV!
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2 weeks Auckland to Sydney, OCT/NOV!
My husband and I have cruised about 10 times, different ships, different parts of the world. Took this cruise to celebrate our 40th Bdays. This cruise we had Stateroom D. Oceanview Stateroom, center ship. Too cold for balcony use. And center ship below teak deck you can run up one flight of stairs and be outside in a minute if you wanted to get a quick pix. Never heard walkers on teak deck. And no smells in room or in halls like I read about. But the smells were reported near end of ship. Guess lots of fresh air comes off elevators midship. We had great weather entire cruise.
Airport shuttle to Hilton Auckland is $26 for 2 people. Heard it has lots of stops, so we took a cab $65. Use reputable Corporate, Rengency or Co-op cab companies. 30-50 mins depending on traffic. Hilton Auckland is the bomb if taking a cruise. It's not pricey, it's an awesome place with killer service and you walk right out the door onto ship. If you More pay for a balcony ocean view room, be aware there will be ships parked right outside your balcony at some point!
In Sydney, we took 30 min cab ride to Sir Stamford at Circular Quay. Read it's a fave on Trip Advisor. If you book through hotel you will get room early in day. If you book through a discount site, like we did, you will not be allowed to check in before the advertised check in time of 3pm. So we toured the Opera House and the giant gardens across street from hotel. With this and lunch our time was full. Hotel is luxe. Get pix with costumed bellman. Staff are really nice there. Restaurant is killer pricey. We had the unique chocolate dessert. It was the MOST unique dessert, but not the tastiest. You crack open a chocolate egg and hot chocolate goo comes out onto coffee icecream I think it was. The best thing we ate here was the cheese plate, which had quince paste. We'd never had it and have since found it at Whole Foods and eat it regularly. It's a type of fruit that is used like solid honey. On apples with cheese and some wine, good goodness! For food, go in the bar. It's a good menu and everything we ate there late night after the Opera show was delicious. And they will deliver it to your room. $45 taxi to airport from hotel.
On way back to U.S. we stayed at The Langham hotel in Auckland. It seems realy nice when you walk in, but our room was super cramped, dated, tiny bathroom. Liked the water carafe/glass on nightstand. Nice touch. No chocolate croissants that stay as raved about by Trip Advisor writers.
Decide when booking if you want land view inbetween sounds. Port side faces ocean. Starboard has more land views. Ship is pretty and clean. Rooms comfy, just dated. Loved walking the covered teak deck and top open air deck. Food was great. Service great.
Auckland: SkyTower is 15 minute walk from hotel. Once inside, take escalators down. Whole Sky Walk takes about 75 minutes. You are suited up leaving cameras, hair bands, sunglasses, hats, jewelry.... in a locker. It's windy up there, so expect your eyes to tear a lot if it's cold. We all felt tour/walk was too long. Worth the money, just too long. My group was bored and tired of the views at the end. If walk was shorter in duration, people would leave on a way higher vibe or whatever. There's 6 people in a group and we all bought a pix at the end. They also throw in a funny certificate. There's a video to buy, but we all looked ridiculous up there and nobody bought it. If you have the $, the Rebo Cafe & Bar on bldg's ground floor was delicious.
Minus 5 ice restaurant: $25 a person. Worth it in day time as it's empty. Get the peachacolada. Yum. You can choose your own music and have pix guy get some fun/crazy shots. We bought several pix. They don't let you take Anything in. Purses, cameras... all held at desk for you. You can trust them. You are suited up and it's funny trying to hold your ice glass when drinking with those big mitts. You get to smash your glass when done. Loud and fun!
On ship, walk teak deck at night. It's Empty. Never did find the vibrating chairs someone wrote about.
Waitmo Caves w/Crosshills Gardens Lunch and kiwi house. Ship tour is FANTASTIC. Noboday had a better day than us considering all the tours choices and dinner talk later. The caves and glow worms, you see just enough to leave on such a high. The gardens lunch was beyond charming and delicious, the property and people there, I can't tell you how at home they make you feel and you just revel in all the beauty of nature. The Kiwi House was super cool/cute big birds.
