This was our second cruise and would start a trip of a lifetime. We really liked the Volendam, although I constantly got lost finding the main dining room. The ship was experimenting with early embarkation and getting luggage to the cabins immediately. This was quite successful from our perspective and really appreciated, as we had to check out of our hotel in Sydney at 10:00 am. Our stewards were incredible, as my husband often slept late, and somehow they figured out when he was out of the room and cleaned it up in a snap. I took a photo of the towel art every day - it was so cute and creative! One of my favorite areas was the Ocean Bar - loved the music and wished there were a few more seats, as it often was completely full. Disembarkation was very smooth - our luggage was waiting and we got a cab immediately.
Food and Drink - We thought the food was quite good - the Lido was fine for breakfast and lunch (except for the coffee) but the dining room was far superior for dinner. In addition, we had wonderful room service breakfasts - right on time and hot food. I found that the wine steward in the dining room was very delayed in providing service.
Entertainment - Quite good, but the crew performance was poor. Loved the inside look at the performers and the backstage tour - that was one of the highlights. Also thought the line dancing classes were a lot of fun.
Digital Photograhpy Classes - Outstanding. Hannah was a wonderful teacher - hope I can do a slideshow half as good as hers.
Ports: Milford/Doubtful/Dusky Sound
We were very lucky that the weather was OK to see this area. It is stunningly beautiful, especially the waterfalls off the cliffs. The ship sailed in and turned gradually to enable all sides to see the scenery.
Stewart Island - I went on the nature walk through the rain forest on and then with my husband went on the Volendam Tour of Stewart Island. Both were excellent - Much of the Island is a national Park; however, we were particularly interested to learn that the community on Stewart Island is self governing through a town council.
Dunedin - We had booked with Elm Wildlife Tours and regretted it, possibly due to the terrible weather. The very challenging and steep hike to see the rookery of the yellow- eyed penguins was through a sheep farm - dung at every step. Then, we could see the penguin chicks in their nests, but only at a great distance. The little we saw of the town made us wish that we had just chosen to visit the town area, as it appeared quite charming and very Scottish.
Christchurch - A delightful city and very easy to get around on the tram. The gardens are exquisite and have the most incredible dahlia collection, and indeed, many collections of roses, etc. As reported by others, at this port a crew member died while performing maintenance work on a lifeboat. Our departure here was delayed, as it took some time to recover his body which we could see from our balcony - but it was done very privately, with a sheet blocking anyone from actually seeing the body. Continuing investigation of this incident affected our departure from several ports. There was a memorial service for the man and I thought the ship handled this appropriately. Still, there are probably many questions about the maintenance of the equipment and the fact that this crew member was not wearing a life jacket.
Wellington - Again, no tour necessary here, as the Te Papa Museum was quite fabulous, as was the ride up the tram and walk down through the Botanical Gardens.
Napier - Not much to see in town. Suggest taking a tour, but the docking time here is rather abbreviated and a little early for the wine tour.
Tauranga - Finally, beautiful, warm weather and we did a full day tour to Rotorua with Tauranga Tasting Tours which was excellent - just 8 of us. We went to Te Puia, a Maori Cultural Center, visited the adjacent geothermal area, blue and green lakes, a lovely waterfall and a kiwi orchard - a very full day and then returned to the ship through the beach/vacation community of Mount Manganui.
Auckland - I took a T.I.M.E. Unlimited Tour to the west of the city through a rain forest area to a beautiful black beach and incredible rock formations. Our guide was lovely and very knowledgeable and gave us snacks and tea at the beach. She picked up my husband at the pier and drove us to Devonport where we walked around the boutiques, had a delicious lunch, and took the ferry back. We had planned to take a bus around the city but we missed the last one around 4 pm and decided to call it a day. Late this evening, there was an incredible dessert buffet with ice sculptures and more delicious things than I had ever seen in one place.
Bay of Islands - As this was a tender port, we booked the Glow Worm tour through the Volendam. It was quite a long bus ride to the glow worm caves but the tour was quite interesting and the guide, whose family had managed the cave for generations, was very knowledgeable and even knew the different biology between glow worms and fire flies in the US. On the way back, we stopped for a snack of doughnuts and Hokey Pokey ice cream - this is definitely worth a try!