If you can ride a bike for a few hours, you Can't Beat this excursion we took. It's not offered by the ship, but we researched a LOT for this cruise, and this was the best offered. Bike D'Vine Winery & Sightseeing Tour. Do easy Rout 1. $40 a person. The owners pick you up at visitor center and it's a 15 min ride to first stop where they get you set up on your bike with a map,safety gear, bike locks. We started at a cool wooden place called The Filter Room. $12 got us a beer/cider sampler. You can pick from lots of choices/tastes. Along the bike route are various winers, a chocolate factory, a lavender farm. We did lav farm for souvenirs (put the oil on our pillows each night of cruise, wonderful!), and went by lots of amazing scenery of wine fields and sheep fields, and a pretty tile decorated bldg, downtown shops and on to just one winery, Mission Estate. The classiest. We sat out back and had 5* service of their cheese/fruits/nuts/breads/dipping oils/wines..... It was Heaven! For a fee we just had the van driver pick us up there as I was too tipsy to bike ride back!
Ship's Lord of the Rings Tour: it was a FANTASTIC day. And I went grudgingly w/my husband as I'm not a movie buff. The tour fixes that Real quick. You watch an infomational movie at the Weta Cave museum that left everyone in awe and speechless. Next you stop at the coolest cafe you'll ever snack at. It's ON the water, super contemporary. Everything's home made. Then it's off to see killer scenery and learn about movie. The guide was IN movies so has lots of inside info and great stories. He was cool to take pix for everyone whenever. Lunch will be at the most scenic garden you can imagine. Breathtaking. Food was great and served family style. Bread was cutely served in clay flower pots. Then it's off to more scenery. I am positive that the ship's tour beats any and all LOTR tours you're going to research.
We stayed on ship for a spa day. Place was empty so we had place all to ourselves. HIGHLY recommend this. Heated tile chairs, hot tub surrounded by windows to a great view outside, steam and sauna rooms with lovely smells... Also got a mani/pedi. Girl is great. I just don't like that they make guests face the wall while workers get ocean view. That seems messed up!!! Husband and I got the double massage. He loved his, mine was weak. You gotta speak up a Lot throughout to get what you want! Whole spa area is great with fresh juices and fruit and super clean locker rooms.
Took a taxi to the Botanic Gardens. After two hours we hadn't seen a quarter of the place, huge! Wear correct shoes for this!!! Sneakers required. All kinds of terrain on paths. Beauty beauty and more gorgeous nature everywhere we went. LOVED it! Then we met our driver downtown to take us to Adrenaline Forest. This again is NOT a ship excursion. But my husband said this place was the highlight of the Entire Cruise! For $35pp plus $10pp each way van shuttle you are taken 15 minutes north of Christchurch to an obstacle course in the trees. Various levels take you higher and higher. It is the coolest guy thing we'd ever seen, although women were doing it too. Not me though due to neck injury. You are responsible for your own safety, in that you hook yourself onto line cables as you go along. Sooo many different obstables and you'll spend hours there. We went for the last two hours and it was perfect/not crowded. A crowd would really hold you up. Do bring your own food and water. Nothing right there, but you can walk across street to bathrooms/food place. It's not close though. Do 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th course in that order. My husband is fit and couldn't do 6th. He was soo sore next day, but would go every week if he could.
Took free shuttle to Otago Museum, also free. VERY cool museum and had the best sandwich in my life at cafe. It's the smoked chix, brie, salad in pita w/raspberry sauce. Served warm. And the caramel bar is super delicious also. Super cool gift store there too if you have kids.
Dine w/the Chef night: Sign up! Great fun/great food with just a few other guests. Lots of drinking involved with this event!
Cruising sounds for 3 days
Be outside on ship's front deck for Milford Sound. You're enveloped in stunning beauty.
Crossing Caspian Sea
Outside of ship will be closed. It's rough seas. Got some awesome big wave pix! We booked a year in advance to get center ship. We barely felt motion here.
We did the ship's Tahune Airwalk tour. This was ok. It's a long drive to get there. The Airwalk is relativley short. Then there's a cafe for lunch you have to pay for everything. It rained and 3/4 of the tour group sat in the cafe the whole time miserable. SO, bring warm jacket in case it's windy. Bring a sturdy umbrella. Bring a rain poncho. If you're prepared, as only my husband and I were!!! you will enjoy this place. Even in the rain. We thought it romantic. The tour guide ended up being our personal photographer!
Cool whaling info story about famous whale that helped whalers. Capt. told story over intercom system. We didn't get off ship. Thought it a sad stop. We tried Pinnacle Grill that night. It was fine. But main dining room food was great every night, so it wasn't necessary. If you go, the lobster mac and cheese was my fave.
Reserve ahead for first tour tix at Opera House, or go straight there and get in line to get them. As performers show up for practice, the rooms are closed off to the public, or you can peek in, but no pix. The first tour all the rooms were empty and we got to take pix of Eveything. We had breakfast right there in front of theatre, sidewalk cafe. Great bridge view. After tour we went to the gardens up the street. They are Huge and pretty and lots of screaming flying squirrels which we thought were vampire bats. We had lunch at Cafe Sydney, at top of bldg facing bridge/ship. It's a mod place with great sceenery and great food. But it is costly. Expect every seat taken during lunch rush. Book ahead! Don't forget to get off elevator on floor with architect business listed on pannel. There's a lucite model of the opera house we found on accident. Cool! And lobby of bldg restauant has a glass floor with a model of Sydney in the floor!!!!! Have your video camera ready as you walk around feeling like you're flying over the city.
We saw Pirates of Panzance. Great show!
Not part of cruise. We stayed at Hilton Brisbane, it's SUPER. Dinner at Rhubarb Rhubarb. It's a small bar with fancy food. Need reservations. Good time.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary $30pp, $16 for photos, $1 for roo food. Wear stuff you don't mind getting dirty if you want to really enjoy animal interaction, and there's plenty of it. Go opening to close, there's that much fun to be had! It was the highlight of trip/cruise for me!
It was great all over ship. Only complaint was laundry service. Several times clothing items were lost, but most were found/returned at end of cruise. This was distressing as we packed one suitcase to last three weeks. We were Very limited in what we had and needing EACH and every item packed. Also, several items were ruined. Things came back stained or marked or with holes in them that weren't there when we sent them off. At end of cruise we filed to get money for 5 shirts and pants, but didn't get our money's worth. I was devasted they ruined one of my formal wear outfits. Brand new, never even worn, but I sent it for pressing along with everything else once we boarded. It came back with an iron imprint. I cried. As there was a limit to how much money you could file for for damages, this item didn't even make the cut. It alone was over $300. I've Never had such awful laundry service on a ship. And RCL has the Chinese Laundry. We've actually taken stuff with stains our local cleaner couldn't get out, and they get it looking good as new!
Spent over $15k on trip. All the old people kept saying they were on their retirement dream vacation, but due to age they were having a hard time fitting it all in. They kept telling us we did it right, did it when young.
Travel To Port of Embarkation
We flew Qantas. Superb coach experience going over. Opted to pay extra for exit door seat on way home. Bathroom light and door slamming and people traffic kept us up all the way home. Not worth money/won't ever sit there again.
We did the Any Time Dining/ Open Seating and LOVED LOVED it. We requested a table of 6-8 and met amazing people each night at dinner. Just be sure to book your dinner reservation like the second you wake up to get the time you want. Otherwise you will WAIT to be seated. Reservations a Must for timely seating. There's 4 formal, 10 Smart/Casual. Few tuxes on formal. Lots of dark suits though.
The guests on the cruise were older. Being 40, we were told there were only 2 other couples close to our age. They had a couple kids and so they took over places like the teen club and lounge and .... Seemed silly to have soo much for 4 kids. Oh well. Heard they were having a great time.
First time we never went to a ship dance show!!! We booked lots of early excursions, so just weren't up to the Broadway shows. We also shut the main dining room down several times with ongoing chatting with dinner mates. The comedian was good. The ventrilaquist awful. The cellist ok.
As easy as getting on. If there's a problem, do NOT hesitate to ask for help. Like, if you have a flight and the lines are holding up for too long, they have a separate line elsewhere on ship which can get you off quick. I'd read about that line, and we used it! My husband was a nervous wreck about how long the self service line was, seemed like the entire ship wanted to be the first off. The elevator to exit to customs was taking forever as soo many people had wheelchairs and walkers and huge luggage that took up soo much elevator space. I surprised my husband by lingering at breakfast and then getting us to the "speed lane". Less
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Decent size cabin. Plenty of closet space. Comfy bed. Inside windows were large and were hosed off/cleaned during cruise to get salt off so view was good for cruising the sounds. Room service timely and tasty and food temperature was good. Right in front of stairs but never noisy. Right under teak walking deck but we never heard feet.